Wednesday, March 25, 2015


MERYENDA TAMU. A short stop at Apung Gari Bakery promises to be a "filling" experience, what with its array of breads, pies and shirt order dishes like pancit luglug, arroz caldo and Magnolia ice cream, all at affordable prices. ca. 1955.

San Fernando’s favorite bakeshop at the Assumpta Building, along the busy Abad Santos St., barrio St. Rosario, was put up by an enterprising couple, Jesusa “Susing” Quiambao and husband Jose “Pitong” Valencia, in 1955. The two named it after Susing’s mother, Margarita Quiambao. “Apung Gari”, who had a reputation as a good cook, had managed San Fernando’s most popular bakery during the post-Liberation—“La Satisfacion”. When she reached her 50s, her daughter and son-in-law decided to take over the reins of the business and relaunched it as “Apung Gari Bakery and Kiosk”.

 One cannot miss the spacious and spanking new bread and snack house, as the store name --“Apung Gari Bakery and Kiosk”—was emblazoned atop the building, visible at a distance. Hanging signboards outside indicated the name of the establishment and the proprietor—“Jesusa Q. Valencia—General Merchant, Importer””. “Apung Gari” sported the prevalent midcentury look, with large glass cabinets encasing their tempting hot pan de sal, biscocho, cheese bread, monay, pandecito and puto seco. There were also glass jars full of candies, tira-tira being a favorite of school children.

Fixed stools upholstered with vinyl lined a sleek, curved island where one could sit and enjoy some snack, diner style. Shelves neatly displayed rows and rows of canned pineapple juice, evaporated milk, bottled catsup, which could be pulled out anytime there is an order.

 For fifty centavos, the 1955 menu offered Pancit Luglug (a best-seller), Arroz con Caldo, Chicken Mami, Magnolia Ice Cream and Ice Cream Sundae. Halo-halo, Lumpiang Prito, Magnolia Milk and assorted cakes and cookies could be had for forty centavos. Lumpiang fresca (fresh lumpia) was the cheapest on the list at thirty centavos.

Other options include different sandwiches and pies. Students from Assumption and nearby schools, government workers and store employees frequented “Apung Gari” for over six decades. To cater to varied tastes, the menu was expanded to include sotanghon (dry or with soup), pancit guisado and goto. It even extended its services to include oven-cooking (“pa-ornu”) of lechon and liempo.

 When the Valencia couple passed away, members of the family continued the business, which thrived, thanks to its strong, loyal customers. It was sold to the Santiago family by the Valencia family around 2007, but the new owners retained the name owing to the pulling power of its name, that evokes simple, but tasty food and good times. The name recently was changed to FBS Bakeshop and Kiosk, and time will tell if the same affinity for the one and only “Apung Gari” will rub off on the newly-named bakeshop.

Friday, March 6, 2015

*379. MERRILL’S MARAUDERS: Shooting a Hollywood Movie in Clark

SHOOTING STARS. A lobby card showing the stars of the movie "Merrill's Marauders", led by actor Jeff Chandler. The movie was mostly shot around the environs near Clark, as the terrain simulated that of Burma, where the story took place. 1961.

 One of the most daring exploits during World War II was when Brig. General Frank D. Merrill led 3,000 American volunteers of his 5307th Composite Unit behind Japanese lines across Burma to Myitkyina, battling the enemies successfully, even beyond their limits.

 Warner Brothers thought that the heroism of the “Merrill’s Marauders”, as the men were called, would make a good Hollywood movie, and so in 1961, it assembled a stellar cast headed by Jeff Chandler (as Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill) , Ty Hardin (2nd Lt. Lee Stockton), Peter Brown ( as Bullseye), Will Hutchins (as Chowhound) and Andrew Duggan (Capt. Kolodny, M.D.), and headed off for the Philippines in April 1961 to start the movie production.

 Producer Milton Sperling chose to film his Technicolor production in the Philippines partly because of the similarity of its terrain to that of Burma. Besides, there were the added advantages of the availability of technical facilities in Manila and the comparative lack of language barrier which would make filming easier, smoother. Also, the starstruck U.S. Army’s Special Forces and the Philippine Armed Forces were ready to extend their assistance. Two Filipino actors were also chosen to appear in the movie--Luz Valdez, who as a Burmese girl practically had no speaking lines, and Pancho Magalona, in a minor role.

 Clark Air Force Base in Angeles town proved to be the perfect production headquarters for the cast and crew, as the required rugged jungles, mountainous terrains and were just behind the military base. A February 1962 issue of Screen Stories, a Hollywood movie magazine reported the behind-the-scene stories: “While on march in the jungles, the film company lived in camps with no comforts.

Diminutive Negrito tribesmen were employed as bush beaters to drive off predatory beasts and snakes. No sprayed glycerine was necessary to make the actors “sweat’ for the camera, for the merciless jungle sun beat down on their steel helmets. Filming scenes in foxholes found such unwelcome visitors as lizards, land crabs, and all kinds of bugs and snakes. For scenes in which they waded through swamps, they were invariably covered with leeches.”

 Hundreds of Americans from Clark volunteered as extras for the large-scale battle scenes. After their strenuous rehearsals on the first day, thirty percent failed to come back for more. The movie war was too tough!

 To make matters worse, Chandler suffered a slipped disc while playing baseball with U.S. servicemen while taking a break on the set at Clark, exacerbating a previous back condition. He insisted on postponing hospitalization in order to remain with his fellow actors until the picture finished. Director Samuel Fuller respected Chandler’s loyalty, but he arranged treatment of the agonizingly painful back injury.

 His co-stars Ty Hardin and Peter Brown, on the other had, had the time of their lives in Angeles. They learned about dating olive-skinned beauties the hard way. Brown mused, “A Filipino girl is always accompanied by a chaperon, and the only way to make a date is to gift the father’s best friend with several jugs of native joy water”.

 When the filming wrapped up, Before the cast of the movie put on a show at the Silver Wing Theater, on the base, for the U.S. servicemen and their families. Chandler sang ballads. Hardin, Brown and Duggan left their audience in stitches by playing absent-minded cowboys in a satire on TV Westerns. The Hollywood stars endeared themselves to the Negritos when they adopted a 55 year old, 3-foot tall native. He was thrilled when they presented him with a Mickey Mouse wristwatch.

Almost bursting with pride, he exclaimed: “Now I am the richest man in my village. In trade for this watch ,I can get myself several wives!”. The cast returned to Hollywood where everything went back to normal for most of the actors. Chandler, whose back condition had taken a turn for the worse, was hospitalized on May 13 at Culver City Hospital. A surgery was performed but an artery was damaged, leading to his death on 17 June 1961.

Chandler did not live to see the 1962 premiere of “Merrill’s Marauders” , but it certainly would have made him happy to know that the film became a critical and commercial success, thanks in part to the support of many Filipinos and Americans in Clark Air Force Base.