Thursday, April 15, 2010

*191. LAGING HANDA: Scouting in Pampanga

PAMPANGA COUNCIL DELEGATION. Pampanga Boy Scout officials meet Gen Carlos P. Romulo at the 12th National Council Meeting of the BSP. Dated 4 May 1951.

I first came to know about boy scouts when I was in fifth grade. A group of older boys in khaki shorts, white T-shirts and neckerchiefs assembled in the school quadrangle one day, where they took over the raising of our flag in our daily flag ceremony. I was not only intrigued at how smart they looked, but also how efficiently they moved, each pull of the rope synchronized and measured, with the rest of the boys standing in rapt attention, right hand over their chest.

A classmate behind me wisecracked, “Boy Scouts of the Philippines, laging handa sa pagkain..”, a lampoon on the scouts' oath "Be Prepared". Whatever, these scouts became the object of my mixed admiration and envy, because I knew I could never be one of them—I had such a sickly constitution as child. Besides, my over-protective parents would not allow me to join any out-of-home activity—and what is scouting without camping?

It was in 1923 that scouting was introduced to the Philippines, by way of the establishment of the Philippine Council, chartered by the Boy Scouts of America. We became an independent scouting nation in 1936, with the Philippine Council evolving into the Boy Scouts of the Philippines—Mga Batang Lalaking Iskawt ng Pilipinas. Its mission was to imbue in the youth the love of God, country and fellowmen, transforming them into responsible leaders who can contribute to nation-building. Four years later, the Girl Scouts would be founded.

Scouting for Kapampangan boys adhered to the guidebooks outlined by the B.S.P., which in turn were patterned after America’s. The young recruit begins his membership as a Tenderfoot, where he is educated about Boy Scout basics: the Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan; the badge and the uniform; the sign, salute and the handclasp; the patrol and troop emergencies. A major part of his learning includes the ceremonials and protocols involving the Philippine flag. He is also expected to learn First Aid, various knots and how to tie them and conservation of nature.

He then graduates to the next level—the Second Class Scout. He is prepared to undergo more rigorous training—from hiking, cooking in the open as well as map-reading. Along the way, the hardy Boy Scout is expected to earn merit badges as symbols of competence and skill.

Through the years, Kapampangan Boy Scouts have earned the respect of national scouting officials by garnering awards for heroism in saving or attempting to save a life, requiring courage, a profound sense of duty and the application of his Scout training. The National Court of Honor has given such awards to several elite scouts of the Pampanga Council like Francisco Bondoc, who, in 1938, became the first Kapampangan scout to win a Bronze Medal of Honor. Luisito Bituin (1951) and Ramon Montemayor (1967) were the other Bronze awardees.

The Gold Medal of Honor has been won twice by Kapampangan scouts led by Ric Calma in 1983 and Premy Punsalan in 1984, which was awarded posthumously.

The role of scouting in developing good citizenry have always been recognized by Pampanga leaders since the country hosted the 10th World Scout Jamboree in 1959, held in Mount Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna—the first for Asia. Boy Scouts from Pampanga and American Scouts from Clark joined 12,000 scouts from all over the world, and for five days, mingled, socialized and learned Philippine culture—including eating carabao meat and green coconuts.

During the tenure of Gov. Cielo Macapagal-Salgado, a camping site for Boy and Girl Scouts was established in Magalang. Recently in March 2010, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines cited Angeles City Mayor Francis “Blueboy” Nepomuceno together with Councilor Ric Zalamea and School Division Superintendent Antonieta Tiotuico for rendering praiseworthy service and support to the scouting movement. Nepomuceno, who was awarded a “Silver Usa” (Silver Deer), said the city gets its inspiration form the Boy Scouts—always prepared in times of calamity and crisis, relying on foresight and effective planning to deter the effects of an impending disaster.

It was not too long ago too that Clark Field became the venue for the 11th Boy Scouts of the Philippines National Jamboree which coincided with the Philippine Independence Centennial. The Philippine Centennial Scout Jamboree, as it was dubbed, was held at the former Picnic Grounds and Equestrian Field of former military base, from January 5-11, 1998. Thirty four thousand scouts and officials descended to the 40 hectare camp site, depositing trash, overfilling septic tanks and filling the air with flies and fetid odor. In turn, the participants complained and bickered about the lack of food, transportation and inadequate facilities. Nothing is perfect in this world, but as model scouts, they should have been more prepared--"laging handa" for anything.


