The Marcos Era Part III: The Final Act 18 January 1981 – 25 February 1986

She knew, she knew… In early February 1986, First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos called her close Romualdez relations and urged them to come to the Malacanang Palace to take their pick of her personal effects, NOT the official Palace inventory, but the beautiful things which she had collected for herself — furniture, rugs, paintings, decorative items, etc..  She knew The Hour was upon her.

…………

And yes, the erstwhile preposterous claim of the Marcoses that they thought they were being flown by the Americans to Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and not to Hawaii in the U.S.A. was actually TRUE.

Drawing from conversations 24 years after the fact with Marcos, Romualdez, and Coj*angco-Murphy family members who were present at Clark Air Base that time, the rescue of the Marcoses & Co. was an American operation but they were not told of an outright plan to fly to the United States.  The Americans had flown the Marcoses out of Malacanang Palace to Clark Air Base to avoid a French Revolution-type of scenario in which the Marcoses would be summarily put to death by the angry mob.  They also had to fly the Marcoses out of Clark Air Base because elements of the AFP Armed Forces of the Philippines sympathetic to the rebels at EDSA would soon be circling the air base — but not attacking, for Clark was considered U.S. territory — waiting to arrest the Marcoses.  The Marcoses & Co. were informed that they were flying out of Clark, ostensibly to the Ilocano North, but never to Hawaii in the United States.  The plane was not even meant for passengers, it was a cargo plane of the U.S. Air Force.  In fact, the children and the teenagers traveling in the group bled from their noses and ears as a result of the incorrect air pressure in the cabin.

That was why Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi and his wife had prepared a diplomatic welcome for the Marcoses.  They were not aware until the last minute that Ferdinand Marcos had already been deposed.

An American radioed:  “I have the trimmings of the cake but I don’t have the cake itself…”  But then, the “cake” itself arrived…

D*nding Coj*angco and his family were the last to arrive at Clark Air Base.  They hardly brought anything with them, if at all.  D*nding had forgotten to bring a jacket and so donned the jacket of a security guard.

D*nding had taken the time to bid goodbye to his mother, Dona N*ne, at her Balete Drive residence:  “Mama, sandali lang ako.  Ihahatid ko lang si Marcos.”  He charged his siblings with the care of their mother:  “Kayo na ang bahala kay Mama.  Babalik din ako.”

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The Marcos Era Part II: Martial Law 21 September 1972 – 17 January 1981

I remember 17 January 1981, the day President Ferdinand Marcos officially lifted Martial Law.  That evening, my mother and I were at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for a performance of the pianist Cecile Licad.  As always, Cecile’s patron Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos was in attendance.  Although it was a gala performance, there seemed to be an attempt at understatement:  Madame Marcos was not in a long dress, but in a short cocktail one, red and black if I remember right.  After the performance, Madame Marcos descended the stairway surrounded by her retinue but she made the effort to cordially greet the people who approached her.  My mother complimented her:  “Congratulations!  It is because of you that we have Cecile Licad.”  And Madame Marcos happily rejoined:  “No, Cecile is there because of all of us.” gesturing at the assemblage.  The mood of the evening was happy, cheerful, and hopeful.  Nine memorable years in Filipino History had officially come to an end.

The Marcos Era Part I: Ascendancy 1965 – 20 September 1972

“Japanese Time”

All these recent disasters in our beleaguered country bring to mind one of the most difficult periods in Philippine history, the Japanese occupation from 08 December 1941 – 03 March 1945.  According to the surviving seniors, compared to those years, what we are undergoing now as a nation is “chickenfeed.”

I was born in 1967, 22 years after the war ended in 1945.  That’s just the time period between 2009 and 1987, and it’s not very long, nor essentially very different.  And in the minds of those who had experienced it — from my grandmother, my parents, aunts and uncles, and household staff — it was as fresh and as frightening a memory as anything.

We have all read about wartime in the Philippines and have even seen movies about it like “The Great Raid” by John Dahl in 2005 and “Oro, Plata, Mata” by Peque Gallaga in 1981.  One book, “By Sword and Fire:  The Destruction of Manila in World War II:  3 February – 3 March 1945” by Alfonso J. Aluit in 1994 fully describes the sheer horror of the carnage and destruction of Manila in late February 1945.

The following are stories of our various Gonzalez-Escaler-Arnedo and Reyes-Quiason family members during the war.  They are not spectacular in the sense that no one was a bemedalled war hero, nor an active leader of the guerrilla movement, nor an entire household murdered.  But they are stories of war and suffering just the same, and well worth recording for posterity.

