Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Unregistered, Uninsured, Illegal & On the Road

Some people believe that all of us are allotted to commit one very stupid decision once in a great while. Well, mine came yesterday and I came out of it with a story to tell.

As a vintage Volkswagen enthusiast, I always look forward to VW shows in southern California. One of the much awaited VW shows in California is the ‘Bugin’ held in Irwindale, California. Different VW clubs compete on drag races and also classic VW shows. One of the main attractions of the show is the vintage parts swap meet (flea market). During these events my VW buddies and I would load up our vintage VW buses (Kombi) with old parts and antiques to be sold at the swap meet.

Initially, I wanted to load my parts into my VW Kombi but after laboring through half of my Saturday afternoon removing the heavy 1776cc engine off of my 1971 Deluxe VW bus, I did not feel like loading my parts in my bus anymore.

One of my vintage VW club buddies came by my house after dinner time and asked me if I could drive his VW single cab bus that he loaded with parts and an engine for the show. Knowing that he is struggling financially due to a separation with his wife, I decided to help him out by driving his bus for him.

I woke up at 4:10am the following day and hurriedly prepared breakfast to go. My friend came by my house shortly driving his 1957 bug. When I started the bus that is loaded with parts, I noticed that the registration of the vehicle had been expired since December 2011. I then asked my friend if he has accident insurance for his vehicle. He said he doesn’t. I became a bit uncomfortable with the idea of me driving an uninsured vehicle with expired tags. If I get pulled over by the police, I am looking at hundreds of dollars worth of fines. While we were discussing my concern, I felt that there is something wrong with the status of his driver’s license that is why he was afraid to drive his bus. I can tell that desperation is driving him to make unwise and selfish decisions. Though I am fully aware of his self-centered intension, I already made a promise to help him the day before and I intend to keep my promise.

We rolled through the streets with the sky still dark. While driving, I prayed to our Lord asking Him to keep cops away from my path.

The distance to our destination is about 35 miles and I kept on calculating the chances of me being pulled over. I also have a dreaded feeling whenever I approach potential locations along the freeway where the highway patrol are most active. My heart was pumping faster than usual and I was constantly checking the headlights of the cars behind me because the highway patrol cars have a distinctive headlight setup.

Cruising at 55 miles an hour, I checked the control panel and the gasoline gauge caught my attention—it was close to empty! I called my buddy who was following me with his bug and asked him if he put gas in the tank. He said he did, $10. What?! I wanted to pull over and strangle him for his stupidity but decided against doing it because that would just cause a delay in our progress towards our destination.

From a distance up ahead, I saw small flashes of red and white lights, a California highway patrol cruiser! My hands froze on the steering wheel. I doubled check my speed, 55 MPH. As I casually cruise passed the highway patrol, I noticed that he pulled a car and is questioning the driver of the car. I figured that there are not a lot of highway patrol cars operating early that Sunday morning and so my chances of being caught is slim.

Since I am not familiar with the road exit at the freeway, I told my friend to drive ahead of me so that I can follow him when he exits. After about a mile, he called me and said that we missed the freeway exit ramp and had to find another exit. This dumb mistake irked me quite a bit because we have to drive about 3 miles through another freeway to be able to find the right road exit at the freeway. I wanted to get off that freeway because I felt that at any moment a highway patrol car will be behind my tail with its lights flashing. I was finally able to relax when we arrived at our destination and there was a long line of old VW bugs and buses waiting for their turn to get into the show.

The show was great and I saw a lot of my VW friends and their families hunting for vintage parts. I did not buy a lot of parts because my garage is already loaded with vintage VW junk parts that I plan to sell at a VW show next month.

After the show, we packed up and the first thing I told my buddy was to find a gas station to put gas in his bus. Confident that he knew the way around Irwindale, I followed him through the side streets. After turning through several streets, he pulled over and called me on the cell phone to told me that he does not know where the nearest gas station is located at. “Are you kidding me, man? Let’s get out of this place!”, I said. 

About a mile up the road, I spotted a major intersection and told my buddy to drive to that location. I was relieved to find a gas station at the corner and we loaded our cars with gas.