SUMMER SWIM. High school seniors take a break from their studies at Holy Angel Academy to take a dip at the new Paradise Swimming Pool in Angeles, a cool way to start the summer vacation. Dated 1940.

School’s out and summer vacation’s in!
Suddenly, malls and shopping centers are full to the rafters with packs of young people—mostly students finally free from their classes and lectures. In the malls’ coffee bars, computer game shops and movie houses, they hang out, celebrating the first few weeks of their well-deserved break from the rigors of student life.

For us, students of the 60s and 70s, there were no malls, no Starbuck’s, no Boracay to relax and chill in. Summer vacations simply meant longer sleeping hours, more cartoon shows to watch and more time to play with our next-door neighbors. But, then as now, the coming of summer was always met with feelings of great expectation and exhilaration by book-weary kids, a chance to recharge, see new places, or simply laze around.

As elementary school kids, I remember our summers as days of endless play. Morning began late, way past 9—except when our barber gave us home service haircuts every after two weeks. That meant waking up at 8 to be first on the bench—we were 6 brothers in all, so it was important that I get to be trimmed first.

After breakfast, it was off to TV watching, starting with the Far East Network staples that emanated from Clark Field like “My Favorite Martian”, “McHale’s Navy”, “Gilligan’s Island” and “My Mother, the Car”. I favored the Harveytoons over the Merrie Melodies only because I liked Casper better than Mighty Mouse. Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club, of which I was an official member, also aired mid-morning.

We were required to take our siesta after our 11 o’clock lunch, which I really disliked, but as soon as we were awake, we had our non-stop afternoon games which we played in our spacious backyard. Our favorite summer games were piko, tambubung, siyatung and jumping rope. When we wanted a change of atmosphere, we would hie off to the old house next door—the Morales house—which had a garden full of santan, the nectar of which we sipped. On the expansive cemented grounds, we flew our paper kites—karang-karang, rode our bikes and played salikutan (hide and seek).

The town river, Sapang Balen, was just behind our house and when our parents were not watching, we would go down and either hunt for butete (tadpoles) or catch tulang karayum (dragonflies with needle-like tails). Our gallivanting would end up at 6 pm. and after dinner, it was back to TV watching that strated with “Lollipop Party” and end with “Wild, Wild West”.

Our daily routine was almost always like that—and on days when we got bored, our parents would take us in our big Oldsmobile to Balibago, to the Del Rosario Compound Swimming pool where we got free passes to swim in any of the 3 pools there. Going there was always one big production number as we had to prepare our “salbabidas” a day before, made from tire interiors.

Sometimes, we also had sleep-overs with our cousins in Balibago, and I remember spending a few summer weekends with my Castro cousins. Late evenings, we would play pick-up sticks under our bed sheets till we wore ourselves out. The next day, we would be treated to ice cream scoops at nearby Spic ‘n Span.

When we had a spare peso or two, our parents would take us even further—to Angeles, which seemed like light years away from Mabalacat. There, we would either watch movies at Family or Rizal Theater or explore the side streets of Culiat—as my mother would call the city then, often picking a comic book at Josie’s Variety Store.

Compared to elementary, our summer vacations during high school seemed so much shorter. We pretty much stuck to the same old schedule, although our parents now added an exciting trip either to Baguio—where we had relatives—or to Manila where we ended being forced to socialize with our more cosmopolitan cousins.

My worse high school summer was having no summer at all. Having failed my 2nd year algebra, I had to take remedial classes for a full month, which further reduced the number of my summer lovin’ days. I passed anyway, but I’ve never felt so miserable in all my life.

Summertime was also party time! I remember organizing reunion parties, even if my elementary school classmates and I had only been apart for months. We usually held it in somebody else’s garage, complete with cheese pimiento, pineapple punch and 45 rpm music. We felt so hip, so cool and so adult!