GONZALEZ

My paternal grandfather, Lolo Augusto “Bosto” Sioco Gonzalez, already knew as early as 1937 that a great world war was looming in the horizon.  He was 50 years old and was at the prime of his fortunes but sadly at the ebb of his health because of severe diabetes.  That, however, did not stop him from forging ahead with his ambitious professional aims and flourishing family life.  Although he had set his sights on purchasing an elegant and expensive residence along prestigious Dewey Boulevard to serve as his Manila base [ impressed by his brilliant and accomplished nephew Joaquin Tomas de Aquino “Jake” Valdes Gonzalez, he determined that his own young sons would be attending exclusive De La Salle College along Taft Avenue ], he purchased two small, 441 sq. m. properties in the first government employee housing project of President Manuel Quezon in faraway Quezon City [ which later became the “Scout area” ], on a street called “South 9.”  He urged his very rich aunt Sabina Sioco de Escaler to buy one across and the widow of his eldest brother Fernando, Clementina Elizalde-Gonzalez, to buy beside him.  “What on earth are we going to do in that ‘squatter resettlement’ area, Papa?”  asked his eldest son Rogie [ used as Rogie was to the commodious and elegant residences of the Gonzalezes, the Escalers, and his wife Luding’s Salgado and de Leon relations, in Pampanga and in the posh enclaves of  Manila ].  That done, he had extensive aerage / bomb shelters constructed underground connecting all four houses.  He told his wife, my Lola Charing:  “When the war comes, we will be safer here.  Of course, the Japanese will go to the best areas first, to Ermita and Malate and Taft, before they will even think of coming to this nondescript place.”  Of course, Lolo Bosto was assassinated at the PASUDECO offices on 12 July 1939 and never saw the war.  Might as well, for knowing what a firebrand he was, he would have surely funded the guerrillas, helped the Americans, and been forthwith executed by the Japanese.  But he was very right when he predicted that the Japanese would come to Ermita, Malate, and Taft Avenue first.  They did.  But they eventually reached Quezon City too.  When the Japanese soldiers found out in late 1944 that the Gonzalez and Escaler houses along South 9 had aerage / bomb shelters, they evicted the families, giving them 24 hours to leave.  They also confiscated Lolo Bosto’s elegant, 1937 black Cadillac stretch limousine, the last car that he had purchased.  They broke open Lola Charing’s camphor chests and chanced upon her 1930 “traje de boda” wedding dress, which they promptly used as a rag to polish their guns.  The four families were “scattered to the winds.”  Lola Charing and her family were graciously taken in by [Imang] Belen Zapanta-Reyes and family in their Kamuning house, and that is where they stayed for a time.

My aunt, dearest Tita Naty, Natividad Gonzalez-Palanca, remembers:  “Every time there was an evacuation, I remember Mama Charing running, with Macarito the toddler [ the future Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C. of De La Salle University ] on one arm and the silver [ the  heavy, wrapped-up American sterling silver flatware service for 36 pax monogrammed “RAG” { Rosario Arnedo-Gonzalez }, which was one of Papa’s last gifts to her ], on the other.”

It was a good thing that all of the Gonzalezes had vacated the 1883 ancestral Gonzalez-Sioco mansion in Barrio Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga by the time war broke out on 08 December 1941.  It was the one fortuitous result of Lolo Bosto’s 12 July 1939 assassination at the PASUDECO:  there were persistent death threats from the assassins’ families which necessitated the final and irrevocable transfer of the Gonzalez-Escaler and the Gonzalez-Arnedo families to Manila.  It was sheer serendipity for on 01 January 1942, 6.15am, American reconnaissance planes sighted several Japanese army trucks parked beside the Gonzalez-Sioco mansion and dropped a bomb on it.  They also dropped bombs on the nearby Apalit bridge to block Japanese movement in the area (according to Dr Antonio Quiroz MD).

Tito Rogie and Tita Luding and their young children had been the last residents [ my father’s eldest half brother Rogerio Escaler Gonzalez, his wife Lourdes David Salgado-Palanca, and their elder children Carmelita “Mely,” Renato “Ato,” Leonides “Leony,” and Rogerio Jr. “Jerry.” ]  Tito Rogie had supervised the hiding of Lola Florencia’s 1880s “FS” monogrammed Paris porcelain service by Mansard and of Lola Matea’s 1890s “MR” “Sulipan” Paris porcelain service by Ch. Pillivuyt & Cie. in several Martabana jars, some buried under the house, and the others buried in the garden.  [ After the war, Tito Rogie was able to retrieve much of Lola Florencia’s “FS” porcelain service as it was buried under the house, but much of Lola Matea’s “MR” “Sulipan” porcelain service, buried in the garden, was destroyed. ]

Also destroyed was the beautiful, nearly-lifesize ivory image of “Santa Maria Magdalena” and its giltwood “carroza,” the most beautiful “paso” during the Holy Week processions in Apalit from the 1880s to the prewar.

