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Save Laguna de Bay!

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The same video with an English transcript is available here.

Bay, the lake’s padrino (Bay, La Laguna)

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Later Tagalog arrivals would sail up the Pásig to Laguna de Baí, on whose shores would rise their bailiwicks and colonies. Their capital was the town of Baí; and so all this lake country —and the lake itself— became known as Baí. —Nick Joaquín—

It’s not unusual for married couples to be on a huff with one another. Well, that’s what happened to me and Yeyette last month (11/06/2010) when we attended the birthday of a friend who lives in a residential area for military peeps in Ciudad de Taguig. You know, the usual tampuhan. And it’s funny because, although we’ve been together for more than a decade, and already with four kids, we still behave —and quarrel— as if we’re college sweethearts, haha! Not that I’m complaining. I even think it’s better that way. Perhaps it keeps us young. I don’t know. Sometimes, I do feel that we’re going over the edge. But at the end of the day, the crumples on our shirts are always ironed out (I’m trying to invent an idiomatic expression here; hope that one’s not yet patented).

Sayang, Myla, ¡hindí man lang acó nalasíng! =)

So how did I fix the mess?

We were both silent in the jeepney on our way home after the birthday party (say… that rhymes!). It was already early dawn (11/07/2010). To break the ice, I nonchalantly suggested to her that because it was still dark, perhaps we could stroll in Bay, La Laguna for a while so as not to disturb our four kids and their yaya who were still sleeping. And also for us to have a breath of fresh air (and I have not yet blogged about that town, LOL!). I honestly never expected her to say yes, although the traveler in me had wanted such a reply. I just wanted her to speak up. Silence is so awkward for lovers who have a misunderstanding.

Surprisingly, she answered: “¿Gaano ba calayo yon? (How far is it?)”. That was an indication that everything was getting OK, hehe!

Fortunately for us, the jeepney driver, who was driving all night long, lives in Santa Rosa, La Laguna. And he was raring to go home that dawn. That’s why we didn’t have to transfer from one jeep to another.

We reached Santa Rosa shortly after six in the morning. We took another jeep going to nearby Calambâ where we got off to a jeepney terminal situated in a crowded place which Calambeños call “Crossing”. We had to wait for our jeep (going to San Pablo, La Laguna) to be filled up with passengers before going to Bay. In a matter of minutes, we were already zooming through the highway surrounded by spectacular views of mountains and greenery.

Bay is the town right after Calambâ and Los Baños. It used to be the capital of the whole province of La Laguna. But the capitolio was later moved to Santa Cruz.

The jeepney driver dropped us right in front of the church. We were just a few minutes late for the 7 AM mass.

Iglesia de Bay

The church is dedicated to one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time: Saint Augustine of Hippo Regius (in present-day Algeria). He is, incidentally, the patron saint I chose when I reconverted to the Catholic faith a few years back. He, too, was a convert to Catholicism, having lived a hedonistic life in his youth. Well, it’s not that I had lived the same life he had experienced. But he was a sinner before he became a saint, not unlike most Catholic saints that we have who had lived chaste lives throughout most of their existence.

Iglesia de Bay, La Laguna

The first church was founded by Augustinian monks in 1571 led by Fr. Martín de Rada (an off-on-a-tangent trivia: my mom grew up in a street in Tondo named after this friar). It was made of nipa and bamboo in a place called Aplaya, a corrupted Tagalog version of the Spanish la playa meaning “beach”. This means that the first church made of wood used to be in front of Laguna de Bay. It became a full-fledged parish on 30 April 1578. Being the founders of the church and the Christianized town, it was only natural for the Augustinians to administer Bay. One hundred fifty-nine years later, it was transferred to the care of the Franciscans. The patron saint and the church’s name, however, remained Augustinian.

In 1804, the church was transferred to its present site in the the población or town proper. The new church was made of stone and was supervised by Fr. Gerónimo Hervas. The construction was finally completed after 60 years, but a strong earthquake in 1880 destroyed its roofing. In 1884, Fr. Jesús Lillo had it restored. The restoration work was finished by Fr. Celestino de los Huertos in 1889.

