Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Farewell Braggy

February 9, 2009

I can never get used to receiving news that a childhood friend/acquaintance has passed on to the next life. Every time this happens, a sense of gloom engulfs me and makes me reassess myself to find out if I am really ready for the dawn of my impending death.

Please forgive me if I may sound like a person who is confronted with the reality that life can end at any moment. All of us have a death date that only God knows. It will come like a theft in the night and sweep the life out of us. We should ask ourselves if we are really ready to meet our Creator.

Many of us have known our batch mate, Porfirio “Braggy” Bragais, ever since our kindergarten days back in 1969. Braggy was my classmate when I was a first grader in Naga Parochial School in 1970 under Mrs. C. Estrada’s class. Mrs. Estrada’s mean character earned her the reputation as “Lapnit lady” for she likes to whack her students whenever she is in a bad mood. Braggy’s table was next to mine during that time and he was very protective of his table because it was next to the window. During hot afternoons, he enjoyed a cool breeze of fresh air while the rest of us sweat like pigs in a pen.

During the late years of elementary, I remember a time when Parochial school would organize a boy scout camping at the school grounds. The tents would be set up on the school ground but nobody used them because whenever it rains, water drips through the tent’s canvas. During that time, there were a lot of students who were stealing boy scouts paraphernalia. Whenever a boy scout would loose one of his paraphernalia, he would try to take revenge by stealing the same item from other boy scouts. The most common item that was being stolen then was the boy scout cap. I noticed that everybody seemed to be guarding their boy scout caps except for Braggy. I would see Braggy leave his cap hanging at the window and would return an hour later to find his cap untouched. Nobody bothered to steal Braggy’s cap because the circumference of his cap was about 2-3 inches larger than any other boy scout’s head in Parochial.

My classmates would sometimes tease Braggy, in a friendly way, because of the size of his head. The Bragais family had been known to own the Bragais studio which was one of the known photo studios in Naga city during the 1960’s thru 1980’s. One day I overheard one of my classmates teased Braggy telling him, “Padi, pag nagpa-picture ka sa studio nindo, dapat garo dakulang lens ang gamiton ninda para magkasya ang payo mo sa litrato”. Braggy countered the teasing comment by telling my classmate in a threatening manner, “Ano kaya kung ipasak ko ang payo mo sa lente kang camera mi!” With Braggy’s large stature, my classmate did not dare fire back another smart aleck remark.

During high school, I remember Braggy joined the OCS (Officer’s Candidate School) of the CAT. He became a staff officer (S3) under corps commander Nestor Monte Jr. Almost everybody in our batch had a prankster mentality and we would spend our free time poking fun on each other’s mistakes and personal behavior. Braggy did not escape this batch’s cruel roguish. Whenever Braggy gives a command, like “TIKAS NAAAA!!!!”, he would have his own version of the command and would instead shout, “TIKAS DOOOOO!!!!”. The whole batch would have a hard time holding down our laughter after hearing the command. After awhile, nakarisa na si Braggy sa purugol na ngarakngakan before and after his command and so he changed his command to, “TIKAS UUUUPPPP!!!!” With Braggy’s new version of the command, everybody’s eyebrows hit the ceiling and my batch mates started asking, “Tano up? Duda garo ako sa command na yan ta may pinatitindog si Braggy. Ano naman kaya ang nasa isip kani ni Braggy ta up ang gusto niya? Pagmati ko censored ang command na yan!”

After graduating high school, I was surprised to see Braggy along with Nestor Monte going through a ridged officer’s training course for the CMT (Citizen’s Military Training) during the summer of 1980. I noticed that both of them each carried a heavy military backpack everywhere they went during the training. Braggy showed his toughness by enduring the grueling military training plus the initiations that tested his endurance. When I enrolled on the CMT course on June 1980, Braggy was in the enlistment room along with some other new officers. He showed me the proper way to salute and also instructed me what I need to say to the officer at the enlistment desk so that I could be given permission to enter the room. Braggy told me, “Ivan, dapat straight yang kamulmog mo (kamot) bago ka mag saludo, ha! Para makasigurado kang istrit ang kamot mo, ilapat mo na muna ang kamot mo sa lanob kang pintuan!. I dutifully obeyed his instructions and my enrollment was completed in no time.