Gone in one swoop were the beautiful collections of the distinguished patriarch, Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez de los Angeles y Lopez, who at one time, from the 1870s – 80s, was the country’s preeminent medical doctor [ specialized in ophthalmology in Paris under Dr. Louis de Wecker, who years later mentored Dr. Jose Rizal ] and was one of only two representatives of Pampanga province to the 1898 Malolos Congress [ the other was Francisco Rodriguez Infante ].  He had an extensive library of leatherbound books from Europe.  The “sala” living room featured carved and upholstered furniture which he had brought from Europe, as well as religious and secular oil paintings, pairs of large Satsuma porcelain vases from Japan, and chandeliers and lamps of Bohemian crystal.  His “cabecera” dining table for 36 persons featured silver serving pieces and centerpieces from Europe as well as an ornate dinner service of Paris porcelain by the firm of Mansard.  The “capilla” of the mansion [ beside the “escalera principal” staircase ], which doubled as the guest room, was filled with precious ivory “santos”:  several nearly lifesize and many smaller ones in “virinas” glass domes.  His ten sons played and learned useful crafts with European toys and machines.

My father recalled:  “The elders observed that the brusque, rude, and brutal ‘Japanese soldiers’ were often actually Koreans pressed into service in the Japanese imperial army.  Many of the genuine Japanese, specially the officers, were actually educated, honorable, and decent individuals.”

ESCALER

During the war, Tito Willy [ Wilfrido Escaler Gonzalez ] was madly in love with the beauteous society belle Emma Benitez of Pagsanjan, Laguna [ she later married the patrician architect Luis Maria Zaragoza Araneta of Calle R. Hidalgo, Manila ].  Believing that the family would be safer in faraway and inaccessible Pagsanjan, he brought most of the Gonzalez-Escaler family there.  He even managed to convince his aged maternal grandmother, Sabina Sioco de Escaler [ o 1858 – + 1950 ], already in her mid-80s, to brave the transfer.  Imagine the sight of the petite octogenarian Sabina Sioco de Escaler — at that time Pampanga’s single richest hacendera — wearing her characteristically patched up skirt and kimona helplessly and pitifully perched on top of various sacks and baskets on a rickety “do – car” [ a horse  – drawn car, whatever that was  😛 ] making her way under the searing summer sun to distant Pagsanjan, Laguna…

Another rich and prominent Pampango family who evacuated to Pagsanjan, Laguna were the Lazatin-Singian of San Fernando, who became the guests of the affluent Francia family.  The last surviving daughter Carmen “Mameng” Singian Lazatin recalled:  “In the Francia house in Pagsanjan, we recited our evening prayers in front of a big altar filled, and I say filled, with beautiful antique ivory images, in various sizes from small to lifesize.  The Francia house was bombed and all those beautiful images destroyed.  Had I known that that tragedy would happen, I would have asked for them!!!”

During Liberation [ end of February 1945 ], like so many others, Sabina Escaler’s house on Calle Herran corner M.H. del Pilar in Ermita was torched and burned to the ground.  My first cousin Renato “Ato” Palanca Gonzalez vividly remembers that not only was Lola Sabina’s Ermita altar full of antique ivory “santos” in “virinas,” it also had several nearly lifesize ivory images, since Lola Sabina seemed partial to such devotional articles.  Sabina Sioco de Escaler was a generous benefactress of the Catholic Church.  She was a principal benefactress of the Franciscans in Intramuros;  she was a devotee of San Francisco de Asis and San Antonio de Padua and always contributed generously during their fiestas.  During postwar, she even sent a large amount in USD $ to Rome for the restoration of a major basilica there.

ARNEDO

My father’s maternal first cousin, Juanito “Ito” Arnedo Ballesteros, recalled:  “I was about eight years old then.  We were at Lola Titay’s house in Sulipan [ the 1848 Arnedo-Sioco ancestral house ] when the Japanese soldiers came.  They gathered most of the barrio people and made everyone kneel down in the big “sala” [ “Salon de Baile” ] as they lectured.  The group was instructed to bow every so often.  I stayed in the small “sala” [ the real “sala” ] between the bedrooms playing with old wine glasses, pretending they were cars.  After the lecture, everyone was allowed to leave.”