All these restorations and constructions were put to naught during World War II. Sadly, the church and its accompanying convent were completely wiped out. Eight years after the war, Fr. Alejandro Vermorel resurrected the Parish Church of Saint Augustine. He had the façade patterned after the architectural styles of the Early Renaissance period. It was simple in design, with a semicircular door and window openings. The church’s pediment is also adorned with a circular window in its tympanum.

The church’s interiors are very modest. Not surprising since the original church was destroyed by brimstone and fire due to man’s folly (i.e., war). Aside from a chapel dedicated to the Divine Mercy apparition, it has nothing stunning to offer, architecture wise. Even the retablo is not that “loud” with design if one is to compare it with other antique Philippine churches. But the faithful, particularly its senior womenfolk, are a sight to behold: many of them still wear veils on top of their crowns. That’s the way it really should be with female churchgoers regardless of age.

A view of the church's nave and altar from the entrance.

Bay's lady folk selling religious items by the church door.

The church's modest chapel dedicated to the famous Divine Mercy apparition.

Chapel of Saint Augustine. It is attached to the church outside.

A mass was being held that Sunday morning when we arrived (6:00 AM).

Inside the chapel of Saint Augustine, smoked by brightly colored candles.

Bay church's north transept. Notice the initials of the town's patron saint embedded at the top of each buttress.

Handsomely designed circular wood ceiling right above the altar.

The faithful of Bay. Me and Yeyette noticed that many female churchgoers here (mostly the elderly) are still wearing veils on top of their heads. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Bay Church's bell tower. I failed to climb this because one has to pass through the choirloft. In this church, there is a sign that strictly prohibits non-choir members to go up the choirloft. Aside from that, a mass was going on.

Población

The town proper, with its narrow roads and small stalls, somehow reminds me of Unisan. The only difference is that Bay is bustling with vehicular energy, not to mention noise. Its because its main thoroughfare serves as an entrepot between Los Baños, Victoria, Pila, and other lakeshore towns of La Laguna province.

Petness First (not the gym).

Yeyette enjoying "Monay Bae". "Bae" is another variant of the name "Bay". "Monay" is a local bread.

Bay's main road.

Municipal hall.

Yeyette with <em>Aling</em> Siony (Asunción Señadoza), owner of the most popular eatery in the <em>población</em>, very near the church.

Bahay na bató

We also noticed that there are a few Filipino houses, commonly known as bahay na bató, in Bay. If the town church was profaned by bombs, guns, and fire during the last war, obviously the rest of the town burned down with it. And of those very few old Filipino homes we found, only two stood out: The Marfori and Peláez ancestral homes. Unfortunately, we have not gathered much information about these two handsome houses. There’s not even a soul inside the Marfori house, this according to the people around it.

Casa Marfori. It is the oldest ancestral house in town, one of the few which survived the last war. For a time, it also served as a pharmacy, thus the words "Farmacia Marfori" painted on the façade that has already fainted trough the years.

The Marfori house's red-tiled roof is still intact — a rarity nowadays among antique Filipino homes.

Casa Peláez.

Casa Peláez from another angle.

A view of Casa Marfori's façade taken right in front of its neighbor, Casa Peláez.

Yeyette asking some residents about the two old houses' (Marfori and Peláez) history. They said that the deceased matriarch of the Peláez house was Spanish-speaking. But of course; it shows in the house itself.

Feeling history first hand — literally!

Wifey found some old bricks in the walls of Casa Marfori!

Another bahay na bató; (probably postwar), said to be owned by a former town mayor. This one stands on Bay's main highway.

Laguna de Bay

Our journey around Bay would not have been complete without a short stop to the lake —the largest in the Philippines— whose name was taken from the town itself.

It was the Spanish conquistadores led by Juan de Salcedo and some Augustinians who renamed this trilobate lake after the town of Bay (sometimes spelled as “Baé” or “Ba’i”). Renamed, because it has been called “Tadlác ng Ba’i” by its Tagalog-speaking settlers before the white men arrived. Or maybe “translated” is the better term instead of “renamed” because “laguna de Bay” and “tadlác ng Ba’i” have the same meaning, anyway.