It was about one in the afternoon when we headed back home. When we got to the freeway, my heart started to beat faster again. By that time, there were more cars on the freeway compared to when we drove to Irwindale. Anxiety started to creep into my nerves and I kept on checking the rear view mirror analyzing each of the cars behind me up to a quarter of a mile away hoping that none of them is a highway patrol cruiser. As I put more miles behind me bringing myself closer to my destination, it donned on me that the anxiety that I was experiencing is pretty much like the anxiety being felt by illegal immigrants when they take the risky path towards helping their family.

To keep my mind occupied, I tried to be positive by telling myself that nothing will happen to me and the law enforcement people are busy chasing law breakers and criminals. But my conscience reasoned that what I am doing is illegal too! Panic attack started hitting my nerves again. So much for positive thinking!

We finally arrived at the city where I live. After we got off the freeway ramp, my buddy called me and offered to buy me lunch. I quickly declined and told him that I just want to get home and get this nerve wracking stupid experience over with.

When I finally got off the vehicle, I sternly told my buddy that I am not doing that thing again even if he begs me until hell freezes over.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lt. Col. Walter H. Loving and the Philippine Constabulary band

Last weekend, my teenage daughter excitedly asked me if she and her classmate can watch a concert of a famous Korean band. Since I mostly listen to music from the 1940’s through the 60’s, the bands and singers of the current generation is all foreign to me. My eyebrows jumped off my face when I saw the price for economy rate seats for the Korean band’s concert--$150! Concert prices sure have come a long way since I was a kid back in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the past 40 years, I have seen Filipino singers and bands struggle to penetrate the international music industry. The following are some of the Filipino musical artists that found success outside the Philippines:

Pilita Corales was the first female to top the Australian pop music charts in the late 1950’s.

The ReyCards Duo (Rey Ramirez & Carding Cruz) found success performing a musical & comedy show in Las Vegas, Nevada during the late 1960’s.

Freddie Aguilar’s own composition entitled “Anak” hit the number 1 spot in Japan’s music charts. The song also became popular in Malaysia, Hong Kong and parts of Western Europe.

Lea Salonga became world famous when she was selected for the lead role in “Miss Saigon”.

Charice Pempengco stunned the American musical audience when she performed in Ellen De Generes & Oprah shows. She is currently performing in concerts all over the world.

All these Filipino artists broke through the music industries outside the Philippines because they had a God given talent. But before Charice, Lea Salonga, Reycards and Pilita Corales, there was a Filipino band that became famous in United States. This is their story and also the story of their courageous African-American leader, Lt. Col. Walter Loving.

Walter Howard Loving was born to former African-American slaves in Lovingston, Virginia in December 1872. Two years after Walter was born, his mother passed away. The Loving family which consisted of the father, three boys, two teenage girls (one of whom was married and has a son), had to crowd in a small house. 

In 1891, Walter moved to Washington D.C. and showed his musical talent by playing the cornet and directing the second Baptist church choir. In June 1893, he enlisted in the U.S. army and was assigned to the 24th Infantry regiment because he indicated his occupation as musician. Back then, African Americans who enlist in the U.S. Army were assigned to one of four segregated regiments: 9th & 10th Calvary regiments and 24th and 25th Infantry regiments.

Private Loving was stationed in Fort Bayard, New Mexico in July 1893 and was transferred to the band in January 1894. Military bands were an important part of every regiment because they play in parades and unit dances.

In 1898 at the treaty of Paris, the nation of Spain sold the Philippines to United States for $20 million. When the U.S. took possession of the Philippines, it also bought itself a war with the Filipino revolutionaries who were fighting for the independence of the Philippine nation. The Filipino-American war cost the U.S. $600 million.

There were about 28,000 American troops stationed in the Philippines and to augment this number, additional U.S. troops were shipped to the new colony. Loving was assigned as a chief musician in the 48th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, which is one of the African-American regiment that was sent to the Philippines. The other colored regiment was the 49th Volunteer Infantry. In January 1900, the 48th Infantry arrived in Manila. A local newspaper, the Manila Times, printed an announcement saying that 200 trained singers would be performing at the Luneta public park accompanied by the U.S. 48th regimental band. When the African-American troops were deployed at different defensive lines around Manila to repel attacks from Filipino troops, Loving and his musicians tried their best to boast morale.