After that, leaving only a couple to keep watch over the house, Lola Titay and Lola Ines and everybody else left the house to seek refuge in relatively inaccessible barrio Tabuyuc, which was cut off and isolated from the rest of Apalit town by the wide Pampanga river and the absence of bridges.  They were joined there by many Arnedo and Espiritu relatives as the days passed.

The Japanese soldiers took over Lolo Ariong’s house in nearby barrio Capalangan and made it their garrison [ former Pampanga Governor Macario Arnedo y Sioco ].  The barbaric soldiers ruined much of the furniture and decorative arts collection so zealously gathered by Lola Maruja [ Macario’s wife Maria Espiritu y Dungo, o 1876 – + 1934 ].  They chopped much of the antique furniture into firewood for their baths;  slashed the ancestral portraits and the paintings;  smashed the chandeliers, mirrors, marble top tables, large vases, and ceramic pedestals;  broke all of Lola Maruja’s treasured bibelots in their vitrines.  The barrio Capalangan folk liked to laugh among themselves about the “sakang” [ bowlegged ] Japanese soldiers taking their hot baths in “cauas” iron vats and steel drums over bonfires in the big garden of former Governor Arnedo’s residence.

REYES

When the Japanese troops were approaching, the Reyes-Pangan family in barrio Paralaya [ poblacion ], Arayat, Pampanga, hurriedly evacuated to a relative’s secluded “casa hacienda” plantation house in a barrio of adjacent Candaba town.  My maternal great grandmother, Maria “Bang” Dizon Pangan-Reyes, tasked her eldest grandson [ 15 years old ], my uncle Emilio “Jun” Quiason Reyes Jr., to carry a rolled-up package of “kacha” muslin containing her silver [ solid silver flatware service engraved with “Maria Pangan” for 18 pax ], and instructed him that he was to carry it everywhere they evacuated, that under no circumstances was he to leave it behind.  However much she prized it for sentimental reasons, she knew that it could serve as hard currency for the family should the absolute need arise.

Back at barrio Paralaya, Arayat, my maternal grandfather Emilio “Miling” Pangan Reyes and his younger brother Benito “Bito” were taken by Japanese soldiers to the garrison along with other male neighbors on suspicion of being guerrillas.  They weren’t, but they were supplying foodstuffs to the Resistance and helping with logistics.  They feared that they would be executed immediately.  During the evenings, several prisoners would be called, provided with spades, marched some distance away, and an hour later gunshots would be heard.  The prisoners were being made to dig their own graves.  Miling’s wife Pacing and her children would often visit a friend’s house overlooking the garrison, tearfully hoping to catch a glimpse of Miling and Bito.  But after a few days, the two brothers were inexplicably released.  Bito wanted to go back and thank the commander for their release, but Miling refused and insisted on going straight home.  Half an hour later, their remaining male neighbors were executed, shot to their deaths.

Miling’s saintly wife, Paz “Pacing” Aguilar Quiason, occupied herself with the secondhand goods trade in Arayat town.  Along with her young children, she unraveled new “de hilo” cotton material, as well as old clothes and old textiles for their threads, spooled them together, and sold them at the market.  She also rolled cigarettes.  Dealing in used merchandise, Pacing made a decent living throughout the war, although she suffered greatly healthwise from its privations.  She died of cancer of the sinus in 1949.

Miling had promised his pretty eldest daughter Felicisima “Sis” that if she learned the piano accompaniment to her eldest brother Emilio Jr.’s “Jun’s” violin piece, he would reward her with a trip to Manila to visit his only sister Piciang Reyes-Berenguer and her daughters Paquing, Chang, Blanding, and Ched.  Sis did learn the piano accompaniment quickly.  As promised, they set out for Manila…  They rode in the front of a truck filled with cavans of rice for delivery covered by a tarpaulin.  Hours later at nightfall, at a checkpoint in Caloocan, they were stopped by the Japanese soldiers and ordered to disembark.  The soldiers did the same with all the other arriving vehicles.  The Japanese soldiers ordered the men and the boys separated from the women and the girls.  Feisty Miling, a truly fearless man, absolutely refused to be separated from his distraught daughter and threatened to engage the soldiers in a fistfight to the finish.  The soldiers relented and allowed Miling and his daughter to walk away.  Miling later told his daughter Sis that he had been ready to die at that moment rather than give her up without a good, honorable fight.  Afterwards, with no transportation to Manila, Miling and Sis spent the night under a “santol” tree some distance away from the road.  He could only imagine what had happened to the hapless women and the girls separated from the men and the boys by the Japanese soldiers that evening.

