Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Colonel's Corner--The memoirs of Col. Nestor Monte Sr.

My name is Nestor V. Monte Sr. and I was born in the City of Iriga , Camarines Sur , Philippines in 1944. My father’s name is Eleno Monte and is the second child from the youngest in his family. My mother’s name is Marciana Vargas-Monte and she is the oldest among her siblings. Both my parents were born during the 1920’s and, as far as I know, their bloodline can be traced to the original habitants of Iriga.

My father worked as a rice farmer and my mother was a full time housewife. Farm work is hard and my mother would sometimes go to our farm to give my father a helping hand especially during harvest time. Work was back breaking at my parent’s farm because everything is done manually.

When I was born in 1944, the war between the American liberators and the Japanese Imperial forces were raging all around the Philippines . There were times when my parents and their relatives would hurriedly pack their belongings and run to Mount Iriga to hide from the Japanese soldiers. I was a baby then and so whenever we had to evacuate to the hills, my mother would just wrapped me in simple cloth and bring me with them to the hills and mountains around Iriga City .

My father was a member of the guerilla movement fighting the Japanese in the Bicol Region. When my father died in 1985, the Philippine Veteran’s Affairs Office shouldered his burial expenses when he was laid to rest in a cemetery in Iriga City.

Elementary Years

I was only six years old when my mother enrolled me as a first grader in La Consolacion Academy in Iriga City . Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, Filipino children were enrolled by their parents to school as first graders once their children reaches the age of five or six. This is in contrast to the current Philippine school guidelines where children have to wait until they reach the age of seven before they are allowed to enroll in the first grade.

I stayed with my aunt at her house which was located near La Consolacion Academy. The name of my aunt is Isabelita “Isabel” Vargas, and she is the younger sister of my mother. Aunt Isabel did not have any children of her own and so she asked my mother if I could stay with her at her residence. My aunt, being financially blessed, paid for my tuition and personal expenses.

I remember the old La Consolacion as being very primitive then and the buildings were built mostly of bricks. Religious nuns belonging to the Augustinian sisters managed the operations of the school. We had a mixture of Augustinian nuns and lay people as our teachers.

I studied in La Consolacion from 1950 thru 1952 and later transferred to Santo Domingo Elementary School, which is a public school located in Iriga City. I studied at the public school from third until fifth grade.

In 1955, my aunt Isabel and I moved to Naga City and lived in a house located at Naga City Subdivision along Mayon Avenue . When we moved to Naga, it was during the middle of the school year and so when my aunt enrolled me in Naga Parochial School, I had to adjust myself to my new surroundings. The school director then was Monsignor Nicanor C. Belleza and our principal was Mr. Buenaventura C. Parco. One of my teachers then was Mrs. Remedios Ariola, who became a long time mentor of the NPS students. Parochial did not have any extension buildings then and there were just a few classes. Our school canteen was a tiny setup that sold just basic goods like soda pops, bread and candies. My allowance was just a few centavos and that was all I needed to buy myself simple snacks. I think baduya (sliced bananas coated with brown sugar and fried) were being sold then for a few centavos each.

In 1956, I graduated from NPS and our elementary graduation ceremony was held at the Virgin Mary grotto situated behind the Naga Cathedral. The guest of honor during our graduation was Archbishop Pedro P. Santos D.D.

High school at Ateneo De Naga

Like many Parochial boys, I enrolled in Ateneo De Naga as a high school student in June of 1956. The only buildings that stood back then in the campus were the main building with the four pillars and the right and left wing wooden buildings standing behind it. Near the right wing building was the wooden Jesuit residence which used to be called The Faculty House. The gymnasium was already there because it was built right after the Pacific war using reparation funds given to Ateneo De Naga to repair the damage caused by the war.

Our high school principal was Fr. Francis C. Bowler S.J. who used to be a USAFFE Captain. A few of our teachers that I could remember back in the 1950’s were Mr. & Mrs. Nicolas Acosta, Mr. Sixto Berina, Mr. Augusto Destura who taught Pilipino subject, the two Dy brothers - Temporo & Abraham. Temporo taught math while Abraham taught Pilipino.