On March 1900, the 48th regiment was moved to the city of San Fernando, La Union. The troops found the place quite inhospitable with its mountainous terrain, thick overgrowth and very few roads. But in spite of these hurdles, troops of the 48th was able to operate well in the area which impressed Col. William Duvall, which was the 48th volunteer infantry commander. Loving was later promoted to second lieutenant.

In May 1901, the 48th regiment returned to United States for redeployment to reduce the U.S. Army’s strength in the islands by 40 percent. Shortly after its returned, members of the 48th returned to civilian life.

In February 1901, the U.S. congressed authorized the enlistment of 12,000 Filipinos for military service. This resulted in the formation of the Philippine scouts which were armed with .45 caliber Springfield carbines. Hoping to serve as a lieutenant in the Philippine scouts, Loving sought the help of influential people that he knew in the army to get an officer’s commission in the Philippines.

Loving was not the only African-American who wanted to return to the Philippines. A number of veterans from the 48th and 49th volunteer infantry regiments elected to remain in the Philippines and settled down with their Filipina girlfriends or wives. These men did not have the desire to return to the U.S. because of America’s animosities towards the colored race. One of Loving’s fellow officer who stayed in the Philippines is Adolph Wakefield, who worked as a civilian packer for the Quartermaster’s Department. Wakefield died in July 1902 from cholera.

In 1902, Loving returned to the Philippines and worked as a subinspector in the Philippine constabulary. At the request of William Howard Taft, first Philippine governor-general, Loving started work in organizing a Constabulary band. He was promoted to second lieutenant in the end of 1902 then to first lieutenant in August 1903. During his stay in the Philippines, Lt. Loving became fluent in Spanish and Tagalog dialect which became helpful in search for first class Filipino musicians. One of the musicians that Lt. Loving recruited was Pedro B. Navarro who was able to play every wind instrument in the band. Navarro eventually succeeded Loving as the band’s director. The citizens of Manila always enjoyed the Philippine Constabulary band two-hour evening concerts at Luneta park.

The band’s first international break came at the St. Louis World’s fair at St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. The fair covered a massive 1200 acre area with 1500 buildings connected by 75 miles of roads and walkways. The fair was delayed from 1903 to 1904 to allow more attendees coming from states and foreign lands. Exhibits were staged by 62 foreign countries, and 43 out of 45-then U.S. states. The exhibits that were featured were industries, cities, organizations, corporations, music schools, etc.

The Philippine authorities decided to send 1,100 Filipinos to create a 47-acre exhibit. At the Philippine exhibit, it featured the primitive life of the Igorots and Filipino Muslims. The Philippine Constabulary battalion was composed of 280 men led by 12 officers plus Loving and his 80 band members.

Lt. Loving’s PC band had a busy schedule of playing at opening ceremonies and parades exhibition drills. The band’s evening and tri-weekly concerts became a very popular attraction to the 19 million visitors that came to the exhibit. On one particular evening concert by the PC band, the power went out. Lt. Loving quickly tied a white handkerchief to his baton so that it can seen by the band members and the band continued playing the William Tell Overture in the dark. The PC band played without missing a note because Loving trained his musicians to memorize the repertoire.

The band also traveled to other places in United States. They led a 10,000-man parade of the Knights of Phythias in Louisville, Kentucky. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the band played at the Wisconsin State fair where 20,000 people attended the opening day. When President Roosevelt went to the St. Louis fair, it was believed that Pres. Roosevelt and Loving met because Roosevelt wrote a letter to Lt. Loving thanking him for the shield that contained miniature Filipino weapons that Loving gave to the president as a gift. 

After the St. Louis World fair, the Constabulary band bought string instruments and started playing as a symphony orchestra. When William Taft became the 27th president of United States, he invited Lt. Loving and his band to play at his presidential inauguration at Washington D.C. The inaugural committee offered to pay the band $650 for two concerts on March 5 & 6, 1909. At this point, the only problem the band needs to resolve is how to raise the $28,000 needed for the whole band to travel to the presidential inauguration. It was eventually agreed that the band will raise the money by staging a concert tour across the U.S.