Miling and Bito had a widowed sister, Simplicia “Piciang” [ Mrs. Adolfo Linares Berenguer ], who, at 41 years old, was  between them in age.  She had stayed in Manila with her four daughters Francisca “Paquing” [ 20 years old ], Josefina “Chang,” Blandina “Blanding,” and Mercedes “Ched” [ 11 years old ].  Despite Miling’s repeated pleadings that his two younger siblings and their families finally come home to distant Arayat, Pampanga, Piciang and Bito chose to remain in Manila, insisting that it was safe because it was an “open city.”  Miling countered:  “If Manila is indeed an ‘open city’ and safe, and that the hospitals will not be attacked… how come most of the Japanese soldiers are concentrated in Manila, and how come they are also in the hospitals???!!!”  Piciang and Bito were unconvinced.  Miling forthwith took his remaining family to Arayat and thus fortunately escaped the holocaust of late February 1945, which many people had not foreseen.

During Liberation in late February of 1945, as the Americans bombed all the bridges spanning the Pasig river, Piciang was separated from her daughters Paquing and Ched as she was in Sampaloc while the two were temporarily quartered at the PGH Philippine General Hospital.  During the shelling, an incendiary bomb landed in the ward and exploded between Paquing and her first cousin Berting.  Both Paquing and Berting were almost killed and sustained serious, third degree burns.  Paquing was also hit by shrapnel at the side of her head and Ched was hit by shrapnel on one leg.  Both almost bled to death but survived.  The courageous Piciang, desperately wanting to be reunited with her daughters [ and wearing a memorable flaming orange pantsuit made of US Army material ], crossed the Pasig river on pontoon bridges with the American soldiers, rescued a live baby she found by the wayside, and rode in a tank towards PGH amidst Japanese snipers who were shooting relentlessly, where she found her daughters severely injured and in extreme pain but thankfully alive.

In their own words:

“All cars had been confiscated;  all car registrations had been cancelled.  One had to do with a ‘do – car,’ a car body pulled by a horse, or a horse – drawn car body, whichever way you put it, which was nevertheless a luxury during the war.”

“We were making cigarettes and selling them in front of our house along Taft avenue, right in front of PGH, to augment the household income.”

“Mama operated the ‘Varsity Ladies Hall’ which catered mainly to UP students.”

“During the last days before Liberation, inflation hit the roof!!!  We needed sacks of money, literally sacks of it, to go to the public market.  To buy a bunch of kangkong, one needed 12″ inches — one foot — thick of money!!!”

“We transferred to the PGH, even if we just lived right across Taft avenue, because one day that early February, one of the six Japanese officers occupying the upper floor of our house told Tata Bito:  “Bito!  Bito!  I take all of you to hospital… now!!!”  Those Japanese officers had been kind to us because they said they too had children back in Japan.  So all of us hurriedly gathered some belongings — rice, canned goods, clothes, shoes, books — and waited for his signal.  Waving a white flag, I cannot remember if it was a Japanese flag, shouting Japanese and constantly making signals in all directions, he led us across Taft avenue which simply couldn’t be crossed because of the Japanese snipers.  We made our way, jumping over the many dead and decaying bodies which littered both lanes of Taft avenue.  That was unforgettable!!!  He led us inside the hospital and endorsed us to some people there.  We knew that we would be safe at the PGH because hospitals were no-fire zones.  He did not say goodbye and we never, ever saw him again.  That Japanese officer saved our lives.”

“We actually enjoyed our first days at the PGH.  There were so many people we knew and there was a sense of community.  It was fun!!!  But then the burning began…  when the nearby Ateneo was burning it was so bright at night that we could actually read our books, something which we had not been able to do for a long time because there was no more electricity.  PGH was finally closed off:  no one could enter but then no one could also leave.  We had no idea then that the plan was really to kill everyone inside the compound.  Then the situation really deteriorated:  there was the artesian well at the back of the PGH compound where everyone drew their water… it came to the point that the people going there were being killed too, shot to death.  It all became absolutely dreadful… the ones looking out the windows reported that the people in the streets were already being killed.  Frightening!!!”