Laguna de Bay, being trilobate, is composed of the west bay, east bay, and central bay. Isla de Talím, the largest of the lake’s nine islands and which is very visible to the town of Bay (from Barrio San Antonio), is right between the west and central bay.

But why did the Spaniards named the lake after Bay? Why not Laguna de Tabuco, or Laguna de Pinagsañgahán (Pagsanján), or some place else? It’s because Bay was then the largest settlement along the lake. It was large enough to attract Chinese merchants who were docked in Bahía de Manila. They sailed through the then crocodile-infested waters of Pásig River and the menacing Paso Diablo (or the “Devil’s Pass”, Laguna de Bay’s deepest part which is near Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà) just to trade with the Tagalog tribesmen of Bay. After the trade, these Chinese go back to Manila bay, bringing with them boatloads of forest products.

This trade between the Chinese in Manila Bay and the first folk of Bay, by the way, will also help explain why Tondoc (now the Manila district of Tondo) and Santa Ana de Sapa (now the Manileño district of Santa Ana) were major ports during that time. That trade was a vital factor as to why these two places were populous when the Spaniards led by Miguel López de Legazpi (Salcedo’s grandfather) arrived. Bay, in a way, had a hand in it. =) As a matter of fact, Bay, for a time, was even considered a part of the old Kingdom of Namayan whose capital was in Santa Ana de Sapa.

a lovely view of rice fields on our to the lake of Bay (commonly known as Laguna de Bay).

Barrio; San Antonio is a barangáy; right beside the lake of Bay.

A fishpond! The lake is near!

Laguna de Bay

She thinks that she will never see, a living thing as gigantic as this narra tree!

Isla de Talím in the distance. According to old Spanish records, this small island in the middle of Laguna de Bay was a very forested area teeming with deer, wild boar, doves, and even giant bats!

The same narra tree whose photo I took earlier. And we noticed that it's roughly five storeys high!

A handsome balete tree!

There's a lamb here in Bay!

Bantáy Laua (lake guardians) Headquarters.

Pulóng Bay; (Bay Islet) can be reached in a matter of minutes. It has a small hut used by fishermen as a resting place.

Yeyette with a bantáy laua officer (to man sitting on the table to her right), taking care of an illegal-fishing case involving the people beside them.

Say no to guns!

Grains of gold!

A river coursing towards the lake.

It was truly an enjoyable morning we had in Bay! We had a wonderful time searching for history, food tripping, and nature tripping. It was a wonderful and unforgettable trip. Sans the motor vehicles, For a “laywoman” like Yeyette, it was educational, as well. And most important of all, little did we know that our petty “lover’s quarrel” dissipated over time! We were like foreigners in another country. We were like kids, even, when we got near the lake and enjoyed its flora!

And because everything was OK between the two of us, we agreed to proceed to Victoria the soonest possible time!

Heck, no. Not the motel. I meant Victoria, La Laguna, the town north of Bay and Calauan. Cayó talagá… We hope to get there (again, Victoria, La Laguna) this month or in January.

Till next time, Filipino eReaders! =)

The great migrations

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Early this month, the National Geographic Channel launched the “Great Migrations“. It’s a “global television event” that featured a seven-part series about the “powerful stories of many of the planet’s species and their movements, while revealing new scientific insights with breathtaking high-definition clarity and emotional impact. The beauty of these stories is underscored by a new focus into these species’ fragile existence and their life-and-death quest for survival in an ever-changing world.”

This reminded me and Yeyette of a couple of photos that I took during one of my final days as a corporate slave. Yeyette fetched me that morning. We stayed for a while at my ex-company‘s pantry, twenty four storeys high. The glass windows had a wonderful view of Laguna de Bay (obstructed by some buildings), spectacular sunrises, and the busy City of Muntinlupà. One morning, while gazing at the lake and the city, I noticed something peculiar by the glass panels…

Spiders outside our building's glass panels! How could they survive this height (twenty four storeys from the ground)?

I didn’t know that there were spiders that could survive this height. Well, in the mountains, yes. But outside tall buildings such as Insular Life (it has more than 30 floors) exposed to the harsh elements? Wow. It really came as a surprise. One cold, smoggy morning, we even saw a praying mantis clinging on to the glass’s smooth surface! Sometimes, there are even moths.

