Hotel Sogo CDO


There are several reasons why we will be coming back to this old hotel with a new image: SOGO Advertisement1. It’s located in Lapasan, so it’s close enough to the commercial areas like Puregold, Limketkai Mall and Agora Market, and yet far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city to have privacy. Hallway2. It has a large parking space at the back along with parking rooms, perfect for safely parking our van(s) if and when our tour package requires us to spend the night in the city.Parking Rooms3. The hotel offers several room types and corresponding hourly rates. Again, perfect for us if we just need a place to sleep. Premium Room4. Their food is delicious. I was hungry but didn’t want to eat rice. But I wanted soup and vegetables. Hototay Soup was the closest thing. Hototay SoupThen I had to ruin my healthy streak by having the best leche flan I’ve had in ages. Leche Flan5. The last thing that made this stay a bit more memorable was the knowledge that the room was given free courtesy of a new friend, the manager himself. Thank you, Joseph! Hotel Sogo Logo

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A Time for Bonding

At Short Notice

Our third trip to Bicol was planned at really short notice. Joey and I had an unspoken agreement to bring our elderly mom home to Albay regularly so that she could visit her equally aging brothers and sisters. We hadn’t been very consistent with the dates but had somehow managed to make the trip at least once a year. This year 2014, she had already gone twice — once during Holy Week (with me, Ed and Joey) and the second when Aunty Celia (my dad’s younger sister) died in June. So there were no plans to go this Christmas.

We were, however, expecting to go at any time (yet praying we wouldn’t have to). Well, on December 12, the news we were dreading arrived– Uncle Carding (Mama’s younger brother) had just died. He had had several strokes– the last major one was a couple of years ago– and had finally let go. Without protest, I sat down in front of the computer and booked our travels to and from Legazpi. MayonVolcanoThe Purpose

There will always be a special place in Mama’s heart for her brother, Carding. She was nine years old when he was born and there were already two other sisters before him. But for some reason, he wanted only my mom to carry him whenever he needed to be carried. Then when he had grown and finished college, it was my dad who got him a job as Supervisor at Philippine Packing Corporation (now known as Del Monte Philippines Inc.), where he eventually met his wife, Mai. They were married in Bukidnon where both my parents stood as their principal sponsors. So when my uncle died, there was absolutely no question that my mom was going home.

Uncle Carding was 73. About five years ago he had a stroke but was able to attend his second son’s wedding in Pampanga. He was already on the road to recovery when he suffered a second, and probably more debilitating, stroke which left him bedridden for a few months. Still his will was strong and he was able to continue his therapy until early this year.

When we visited just before Easter, he was in a wheelchair, unable to move his limbs on his own and had to be fed through a tube attached to his stomach. And yet his eyes were still focused. He knew my mom had come to visit. He knew his granddaughter had prepared a song for him.

However, as illnesses like these go, his health deteriorated. In November, he’d acquired pneumonia and it was all downhill from there. On December 11, Mama had just instructed me to send out her annual cash gifts to her siblings (even if some of them didn’t need it and, in turn, instructed me to forward it to my uncle). After thanking me, Aunty Mai added that my uncle was on oxygen. I didn’t tell Mama because I knew it would stress her, not knowing that the next day I would be passing on more dire news.

Saying Goodbye

We arrived on December 16, with just one day and one night before the funeral. Uncle Carding’s body was to be cremated and due to a series of superstitions (“pamahiin”) it seemed like everything was just happening so fast. There was a mass that night, after which the family was invited to say their eulogies.

With each speaker, Uncle Carding’s life story unfolded. First Aunty Mai (his wife) spoke, then Greg (eldest son), then Aunty Parz (older sister), then Joey (representing Mama, older sister), then Tatz (representing Uncle Dioring, eldest brother), then Uncle Mon (youngest brother) and last, Uncle Carding’s best friend.

Uncle Carding brought his young wife home to Tiwi at the request of his aging parents. He was the only agriculturist in the family so it was only natural that he take over the management of the family’s rice fields and abaca lands. The going was rough but he was still able to put delicious rice on the table and contribute good quality abaca to the province’s livelihood makers. When it became clear that the weather was not going to cooperate (Bicol is frequently hit by typhoons), he lay down his sickle and tried his hand at politics. From Barangay Captain, he moved up to Municipal Councilor and finally, Vice Mayor. And when, the following term, he lost to his strongest contender, he settled down to serving the people where he knew it was most appreciated — as a Lay Minister in the Parish of the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion.

