Tuesday, October 30, 2012

*315. His Grade School Yearbook: PRES. NOYNOY AQUINO III

 A CHRONICLE OF HIS YOUTH. The future president of the Republic of the Philippines, as a 13 year old grade school graduate of Ateneo Grade School, Section Xavier, in 1973.

Thirty nine years ago, the future president of the Philippines graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University, just a year after the imposition of Martial Law. As seen from his grade school yearbook ("Chronicle"), Benigno Simeon Aquino III (b. 8 February 1960) seemed like any ordinary kid in the neighbourhood, on the verge of teenhood. Schoolmates remember him as a quiet, introverted boy, but as the son of Marcos’s most formidable opposition, Ninoy, he must have been cautioned to keep a low profile; the Martial Law years were undoubtedly a difficult period for the Aquinos.

As one can see, there is no listing of Noynoy’s school activities—no varsity football, no drama guild, no basketball teams, no membership in any clubs. A quick scan of his school annual revealed the young, eager faces of his batchmates who, today, are familiar names in Philippine society. There’s the late Alfie Anido who died under mysterious circumstances at the height of his fame as a movie star, the future designer Pepito Albert, as well as the future senator, Teofisto Guingona III.

Noynoy would stay on in Ateneo until his college years, earning an Economics degree in 1981 (one of his professors was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). He joined his exiled father with the rest of the family in the United States until he came back to the Philippines in 1983, after his father’s assassination. After working in the private sector, he plunged headlong into politics, first as as an elected member of the House of Representatives representing Tarlac in 1998 (re-elected in 2001 and 2004) and as a Senator, elected in 2007.

Following the death of his mother, Cory C. Aquino in 2009, Noynoy heeded the people’s call by joining the presidential race under the Liberal Party. He would go on to become the highest executive of the land, our country’s 15th president in June 2010, trouncing other bets like the popular Erap Estrada, Manny Villar and Gilbert Teodoro, an Aquino relative.

With his victory, Noynoy became the 3rd youngest presidential-elect of the Philippines, after Magsaysay and Marcos, and our very first bachelor-president. The quiet boy with bangs who would rather be alone, would also make history for his alma mater by becoming the first Atenean to become the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

Monday, October 22, 2012


DARK DECEPTION. Negrita Magdalena (with husband Felix) was a loyal companion to a rich Bambanense woman who eventually willed her property upon her death. Unschooled and illiterate, Magdalena found herself in the middle of legal intrigues, stirred by her mistress's relative who claimed she was ineligible to inherit such great wealth.

The controversial Dean C. Worcester once caused an indignant stir among Filipinos when he wrote about the existence of slavery and peonage in the Philippines. The charge did not sit well on Filipinos, which prompted Mr. Worcester to cite the story of a Negrita named Magdalena, and her extraordinary relationship with her mistress, Dña. Petrona David. His intent, he clarified, was not to condemn, but to praise their inspiring story, that began in the border town of Bamban, in Tarlac province. 

Doña Petrona David was a prominent resident of this town, a widow with no children. One day, she chanced upon a Negrito selling “bulu” ( a bamboo specie) in town. She not only bought the bamboo but also took a fancy to his 5 children—3 girls and 2 boys-- who had tagged along with their father. The kind doña singled out the young Magdalena, a true child of the mountains and the wilderness of Tarlac. Magdalena was thus introduced to Dña. Petrona, and from the day on she would come to her house to help and run errands for her. When her parents died, the Bamban lady took the 7-year old Magdalena to her house and had her baptized. The illiterate Negrita thus lived with her, dutifully serving her needs, until her mistress got terminally sick.

Dña. Petrona died on 31 October 1919 and left behind property valued at Php15,000, a substantial sum in those days. But six months before her demise, Dña. Petrona had executed a will, bequeathing one third of her property to her trusted Magdalena, whom she had come to regard as her own daughter. Such was her generosity because, to use the words of her last will and testament “she has rendered me great service, serving me with loyal and sincere love, since she was baptized, and never separating herself from my side from that time up to the present date”.

