A grade school reunion

It’s December 30 as I write this, and you would think that I have, as most of you have, gone to over a dozen get-togethers and parties this Holiday Season. You’re right.

And last night, I went to one of the most memorable. It was the first time I attended a reunion with my grade school classmates back at the old Divine Word College of Laoag located at the Cathedral compound.

After graduating from there in 1991, most of my classmates went to DWCL High School. I moved to another. This is the reason I did not get to meet them in a long time. They would constantly hold high school reunions that obviously I am not part of. But we thought this year, as a result of our scant conversations on Facebook, to meet up. The simple but meaningful gathering was graciously hosted by Laurel Paul Mariano who was recently promoted as a Full Lieutenant of the Philippine Navy. His spacious compound somewhere in Laoag’s Barangay Salet, which offered a view of the city’s skyline, was a perfect venue for the event which incidentally marked two decades from our grade school graduation.

There were ten warm bodies, which was not bad, as many of our classmates are either based in Metro Manila or overseas. The attendance sheet: Me, Paul, Bernard Manrique, Ashley dela Cruz, Michael Salud, Excellency Guiang, Laurel Paul Mariano, Juanito Compa, Jose Mari Mata, Angelito Masion, and Leslie Santella. Richie Cavinta, who stayed for one minute, excused himself to do an important task for the fiesta of San Nicolas Town where he works at the munisipio. But we went home at 1:00 a.m., and still no Richie. And no D.A. Bitancor either. D.A. promised to follow when we tried to fetch him at his convenience store. Still, I was really happy to see all of them. In fact, I may already have been bumping with some somewhere, but there are faces I needed a while to recognize.

I was excited to go, and it was not, of course, mainly because of SanMig Light which, by now, dear Karikna, you know that I love so much. In fact I could have, as Benard did, just drank water the whole night and still enjoy as much as I did. It was nice to revisit our childhood, remember our teachers (Is Ms. Menor still alive? Did you know that our old crush Ms. Fe Dancel is, to this day, still hot as hell? Where is Mrs. Pasalo?), the corporal punishment still prevalent at that time, our very physical games (Do children today still play bawang base?), the Christmas parties. (Because we had no girl classmates, we had to do the Nativity Scene with a boy Mama Mary. The Ilocos Sentinel publisher Excel Guiang, who now has two kids, was perennially our baby Jesus wrapped in white diapers.)

Ryan Cunanan must have a crocodile’s memory. He remembered two things which I already forgot. First, that I taught Karate to my classmates, and even administered exams for promotion to higher belts. (I really never knew Karate aside from watching my brothers who were doing Taekwondo). And second, that I played priest then and recited the mass for my classmates, complete with communion. (No, I did not collect offerings, the money for the bread and wine I bought from my own money.)

Ours was among the last all-boys batches at Divine, and Paul noted that it was quite a different experience from their high school coed reunions. Indeed, we openly talked about a wide range of topics, including masturbation, fist fights, and even youthful adventures with outlawed substances. I shared that I somehow regret not having tried Marijuana at all, and that I happen to be a strong advocate for the legalization of the weed. I conceded though that it seems too late and irresponsible to try now. When you are young, you somehow have a license to commit mistakes as you explore the world. The only rule is that you be careful so you can live to tell your stories, and the lessons you learned from them, to your children. Two of our batchmates did not have that luck; they went to the Great Beyond ahead of us. We remembered them fondly, though they were not exempted from our outrageous, many times irreverent, recollections of time gone by.

Today, all of us, including me I hope, are productive members of society and strongholds in our respective families. Psychologists contend that a human being’s personality is shaped mainly during childhood. Our school, teachers, and parents must have done something really, really good. And for this we are grateful no end. We thus raised our bottle’s of San MigLight, Excel’s glass of red wine, and Bernard’s pitcher of water to a wonderful childhood we hope we can soon again revisit.

Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading “Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’”

Piolo the anti-gay

But first let me greet Cleng and Karmina. Nope, not Carmina who married the pre-Bebe Gandanghari Rustom Padilla, but Karmina Krenz Fagaragan Undonero who works at the Communication and Media Office of the Ilocos Norte Capitol. She and my dear kumare Clenntroy “Cleng” Guzman Magbual, also from the same office, are among the new breed of government employees striving to make a difference in the service. Efficient, hardworking, honest, and committed, these two women, only in their early twenties, show that there is a bright future for the bureaucracy if we get the right people and provide them with appropriate training.


Now let’s talk about Piolo who continues to trend in social networking sites after her ex-girlfriend KC Concepcion, in an interview with fellow kalbo Boy Abunda, talked about their breakup. Her words were controlled and tempered but they revealed meanings even the dumbest of human beings could get. Facebook and Twitter users made explicit what KC didn’t on national TV: Piolo “Peejay/Papa P” Pascual, Philippines’ phenomenal male heartthrob, is gay.

I should be saying it’s not an issue and that we should leave the man alone. But no, it is an issue, not only because Piolo is a celebrity and thus a public property, but because the beefcake himself made it a sizzling issue.

A few years ago, Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby missed a shot at greatness when they sued Lolit Solis for libel when she insinuated in her column that the two may be lovers. The hunky actors went ballistic over Solis when they could have simply said, “we would not mind being gay, but just that we are not.” Piolo and Sam denounced Solis’ insinuations as if being gay debases human dignity. That incident defined for me how Piolo views homosexuality—that it is shameful, dishonorable, malicious.

The issue of Piolo’s homosexuality died down in recent years, although there are occasional write-ups and blind items about his alleged trysts with actors like Yul Servo, now a Manila councilor, and crooner Mark Bautista who is believed to be the third party in the Piolo-KC romance. But the stir created by the girl’s subtle revelations, I am sure, would leave a permanent dent on Piolo’s persona. To the uninitiated, the next paragraph sums up the megadaughter’s tearful discourse. Continue reading “Piolo the anti-gay”