That last night there were a lot of people come to visit and pay their respects. The next day, only family and close friends were at hand for the funeral mass and cremation. After a short two hours, the body had been turned to ash and Aunty Mai was allowed to take Uncle Carding home once again. 293A Time for Bonding

Because of expensive fares and miscommunication, Mama’s and my return schedule was still on December 20, giving us three days to bond with my aunts and uncles in Tiwi. Unfortunately, all those who lived in Manila had already gone back the same day as the cremation because they still had work days to finish before the holidays kicked in. Fortunately for us, those who worked abroad were still around to accompany us. Bendy, my cousin, along with his wife and baby boy, drove us to visit Joroan Church (also Nuestra Señora de Salvacion, said to be miraculous) and DJC Halo-Halo (THE famous halo-halo). DJC Halo-HaloTwo nights were spent in the ancestral house, the very same house Mama grew up in. It had withstood 80 years of countless typhoons and the occasional earthquake and volcanic eruption. Her two sisters, both spinsters and retired teachers, had contributed much of their hard-earned incomes to reinforce the lower floor with concrete and strengthen the upper floor with a sturdier roof and ceiling. The youngest in the family, Uncle Mon, is a paraplegic. As a young man, he was shot by a jealous rival (they were courting the same lady) and the bullet got imbedded in his spinal column. Back in the 50s when it happened, doctors were hesitant to take on delicate operations like this, and so my uncle remained paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move except his neck and left shoulder. On the bright side, he is married with two children. (I will write this love story in another post.)

It is normal for siblings to have disagreements, as is the case in the ancestral household. We made use of the time we were there to try to appease the disagreeing members of the family. And now that there is a new addition – my young cousin’s girlfriend gave birth to a bouncing baby girl yesterday – we are hoping that peace can and will be made where peace is needed.

The Travel: Going

All our travels were delayed.

I had booked on PAL, my chosen airline for so long. In fact, even with our experience this time, I believe I will still continue to choose PAL in the years to come.

Our CGY-MNL flight was first moved from 5:10pm to 8:00pm and we were informed the day before via email. Well, because we live so far from the airport, I still decided we go there early just in case we could be chance passengers on an earlier flight. When we checked in, we were informed that the original schedule of 5:10pm was going to be followed and that no more seats in the earlier flights were available anymore. Wonderful!

Five hours later, an announcement determined the trend we were going to be taking for our journey– our flight was once again delayed back to 8:00pm. Not only us, but all other PAL AND Cebu Pacific flights, as well. So it definitely wasn’t just the airline’s fault though they certainly had a part in it. In the end, we finally took off at 8:30 and landed in Manila at 10:05. Then, because of the horrendous traffic outside of NAIA3, we decided to just book a room in a motel in Pasay, so that we would be close enough to the airport to catch our 9:25am flight to Legazpi the next morning and to have a place to sleep for a few hours. The motel in Pasay? SOGO Hotel!

The rooms were nice actually, the bathrooms clean and sporting hot water and the room service acceptable. And except for that card taped to the top of the TV (which nobody else noticed, thank God), I was happy as pie.

The MNL-LGP flight was only delayed by 20 minutes and we arrived at Uncle Dioring’s house just before lunchtime. Pretty good!

The Travel: Return

On the return leg, it was the same story all over again. Our LGP-MNL was scheduled to leave at 2:50pm but was lucky enough to have beaten the sunset limitation deadline, arriving at 4:47pm, 13 minutes before the runway was closed to incoming flights. We took off at 5:20pm and landed in Manila at 6:20. Unfortunately, the Cebu Pacific flight that was supposed to immediately follow didn’t make it and was cancelled.

It took my cousin’s driver two hours to get to the airport (45 minutes of which were spent stuck in a bottleneck crossing just at the entrance of the Terminal 3 ramp) but it took us less than an hour to drive all the way back to QC where they lived and where we were going to stay for the night before heading to the pier next morning. Amazing!