Our prefect of discipline was Fr. Alinea S.J. The standard punishment for student misconduct was the “JUG and Post”. JUG is an old Jesuit form of punishment to erring students and the acronym JUG stands for Justice Under God (I don’t know if this is really accurate). When your punishment included doing “Post”, you were required to report to Ateneo on a Saturday to cut grass and clear other unwanted plants that abundantly grew all over the swampy areas of Queborac. Students were required to do JUG & POST when they are late in going to school in the morning or returning to class after recess. I remember doing POST about a dozen times during my high school years.

During my junior and senior years in Ateneo De Naga from 1958 thru 1960, one of our subjects was PMT (Preparatory Military Training). PMT was later changed to CAT (Citizen’s Military Training) in 1972. The person in charge of our PMT course was Mr. Salvador “Kadi” Calandria Sr. During the early stage of the course, we have learned one important lesson and that is, you don’t mess around with Mr. Kadi. He was one mean disciplinarian! Mr. Calandria would shout his lungs out to reprimand his PMT cadets and officers whenever his instructions were not precisely followed during field formation. We considered Mr. Calandria and Fr. Bowler to be in good vibe with each other because they both like barking and shouting at us PMT cadets whenever we make mistakes. Their temper fuses seemed to always be in short supply but they sure have an ample supply of harsh reprimands stored in them whenever things does not go their way.

(Mr. Calandria served as the property custodian of Ateneo until his retirement. He passed away on May 22, 2006 at the age of 86.)

Most of the teachers when I entered Ateneo De Naga were Jesuit foreigners. Our school rector from 1959 thru 1960 was Fr. Vincent P. Towers S.J. After Fr. Towers left in 1960, he was replaced by Fr. Robert A. Rice S.J. Both of these Jesuits were strict. The Jesuit that is a long time resident of Ateneo De Naga then was Bro. Sergio Adriatico.

In March 1960, our high school batch graduated from Ateneo de Naga and our graduation guest speaker was Mr. Maximo Villaflor Soliven.

Mr. Max V. Soliven was a prominent Filipino journalist and newspaper publisher who graduated from Ateneo De Manila University. When martial law was declared in the Philippines in 1972, he was arrested and jailed for three months. After his release from jail, he was banned from writing for seven years. During the last years of the Marcos rule, Mr. Soliven co-founded the Philippine Daily Inquirer which he later left and co-founded another newspaper named Philippine Star.

For years I followed and read Mr. Soliven’s daily newspaper article in the Philippine Star entitled, “By the way”. His insights on many issues in the Philippines were always full of substance.

College Years

I entered college in June of 1960 and took up a course in accounting. My aunt Isabel moved to a house in Bagumbayan Avenue but later moved to City Heights Subdivision. The area in Mayon Avenue all the way to the City Hall used to be called City Heights Subdivision and my aunt Isabel is one of the pioneering residents in that area to build a house. She had a business then of constructing houses and reselling them for profit.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, there was a practice of laminating diplomas. My aunt Isabel brought my diplomas to a laminating store which was located near the old Alex Theater next to the Paquito’s grocery in downtown Naga City. Because all my diplomas were laminated, all of those are still with me.

Military career

My interest in the military started when I was still an elementary student. When I became a Boy Scout member, I felt very comfortable and proud to be in uniform. My interest towards the military profession was enhanced when I became a PMT cadet back in high school.

While I was in college, I tried to qualify for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) but the screening process was really tough back then. During the early 1960s, PMA only took in one applicant per district. Back then, there were only two districts in Camarines Sur. To be chosen as the sole applicant to qualify for the military academy in the whole district was a huge accomplishment. Though I tried my very best, I was not able to snatch the highly coveted spot.

Though this career setback was a bit disappointing to me, I did not allow it to dampen my spirit. I continued my quest for a career in the military. The lure of the uniform just kept on burning inside me.

During college, I signed up for the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Course). Our ROTC corps commander back then was Armando Pural and I believe Pural became the chief accountant of DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) after he graduated from college. Two of his junior officers were Jess Fusana and Primo Poloyapoy, Jr. I spent my first year in the ROTC as a regular cadet because we were only allowed to join the COCC (Cadet Officers Candidate Course) on the second year.