But then I realized that these spiders, just like the rest of the animal kingdom, are losing their natural habitat faster than you can spell the words “Peter Parker picked a peck of pickled spiders”. Skyscrapers are not the natural habitat of these poor arachnids. But since they are losing their original homes (Alabang was heavily forested just a few decades ago), they have no other choice but to adapt to an ever-changing world. This reminded me of the first amphibians that were actually fishes to a certain extent. During the Devonian Period, these fishes were forced to migrate to dry land when much of the planet’s waters were drying up. In order to adapt, they evolved multi-jointed leg-like fins, enabling them to crawl on the ground underwater rather than swim. Later on, as the waters of the earth (particularly rivers and streams) were heating up and drying out, they learned how to crawl out of the water and breathe (this evolutionary process took thousands, or perhaps even millions, of years).

In modern times, there is the peculiar case of Britain’s peppered moth. It’s a white-colored moth with small black speckles. Over time, due to Britain’s industrial pollution, it was forced to evolve itself rather than die out: its white color became almost entirely black! Many scientists regard this as a classic example of Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory.

Could this be the case with these Alabang spiders? Perhaps. The nights and early mornings are cold, and when the sun rises, it’s sure torment for these web spinners. But somehow, they are able to adapt to their environment. Those who did not “choose” to die out gradually “accepted” change. So when the forests of Alabang gave way to the asphalt jungle, these spiders moved in with humans to their skyscrapers (yung ibá nga lang, nasa labás nacatirá). This change, however, is a kind of change that is not natural (like what had happened to those Devonian fishes) but is motivated by profit (Britain’s industrial smoke).

Pre-Magellanic/pre-Philippine cultures also adapted to a natural change, a change that is called by anthropologists as “cultural dissemination”. Thus, these numerous cultures belonging to various islanders “adapted” to a new kind of change instead of dying out. Besides, this change was positive as it enhanced their way of life. And that is the reason why we Filipinos still exist today. We pray inside churches. We eat using spoons and forks, plates and drinking glasses. We learned how to dress up like modern men (i.e., Europeans). We learned advanced concepts of time and space, of age and grace. We began to have a cultural swagger of our own, something distinct, something that we now call Filipino. This kind of change is acceptable.

However, when the minds of those men who we now consider as our heroes were engulfed with subversive and novel ideas such as liberté, égalité, et fraternité, a new change set in. Before, our nation was living in the realm of the supernatural, i.e., of spirituality, filled with love and hope. But when some of these heroes allowed themselves to become agents of change, a new era began of which unprecedented changes occurred. To the betterment of the Filipino? Look around you: you decide.

These agents of change brought about the downfall of spirituality. We now live in a consumer society, a society driven mad by profit. We Filipinos, as well as other nations whose sovereignty were grossly raped by the neocolonials, are like these poor spiders hanging on to dear life. These great migrations are also happening to cultures and nations.

The country’s “Science and Nature City”: a mixture of nature, faith, and history (Los Baños, La Laguna)

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If the beaches of Puerto Galera and Boracay are popular names during the scorching days of summer, Los Baños is king during the rainy days due to its soothing hot baths.

Thus the town’s name in Spanish; it is literally translated as “The Baths” in English.

The numerous hot springs located at the foot of Mount Maquiling usually comes to mind when the name Los Baños, a first-class urban municipality in Laguna southwest of Calambâ (or 63 kilometers southeast of Manila), pops up in conversations. Geothermally heated groundwater deep from the Earth’s crust produces these hot springs’s. It is said that Monte de Maquiling, which is actually a dormant volcano, will not explode anymore because the heat which is supposed to fuel its explosiveness is channeled through these hot springs that are now converted into popular resorts for short-time vacationers. Also, the sulfuric content of the waters are said to have healing properties for various ailments such as arthritis. And this was discovered by a friar.