Finally, we took the boat to Cagayan de Oro. I could have booked us on a plane but I made the mistake of assuming that all the taxes and fees were already keyed into the boat’s online ticket rates just like with the airlines. I thought I was saving half of the amount I would have spent on plane tickets. I actually paid 2/3, saving only a little bit. Well, part of the experience I guess. Besides, my mom enjoyed the 2-day-1-night trip. Airconditioned private room for 4, a comfortable bed to lay on with free beddings and our own comfort room. And most importantly, FREE MEALS! 2GoMealsThere was a slight conflict at the start though. You see, I bought our tickets online and was assigned accommodations automatically, which turned out to be on opposite ends of the ship and on upper deck bunks. So getting there early, we were able to request a temporary exchange, subject to the approval of the passengers who booked those beds.

Unfortunately, they didn’t. Turns out, they had bought their tickets over the counter and had specifically asked for lower deck bunks because one of them had a broken foot. I asked again if they were willing to exchange (my intention was actually to exchange with the companion who didn’t look disabled) but the man was indignant and refused to let me finish my sentence. Then and there I decided that anywhere away from that couple would be a better alternative.

You know? It was. The room we were transferred to was smaller but had a bigger window that looked out directly on the sea (no obstruction) and I liked it instantly. The other room’s window was small and looked out onto a deck and so had no view to speak of. Also, we were now located on the lobby level (meaning no more stairs for Mama) just steps from the Front Office and a short walk to the restaurant. I couldn’t thank the ship staff enough for finding us the room. Our roommates were a seaman from Cagayan and a tourism consultant from Bohol. Perfect!

A special Thank You to:
Jeffrey Maten – 2GO Passenger Terminal, Manila
Julius Quezon – Ship Hotel Manager

sunset through the window

sunset through the window




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Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Farm

Kampo Juan 1Location: Sto. Nino, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon
Coordinates: N 08*23′ 42.2″ E 124*50′ 50.9″

Are you itching for a thrilling adventure but can’t find one that’s accessible? Look no further. At Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Farm, you get the thrill, the awe and a new understanding of how man should really treat nature.

The Must-Try: ANICYCLEThe first and only one of its kind in Asia (at launch 2010). The Dare: Ride a bicycle the short distance of 600 feet atop a cable suspended 100 feet above ground. Make sure you keep on pedaling until the end.. unless, of course, you want to enjoy the view. Kampo Juan 2The Usual-Yet-Unique: ZIPLINENot the first, and definitely not the longest, but it could be the highest. The Dare: Watch the ground drop suddenly as you leave one cliff to sail towards another.

Kampo Juan 3Not-For-the-Faint-Hearted: HANGING BRIDGEDecidedly the highest at a dizzying 200 feet above the Diclum Creek and a heart-stopping 360 feet in length. The Dare: Count your steps.. if only to take your mind off the crossing.Kampo Juan 4How to Book This Tour:

  1. Thru a Travel Agency: LA MONTAÑA TOURS & VANS at +63-908-8181-544
    1. Kampo Juan Half-Day Tour = P2,049/person (min of 6)
      • Includes: Kampo Juan Complete Adventure (anicycle, zipline, hanging bridge), Tour Sights (Camp Phillips, Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, MacArthur Marker, Menzi Hilltop, SLERS Cafe), entrance fees, round trip aircon van transfers from CDO City to Manolo Fortich, tour guide, snacks and lunch, bottled water
    2. Zip-All-U-Can Whole Day Tour = P2,899/person (min of 6)
      • Includes: Zipline at Kampo Juan, Zipline and Python Zip at Dahilayan Adventure Park, Tour Sights (Camp Phillips, Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, MacArthur Marker, Menzi Hilltop, SLERS Cafe), entrance fees, round trip aircon van transfers from CDO City to Manolo Fortich, tour guide, snacks and lunch, bottled water
    3. Inner Bukidnon Sightseeing Tour = P2,049/person (min of 6)
      • Includes: Choice of Zipline or Anicycle at Kampo Juan, Tour Sights (Alalum Falls, Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, Kaamulan Park, MacArthur Marker, Maluko View Deck, Monastery of Transfiguration), entrance fees, round trip aircon van transfers from CDO City to Malaybalay City, tour guide, snacks and lunch, bottled water
  2. Direct: Contact the Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Farm at +63-926-621-2192 and look for Mercy

Will you accept the dare?Kampo Juan 5

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Why does a hero have to die when things are going so well?

