Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Great Knight from batch 1981 passed away

Last Sunday I was informed by a fellow Rotarian, mediaman Pete Servano, about the demise of his brother, Ceferino.

Ceferino "Rino" Servano was a PMA graduate and was on service leave when the helicopter he was testing crashed somewhere in Guam. I learned that he died on the spot last September 30th and his remains were put to rest in Naga City last October 19th.

I remember Rino during our CAT days as our junior officer (batch 1981) and my Baztekhan Karate Club classmate.

Boys, please include him in your prayers.

Chods Laquindanum ADENU HS 80

Friday, October 09, 2009

ADENU Class 1979 memories.

October 9, 2009

A recent text communication with Borts Fortuno prompted me to write down my own memoirs regarding the members of ADENU high school class 1979. Below are a few memory notes that I could recall.

Emmanuel Abejero The skilled soccer player who is very fast on his feet. Emmanuel had the habit of placing his hands behind his back when he does a one-on-one with another soccer player. Though he was very competitive, he possessed a well natured sportsmanship spirit and gives praises to members of the opposing team whenever they are able to pass through his guard.

Henry Brisenio A very friendly and industrious guy who likes to create things from simple materials.

Napoleon “Nappy” Florece I remember back in 1977 or 1978 when Ateneo held its annual school intramurals. The first intramural event was a marathon that started in Magarao church and ended at the gates of Ateneo. I remember waiting for the start of the race which was then scheduled to start at 6:30AM. I saw Nappy wearing green jogging pants and was sitting on the wall of the church patiently waiting for the race official to call everybody to the starting line. When the race finally started, I tried to stay close to Nappy but he took off like an antelope. After a mile, the road had a sharp left turn and after I got through the turn, I saw Nappy about 1/3 of a mile ahead of me. It was then that I realized that my chances of catching up to Nappy is very slim. Nappy won that marathon.

One of the coolest teen sports back in high school was skateboarding. I remember Nappy got himself a skateboard and did some fancy moves on his skateboard on top of the CSI building. Like many class 79ers, Nappy liked to dance and he imitated many of the dance moves of John Travolta and Denny Terrio.

Like his father, Nappy also joined the U.S. navy and I heard he retired from the service a few years ago. Back in September 2004 or 2005, I went to downtown Los Angeles to attend the Pena Francia Fiesta. I bumped into Nappy during the fiesta but he did not immediately recognize me. It was only when I told him my last name that he finally was able to recall who I was.

Giovanni Vicente Fulgentes A hard working person who is very opinionated and vocal in his views. Takes a lot of calculated risks in life and overcomes difficulties with humor in his heart.

Erwin “Borts” Fortuno An upper classman whom I thought will join the military because of his dedication as a CAT officer.

Gil Emmanuel Mejia The CAT officer who seemed to enjoy ordering my batch mates to do push-ups whenever we make even the slightest mistake during drills. During the Saturday Night Dance, Gil came to the dance proudly wearing fancy slacks and white vintage shoes. I wonder where Gil got those impressive shoes that made him stand out at the dance floor. They looked like vintage shoes from the 50’s or 60’s.

Gerardo Ojeda The son of my 6th grade math teacher at Naga Parochial School. Gerardo is a very kind person and always talked in a low tone.

Ricardo "Ricky" Roco The cool and confident corps commander of CAT. He earned the respect of many of my batch mates because he was firm in his leadership but also showed compassion whenever a cadet is having some difficulties. The last time I saw Ricky was back in the mid-1980’s at Ayala avenue in Makati. I was walking by Rufino building (I think) when Ricky called me. He told me that he has a dental clinic in the building. About a year or two later while I was working for Gillette, I heard that Ricky became the president of the Philippine Dental Association.

Joseph Salva Another CAT officer who loves punishing the whole platoon when one cadet commits a mistake during inspection or drill practice. He has a fascination with photography.

Jess Santiago The gentle giant of batch 1979.

Edgar Surtida III Spared me from CAT push-ups because I am a good friend of his cousin, Fidel Surtida.