In college, in my desire to finish my Communication course after wasting some semesters taking up Chemistry, I used up all my summers to take extra subjects. There really was no summer break to speak of and I ended up an Octoberian graduate.

In the corporate world, summer vacations do not exist. Work is a whole stretch of days, weeks, months, years and decades. It is a cycle that knows no long pauses nor extended breaks, discounting official holidays. Yes, we do have leaves, R&R’s, company trips—but nothing compares to the good old summer vacations: approximately 60 restful, lazy, empty days away from school and authority, where you can choose to do nothing and not feel guilty, and where the cares of growing-up seem a world away.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

*189. ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Political Gimmickry Rocks the Vote

VOTE ME, PLEASE! Crisogono Y. Castro, a candidate for councilor in Mabalacat, extolls his achievements for his kabalens to read, in a poem published in "Ing Cabbling" in 1934. The Municipal Mayors of Pampanga with Gov. Ceferino Joven are shown on the top picture.

Campaign fever is gripping the country as I write this, with the national and local elections scheduled to happen in May. For a month or so now, political candidates vying for office are on an aggressive campaign trail, making the rounds of the town, doing house-to-house visits, kissing babies and shaking hands just to win precious votes. Indeed, rendering oneself visible is not enough these days; one has to have a campaign gimmick, a stunt or a catchy slogan to remain top-of-mind among fickle and forgetful voters.

In my town, eager beaver candidates are breaking through the clutter using popular hit songs with lyrics modified to suit their needs. One candidate (a perennial loser in the mayoral polls) is predictably using the Korean pop – “I want nobody, nobody but you”, replacing the last word with his name. Another candidate is infusing new life to the novelty song “Ang Ganda-Ganda ng Bulaklak”, while still another opted for the 60s hit, “Jambalaya”, using a Totoy Bato sound alike as his singer.

Slogans too, abound, but I don’t find them memorable enough, and some simply overpromise: “MMS kita” (which stands for the candidate’s initials) , “Kaibigan ng Kalikasan”, “Abe-Abe tamung Isadsad ing Crusada”.

Time was when political candidates advertised their credentials not through posters and handbills, but through poems—such as this one from a councilor-wannabe from Mabalacat. In lyrical words published in a 1934 newspaper, candidate Crisogono “Nonung” Y. Castro listed down his accomplishments—from his commerce degree to his able management of the town booth in the 1933 Pampanga Carnival, the staging of Rizal Day and the Lenten Cenaculo. I do not know if these were enough to get him a seat, but on should laud him for his excellent literary effort.

Not too long ago, 3 Kapampangans were elected to the Senate by unleashing their brand of political gimmickry, which apparently worked. Ninoy’s younger brother, occasional thespian Butz Aquino had a jingle which only had his name for lyrics, but which had a catchy tune. Remember, “Butz, Butz, Butz, Butz Aquino..?”. Who can forget too, Consuelo “Jamby” Abad Santos Madrigal and her repetitive “Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby! Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby!”. It also helped that Jamby was endorsed by the amiable actress Judy Ann Santos—a fellow Kapampangan. Lito Lapid alluded to his screen hero imagery in his ads—Leon Guerrero—and his strategy worked well with voters (fans?) who obviously could not separate fact from fiction.

In the 1950s, part-Kapampangan Ramon Magsaysay (his grandmother was from Betis) of the Nacionalista Party, defeated incumbent Elpidio Quirino to win the presidency of the Philippines. His anti-graft platform found expression in one of the most popular campaign songs in history –“Mambo Magsaysay”, which was resurrected and re-aired by Radio Veritas to fantastic audience reception. “Mambo, mambo Magsaysay! Mambo-mambo, Magsaysay!.Our democracy will die, kung walang magbabantay!”—the song went, and its message resonated with truth and currency at the height of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

It was the turn of the Liberals to dominate the 1961 polls with the election of Diosdado Macapagal as the president of the republic, defeating the incumbent Nacionalista, Carlos P. Garcia and his Kapampangan running mate, Gil J. Puyat.The Liberal Party had came to power with the independence of the country in 1946, but were deposed by the Nacionalistas in 1953, with Magsaysay’s election.