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the idea of democracy in the US was becoming a way of life.

When Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash, the people of the Philippines were learning to live a corruption-free lifestyle.

When Mario Okinlay was killed in an ambush a few days ago, the Municipality of Impasug-ong was enjoying an uncontested political leadership that went back several terms. And not because he was a tyrant or a dictator, but because nobody seemed to want to break his EXCELLENT track record.

Happy Times

Happy Times

I met Mayor Mario a few years ago. At the time (2008), it was Julie, his wife, who was the incumbent Mayor, but Mario was the brawn behind her seat. Star Cinema was making a film called Love Me Again and their main location site was in Impasug-ong. Our meetings were brief but were enough to make a lasting impression.. well, on my part at least.

First, he didn’t dress to impress. When we went to do a courtesy call, both he and his wife sported simple polo shirts tucked into worn jeans tucked into signature cowboy boots, topped with signature cowboy hats. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought they were just a couple of cowboys come to audition for the movie.

a hundred or so extras

a hundred or so extras

Second, everything that was requested – a rest house, highway-to-location-site roads, electrical service at a remote location site, 100 extras, tractors to pull vehicles out of the mud, fire truck water hose props, and a lot more – was provided, most of the time for free (the extras were given free lunch).

Third, wherever we went – within Impasug-ong or even traveling between their municipality and Dalwangan in Malaybalay – we felt secure, though we never really saw who our security detail was or where they were stationed.

break time

break time

Last but not least, he was down-to-earth and easily approachable. And he had no qualms about filling in to carve the sumptuous lamb, a treat that came from no less than his own flock. Again, for free.

So why would somebody want him gone? What sick reason was strong enough to justify taking his life? There are just some things in this world I will never understand.

Mayor Mario T. Okinlay.. May he peacefully rest in eternal glory forever.

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The Teacher and The Engineer

She was a Teacher.

She was born in Tiwi, Albay to a Chinese-Filipino couple, and the third child in a brood of eight. Her parents owned a large grocery store that took up the first storey of their house. As a child, she and her siblings would play underneath the rice boxes and in the bodega (warehouse). One time, they tied dilis (salted small fish) to the skirts of the wives who were buying rice, so when the women left the store, dogs would chase them. It was one of their pranks, she claimed, with a twinkle in her eye.

Her father would harvest fresh cacao fruits from their back yard and roast the seeds in their pugon (clay oven). He would then grind up the seeds using a hand stone grinder and she would enjoy watching the oily powder fall into a bucket at the edge of the table, knowing, anticipating the delicious hot chocolate it would be made into later. During stormy weather, her mother would cook large vats of champorado (rice boiled in native chocolate) for the neighbors who would seek shelter in their house, which was the only concrete house in their village. Of course, with the neighbors came their children and they would all have a grand time playing.

As a young girl growing up near rice fields, it was common for the whole family to pitch in when it was harvest time. Of course, it was the men who pounded and threshed the stalks to detach the grains, but it was the women who separated the rice from their hulls and the young people helped clean up. And sometimes, just for the sheer joy of it and on nights with full moon, they would find themselves breaking into song.

She remembers when, in college, her father rented an apartment for them (her brothers and sisters all went to the University of Santo Tomas) in Manila and her mother would bring supplies from the province on the train, and would have to hire a whole jeepney to transport them to the apartment. What were the supplies? Everything from salt to rice to coconuts to fish and meats. Now I know.

She was a graduating student when she was invited to a local dance. Back then (1950s) night life consisted of organized dances held at the school halls and everyone from the other universities was invited, heavily chaperoned, of course. Even if you didn’t want to go, you had to because this was where you applied the social graces your parents so painstakingly taught you at home.

So she went (against her will, she says) with her eldest brother as her chaperone. Her brother was a young doctor, so he introduced her to all his doctor friends (and lawyer and engineer friends as well) in the hopes of her liking maybe just one of them.

