Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our mistah that became a Mistah.

Ateneo De Naga high school batch 1980 is comprised with a motley crew of characters. Some of them changed or mutated (nagdagdag ning mga sungay) as we progressed to higher levels in high school. But a few batch mates remained unchanged even beyond high school. One of them is Clarito Santos.

Clarito, who is fondly called “Catoy or Toy”, is a well respected member of the class. He exhibited a calm but firm character and adheres to an unbending set of personal principles.

During Citizen Army Training (CAT) back in high school, Catoy became our platoon leader. I remember that he had his own style of barking out commands. He would deliver them in compressed short bursts without stretching out the last syllable of the command like, “Tikasna!, Alistalukbongna!, Pasulongkad!, Likosakaliwakad!" Back then, the CAT officers that loved to shout commands that can cause the aluminum roof sheets of the assembly hall to vibrate were Nestor Monte, Ricky Sadiosa, Braggy & Nelson Tuico. Catoy is very capable of delivering any command in an ear-splitting voice that could wake up the dead because I had witnessed him do so in several occasions. But whenever he gave commands to the troops of LG-20, he delivered them in a friendly way making it look more like a request than a command. The whole LG-20 class preferred Catoy’s command style and so we all obediently followed it without complain. I guess Catoy figured that barking a command does not need to be tedious.

Catoy would always take the lead position whenever our platoon goes through pass-and-review drills. Whenever he gave a quick low-toned command like, “Likosakaliwakad”, the only ones that would hear the command would be the first and second rows of CAT cadets which are Raffy Yllana, Robert Zandueta, Addy boy Vibar, Rogel Valenzuela and Ivan Yuboco. These first row cadets would respond by saying, “Automatic na siko na yan, padi”…and everybody in LG-20 platoon would just follow their lead.

I think it was during our sophomore year when there was a school costume contest where everybody was encouraged to wear crazy costumes. Catoy became our class entry to the contest where he donned a Nazi attire and wore a slightly oversized unlaced black combat boots. I remember him walking in front of the judges of the contest that was held at the Ateneo gym. I could be wrong but I think he placed third in the contest.

I also remember back in high school, I would sometimes see Catoy ride around Naga on what seemed to be a light green 1979 model C70 Honda motorcycle. That motorcycle model was very popular back then because its price is very affordable plus it is able to travel for many miles on a small amount of gasoline.

After high school, I heard that Catoy studied at the University of Santo Tomas (I think). Then on his sophomore year in college, he entered the Philippine Military Academy. I was very surprised when I heard that Catoy chose a military career because he never openly shared his interest in joining the armed forces back in high school. He probably told his close friends about it but I never heard of his vocation towards the armed forces. Back then, the obvious batch mates that were focused into joining the military were Nestor Monte Jr. and Braggy Bragais.

During my sophomore or junior college year in Ateneo, I joined a field trip to Baguio city. One of our stops in Baguio is the Philippine Military Academy. We spent about 3 hours at the academy and while I was walking around the parking lot, I saw Catoy jogging with a lower classman. After I took a picture of Catoy, he went back to his living quarters to change to his usual gray uniform. When Catoy came back to the field, I met up with him again and we spoke for about 30 minutes.

From 1981 thru 1985, I saw Catoy in Naga several times during his short vacation away from the academy. The last time I saw him was back in March 1985 during my college graduation in Ateneo. I shook his hand and gave him a soft friendly punch to his stomach. He congratulated me and wished me luck on my future. I believe Catoy also graduated at the Philippine military Academy that same year.

On June 1, 1988, NPA rebels belonging to the Melito Glor Command were conducting a raid on a Magnolia hatchery of San Miguel Corporation in Tiaong town in Quezon Province. During the operation, the rebels set up a road block. That day, 1Lt. Clarito Santos plus two other officers from the Philippine Army 31st Infantry Battalion and another Lieutenant from the 42nd army battalion were on their way to Manila when they came to the road block. They were all dressed in civilian clothes. When they stopped at the road block, they immediately assumed that the armed men were government soldiers stationed near the area since the men were wearing army fatiques. They were all surprised when they discovered that the armed men at the check point were rebels belonging to the New People’s Army. The four junior officer plus a sargeant were captured and taken to a rebel camp somewhere in Mount Banahaw, Quezon Province.

I remember the morning of June 2, 1988. I just came out from a building in front of Saint Louis University in the city of Cebu when I decided to swing by a small newspaper stand. Tabloids were the fast selling items at the store and so I would always check the headlines to find out any interesting local news. I was surprised when I saw the picture of Clarito Santos on the headlines of Tempo.

It took about two months for the Philippine government to broker a deal with NDF-NPA commander Gregorio Rosal alias “Ka Roger”. In August 14, 1988, the four officers and a paramilitary agent ended their 74-day captivity ordeal. They were all released at a small village near the foot of Mount Banahaw near Sariaya town in Quezon Province. I remember rejoicing upon watching the news on TV that all the captive soldiers were released unharmed.