There was a practical reason too, why the well-to-do lady did not leave all her property to her nearest relatives.”I know them as spendthrifts”, she noted, an observation she put in her will; she left a third of it to them anyway. The remaining 1/3 of her property was given to Don Pablo Rivera, manager of the David estate. Don Pablo was also named as administrator of the will. All hell broke loose as the David relatives, as expected, contested the legality of the will, and they pursued the case for two years—all the way up to the Supreme Court. But on 24 June 1922, the highest tribunal of the land declared the will, legal, authentic and binding.

You would think that this decision would have put closure to Magdalena’s woes so she could finally enjoy her just reward. But as the poor girl was unschooled, and unlettered, intrigues followed her wherever she went. Bambanenses could not understand why the Negrita should not be divested of her legacy due to her ignorance. People wagged their tongues to ask: “what would she do with the money and property anyway?”

But little did they know that Magdalena’s one extraordinaty expense is the Php70 that she shells out on the anniversary of her mistress’ death—to buy candles which are lit in her honor, and to pay for the little gathering in the house where prayers are said in memory of her adoptive mother. Every year, the Negrita alone remembers the memory of the late lady.

Fortunately for Magdalena, Judge Juan Sumulong came to her rescue in 1925. Sumulong was known for being an upright lawyer and he vowed to defend her interests as her guardian. Meanwhile, the administrator of the will has seen to it that apparently and legally, the property willed to the Negrita should become his own property too. We do not know the resolution of this case as this account, which was covered by the Philippine Free Press, ends here, a cliff hanger story of deception and trickery, with the clear intent to despoil the poor Negrita Magdalena of her just and rightful legacy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

*313. PATSY: Tawag ng Tanghalan's Hostess with the Mostest

PATSY PATSOTSAY. The loveable, laughable Patsy Mateo, from Lubao, is most well-known for her long association with perhaps, the greatest talent search in Philippine TV history--Tawag ng Tanghalan.

One comedienne who created one of the most iconic characters in Philippine movies based on her provincial background was the loveable Patsy. As the bumbling, hysterical Patsy Patsotsay, she would often spew out Kapampangan non-stop when caught in a fix.

This loveable, all-around entertainer with Lubao roots, come from the same town that nurtured the talents of movie greats Rogelio de la Rosa, and Jaime de la Rosa and Gregorio Fernandez.

 She was born as Pastora Mateo on 12 April 1916, in Sta. Elena, Tondo, the child of Alejandro Mateo, who worked in a stall at the local market. As a youngster, Patsy was given the nickname “Lapad”, in reference to her flat nose.

 Even under the watchful eye of a very old-fashioned father, Patsy grew up breaking house rules to follow her heart’s desire. She was but 6 when she caught the Lou Borromeo variety show performing in a theater along Rizal Avenue. She broke into the theatre unnoticed via the back stage. Patsy was immediately smitten by the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.

 In 1924, she was in 2nd grade at Magdalena Elementary School when she saw and answered an ad about chorus girls being wanted at the Savoy Theater, just a walk away from Clover Theater. Together with her sister Rosa, she auditioned –and passed, until her parents discovered her adventure. John C. Cooper, the Savoy Theater, had given everyone of his troupe a five peso loan—which Patsy and Rosa proudly turned over to their father. The two truants were given a sound trashing, but they kept going back to the stage anyway. Eventually, the Mateo elders relented and allowed the youngsters to pursue their showbiz interest.

 Patsy was just eleven when she joined a group of entertainers to tour Hawaii—along with Diana Toy, Sunday Reantazo, and saxophone player, Baclig. She was gone for a full year, but upon her return in 1928, she was immediately taken in as a feature singer at Tom’s Oriental Grill in Sta. Cruz. After 3 months, she was back dancing at the Savoy. In 1933, Patsy moved to the Palace Theater as a song-and-dance girl, performing alongside such veteran stalwarts as Katy de la Cruz, Tugo, Pugo and Amanding Montes.

 From the bodabil house, Patsy broke into the movies in 1934, playing a supporting role in “Ang Dangal”. She rounded up the decade with roles in “Dasalang Perlas”(1938) and “Ruiseñor”(1939).