Before the coming of the Spaniards, what is now known as Los Baños used to be known as Maynit, the Tagalog word for hot (that term is now spelled as maínit). Maynit was then a part of the ancient lakeside kingdom of Bay until 1589 when a Franciscan, Fray Pedro Bautista, discovered the place. Upon the discovery of the Maynit’s hot springs, he had them examined by fellow Franciscan, Fray Francisco de Gata, who was an expert in medicine. That is how they discovered the hot springs’ medicinal properties whereupon they established a hospital there for the natives (that hospital serviced the sick up to the last century).

Years later, San Pedro Bautista was martyred together with twenty-five other Christians in Japan. He was later declared as a saint. The people of Los Baños should take pride that it was founded by a saint.

Monte de Maquiling (Los Baños side).

Strangely, while the natural waters of Los Baños are hot —enough to boil an egg for about half an hour—, the five streams coursing through it (Dampalít, Saran, Pilì, Mulauin, and Maitím) are not.

Below are more photos of my visit to Los Baños’ town proper (población) two months ago (8/10/2010).

One can enter the town proper here...

...or here.

Railroad to Manila.

Bahay na bató.

Gallo lagunense.

Town plaza. At the right is the municipal hall.

Municipio.

All the names of Los Baños' barrios/barangáys are inscribed on this rock situated on the town plaza.

A colorful entrance to the Kainan sa Dalampasigan, a restaurant on top of the waters of Laguna de Bay. It is right behind the municipio.

Kainan Sa Dalampasigan (Dine by the lakeshore).

The ancient lake: Laguna de Bay.

A view of neighboring Calambâ, beyond those hills.

To the right is a part of Los Baños. Beyond is the town of Bay from where the name Laguna de Bay comes from.

Fronting the lake is a park and recreation area.

Morning exercise for the local police right beside the lake.

This park was named after the National Hero's big brother.

The municipal hall. The current town mayor is Anthony Genuino of the political group Bigkis Pinoy.

Railway going to Manila.

Los Baños Central School (elementary campus).

Los Baños Central School (high school campus).

Magtaním ay di birò, maghapóng nacáyucô...

The national road, southbound towards the rest of La Laguna's more rustic towns.

Aside from the town’s many hot springs resort, not to mention Mt. Maquiling, Los Baños was also known as the site of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, commonly known by its initials UPLB. The school is one of the University of the Philippines System’s six constituent universities. First known as the College of Agriculture in 1909, UPLB became a full-fledged university in 1972. It’s location is strategic and so conducive to learning: nestled at the very foot of Mt. Maquiling.

University of the Philippines Los Baños (entrance).

Speaking of Mt. Maquiling, tucked somewhere in the forests of the mountain is the The National Arts Center of the Philippines (NACP), a haven for young and aspiring artists. Indeed, the mythical splendor of Mt. Maquiling’s forests is also conducive to the spirit of learning and inspiration for these young artists. The NACP also houses the Philippine High School for for the Arts. The school provides scholarship for young gifted Filipinos whom it wishes to mould into great artists someday.

The National Arts Center of the Philippines.

Aside from the UPLB and the NACP, the picturesque town of Los Baños is also the site of the famed International Rice Research Institute, the Philippine Council For Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development, the eco-tourism site Pook ni María Makiling, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, and various other institutions dedicated to nature, eco-tourism, and the environment. As such, this historic town was declared as the Philippines’ Science and Nature City under former President Joseph Estrada’s Proclamation No. 349 on 17 September 2000.

Paciano Rizal Shrine

“Él es mucho más fino y serio que yo; es más grande y más delgado, no es tan moreno, con una nariz fina, bella y aguda, pero tiene piernas curvadas.” —José Rizal’s description of his brother in a letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt—

Indeed, this town is even made more historic because this is where José Rizal’s brother Paciano breathed his last.

The mysterious Paciano Rizal (1851-1930) was the second of eleven in the Rizal/Mercado brood. He was a disciple of the controversial and martyred priest, Fr. José Burgos. It was from Paciano who Rizal imbibed much of the martyred priest’s nationalist/secularist ideals.