I heard from his friends that Catoy was promoted to Captain and later left the military service and is now residing somewhere in Australia with his family. A few years ago, Catoy was sighted in a barbeque party in Australia with two former PMA-ers, one of which is his brother-in-law.

Though Toy is now living a quiet life in Australia, his name and memory will remain within the ranks of our batch roster and his unfaltering integrity will forever be admired.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The nightmares after New Year.

January 4, 2010

Last night during dinner, I asked my kids what their New Year’s resolutions are. Both of them shrugged their shoulders and my daughter questioned the relevance of having resolutions. I explained to her that people tend to write up new years resolutions because they want to place a goal before them to attain. I also added that most of the time the goals that are written up are ones that takes a lot of commitment to attain……like eating healthy foods only or lowering cholesterol levels by means of exercise.

The concept of the New Year’s resolution is not new. According to a local public library website, the tradition of New Year’s resolution was created by the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. The first day of the year of this ancient civilization is March 23rd and one of the popular resolutions then was to return something borrowed from a friend during the previous year. The Romans celebrate New Years on January 1st and shared a similar tradition with the Babylonians. A common resolution in ancient Rome was to ask forgiveness from enemies of the past year. The Chinese also celebrate their own new year and one of their customary resolution is to clean their houses.

The fitness industry had benefitted from this annual tradition because every first quarter of the year an influx of new enrollees would sign up to different health gyms all over the country. Exercise equipment sales would surge up as well. But the mortality rate of these new enrollees is high. By the third or forth month of the year, about 25 percent would stay committed to their fitness plan. And from this number, only a small portion of determined individuals would stay until the end of the year. After the fitness craze fizzles out, fancy exercise equipments just end up as dust magnets and are placed in a remote corner of the garage. Some owners of these equipments would sometimes find other uses for them like hanging clothes on their handles.

What is my new year’s resolution? To try to accomplish at least one of my last year’s resolution! (Just kidding). Who am I fooling? I can’t keep or achieve most of my resolutions because life does not pave before me a straight road. Last February 2009 when my high school batch mate Braggy Bragais passed away, I made a resolution to do 100 military style full-cut pushups. I am still struggling to accomplish that and the most I could do is 66 military pushups. I believe that any goal/resolution is achievable by any of us if the effort to attain it is given great urgency. Unfortunately, a lot of us have a gazillion of other pressing responsibilities that we need to do that clogs up our daily life. Hence, the goal is buried under current urgent matters. It is funny though that one of my 2009 resolution is to stop making excuses for not achieving my resolutions!

This year, I decided to write up a short list of goals that are small, specific and achievable. Instead of a goal of running five miles, I instead wrote that I will just simply run every Tuesday and Saturday at a nearby trail. Instead of a goal of helping my kids get high grades, I wrote that I will spend 1-2 hours per day including weekends tutoring them.

My other small goals are:
1. To discover a tasty way to cook chopsuey.
2. Attempt to cook Arroz Caldo. (Guys, I know it is easy but I have not tried it)
3. Review my son’s written articles once a week and give him pointers.
4. To plant more flower bearing plants this coming spring season.
5. To learn how to repair auto body parts by the use of a welding machine.
6. Clean and organize my garage.
7. Pray and forgive.

I don’t know if I mentioned this in my previous articles but every New Years’ eve, I go through a stressful experience minutes before and after the clock strikes midnight. The root of this discomfort dates back more than two decades ago. My wife and I were just newly weds then and temporarily living at their house in Manila. All of us in their household stayed up until midnight to meet the New Year. When the clocked stroke midnight, we fired up all our fire crackers and almost blew the road off from its foundation. A few minutes later, my wife and I went to the dining table to eat our first meal of the year. I was about to sit on my favorite chair in the dining table when a felt the need to sit on another chair located on the opposite side of the table. About a minute or two after I sat down, a bullet from a caliber .45 handgun burst through the roof, bounced off the cement floor and went through my favorite chair. For a brief moment, we sat motionless in disbelief of what just happened. My wife looked at me and said, “What made you sit on another chair?” I told her that I did not know. I stood up and excitedly searched for the bullet. I found it behind a wooden cabinet and when I picked it up it was still hot.

After that near-death experience, if you can call it that, I go through a short anxiety attack every New Year’s eve. Most of the time, I would just go to bed two hours before midnight on December 31st. By midnight, the exploding sounds from the fireworks at Disneyland would wake me up. It is then that I would experience that eerie feeling like my soul is preparing to depart my body. My mind would perseverate the incident that occurred twenty years ago for a few minutes. After a very short period of time, this discomfort would depart me and bring a quiescent feeling in my mind.

Years later, I found out that my in-laws saved that bullet and kept it in their cabinet along with their other prized items. This made me wonder what their motivation was in keeping that bullet.

Happy new year.

Joseph Ivan Y.