He was an Engineer.

Coincidentally, he was also born in Tiwi, Albay and had gone to the same public elementary school in town as she did, albeit a couple of years ahead. His family knew her family and they socialized in more or less the same circles. Both his father and her father dabbled in politics but they both were elected Councilor at the same time.

He was the second child in seven and the first son. And because of this, a big burden of responsibility was placed on his shoulders. Though his older sister also graduated from college and became a court stenographer, it was he who was being groomed for something greater. It was he who would bring the family name to its glory. First, though, he had to find a niche for himself.

He didn’t have much of a childhood, but because of it, he learned to be a good worker. And because he saw a lot during his working years, he developed his own practical sense of humor. During his off days, he and his friends would buy and sell goods. You could say he was one of the first mobile salesmen of his time. Once, during lanzones season, they divided their purchase among themselves and went off to sell their shares at different corners of the market. They all had their marketing strategies – one was to drop a bag-full of black ants into the pile so that customers would think the fruits were really sweet. Another was to bad-mouth the other guy across the way, but when his basket of fruit was emptied, he would go across the way to the other guy and get some more.. and they would share the profit.

He chose to study at Araneta University, the best agricultural college at the time. For their practicum, he and his classmates were sent to Bulacan for a few months. Their mission was to build a house and live off the land efficiently and effectively, even selling their goods for a good price. During that time, they were to make notes and journals of all their activities and, afterwards, submit to the school their project report. Needless to say, he and his mates enjoyed their assignment together and did a fantastic job and were allowed to graduate with honors.

It was his school’s Senior Prom and he was without a date. He saw a friend in the crowd, a doctor, who seemed to be introducing a beautiful young lady around. He approached them and met.. her. A week later, he received a telegram announcing a new job waiting for him in Cotabato. He had been so enamored by her that night that he dressed in his Sunday Best and hied over to her house immediately, and in the presence of her parents and his grandfather, asked for her hand. He would not go if she did not say YES.

Their courtship wasn’t all roses and chocolates. He had a lot of distractions. He came from a family that was of Spanish descent and was the heir apparent but her parents didn’t care about that. At every opportunity, they tried their best to show his family that they (hers) were of a higher class and that she deserved better. (Does this sound familiar, like as in a soap opera?) On the other hand, she also had a lot of distractions thrown at her by the community. Remember those doctor-lawyer-engineer friends of her brother? And each time one paid attention to her, she would write a letter or telegram or note to him, citing real and imagined reasons why they were not meant to be.

Finally, after receiving and reading a meticulously long discourse relating how his mother seemed to show particular favor towards another teacher (of Spanish descent), who just happened to be a boarder in his family’s house, he decided to conclude it once and for all. Unknown to her (but I think her brother knew), he flew in from Cotabato. She was at another dance, this time, held by Tabaco High School, where she was teaching Home Economics, and she was dancing with a very persistent suitor – a doctor, who could have been one of her brother’s friends, but who had spent a substantial amount of time trying to woo her until that moment.

Without care for the other people in the room, he cut in and solved the problem she had presented in her letter, saying, “If my mother likes her, let her marry her. I am marrying you.”

They were wed on September 7, 1957.

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It Was Normal

Being a kid in Cawayanon was normal.

The famous Acacia Trees

The famous Acacia Trees

It was normal that Kindergarten Commencement was held on a picnic blanket with tea party props under an acacia tree in the school yard with our parents around us looking on and we sang and danced The Little Teapot:

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle and here is my spout.
When I get hot then I shout!
Tip me over and pour me out.”

It was normal to sit on top of the jungle gym bars (some 10 feet above the ground, without harnesses or safety ropes) and play Broken Telephone: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pippers did Peter Pickle pep? What?” We would laugh until our stomachs hurt and nobody fell off.

It was normal to read 10 books a week and memorize the longest word in the dictionary: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – which meant something like a disease that affected the lungs.

It was normal to be in Grade 6 but be taking assignments from a Grade 8 Math book.

It was normal to be eight years old but be on the same team as all the older kids because you were a fast runner or a good kicker or a quick thinker.