Robert Tolentino A good basketball player during elementary and high school. He is proud of his All-Star converse shoes when he used to play basketball in Naga Parochial School. He became a good friend of my older brother, Alvin. The last time I saw Robert was during the early 1980’s when he visited the Philippines during his annual R&R (Rest & Recreation) from the U.S. Air Force. I think he was stationed in West Germany during his boot camp training.

Rafael Angel “Tootsie” Vibar The older brother of my batch mate, Rodrigo Vibar. One of the tough guys of Ateneo avenue. I think I saw Tootsie in Legaspi city back in the late 1980’s working as a medical representative. I am glad to find out that he now resides in New York with his wife and children.

Robert De La Torre - Robert is a very simple and humble guy who seemed to befriend everybody around him. About five years ago, I saw Robert during the Pena Francia fiesta at Echo Park in Los Angeles.

Emmanuel Rodriguez - The tisoy of batch 1979.

Raymund Fernando - A very generous guy who lent me his barbels once for about two weeks when I was a freshman in college. After returning the barbels to Raymund, I decided to enroll in a body building gym in Naga. Raymund was also the first person who described to me in detail how it was like to be inside Disneyland. Two decades after he told me that story, I found myself working part-time for Disneyland during the weekends.

Melvin Bustilla His mother was a successful lady physician whose clinic was located across Alex theater. After the final CAT formation back in February 1979, there was a tradition of dumping the outgoing CAT officers at a fishpond near the guardhouse. Some of the officers were thrown to the pond that had murky water. Since Melvin was a big guy, the cadets just asked him nicely to jump into the pond.

Small memory clippings during college

October 8, 2009

While I was watching the evening news last night, I was surprised to receive a text message from Irwin “Borts” Fortuno, who is a member of Ateneo De Naga high school class 1979. He told me that our batch mate, Leoncio “Butch” Badiong Jr. is back in Naga after staying in the Federal States of Micronesia for about two years. I do not know if Butch is just visiting Naga or has moved back to the Philippines.

There were two Badiongs in our batch: Julio Badiong and Butch Badiong. Back in high school, I noticed that both Badiongs were sociable but Julio is the hyperactive one while Butch is more reserved.

Butch became my class mate in College in Ateneo De Naga during the summer of 1982 or 1983. I believe Butch was still an active student of University of the Philippines Los Banos when he enrolled for summer classes in ADENU. The subject whom Butch and I became classmates was called “The Rizal Course”. Our teacher then was Mr. Ireneo Llana.

Butch was a very laid back guy. Whenever he is waiting for his next class, he would hang out at the Pillars along with the other regular “tambay boys” checking out the beautiful coeds arriving from the main gate. Butch never came across as a serious student. But when Mr. Llana handed out the final grades in our class, Butch came on top of the class!

Butch told me that student life in U.P. Los Banos is very hectic and he never had the luxury of hanging out with his buddies after the last class of the day. At the end of the day, he would spend hours studying his lessons just to survive academically in U.P. Garo magaratak daa ang payo niya sa ka-aadal.

Being an amateur historian, I enjoyed studying the life of Dr. Jose Rizal. I felt pressured though to get a good grade during that class because I was seated next to Nancy Seechung whose parents are good friends of my folks. The Seechung family owned the BenMar Marketing store near the supermarket. Nancy graduated high school at Saint Joseph School back in 1980. After high school, Nancy went to study at the College of Holy Spirit in Manila. Like Butch, Nancy also decided to take up a few classes in Ateneo while spending her summer vacation in Naga.

I remember that Nancy had a preference when it comes to her choice of chairs. She always wants to sit on a chair that has a wide table arm (Writing platform). Nancy is a left hander and so she had some difficulty writing on a chair designed with a right-hander table arm. Fortunately, there were a few chairs that had a wide table arm to accommodate the wide balance sheets that accounting students always work on. It became my unofficial duty to ensure that Nancy gets her favored chair every time we attended Mr. Llana’s class.

During the class of Mr. Llana, I did not only learn about the life of the national hero of the Philippines. I also got to know two batch mates who possessed unassuming characters and always maintained simple conversations with everybody.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Penniless inside a Dollar

September 9, 2009

Years ago, there was a comment made by a well respected chairman of a charitable institution in the Philippines that there are no Filipino beggars in the U.S. This fact held true to me until last September 7, 2009.