When I moved up to my sophomore year in college, I signed up for COCC. One of the prerequisites in joining the COCC was to join a fraternity called Xavier’s Cross and Saber (XCS) Fraternity. The initiation rites of the COCC was used by the officers as a means to test the trainee’s character as only those candidates who have the mental toughness to bear the difficulties of this rite of passage is given the responsibility to lead other ROTC cadets. I remember one day my superior officer commanded me to push a 10 centavo coin through the four pillars of Ateneo using the tip of my nose. By the time I completed the task, the tip of my nose was already scarred.

Our ROTC troops competed at the annual Penafrancia military parade and we always won first place. We dominated the top spot for a long time during these annual competition.

I rose through the ranks during my years in the ROTC. I started as a Second Lieutenant with the designation as a platoon leader in 1961, promoted as company Ex-O, then company commander. On my senior year, I had a rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Our battalion commander then was Gabriel Centenera. From ROTC, Narciso Moralde, Emmanuel Jarcia and I pursued military careers as army officers.

I graduated in Ateneo De Naga College in 1966 with a major in accounting. It took me five years to finish college because of the ROTC program that I had to complete. After college, I went to Camp Vicente Lim, which is an army training camp located in Canlubang, Laguna for an 8-month military training as a probationary lieutenant. It was during this training where I learned the functions and use of the weapons of war, battle tactics, military leadership styles, survival skills, counter insurgency strategies to mention a few. On the last two months of my training, I was sent to Iriga City to handle the ROTC program of most schools in the city. This assignment was my on-the-job-training (OJT) required by the army.

In 1968, I began working for my application for commissionship in the Armed Forces of the Philippines . It was a long and tedious process that really tested any applicant’s patience and perseverance. Then in 1969, I was able to get my officer’s commission with the Philippine Army and in April 1971, I was finally able to serve in active service in the AFP.

I believe that the processing of my application for active duty as an officer was expedited in 1971 because of the numerous unrests that were going on around the Philippine Islands during that time with the formation of the Hukbalahap (HMB) rebellion and later the New People’s Army (NPA). In Mindanao, the military troops were clashing constantly with the Muslim rebels and in many parts of Luzon our forces seemed to have an endless gun battles and deadly encounters with the communist rebels.

My first assignment was at Camp Cacutud in Arayat, Pampanga. The camp is located at the foot Mt. Arayat and the area is infested with rebels and sympathizers. During that time, there was a rebel named Faustino Del Mundo who was commonly known as “Kumander Sumulong”. The followers of Kumander Sumulong operated around the areas of Angeles City due to its proximity to the U.S. Clark Air Force Military Base. The rebel movement obtained their logistics from the citizens and business establishments around the base by collecting revolutionary taxes.

My fellow soldiers had a popular and accurate belief that the people we regularly see working at the farm and rice fields were “farmers by day and fighters by night”. Most of the farm fields in the area where we operated were sugarcane farms. It was a difficult and challenging place to be at because the weather was always hot, humid and the plantation had lots of pesky mosquitoes. Walking through sugarcane plantations during patrol was something all of us soldiers truly dislike. Whenever we are on field patrol, we would hear civilians give out warning signals (pasa bilis) to announce our presence. Some of them would act as if they were calling their cow and some would hit a metal tube that is used as a bell.

First encounter

I never liked riding a military vehicle while on patrol because the odds of surviving an ambush while riding a vehicle is slimmer compared to being attacked while on foot patrol. Besides, jumping off from a moving vehicle to seek cover during an ambush is dangerous and a number of soldiers have sustained fatal injuries this way.

It was in the sugarcane fields of Pampanga where I experienced my first encounter with the rebels. During one of our foot patrols in the area, the rebels caught us in an ambush. I was scared out of my soul during the firefight. We returned fire and fought the rebels back. When the smoke cleared, three of my men were wounded. The veteran soldiers who were with us told me that it is normal to be scared out of one’s skin during their first encounter. As I got into more gun fights with the rebels, things became easier for me to react while bullets were zooming all around me.

The life of a soldier is hard because we feel like half of our body is already in our grave every time we go out on an operation or patrol. Problems and frustration are always present when it comes to building a good relationship with the civilian populace. During operations, some of the members of the, now defunct, Philippine Constabulary (PC) would sometimes join our troops to gain experience on the field. It is my observation that some of the members of the PC who are not used to army operations, does not know how to treat the civilians that they encounter in the field. Some of them were abusive to the civilians and because of the misguided acts of a few PC personnel, the image and reputation of the regular army troops were badly smeared.

