War and Piss

In those halcyon days before 1991 when lahar rudely inundated Old Bacolor, Pampanga, the beautifully-restored 1830s Panlilio-Santos Joven ancestral home was the setting for many elegant receptions, especially during the annual town fiesta in honor of the “Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario” [ “La Naval de Bacolor” ] held every third Sunday of November.  The imposingly beautiful and leonine Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio and her extremely talented grandson Joey Panlilio were the indefatigable team behind all the splendor, elegance, and eloquence of those sunset years of Old Bacolor.

During one of those “fiestas,” the talk at the “cabecera” long table in the dining room shifted to the Second World War and the extreme hardships which everyone, rich and poor alike, had to endure…

Luz “Lucing” Sarmiento de Panlilio recalled how she, her diabetic husband Jose “Pepe,” her young son Jesus “Tenggoy” [ later known as “Jess” ], and their extended family had — on mistaken information of American soldier guests — evacuated to Mariveles, Bataan only to witness the fall of Bataan and be part of the subsequent “Death March” to Capas, Tarlac.  It was their great fortune to be surreptitiously dragged out from the “Death March” and hidden by their loyal retainers along the road in Bacolor.  The family was sick with malaria.  The couple found their elegant and constantly updated home dilapidated and stripped of everything.    They had to drink water from used milk cans and eat from whatever container was available; they remembered how they only drank from fine glasses and only ate from fine porcelain in “peacetime” [ prewar ].  Later in Manila, she would find their stolen [ by the Japanese soldiers ] “Hoepfner” grand piano being lowered from the Jones bridge to a barge for transport along the Pasig river;  she argued and negotiated with the merchants and repurchased it by trading her own goods.  She shuddered at all the horrible memories…

On the other hand, a guest — a prominent gentleman who belonged to Nueva Ecija’s premiere landowning clan — reminisced his family’s rather opulent “emigre” lifestyle during the war:  how they had fled to the Sierra Madre mountains, and lived in caves, but how their many servants had brought their European furniture, crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs, French china, English silver, French crystal, and European comestibles, and how the family continued to live luxuriously, waited on hand and foot by their servants, all throughout the war…

Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio was incredulous.  She smiled and seethed.  Bemused, bothered, and bewildered, she politely asked her guest:  “Hijo, baka naman ibang guerra ang nangyari sa inyo???”  [ “Son, could it be that a different war happened to your family???” ]

Everyone stifled [ what could have been ] a good laugh.

Bwahahahahah!!!   😛   😛   😛


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