My family and I were at the city of San Diego that day trying out the different Filipino desserts being sold by Pinoy stores and restaurants. Outside one of the stores, I noticed that there was a Filipino man who is on his late 40’s or early 50’s wearing earphones and carrying an old backpack. He was a bit shabby and acted very restless while smoking a cigarette. When I went to a Chow King restaurant nearby, I noticed that the man also entered the restaurant and went from table to table asking for alms. He even asked some of the patrons if he could have some of their food. I heard him speak in English but he had a clear Filipino accent. This made me conclude that he spent a part of his life in the Philippines.

While my wife and children were busy checking out the freshly baked ‘kakanins’, I looked at the man and wondered how he became a beggar. Perhaps years ago, this man boarded a 747 plane bound for the U.S. and was probably met by his relatives at the airport. He worked hard to set up a decent life and possibly had children of his own. During his struggles to carve out a living, something terrible happened. Did he have a family tragedy?….Made a string of wrong or unwise decisions?…...Went through some tragic life experience? Only the Almighty knows his life. The only thing I know is something happened in this man’s life that broke his spirit to continue pursuing his dream.

At first, I wanted to spark a conversation with the Filipino beggar to find out the circumstances that led to his present state. Though my curiosity is pushing me to talk to this Pinoy, my conscience pulled me back warning me that the man might not want to share with me anything about his past. I observed that the poor Pinoy does not seem to have any physical disabilities because he walked around without any difficulty. I have a small amount of money in my pocket but hesitated to give it to him afraid that he might use the money to buy cigarettes or alcohol. It made me wondered if he has some mental disabilities because a large number of homeless people are suffering from some sort of mental illness that is why they are unable to bring themselves out of their slump.

That poor Pinoy reminded me of an old TV show in the Philippines called, “Apple Pie, Patis, atbp”, which was hosted by comedian Joey De Leon. The show featured the lives of Filipinos from different countries all over the world. The interviews played during the show were quite interesting because the Filipinos narrated their humble beginnings and the struggles that they had to endure to establish their careers in their new host country. One Filipino that they interviewed said that in the Philippines, when your life and career spirals downward, your relatives and friends will be there to hold you up or cushion your fall. This way you are still able to dust yourself and continue life. But in the U.S. or Europe, if you fall, your plunge will be deep and you will hit the bottom hard.

Do you still remember the beggars that we used to see around Naga city? When I was a young boy during the 1960’s and 1970’s, I remember one particular blind beggar who sat daily near the cross walk of Naga Cathedral. He was an old man who is probably on his late 50’s or early 60’s and he would be on his knees for hours softly saying over and over again, “Palimos man po….Palimos man poooo….” Whenever I give him a 5 or 10 centavo coin, he would say, “Salamat poo..”.

Another known Naga beggar is an old lady whom everybody calls “Bagyo”. She would sometimes spend her time hanging out at the small “Virgin Mary” garden next to Sisters of Saint Paul bookstore. For years, people tormented “Bagyo” relentlessly and she would always lose her temper and cuss those who teased her. Someone told me that during World War 2, Japanese soldiers executed the husband of Bagyo. The mental trauma from the loss of her husband caused Bagyo to lose her sanity. Then one stormy day, Bagyo decided to collect broken wood and also vegetables to cook for food. A bunch of cruel and insensitive people decided to make fun of her and started calling her “Bagyo”. I do not know if the story is true but what I know is Bagyo is now in the presence of God and her tormentors are now about to face judgment.

Ever since the economy took a nose dive, I have seen the lives of many people from all nationalities here in the U.S. go from prosperity to poverty. There seemed to be a very thin space between those two levels of living. People who used to enjoy financial abundance for years are now scrambling to make ends meet. One day you could be enjoying caviar and the next you are eating kamote. Earthly treasures can disintegrate in a blink of an eye and you are left with crumbs to survive on.

My friends, if you see a person whose life seemed utterly pathetic, do not turn your back at him or her. Open your hand and share your blessings to the struggling person. Please do not despise the person by walking away. Just realize that it does not take a lot for you to turn into the person whom you look down on.

Have a heart, share your blessings.

Deuteronomy 15: 7-8 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”