In 1986, I was stationed in Baguio City and handled the CMT programs of all the colleges and universities there except for St. Louis University . In 1990, I commanded the battle seasoned 1st Philippine Scout Ranger Battalion. I have always been proud of these men.

Primum Regnum Dei before combat

I served in the Philippine Army for three decades. Twenty of those years were spent in combat. During all those years, I always prayed to God for guidance and protection. Before I went out on patrols, I would pray to God to protect the soldiers that I am leading so that we can all return back home to our families alive and safe. During the whole duration of my military service, God always protected me from harm even during the midst of a stormy gun battle with the rebels.

When I received my commission as an army officer, the serial number that was given to me was 099939. The officers that were issued the serial numbers 099938 and 099940 both became casualties of war. One of them was sent to Mindanao and was killed before receiving his first paycheck as a commissioned officer. Life as a soldier is not easy because life can end at any moment. You never know if tomorrow is the day your life will end in this world. You can only make the best of it while you are still alive.

As an army officer, I found it very hard to take a vacation from my work to go home to visit my family. Many times my family would be the one to travel to the camp that I was stationed at so that we can all be together. I was lucky to have a loving, understanding and capable spouse who surpassed with flying colors the challenges faced by an Army officer’s wife.


In 1997, I had a total of 30 years of military service. Under the rules of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines ), a military personnel who reaches the age of 57 or has served a total of 30 years is required to retire from active duty. I ended my career with the military and decided to enjoy my retirement quietly at our house in Naga City . Shortly after I retired, my wife also retired from her profession as a high school principal of Bicol College of Arts and Trades (BCAT), whose name was later changed to Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC) in Naga City.

While enjoying our retirement, my son Hector called and asked my wife and me if we could visit them in San Francisco Bay Area. Back in 1992, Hector married his long time girlfriend Angie who was also an Atenean. Both of them moved to California and settled in Vallejo , California .

My wife and I applied for a tourist visa in 1998 but our application was denied. I was a little bit surprised because my wife and I just wanted to visit our son and we did not have any plans of overstaying in the U.S. When Hector heard the news about what happened to us at the American Embassy, he decided to just file a petition to bring my wife and I to the U.S. as legal immigrants. After slightly more than a year after filing our petition, we finally arrived at San Francisco International Airport in 1999.

Life and career in America .

Life in California is different to what I was used to in the Philippines . For one thing, it is cold here. During the first month of our stay at our son’s house in Vallejo, I decided to look for a job because I felt that I was still strong and healthy to work. I quickly found a job working as a security guard for an amusement park called Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo . The place later changed its name to Discovery Kingdom .

After less than a year, my wife and I decided to return to the Philippines. The following year in 2000, both of us returned to California but we stayed in an apartment in Union City which is about 60 miles south from our son’s house in Vallejo.

My wife was able to get a job as a teacher with a public school and taught there until she retired in 2010. She is now a retired public school teacher of the Philippine and California public schools.

When my wife and I got our apartment, I realized that the life of a retired person is boring. I told myself, “I cannot stand sitting around the whole day. I better find myself a job!” And so I did. I got a job as a security officer with an agency that has a contract with the federal government. I am now working at a federal building in the City of Richmond where the Social Security Administration offices are located.

Federal buildings all around the country had been known to be a valued target of terrorists and so the security in these government buildings is very tight. All of us working as security officers in the federal building are required to always carry a loaded firearm and body protection. Many of the security officers that are my colleagues are former police officers, CHP (California Highway Patrol) and ex-military men and women. I even have a co-worker who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy.

The personnel from our agency continues to receive training from the Federal Homeland Security Agency and they have a standard that all of us have to attain and maintain in order for us to continue working as security officers at the federal buildings. The type of training that we receive from the federal police is tougher than the training that is given to regular police officers. Twice a year, we have to meet a qualifying score firearm shooting. I have to constantly practice to prepare for these difficult exams.

Thinking of retirement?

At age 67, I am beginning to find it difficult to keep up with my colleagues that are still on their 30’s. Temperature around the San Francisco Bay Area is very cold and my arthritis constantly bothers me especially when the weather is freezing. I have to admit that my legs are not what they used to be and the years of combat in the Philippines has taken its toll on my overall physique.