On its way to the U.S., the PC band had a concert at the Nagasaki Hotel. After arriving in California, the band traveled across the country performing in successful concerts. After playing at President Taft’s inauguration, the newspaper The Evening Star reported great appreciation and praise for the “Little brown men and their director”.  Before leaving Washington, the band played at the White House honoring Japanese dignitaries. The band went on tour and performed in Chicago, New York city, Buffalo, Detroit, Cincinnati, Denver, Salt Lake city, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

While the band was on board a transport ship in San Francisco bay, President Taft happened to be riding a cutter. He ordered his vessel to pull along side the transport ship. While the Filipino band was playing “Hail to the chief” on the bridge, Pres. Taft shouted to the Filipino band, “Goodbye, boys. I wish you a pleasant voyage”. The transport had a short stop over in Hawaii where the band performed before deposed Queen Liliuokalani.

In 1915, the PC band returned to the U.S. and performed at another World’s fair held in San Francisco. At the fair, the PC band was joined by the United States Marine band. Loving had not been feeling well due to severe throat problems. He passed his baton to his chief musician, Pedro Navarro.

In 1916, Loving requested a medical retirement from the constabulary. He conducted his retirement concert in Luneta where he was given a watch and a cup as a retirement gift by his well wishers.

Loving moved to Oakland, California and retired as a major. A short time later, he married Edith McCary, a daughter of an army paymaster’s clerk whom he had met ten years earlier in Manila. In May 1917, they had their first son, Walter Jr.

In September 1917, shortly after the U.S. declared war with Germany, Loving worked as a civilian for the Military Intelligence (MI). After his service ended with the military intelligence in August 1919, Loving and his wife moved to Manila and began directing the Philippine Constabulary band again. He also trained the City Boy’s Reformation band with a pay rate of ten pesos per day. In 1923, Loving had a second farewell concert in Luneta and shortly after that concert, he moved to California taking up a post as a Major in the Officer’s Reserve corps.

In 1936, the Philippine constabulary merged with the army as a constabulary division. President Manuel Quezon decided to ask retired Major Loving to direct the new Philippine army band. Loving accepted the offer and he brought his family back to Manila in October 1937. As a token of his gratitude to President Quezon who promoted him to Lt. Colonel in the Philippine Army, Colonel Loving composed a song entitled “Marcha de los Colectivistas” to honor the political party headed by President Quezon.

In 1939 after the Constabulary was separated from the Army, Col. Loving brought back the PC band to United States to play at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, California.

It was believed that Col. Loving retired from service when World War II began. To avoid the distraction of Manila, it was declared an open city. In early 1942, the Japanese occupied Manila and interned a few thousand American, British and other foreign nationals in the grounds of Santo Tomas University in Manila. Among those who were interned were the Loving family.

Living conditions inside Santo Tomas university gradually deteriorated as months rolled by. Col. Loving was suffering from high blood pressure. His wife, Edith Loving, had to sell her diamond earrings so that she could buy Epsom salts to treat the colonel’s blood pressure. Because of the deteriorating health condition and age of Col. Loving, the Japanese released the Loving family from Santo Tomas and were placed in house arrest in a house in Ermita, Manila. They were required to report to the Japanese authorities twice a week. They were encouraged to escape by their Filipino friends but they refused. (They were probably thinking that it would discourage the Japanese authorities from releasing other sick and old internees from Santo Tomas if they escape.)

When the American forces returned to the Philippines in early 1945, thousands of Japanese troops decided to fight till death on the streets and buildings of Manila. The Japanese set the city on fire and there was chaos all around the city. The Loving family tried to escape by running towards the shores of Manila Bay but a Japanese soldier separated Col. Loving and his wife. Edith Loving was sent to Bay View Hotel in Ermita with the other women. The last Edith saw her husband was he was being led away with hundreds of other prisoners to Luneta. A Filipino witness claimed that the prisoners that were led to Rizal Park were ordered by the Japanese to run to the beach. Some men tried to help Col. Loving but he told them to save themselves. It was believed that Col. Loving was beheaded by the Japanese at Rizal Park, which was the same place where he led his band on his farewell concert years earlier.

After the liberation of Manila, Edith Loving returned to United States. She returned to the Philippines on 1952 to attend the Constabulary’s 50th anniversary. She died in 1996 at the age of 101.

Their son, Walter H. Loving Jr., served 2 ½ years during World War II and was commissioned as an infantry officer in June 1945. He served during the Korean War as an artillery captain and later joined the National Guard. He retired with a rank of colonel in 1969. He died in California in 1969.

Taps to the Lovings.