It was Paciano who, in a way, “recruited” his younger brother into joining Masonry by secretly sending the latter to Europe (without their parents’ knowledge!). Although not much has been written about Paciano’s association with The Craft, it should be carefully noted that Paciano worked with Fr. Burgos in the Comité de Reformadores, an organization which had many Masons in its roster (it should come as a surprise as to why Fr. Burgos, a Catholic priest, worked with such a committee at all). The said organization was also backed up by the liberal Governor-General Carlos María dela Torre, himself a high-ranking Mason.

It is therefore safe to conclude (as concluded by many other scholars) that Rizal’s early notions of liberal-mindedness was from his Cuya Paciano. Paciano was Rizal’s first “bridge” to the liberal tumult of 1872.

After Rizal’s execution, it was written that Paciano escaped to Cavite to join the rebellion against Spain. Many historians even wrote that he reached the rank of a general and saw action in Santa Cruz, La Laguna. Later, during the American invasion, he was captured somewhere in the province. Subsequently, after American subjugation, he lived a life of peace in his modest Los Baños enclave.

Paciano Rizal Shrine. This is where Paciano lived his last years. The house was designed by renowned architect Andrés de Luna, the son of painter Juan Luna.

This is where Paciano is buried. The remains of his sisters Trinidad and Josefa were also transferred here a few decades ago.

Descendants of Paciano Rizal.

Paciano's bedroom.

The Rizal family tree.

The house/shrine's floor plan. This house used to be a nipa hut.

A bust of Paciano.

Iglesia de Inmaculada Concepción

It is sad that this centuries-old church no longer bear its original features because it was bombed beyond recognition by the Americans’ careless and almost useless carpet bombing in the area during World War II. Although there were indeed Japanese soldiers that had to be annihilated, it was not really necessary to bomb churches. Such frenzy in bombing various churches in the country —from Intramuros to Antipolo to Los Baños— leads a critically thinking mind to suspect that there could have been (and must have been) a hidden agenda, and that the so-called “liberation” of the Philippines from the Japanese Imperial Army is only part of a veiled attempt (and a good excuse) to destroy the Filipino identity. Collateral damage, so to speak. But that’s for another blogpost.

The previous war also explains why only a few Filipino houses (bahay na bató) are left in Los Baños.

The church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception no longer carries the sterling qualities and architecture that is known of Filipino churches during the Spanish period. However, despite its small size and the apparent lack of expected Filipino architectural aesthetics, its modernity —most especially its interiors— still hold a distinctive flavor which could not be compared to churches found in other countries. It still is Filipino. Also, it has a “mini cupola” situated right above the retablo, something rarely seen in both old and modern churches.

Iglesia de Inmaculada Concepción.

Liceo de Los Baños stands right in front of the church and is actually within church vicinity.

Come, let us adore Him!

View of Laguna de Bay from up the church tower.

The steel steps towards the bell tower are so wide apart from each other. And it's a dizzying sight looking down. Good thing I didn't tag my daughter along.

A view of the town and Monte de Maquiling from the church tower.

Liceo de Los Baños and Laguna de Bay from up above the church tower.

Nope, these two bells aren't from the Spanish times.

Upon descending the church tower, I was able to see the old Spanish-era bells; they were right below the steel stairway, cobwebbed and all.

The words Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santa de Maynit are inscribed onto one of the bells. It refers to the Virgin who is the patroness of this town. Maynit was the old name of Los Baños. Maynit means hot, pertaining to the town's numerous hot springs. I could not make anything out of the year due to heavy rust.

The bells beneath the steel steps.

A list of the church's early donors solicited by Doña Sofía M. Villegas.

Although it was bombed during the last war and has been disfigured beyond original recognition, this church still stands proudly today.

Thankfully, Los Baños still has the rural flavor that many aficionados of things pastoral will surely love. It can be said that Los Baños is the divisoria of La Laguna’s urban and rural side: the towns north of it are fast beoming clones of Metro Manila; the towns to its south remain rustic. Los Baños features both. Truly, Los Baños is an odd mix of old and new, of faith and anti-faith, of religion and science, of arts and commercialism, of rural and urban. But above all, Los Baños’ propensity for being a haven of some of the country’s most diverse flora and fauna is one treasure that it has to protect, conserve, and respect not only for the sake of eco-tourism and nature itself but also for the sake of future Los Bañenses.

Reunion with three friends.