This time, the poor boy from Lubao, won the hearts of his countrymen with a singleminded promise: “New Leadership for a New Life”, which many found sincere and believeable versus the limp “The Filipino First Team” of Garcia nd Puyat. Dadong even gave away symbolic tin plates that had the battlecry-- “Food In Every Filipino Home!”, and sure enough, when 7 million Filipino voters participated in the national polls held Nov. 14. 1961, Macapagal emerged victorious over the incumbent whom he had served as vice president in 1958, leading by a wide, insurmountable margin.

For many on the local political road, the way to a government position (or even Malacañang) is through the breadth and length of the country, through the hearts and conscience of the people. But a few experienced and streetmart politicos still maintain that that rallying the popular mandate is easy enough—if voters can’t be bought for money, then they can be had for a song!

Monday, April 5, 2010


RANK AND FILE. The Gonzalez children, dressed as harlequins, line up for a souvenir picture. Starting from the first boy on the left, the back caption identifies them as: Joaquin Gonzalez Jr. * years, 5 months, 5 days), Zenaida Gonzalez (7-3-8), reinerio Gonzalez (5-6-28), Jesus Gonzalez (4-6-2) and Augusto Gonzalez (3-1-18). Dated 8 February 1931.

Then, as now, Kapampangan fathers and mothers have always held up their children with love and pride; after all, the future of the family bloodline depended on them—their ‘anaks’, products of their union, the beloved ‘sulul’ or offspring of their marriage. In general, our ancestors valued family relationships and there are several terms referring to children, some defunct and others still in use today, that describe their age, rank and place in the family tree.

The eldest child is called “pangane”, and his birth is often attended with pain and difficulty being a firstborn—hence the term “mangane”, said of a mother delivering a child for the first time.

The second child is called “dalanan yang pangane”—the one who follows the firstborn. The “bungsu” is the youngest among the siblings.

Children of the same mother also come from the same belly, hence they are all ‘kapusu’ or ‘kayatian” (from the same tummy). They are all ‘mikapatad’ or ‘mikaputul’ – from the same cut.
Younger kids would address their older sibling as “Kaka”, which is also used to address an older person with respect. Many prefer to use the gender-specific term “koya” (for older brothers) or “atsi” (older sisters). The elder children were tasked to look after their ‘wali”—the youngest sibling. The particle “di” is often used as a term of endearment, as in “Mekeni di” (Come here, dear young one).

A ‘bingut’ (infant) who grows up to become a bratty, crybaby is described as having “makaba iki” (long-tail, as in the train of a woman’s skirt). After a few years, he becomes a “anak a bagong tubu” (newbreed child or adolescence). If a child is big for his age, he is said to be “maragul ya tubu” (large breed). One big compliment is to be considered a grown-up—“magintau”. A boy eventually becomes a “baintau”, while a girl, “dalaga”.

Down the family tree, a grand child is called “apú ” and the proximity of the descendant to his forebear is determined via distance from certain body parts; the lower you go, the farther the vertical relationship-- hence, “apú king tud” (grandchild of the knee) is a great-grandson—the child of a grandson, “apú king talampakan” (of the sole of the foot) is a great-great grandson, while “apú king kuku” (of the toenail) is a great-great-great grandson.

Extending to other branches, a godchild is called “inaanak” or “inanak”. Outside of official marriages, there are also terms for an adopted child ( “inanakan”), an illegitimate offspring (“anak sulip”) and a child of an unfaithful wife (“bitô”).

Of course, today, many contemporary terms have sprouted, with many either coined or adopted from Western sources. A brother can be addressed as “bro” or “brod”, while a sister, regardless of age is simply “sis”. A child born out of wedlock is called ‘anak kilwal’ and the baby of a single girl is referred to as ‘anak king pagkadalaga’. A slang for ‘bastard children’—sanabagan—is actually a corrupted version of the American expression, “son of a gun’. Even more derogatory is the swear or cuss word—‘anak puta” (son of a bitch), which has spawned milder, safer versions such as “anak baka” (son of a cow), “anak pating” (son of a shark) or the nonsensical “anak ng huweteng” (product of smalltown gambling).