“That horrible day was 11 February 1945, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes…  We had already been in a ward at the ground floor of the PGH for a week.  We had attended the holy mass at 7:00 a.m. at another ward.  We had returned to our ward by 8:00 a.m..  Dionisio the cook and the houseboys were preparing breakfast at an improvised kitchen in the garden.  Suddenly, there were loud explosions and it all became as dark as night!!!  We couldn’t see anything so we were screaming, shouting, and running in circles inside the ward.  Tia Loleng [ Tata Bito’s wife ] was hysterical.  The glass windows were all shattering, starting with the clerestory ones at the top of the room.  Then something exploded inside the room!!!  But we were all in shock that we didn’t know what had happened, we just kept running about.  It turned out it was an incendiary bomb fired by the Americans, and everyone in the room was hit by shrapnel!!!”

Paquing recalled:  “It turned out that the incendiary bomb had exploded between me and Berting!!!  I was already burning, but I didn’t know…  The moment Tata Bito and the men saw me, they shouted:  “Nasusunog ka!!!”  They immediately pushed me to the floor and rolled me around and around to put out the fire and then wrapped me in blankets and mattresses, mattresses and blankets and everything else they could get their hands on.”

Ched remembered:  “I was hit by shrapnel — a metal disk bigger than a dinner plate — and it lodged between my stomach and my right leg.  But I also didn’t know…  I was still running.  An old American man, a patient, saw me and just stared at the metal jutting out from my body.  I just sat down on a chair because I was so tired.”

“Dionisio the cook was killed by the shelling.  He was found dismembered later that day.  The other houseboys must have been killed too, because they never turned up again.”

Paquing recalled:  “I was burned badly;  I was black as soot and crisp as a ‘lechon’.  You could knock on my skin and it felt like wood.”

Ched:  “After we were injured, we were put to rest on stretchers by the doctors.  But as the shelling continued, our loyal houseboys hurriedly carried us from ward to ward, wherever there were less explosions.  During shelling, they would voluntarily lie facedown on top of us to protect us from the debris and shrapnel!!!  Unfortunately, they too were killed during the shelling.”

QUIASON

*unfinished*

I encourage you to share yours.

*unfinished*

Windswept

Let us all remember that while the weather is sunny and warm in Manila, typhoon “Ramil” [ international code name:  “Lupit” ] is battering Northern Luzon and our already suffering Ilocano brothers.  It comes so soon after supertyphoon “Pepeng” [ international code name:  “Parma” ] battered and flooded Northern Luzon, inundating Pangasinan and causing landslides to isolate Baguio City and much of the Mountain Province.  The prices of vegetables from the North have skyrocketed, making these a luxury instead of a necessity on the family table.  If you can afford to “eat your veggies” these days, you’re rich.

AY, the travails of being in the “Typhoon Belt”!!!   😦   😦   😦

Velada

Assumption Convent High School Batch 1969 celebrated their 40th anniversary “velada” last night, Sunday, 18 October 2009 at the auditorium of the San Lorenzo campus.  They were some of the most accomplished  ladies in the land.  Among the ruby jubilarians were Tess Barcelon, Lody Barranda, Jojo Borromeo, Charo Cancio, Lynnie Castillo, Fay Chan, Annette Chanco, Coritha, Tutti Crisostomo, Aida Cui, Nini Diaz, Deng Dimayuga, Emy Faustino, Paula Feria, Gigi Fernandez, Nena Fule, Vicky Ignacio, Stella Illustre, Ito Kahn, Roxanne Lapus, Tess Lopez, Clarita Magat, Marivic McCann, Annie Molina, Mayen Ordoveza, Nenuca Ortigas, Mau Padilla, Lidia Pamontjak, Annie Rocha, Rose Rodriguez, Marivic Rufino, Tina Samson, Helen Silva, Pandy Singian, Tina Ty, et. al..

Happy Homecoming, Ladies!!!   🙂   🙂   🙂

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“Walking Through Years of Friendship:  The  Assumption High School Class of 1969”

By:  Tess Z. Lopez

It’s show time for the glittering rubies of High School Class 1969!

As we prepared for the velada, we swung to the tune of “Pretty Woman, in celebration of life as fulfilled women in our chosen vocations.  We rocked to the beat of “ These boots were made for walking” remembering the twelve years we walked together at the Assumption Convent, coping with the disciplinary measures of the Assumption nuns,  cramming for quizzes and tests and, on the fun side, sneaking out of the watchful eye of Mang Segundo to eat at  Blums Coffee Shop in old Herran!  Those were fun days when life seemed so simple and everything a bed of roses.  After all, we belonged to the Age of Aquarius and “Flower Power’ was the “in” thing.  We became idealists, seeking peace and harmony in a world racked by global turmoil.