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“The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”

The workload in my current company makes me want to disappear from this world with just a snap of a finger. Last night’s shift was hell. Too many issues, slow internet, bad vibes, and documents drowning my thoughts. All of us weren’t able to finish the job. And it has been weeks like that. Some of us feel that we lack manpower. Some feel that there were bad project decisions from the higher ups. Some felt sick (literally). Me, I just feel like I want to fly away from it all.

I was supposed to continue all unfinished tasks at home. But…

It was a reprieve when my wife fetched me and broached the idea of visiting a childhood friend of mine, Christian Caballero, who works in the building next to ours. I already know that Tanò has been working in the other building for a long time (thanks to our office concierge, Oliver). But we haven’t had the chance to see each other due to our busy schedules.

Our bunch was the baaaadest and nastiest in our own turf in some posh yet decrepit village in Parañaque City, my “dirty south, baby!” hometown. We’ve known each other since kids. I was estranged from my childhood pals when I was kicked out of our home because I chose to stay with my pregnant girlfriend (who’s now my wife) instead of being with my family and continue schooling. Since then, I began seeing my Parañaque homies sporadically. And the last time I saw Christian and the rest of the gang was back in 2006, but only for a short drunken while. We weren’t even complete that night. We’ll, now there’s Facebook; many of my childhood pals are already in my list: Jerome, John Michael, Dennis, Angerico, etc. But of course it’s a different feeling when you get to see your long lost friends eye-to-eye and in the flesh.

We were all delighted to see each other of course. He’s also engaged to his college sweetheart Lesleyann Tugnáo of Majayjay, La Laguna. Their wedding will be this coming December in Sanctuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Ciudad de Macati. And I’m expecting to see the rest of the gang on his wedding day. =)

Congratulations and best wishes, Christian and Lesleyann! May the good Lord bless you always!

*******

Next stop was our current town, San Pedro, La Laguna.

After visiting Krystal and Momay at school, we went to Tita Deming, the manager of our apartment, to pay for the monthly rent. She works in the Municipal Hall. And since we were there already, I thought of introducing Wifey to our town mayor, Calixto R. Catáquiz, whom I haven’t seen since the death of his father. I just wanted to introduce my wife to him, and perhaps setup a date with him to talk about whether he’s still interested in publishing the biography Arnold and I wrote for him last year (it was even reviewed by our country’s first beauty queen, Gemma Cruz de Araneta, in her Manila Bulletin column “Landscape”).

Well, it turned out that he is still very interested in it. But the problem is proper timing. Aside from his father’s untimely death, Typhoon Ondoy ruined all of San Pedro’s lakeshore villages. Now he has the task of taking care of thousands of San Pedrense families who have lost their homes and who are now sheltered in various evacuation centers scattered around San Pedro. He invited us to join him for lunch. I wasn’t able to say no. And my wife, who was star struck (hehehe), urged me to come along.

We ate at Max’s Restaurant in –coincidentally– Parañaque City, my hometown! There we discussed lots of things about town politics, national politics, the 2010 Philippine National Elections, and of course, his biography.

He also mentioned to me interesting facts that Arnold and I haven’t included yet in his unpublished biography, A DATE WITH DESTINY: One More Challenge! (The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz). When he was still the chairman of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, he made several project recommendations to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and even Malacañang Palace to help safeguard and uplift the status quo of Laguna de Bay. For one, he recommended that LLDA should adopt a system for Laguna de Bay which is very similar to the Dutch Flood Barrier System. Mayor Calex also once tackled environmental and developmental issues of the lake with renowned architect Felino Palafox, Jr., who last month declared that the the national government already foresaw the massive floods of September 26.

The mayor also cited sewage, water treatment, and other waterworks projects that he had envisioned for Laguna de Bay. He also forwarded the idea of taking care of not just the lake but its tributaries as well. He also complained LLDA’s lack of policepower which should have enforced environmental rules. And he also lamented the fact that the LLDA was not under the direct supervision of the Office of the President (this would have ensured the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s commitment to a “green” Philippines). But all of these were ignored. If they weren’t ignored, the horrible displacement of thousands of lakeshore families –not to mention the death toll which the flood had left– wouldn’t have happened.