During my CMT training on my freshman year in college, Nestor Monte and Braggy took turns handling our platoon. Braggy’s favorite modes of punishment whenever we mess up during formation were push-ups and squats with our World War II era M-1 Springfield rifles resting on our extended arms. By the end of the school year, nagdarakula na si mga braso mi sa kadakulan ning mga pushups at squats na pinagibo samuya ni Braggy.

I remember one time while our troops were at the assembly hall, Braggy caught me messing around with my rifle and I accidentally pointed it to him. He was furious but gave me a wicked smile and said, “Ivan, papipiliun ta ka sa duwang punishment: Kaunon mo ining siling ini (showing me a small siling labuyo) or mag full-cut pushup ka ning 100 na beses na mayong daya o pahingalo”. I immediately selected the second option of doing 100 pushups. When I commenced doing my pushups, Nestor Monte looked on and counted the number of pushups I was doing. I was only able to reach 42 before my arms gave up on me. Unsuccessful in doing my 100 pushups, I was forced to eat the Labuyo pepper. Fortunately, there was a faucet nearby and so I dashed to it to cool my burning tongue.

I cannot remember if it was during my freshman or sophomore years when I walked passed Naga Cathedral and saw Braggy all dressed up in his military uniform. Braggy’s father and other wedding sponsors were also dressed up with the same military attire. Braggy happily told me that he is marrying his sweetheart. I shook his hand and wished him luck.

Braggy became my classmate in a science class in college. Our classroom then was located at the middle of the second floor of the wooden right-wing building of Ateneo. The window of that classroom was large and since it was designed during the 1940’s, it did not have any screens. Our teacher then was this nice ancient looking old lady and one evening while she was doing her lecture, a bat flew into the room and started flying around the classroom. Our teacher got frightened and she ordered the men in the room to get rid of the bat. We tried to shoo the bat towards the window but the thing was just.…. well….. “blind as a bat” that it can’t seemed to see the open window. Our teacher then became impatient and asked the guys to do something drastic to get rid of the nocturnal pest because it was disrupting her lecture. It was then that Braggy took matters into his own hands. He rolled his notebook and stood on top of his chair. When the bat flew towards him, Braggy did a home-run swing and hit the bat knocking it off in mid-air.

After college, I did not see much of Braggy. During my occasional visit to the Philippines, I heard that Braggy joined the Philippine law enforcement agency and was assigned at the town of San Fernando. When I went to the Philippines back in February 2007, I bumped into Braggy while I was crossing a busy street. Braggy was riding his motorcycle and when he saw me, he stopped and asked me, “Ivan, yaon ka palan digdi. Ano man lang ang pasalubong mo sakuya?”. I told him that I have a scheduled meeting with our batch mates that evening at a drinking place along Magsaysay avenue called “San Diego”. I told Braggie that I will buy him a beer or two if he shows up. He briefly looked down on the ground as if he was trying to figure out his response to my offer. When I asked him again if he will show up, he said, “Sige padi, maduman ako”. When Braggy said that, he did not sound as if he meant what he just said. During the meeting at San Diego, I asked my batch mates if they have seen Braggy. Several of them told me, “Ay dai idto mabutwa si Braggy sa irinuman tang ini ta bawal na sa iya ang alcohol. May hilang siya sa puso”.

During my visit to the Philippines last February 2008, I spotted Braggy crossing Elias Angeles Street. I was on the other side of the street walking towards Colegio. I decided to walk behind several parked vans to hide from Braggy because I did not have any pasalubongs for him. I now regret not approaching Braggy to share a few stories and jokes because that brief moment turned out to be the very last time I saw Braggy alive.

With the departure of Braggy, I decided to embark on a task of accomplishing the order that Braggy gave to me 28 years ago—to do 100 military pushups. So far, I could do 65 but I am not going to stop until I reach 100 on one set. This one’s for you, Braggy!

Missing another departed batch mate.



Blogger Unknown said...

I just read you short stories of uncle lilit (Braggy) and I found them very entertaining. Thank you for sharing these events for we are unaware of them. God Bless! - Juny Bragais

1:42 AM  

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