 In 1939, while singing with comedienne Hanasan (Aurelia Alaldo) on stage, somebody in the audience informed her that her father had died. “I had to go on with the show my aching heart”, Patsy revealed in an interview. “Amidst all the buffoonery, tears were cascading down my cheeks.”

 The War nipped Patsy’s budding film career, but in 1943, her showgirl career took a major turn when she became a comedienne. On one fateful day, Toytoy and comedy partner Gregorio Ticman had been scheduled to do an act together. As luck would have it, Toytoy fell ill and Patsy was asked to take over .She did a skit using her now famous Kapampangan-Tagalog dialogue—which brought down the house. A new star comedienne was born.

 Patsy continued to entertain onstage during the years of the Japanese Occupation. As soon as thing settled down, she was back on screen in “Alaala Kita”(1946), The ‘50s and 60s decades marked her heyday as one of the country’s most favorite comedians. She appeared in the comedy hit, “Edong Mapangarap”(1950), opposite Eddie San Jose, “Bohemyo”, “Babae, Babae, at Babae Pa”(1952), “Basagulera”(1954).

 Her biggest break, however, was when she was approached to be one of the hosts of a highly-popular singing contest that was sponsored by Procter and Gamble PMC : ”Tawag ng Tanghalan” which started on radio as “Purico’s Amateur Hour”. A unique feature of the program was the sounding of a bell that cut off the performance and signalled elimination of au unfortunate contestant. It had for its first grand champion, the Spanish-Filipino singer Jose Gonzales (Pepe Pimentel) who won with the song “Angelitos Negros”.

 Patsy teamed up with Lopito when “Tawag”moved to television, a new medium that would also catapult the tandem to national fame. Patsy and Lopito had such charisma on TV, diffusing the pressure of competition with their humorous repartee in which they often argued and fought on-air. 

As emcees, they also put contestants at ease with their light, easy patter, and the duo were witnessed to the meteoric rise of some of the “Tawag”winners through the years: Diomedes Maturan ( 1959), Kapampangan Cenon Lagman (1960), Nora Aunor (1968) and Edgar Mortiz.

 Eventually, the TV show found its way to the silver screen in 1958 starring Susan Roces. Patsy supported the 1959 winner, Diomedes Maturan, by appearing in several of his movies, starting with “Private Maturan” (1959), “Detective Maturan” and “Prinsipe Diomedes at ang Mahiwagang Gitara”(1961). Even as she was becoming a household name on TV, Patsy continued to work the stage circuit, doing live acts in theaters like Clover, in Manila.

She was back in films in the 60s and among her most hilarious hits were “Juan Tamad Goes To Society”, “Manananggal vs. Mangkukulam” (1960), “Kandidatong Pulpol” (1961), “Triplets”(1961) and “The Big Broadcast” (1962). Patsy was also part of the celebrated group of seven bungling househelps (Aruray, Chichay, Menggay, Elizabeth Ramsey, Dely Atay-Atayan, Metring David were the other maids) in the blockbuster movie “Pitong Atsay” (1962) under dalisay Films and megged by Tony Santos. It chronicled the “naughty, nutty misadventures of 7 zany house maids, their lives and loves, in their guarded and unguarded moments”.

A sequel was hastily filmed on the heels of the movie’s success: “Ang Pinakamalaking Takas ng 7 Atsay”. TV kept Patsy busy in the 1970s; she played the role of the matriarch in the highly-rated comedy show “Wanted: Boarder”, opposite Pugo on Channel 2.

When Martial Law closed down the channel, the show reincarnated in Channel 5 as “Boarding House”, with practically the same cast. In 1975, Pugo and Patsy were the parents of Jay Ilagan in another hit sit-com on RPN 9, “My Son, My Son”. Then there was the short-lived, “Sila-Sila, Tayo-Tayo, Kami-Kami”, with Chichay.

 In all her appearances, Patsy consistently remained true to her character—splicing Kapampangan words into her dialogues at every opportunity, speaking with that distinct “gegege”accent that became her trademark. The Patsy-Pugo tandem could have endured as another great comedy pair, but that ended with Pugo’s demise in 1978.