As we bade goodbye to the ivy walls of the Assumption after graduation, we began our individual journeys to fulfill our destinies.  We were full of queries where life would lead us to and what the future had in store for us.  Young as we were, we were charged with an adventurous spirit, and were willing to challenge whatever stood in our way of fulfilling our dreams.  And true enough, with determination, we found our niches in the world.  Many of us became full time mothers, others chose to pursue a career or business while raising children, a few have remained single.  No one chose the religious life! 

Forty years after high school, we come together again to celebrate the friendships that were nurtured through the years.  Thanks to the Age of Technology, the Internet has successfully located classmates who have been silent in the different  corners of the world.  Our friendships, aged by the passing years, resonate with the happy and sad times that  have been shared through the years.  Age and  the passing winds of time have developed new episodes in our lives.  A number of us have become widows, others are now young doting grandmothers and many have retired from their careers.  A few have left us forever to live in eternal peace.  We may not be as physically fit as forty years ago, but the class still holds on to a wellspring of zest and enthusiasm for life, seeking new dreams to pursue, never holding back to the ongoing challenges of life.

In whatever path of life my classmates have taken, I take pride that all of them have become the “ideal woman”  that the Assumption education prayed we would be.  In their sphere of life and work, Class ’69 has given dignity to womanhood, shared their material and spiritual resources to their families and workmates, taken up their crosses with strength and patience and in a thousand ways given of themselves for the betterment of society.  Truly, this has been the dream of our Mother Foundress!  As the curtain goes up on October 18, forty glittering rubies of High School Class 1969 will bring the show down in a dance medley celebrating Life, Love and Friendship.

“Bayanihan”!!!

A priest said it so well in a recent homily:  “The Filipino stops being a Disaster Himself… during a Disaster.”  Comic, but True.

There were so many instances of True Heroism during the Typhoon “Ondoy” Deluge of 26 September 2009, Saturday.  Many people risked their lives to bring others to safety.  Indeed, some of them lost their very lives in the process.  Many people went out of their way to ensure the safety, not only of immediate family, but also of friends and neighbors.  Stranded commuters shared their resources with each other during those endless hours.  Many soldiers rose valiantly to the occasion and showed amazing strength and resolve as they undertook rescue operations in very difficult conditions.

No sooner than the Typhoon “Ondoy” floodwaters of 26 September, Saturday, started receding that many, many charitable Filipinos [ ladies, gentlemen, and yes, even children ] looked at their pantries and storage rooms, and in many cases even went to the groceries and supermarkets, to purvey essential goods to share with the flood victims.  What was all the more remarkable was that many of these individuals chose to bring and share these essential goods with the flood victims themselves as one-family relief operations.  With altruistic resolve they quietly headed to Marikina, Cainta, and other affected areas and generously distributed relief goods to their devastated fellow Filipinos.  And they did it without any urging other than their own.

At posh Ayala Alabang village, which was not affected by the Typhoon “Ondoy” rains and floodwaters at all, two truckfuls of quality rice were immediately purchased by a charitable foundation and sent for distribution to the typhoon victims.  Charitable residents thoughtfully purchased imported canned goods with easily-opened tops to eliminate the need for the victims to have can openers.  Civic-minded residents voluntarily flocked to the Ayala Alabang Country Club and helped pack, send off, and distribute hot rice meals for the victims.  The kitchen team even made the effort to cook dishes without ingredients that spoiled easily, like tomato sauce.  They were simply laudable human beings.

The Filipino expatriates all over the world also rose gallantly to the calamity.  Within 24 hours of Typhoon “Ondoy’s” floodwaters, Filipino expatriate communities started gathering relief goods and big packages started arriving in Manila from the four corners of the globe.  Through TV, YouTube, and Facebook, Filipinos abroad faithfully kept track of the calamitous developments and responded accordingly.

It was a Disaster.  But the unprecedented Concern that Filipinos showed to their affected countrymen made it another proud and great moment for the country.  It was something that raised The Filipino to the High Altar of Humanity.