Terms to denote family relationships may change with the passing of years, but for Kapampangan parents, children will always be the center of their universe, to be lavished with pampering, love and attention.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

*187. His High School Yearbook: BENIGNO A. AQUINO JR.

A TIME WE'LL TREASURE THROUGH THE YEARS. Benigno A. Aquino Jr. of Concepcion, Tarlac, graduates from San Beda College l at age 15, going on 16. This high school photo of "Benny", as he was fondly called, is reproduced from his 1948 Ecos High School Yearbook. Dated 1947-48.

A lot can be gleaned about the early years of Benigno Aquino Jr. (b. 27 Nov. 1932/ d. 21 Aug. 1983) just by leafing through his 1948 San Beda yearbook. Ninoy was but 3 years old when the family left Concepcion to settle in Ermita, Manila due to the demands of his father’s work, Benigno Sr., with the National Assembly. Later, in 1936, the family acquired their New Manila property where they once again moved.

At age 6, Ninoy was first enrolled at Saint Joseph’s School, staying there with his all-girl classmates until second grade. He transferred to Ateneo on his third grade, then located at the Intramuros, while his sisters were chauffer-driven to Holy Ghost College. Ninoy had no yaya, growing up, so he was pretty much an independent spirit, always roaming around the neighborhood, befriending shanty boys and scouring the place for news—he was even nicknamed T-V-T (for Tribune, Vanguardia and Taliba, leading dailies of the time) for reporting every community happening to the family.

During the Japanese Occupation and with the closure of the American-run Ateneo, Ninoy enrolled at La Salle. He is remembered for associating with the older boys of the school, that included Claro Recto Jr., basketball star Tito Eduque and future vice president Salvador Laurel. The Liberation of the Philippines put a temporary halt to his studies with the evacuation of the family to Concepcion, Tarlac. Once school reopened in 1946, Ninoy was sent back to Manila to resume his studies at San Beda College run by Benedictine fathers.

Ninoy had often mused about this period of his life where he “grew old too soon”. His father had been tagged as a collaborator and the family had become a virtual outcast, a rather disturbing and confusing experience for a 12 year old. Ninoy reacted by becoming a loner, immersing himself in his studies, finishing high school in just two and a half years by cross-enrolling during summer at Far Eastern University and National University. The 15-going on-16 teenager from graduated from San Beda on March 1948,

In his own assessment, he was “in the middle bracket, never brilliant, never among the 95s, but never in the 75s either.” His Kapampangan batchmates include: Jose Ayson (Angeles), Apolinar Bundalian (San Fernando), Ponciano Catacutan (Apalit), Ildefonso Dizon (Magalang), Jose Fausto Jr. (Sta. Ana) . Edward Golden (Arayat), Jose Hizon (Mexico, father of Singapore-based BBC reporter, Rico M. Hizon), Alfonso Lagman (Minalin), Benito Mercado (San Fernando), Mariano Santos, Regulo Vicente (Tarlac) and a townmate from Concepcion, Federico Pineda Jr.

Ninoy’s yearbook write-up has this to say about him:
“Political? Ask Benny . He’ll say ‘no’. How, when, and how much. Don’t overlook his intentions, for, mind you, he had a priestly inclination, until he found out that ecclesiastics and politics are two different things. He has dreams of being a missionary in the jungles of Africa, converting the natives”. Gifted with the art of rhetoric (I hope), he’ll make a good preacher, a plaza demagogue, or the opposition stormy petrel. He is such a success when it comes to ‘sales talk’, that he almost sold ‘San Sebastian’ to a by-stander interested in the lot..”

The yearbook description proved to be very prophetic, for this young Tarlaqueno soon entered the political arena, was elected governor and rose to become the youngest mayor at 22, Tarlac governor at 29 and the youngest Senator-elect at 34. In the Marcos years, just less than two decades after his graduation, Ninoy would become the harshest critic and leading threat of then president Ferdinand E. Marcos—the “opposition stormy petrel” indeed, for which he would pay a dearly. Imprisoned during Martial Law then exiled to the U.S., Ninoy was assassinated upon his return to challenge the dictator. His martyrdom spurred his widow, Corazon Aquino, and a whole nation to challenge the dictator, who was ousted in the historic 1986 People Power Revolution.