It was normal to climb the guava trees at the back of the school, wade in the creek (nobody had heard of leptospirosis back then), roll in the freshly-mowed grass and try to catch as many falling leaves as we could whenever the wind blew through the acacia trees in the school yard.

It was normal to race to the Baclig’s front yard and climb their many fruit trees (rambutan, santol, star apple, balingbing, macopa, mansanitas, guava, orange and what have you). It was always ok, whether we asked permission or not. (Thank you, Mrs. Baclig!)

It was normal to barge into the Lodge and demand (with a please) for sliced pineapple, ice cream cake and cinnamon rolls. All signed, of course, for our fathers to pay later when they received their paychecks.

It was normal to see your mom dress up in party clothes or formal wear or even funny costumes for the once-a-month Ladies’ Day Celebrations.

It was normal to play in the rain, swim (in the pool) in the rain, tell each other secrets in our own little hiding place under the house.. in the rain.

It was normal to play bowling without ball boys (young boys hanging around the golf caddie house at the Clubhouse moonlighting as bowling ball boys).. We learned how to fix the bowling pins in the proper position for the perfect STRIKE! This was years before the bowling alley became automated.

It was normal to go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween and tell ghost stories about the house we were about to ask treats from. (“Did you know that Mr. Mendezona had a visitor last night? He was sitting in the sala reading a newspaper IN THE DARK! Really? What time was that? Around midnight! Eeeeeeee! Trick or Treat!”) Trick-or-Treat usually started at 6:00pm and so if we were to visit each house, we would sometimes end at around 11:00pm. The last house was inevitably the Hernandezes, the Mendezonas, the Javellanas, the Valorias, the Jaranillas or the Morans.. the scariest houses I can remember.

It was normal to sit on Santa’s lap on Christmas and receive the exact gift you wanted, complete with all the stuff you asked for in your letter to Santa, not realizing that “Santa” was really Mr. Barger or Mr. Martin or Mr. Wheeler or one of the Weather Station servicemen, who coincidentally hadn’t been around earlier. (Hmm.. think Superman and Clark Kent.)

It was normal to learn all about American History and American Heroes (i.e. General Douglas MacArthur) and know practically nothing about our own country. (To the Americans reading this, I write this with pride because it gave me an edge over my high school classmates when we took up World War II.)

It was normal to call the Guardhouse on a Saturday night and request horses for the next morning. Then we would just walk over to the Piggery (which was next to the Dairy) to claim them.. The rest of the day would be bliss, riding off and getting lost in the endless pineapple fields. We would come home tired but ecstatic, not really knowing how (the horses knew).

It was normal to get fresh milk in glass bottles dropped at your doorstep every morning. My brother and I would call dibs for the thin film of cream that always formed on top.

It was normal to pick up the phone and wait for the Telephone Operator to come on, and ask for your friend’s house (Can I have the Carew’s house please?), hear a few Morse-code-like rings before someone picked up on the other end. I always wondered why our phones didn’t have any dials.

It was normal to handle insects, frogs, worms, fish, and even snails with your bare hands.

It was normal to sit on the ground without padding (towel, handkerchief or piece of paper).. when we stood up, we just patted our bottom and off we went.

It was normal to take off our shoes and run through the “fog” created by the Fog Machine – which was actually a tractor-driven tank spraying insecticide to kill the mosquitoes. This was scheduled every other Saturday and we would get a kick whenever the “fog” would enter the house. (Amazing none of us acquired pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcano-coniosis for eagerly inhaling it.)

It was normal. (If you could see me now, I’m shrugging with a confused look on my face, because you see? It was.)

“Do not educate your child to be rich. Educate him to be happy. So when he grows up, he will know the value of things, not the price.” –

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A Sheltered Life

Growing up in Cawayanon was different. There were only a few families, about 30 in all. We went to a different school and played with just a few kids. Many of them were American, hence our spoken language was English. Sometimes, we would be introduced to some teachers from OLLES (Mr. Vismanos, the Scouting Teacher; Mrs. Tavera, the piano teacher) and were encouraged to play with the children. But that was only sometimes. Most of the time, we just stayed in the Compound, and invented our own games.