It’s Time

When I was very young and blissfully ignorant, and that was many, many, many years ago, the arrival of a typhoon was a happy development, specially if it reached Signal Number Two, because that meant that classes were suspended.  We children could look forward to playing most of the day inside Lola Charing’s big house, which was impervious to floodwaters and strong winds.  We liked to  “play house,” “cooking-cooking,” Barbie dolls, G.I Joe figures, “Sungka,” “Piko,” “Patintero,” Hide and Seek, Exchange Places [ in the elegant living room, of all places  😛 ], “Old Maid,” “Monopoly,” “Scrabble,” etc..  We could watch our favorite cartoons on TV in the afternoon [ “Superman,” “Aquaman,” “Mightor,” et. al. ], and eat all the sugary delights — today’s “tooth decay specials” — we wanted from Lola Charing’s fully-stocked kitchen, and I mean fully-stocked [ “Selecta” and “Magnolia” ice cream;  “Pare” Bito Nuqui’s homemade “Mantecado” ice cream of carabao’s milk and slivers of “dayap” lime rind { IF there was any left after Brother Andrew and us hungry grandchildren!  😛 };  Ate Talia Padilla’s homemade cakes, “ensaimadas,” “sans rival,” traditional pastries like “panaritas,” “caramelitos,” etc.;  “barquillos” and “broas” cookies from Lola Nena Gala, “Panaderia de Molo” cookies from Lola Gely Lopez, “See’s” chocolates, etc. ], and from Aling Maring’s and Aling Esa’s nearby sari-sari stores [ “Sarsi” soda, “Mirinda” soda, “Tarzan” and “Texas” bubble gum, “Choc-Nut” peanut chocolates, “Butterball” butterscotch candy, “White Rabbit” candy, etc. ] for “merienda.”  Those simple pleasures were what typhoons meant to us grandchildren.         

Typhoons then didn’t seem so bad.  Yes, we would see helicopter footages of the Central Luzon provinces — Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac — inundated in floodwaters, but everyone was smiling and giggling as they waved to the cameras of RPN Channel 9 [ or did President Marcos or Madame Marcos also order them to do that??? ].  And because we were stuck in the house with Lola Charing and Ate Talia during such days, we grandchildren also saw, to our collective chagrin, more episodes of “Aawitan Kita” starring the irrepressible Armida Siguion-Reyna and other howling singers.   I remember “Didang,” a particularly strong  typhoon in the early 1970s.  Now that one caused a lot of damage!  We also had no school for a week!  Yippee!

Thirty years later and Everything is so different now…

The coming of a typhoon nowadays in the 2000s means Difficulty, Desperation, Destruction, and yes, even Death.

I had not realized until now that one could actually get killed in a flood.  I stupidly thought that it was only a matter of swimming well with all kinds of strokes — doggie-style, backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, etc..  Yes, one could get electrocuted by an open electric wire in the water, or, fall into an open manhole [ what with all the steel manhole covers being stolen for sale to steel recyclers! ].  Or contract the dreaded “Leptospirosis” [ infection from rodents’ feces ] by open cuts and wounds.  But what I didn’t know was that one could just be swept away by the rampaging waters, and be hit, all too helplessly, by all kinds of flotsam and jetsam — floating vehicles, uprooted trees, loosened concrete, wooden beams, G.I sheets, stones, and all —  until one is simply… DEAD.  Just like the villains in those “Indiana Jones” adventure movies!!!

Last night, I was at Santo Domingo Church for the third day Novena and Mass in honor of the “Santo Rosario,” Our Lady of the Rosary [ an Old World tradition I took from my Lola Charing ] .  We lifted our hands and the “Our Father” was sung beautifully by the grand choir and, and oddly enough, rather soulfully by the congregation.  I thought of all our fellow, suffering Filipinos and the terrible videos seen on TV and YouTube… and my mind’s eye replayed the horrors over and over, and over again.  And I wept…  Of course, Social Me kept my composure [ ramrod straight posture!  Queen Mary-esque pulchritude  😛 ] but the tears just flowed.  I was lucky, only a few, unused things got wet… but many other people lost their livelihood, hard-earned possessions, homes… and lives!!!    The Sheer Devastation wrought by typhoon “Ondoy’s” floods on Filipino Life was just so awful, wasn’t it?

And now, there’s supertyphoon [ first time I’ve heard the term!!! ] “Pepeng” whirling towards the Philippines…  Ohmygod.  What worse devastation can that one bring???                         

It’s Time…  It’s Time to Pray, and Pray Hard, like we never did before.

It turns out that our Old People, who prayed hard and prayed often, really knew what they were doing.   😐   😐   😐

*unfinished*

New policy

From now on, I will no longer accept any comments from amorphous entities in cyberspace.  There are far too many stupid and irritating comments coming from nobodies who don’t have the guts to back their comments up with their actual identities.  I don’t see why anyone has to hide behind a pseudonym when I myself am laid out all over the place for everyone to see.  I don’t have anything to hide and neither should any of my readers.

From now on, comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

I don’t care if it means a lessening of the hits this blog receives per day.  Because I never did care about those things in the first place.