A few months after, the irrepressibly funny Lubeña—Patsy Mateo—passed away in 1979. When a Tawag ng Tanghalan retrospective show was produced by Procter and Gamble in 1985, comedienne Nanette Inventor (from Macabebe) portrayed her so effectively, that for a moment, it seemed that the wise-cracking hostess with the mostest--Patsy Patsotsay—had returned to conquer the stage she loved all her life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


SOME KIND OF WAWA-NDERFUL. The altar and retablo mayor of Guagua Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The mesa altar and the sagrario are covered with precious frontals of beaten silver. Ca. 1915.

When Augustinian missionaries descended upon Pampanga, they lost no time embarking on building churches. This religious order—first to arrive with Legazpi’s expeditionary group in 1565—is credited with constructing the most number of churches in the country.

The first visitas were made from indigenous materials—nipa, bamboo, hardwood trees—but with grants from the Real Hacienda, income from church services, free labor from the system of polo y servicio, churches soon evolved and grew into magnificent structures, with lavish decorations that rivalled those of Europe.

Nowhere is this more evident in the main altars of old Pampanga churches. Apparently, Filipinos and Spaniards shared a common interest in the decorative arts; just 50 years after Manila’s foundation, it was noted that the progressive city had churches adorned with rich silk fabrics and altar fronts covered with expensive silver.

Indeed, the altar became the most outstanding feature of the church in terms of artistry and opulence, for they were designed to attract attention and direct the gaze of the devotee to the tabernacle that housed the Holy Eucharist. The sagrario (tabernacle) was flanked by gradas (tiered panels) where decorations like ramilletes ( bouquets of silver or wood) and silver candeleros (candle holders) were placed.

 The altar mayor featured the mantel-covered mesa altar, on which the priest said Mass, his back towards the audience. The Second Vatican Council of 1962 made significant reforms in the conduct of liturgical services, including changes in the physical make-up of the altar space. Altar tables were moved to the foreground, so that priests can celebrate the Mass, facing the audience. Retained were the magnificent retablos behind the mesa altar, frontal structures carved with period decorations and designed with nichos to house santos of wood and ivory, as well as paintings and relieves (relief carvings) showing Biblical and other holy scenes—all meant as visual aids in the missionaries’ oral teachings and in their attempt to convert people to Christianity.

The churches of Pampanga reflected the spirit of this gilded age, the combined power and glory of Art and Faith serving a higher purpose. The church of Lubao for instance, has a retablo mayor carved in florid Baroque style, with Augustinian santos enshrined in niches, leading one admirer to write that it is ”one of the most sumptuous in the Islands”.

The Santiago Apostol Church in Betis, likewise, boasts of a baroque wooden retablo carved with the most refined details, and infused with rocaille motifs—shells, curlicues, sinuous floral patterns. Once installed in the central niche was the figure of the patron—St. James as a peregrine, or pilgrim, now replaced with the Risen Christ. Angels playing musical instruments are scattered about the retablo, with the all-seeing God the Father, lording it all.

The church of Bacolor, dedicated to San Guillermo and touted as Pampanga’s biggest church in 1897, once had rich silver works with beautifully-gold leafed altar. The sunken retablos have all been restored after the Pinatubo eruption—sans the real gold gilt. Apalit has an intricately ornamented altar surmounted by a dome, replicating the church’s signature dome feature. The altar of San Simon is carved with floral splendor, with the figure of the Holy Spirit hovering above. Sta. Rita’s claim to fame was once its gilded main altar, while that of Masantol had Renaissance style carvings. The ancient church of San Luis also has an impressive retablo done in baroque, while Guagua’s altar frontals were once adorned with beaten silver (pukpok), made from precious silver coins.

The grandeur of our altars have been somehow dimmed by the ravages of time and the cataclysmic workings of nature—floods, earthquakes, volcanic upheavals. But though begrimed with dust, covered in lahar and engulfed in flood waters, it is before these altars that we always fall on our knees, intone our prayers for succor and help--and find our faith again.