We had Slip-n-Slide (after or during a heavy downpour, puddles in the grass would form and if you ran fast enough you could slide on the slippery grass), Annie-I-Over (two teams positioned on both sides of the school building, one team would throw a tennis ball over the building and had to chase the other team to catch the one member who caught it), Kickball (the foot version of baseball, complete with bases and a soccer ball), Scottie (the Cawayanonized version of Tag). During P.E. class, we learned Patintero and Piko (the square version of Hopscotch), which quickly caught on and became popular recess games as well. And because recess was only 30 minutes short, we would “continue” our unfinished games later during lunch period or after class. Somehow even without the aid of photos, everyone seemed to remember where they were standing when the bell rang.

In the Compound, “outside” meant outside the house. We knew not of the goings-on in other places, though we would venture out every Saturday afternoon to go to mass in the Fabia Chapel (now the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel) or we would go on the occasional road trip (it was that far then) to Cagayan for some shopping. Otherwise, going fishing at the lake, spending some quality time with friends playing Marco Polo or Shark at the pool, or just walking around was enough to fill the hours.

We had our share of parties. For the whole year, there were many occasions to look forward to. Easter, Independence Day (June 12), Fil-Am Day (July 4), Halloween (October 31) and Christmas Eve (December 24) were much-awaited holidays for us kids. Valentine’s Night and New Year’s Eve were strictly for adults only. Birthday parties were held in school, with the child’s mother coming over with an entourage of yayas bearing the coveted birthday cake and goodies. The whole school would come out to celebrate with you, too. Were classes cancelled? It would seem so.

Movie Night was something else, too. The films (often shows that had not yet launched in the Philippines) were so generously lent by the Weather Station officers. Wednesday was a school night, so R-18 movies or higher were shown. Friday was for everyone (G) and Sunday was mixed (kids were sent home before the second movie started), because after all, the next day was also a school day. Movies were shown at the Bowling Alley, which was really a Bowling Alley during the day. There was also Bowling Night (every Monday) started by a few families and joined by others who wanted to develop their bowling skills or just enjoy the camaraderie.

It was common practice for American families to hold garage sales when they “left” (transferred out). I remember we acquired two bicycles from the Martins. I learned to ride on them, fall off of them, race on them. Those bikes survived some 10 more years of childhood escapades before they finally were laid to rest, coincidentally, after my dad’s retirement in 1987. I guess they, too, realized their purpose in this world was done. If only they could talk, what stories they could have told.

The day I entered high school in the big city, I realized what a sheltered life I had led. The school had a total of 900+ students as compared to the 20-student total population I had just left behind in Del Monte School. There had only been two of us in my class (I was 2nd Honor!), while I was suddenly lost in my freshman section of 30. Suddenly I was nobody, just one face among many, striving for good grades. Eventually, I learned to live with having many people around me (millions, because I lived in Manila for 10 years). There were days when I needed them but most of the time, I was happy with just my handful of close friends.

And yet, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am fortunate that my parents decided to settle in Damilag, a mere stone’s throw away from the pineapple plantation and 20-minutes drive from Cawayanon. None of us (5 kids in my family) followed in my dad’s career in Del Monte, but it warms my heart to know that though people have come and gone, the standards have not changed, and it is an honor to be serving the company, even if indirectly and from the outside.

My dad, Reynaldo Cuerdo, Sr. (b.1930-d.1995), was the General Manager of Liberty Flour Mills when he met Mr. Luisito Lorenzo, Sr. (then Plantation Manager of PPC) and was presented an offer (to transfer to Bukidnon) he couldn’t refuse in 1963. A year later, Rey brought his small family (wife, Vacion and two children, Boy and Nene) to live in Camp Phillips. With their meager belongings – just two large boxes worth, according to my mom – they settled into camp-life in house #_, in front of the Labor Union building, and then were later transferred to house #_, beside the church. Vacion was a high school teacher but because there was no public high school nearby, she accepted the post of Home Economics Teacher for Grades V and VI at the Plantation Elementary School. She taught there from 1964-1972. In that time, two more children were born (Tingting and Joey) while the youngest, yours truly, was conceived just before their transfer to Cawayanon.

Cawayanon Lake, Hole #12, House #26

Cawayanon Lake, Fishing Dock, Hole #12, House #26

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