My colleagues at the agency had asked me numerous times before why I have not retired yet. I told them that I still have the strength to continue working and will do so until I feel that my body can no longer take the stress of working.

Looking back at my life, I am satisfied with what I have achieved with my family and career. All my children have successful careers of their own and they keep a close contact with my wife and I via the telephone and email. Life for me is beginning to tone down now. I prefer to go home to a simple but peaceful dwelling.

Once in a while, I would remember those years when I was still a combat soldier praying for survival in the jungles of the Philippines . That responsibility now rests on the younger and able-bodied men and women soldiers to continue the vigilance of protecting the freedom of the nation and its citizens.

I have done my time in combat and now it is time to rest…..

In God, family and country I trust.

Col. Nestor V. Monte Sr. (Ret.)
Philippine Army

I remember one time I heard my father narrate a story to one of my uncles about an encounter he had with the NPA rebels. During the encounter, my father’s troops where outnumbered by the rebels. With God's help, I heard that they were able to capture the leader by the name of, ironically, "Ka Nestor” The rebels sustained a number of casualties while my father’s troops had none.

When I graduated from Ateneo de Naga University in 1984, my father brought our family to Baguio for a vacation. He was the commanding officer (CO) of the entire ROTC/CMT of Baguio City. When we got to Baguio, my father received an order from higher command informing him that he was being assigned as the Training Director of the Summer Camp Military Science (MS) 43. This course is for advance graduate ROTC officers, just like what I took in Ateneo de Naga. The summer camp course was held at Camp Upi, Gamu in Isabela which is about eight hours road trip from Baguio. Long story short, we had to pack our bags and move our family vacation from the cool weather of Baguio to the sizzling hot weather of Isabela.

Since I was qualified to join the 45-day rigid classroom and military type training, he suggested that I join the class of 96 OCS trainees to make the most of my vacation. I was number 96 because I joined the training class a couple of days late. All those who graduated, including myself were awarded the rank of Probationary Second Lieutenant in the Philippine Army.

The only demerits that I received during the whole duration of the training was from my father when he called for an emergency "fall-in" and I was not around. Because of this infraction, I received 10 demerits. I had no other demerits except those I got on that incident. Though I got the number one spot in the order of merit upon graduation, I would have gotten a perfect record had it not been for those demerits which to me were "unreasonable" because the “fall-in” order was not really on the order of the day…………
Nestor Monte Jr.

I am the apple of my father's eyes being the only girl in the family. When I had a fight with any of my five brothers, he would always side with me. I am not spoiled but when I ask something, he would always deliver. That’s the advantage of being an unica hija.

I have a lot of fond memories of my father. I remember that I always missed him being away from home because of his work. We always had a grand time celebrating, like a feast, every time he came home from his station after 2-3 months of deployment.

Everyone in our family is glad whenever our father is around. However, because he is indeed a disciplinarian, we sometimes fail him and it always breaks his heart. But he never gets tired of reminding us the right way – his way. And I could attribute the success and closeness of our family to this because I always believe that my father would never lead us to harm. He looked good in a military uniform and I remember my friends and other people would be “kinikilig” every time they see him. Some say he looked like Charlie Davao or Eddie Garcia when he was in uniform.

I remember when my hubby, Arnel, was still courting me. Being a junior officer in the Philippine Army, Arnel would always feel hesitant whenever he would ask permission from my Dad to invite me to go out on a date. The permission was always granted though. My mom reminded me many times that it is not easy to be a military man’s wife. I did not listen to her.

I inherited my being a "neat freak" from my father. He likes everything to be in its proper place. A single grain of rice spilled on the table would demand an explanation. When we eat, everybody must be in proper posture. When we disturb the peace of the neighborhood, he would stop us. But when any of us needs help, Dad is always there as our knight in shining armor.

My dad is a responsible family man. Being a father at the age of 19, I believe he was able to perform his responsibilities efficiently. Despite his young age, he tried his best to support our family and be a good role model to us. Even now that we are already married and have our own families, my dad is always there to support us. He is very fond of his grandchildren and will never fail to call us everyday and ask how we are doing. For whatever I am now, I owe a lot to my father.

Belle Monte-Cervantes


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