We also discussed his San Pedro 2020 Vision.

My wife had a grand time listening to the Mayor’s candid stories. Afterwards, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.

*******

The next reunion was, well, via SMS only. =(

Mayor Calex and his convoy drove us home. On our way home, I remembered having kept the cellphone number of someone else from my past: Ka Danilo Balao.

I never thought that I’d be able to communicate with a dear comrade in Ka Dan. He is from the Ybanag tribe of the northern lands. We were both socialist activists during our college days, members of the militant Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (in political solidarity with the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa). Me, Danilo, and a host of other socialist youth shared each other’s tribulations, joys, hunger, and sufferings. Like my Parañaque boys, we at LSK were also a bad bunch (giving the League of Filipino Students some headache which they deserved). Aaaahhh, the days of yore! I really stopped growing when I reached 30 years of age!

I got his number several days ago from another long lost activist friend, mad chemist Allan Jay Q. Martírez (my “discoverer”!) whom I rediscovered in Mike Chanco’s / JB Lazarte’s (my other “discoverer”!) controversial website Flesh Asia Daily 3.0.

So here I print our text conversation:

PEPE: Danilo Balao
DANILO: Hu r u?
PEPE: Visit https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com and you will know, my old friend…
DANILO: Hav n0 tym searchin.. Y cant u say it n0w?
PEPE: Because I do not want the military to trace me. You know the drill, Ka Dan.
DANILO: Hahaha.. U.G.? Ur kidding me.. H0w can it pocbly be? Wat org?
PEPE: Mabuhay ang LIGA NG KOMUNISTANG KABATAAN!
DANILO: Damn! Is this true? Wer did u get my numbr?
PEPE: José Mario Alas Fans Club
DANILO: Hahaha! Yeah..! Wats crakin man? Wat happen 2 u? I’ve been searching u 4 d last 3 years. H0w did u realy get my numbr?
PEPE: I have been monitoring you for the last five years. I was sent to kill you, Gerry, Page, and Allan Jay. But I couldn’t because you’re my friends.

I got no more reply from good ol’ Dan. I must’ve totally freaked him out with my last text, so…

PEPE: Just kidding, dude.

*******

I miss my other friends. I miss the past. I miss the Spanish past although I’ve never lived in that era. I grew up listening to We Built This City On Rock N’ Roll, Footloose, and Rico Mambo. I cried when Atreyu’s horse Atrax was taken by the Swamps. Garfield still had farm friends (beats Facebook’s FarmVille), and the Christmas Belén in C.O.D. (Cubáo, Quezon City), and so much more.

I’m getting old, and dying.

Shucks. Nostalgia fever setting in again.

The only bad thing that happened this afternoon? My wife’s almost-a-decade-old cellphone camera was out of battery. =(

Our Prayers Have Been Answered — Supertyphoon Pepeng Changed Its Course!

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Supertyphoon Pepeng (international name: Parma) weakened slightly, but it’s still considered a supertyphoon. Thus, days before its expected arrival, thousands upon thousands of Filipinos, particularly those who were living in the already flooded areas of Laguna de Bay, have totally evacuated the place. Malacañang Palace even declared a state of calamity all over the archipelago. The bad news is that there are still many places that are still flooded due to last Saturday’s Typhoon Ondoy.

But here’s the good news: Pepeng suddenly –and miraculously– changed its course!

Weather officials said Parma, billed as a supertyphoon, altered course toward the northernmost tip of the Philippines’ Luzon Island.

It was now expected to land Saturday evening on the province of Cagayan, north of its earlier predicted landfall in Aurora province and about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the nation’s capital.

Parma was packing wind gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour (130 kph), easing from 230 kilometers per hour on Friday, the weather bureau said.

Don’t downplay this weird alteration of the said typhoon’s course — to put it bluntly, it’s an incredible miracle. God listened to our collective pleas to Him!

Now we have to refocus on the relief operations for Ondoy’s victims.

Pepeng is moving away! But look to the right -- I see another one coming! =(

Pepeng is moving away! But look to the right -- I see another one coming! =(

Read the rest of Pepeng’s change of plans here

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