[After the 9:00 AM Holy Mass at the Nuestra Señora de Guia Catholic Church during the town fiesta in Magallanes, Cavite on January 31, 2016. From L-R: myself, Babes Navarro, Vicky Sisante Bataclan (all of UP Law 79) and Rorie Carandang (UP Law 75 and Vicky’s undergrad classmate.]
On Sunday, January 31, 2016; I and my son Walter Anthony together with Ma. Loreto “Babes” Navarro (my UP Law 79 classmate) and a couple others trekked to Magallanes, Cavite to join in a gorgeous (an apt term as it somewhat rhymes with the root word plus a prefix…ENGORGE) feasting as it was the town fiesta in that once upon a time, one-horse town. We left Quezon City around 5:00 AM and arrived in Magallanes, at the ancestral home of Ambassador Vicky Sisante-Bataclan (“Vicky”), another UP Law 79 classmate, at around 7:30 AM.
Years ago, I remember when Vicky re-enrolled in June 1975 and became part of the UP Evening Class (Batch 79), I invited all of my evening section classmates to the town fiesta in Pasig, which was then a municipality within the province of Rizal. I was then working at the Tondo Foreshore Development Project (“TFDP”) and I got designated by the new Project Manager, former newspaperman Rolando “Rolly” Fadul, as his Executive Assistant. Rolly was promoted as he was earlier Head of the Community Relations and Information Office (“CRIO”) of TFDP and that his predecessor, Jose “Joe” Burgos, was designated as CRIO Head at the National Housing Authority ( Main Office) [“NHA”].
TFDP became a mere division of the newly-created NHA. Similarly, the Director-General of the former TFDP Office, Gen. Gaudencio V. Tobias, was appointed General Manager of the NHA by Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Eventually, the TFDP which was formerly placed under the auspices of the Office of the President was absorbed together with a motley of government agencies involved in housing as component-units of the NHA. As Executive Assistant to the Project Manager, I had the chance to coordinate with contractors of the TFDP and one among those active contractors then was the Caruncho Construction, which is owned by Mayor Emiliano Caruncho, Jr., the then political kingpin and incumbent Mayor of Pasig. And Mayor Caruncho, as he would at times personally follow up their collection-billing, invited me to be one of the honored guests at the town fiesta. As I told Mayor Caruncho that I would be bringing along my UP Law classmates — being a true-blue politico, the mayor said he would be most honored.
Evening classes at UP Law would customarily start from 6:00 PM and end at around 9:00 PM. After the last class, every one of us would be so famished and so hungry and would be ready to devour a horse.
Concerning this feeling of being famished, as Vicky conducted some kind of a walking tour with her as guide around the poblacion at Magallanes on that Sunday, she made a poignant narration. She recounted that as an elementary pupil, she had to walk two (2) kilometers from their home cradling her school bag which contained her notebooks including her lunch, packed in a clump of banana leaves consisting of rice and fried dried fish. As she would do the trek to school, she would naturally be all the more famished after downing just a cup of baraco coffee before leaving their hut and ambulating along a 2-kilometer winding dirt road. For which reason, she would be wont to take a rest and would be enticed to eat her lunch under the cool ambient of those huge madre de cacao trees. And at noon time, as her packed lunch is gone, she would hop into the hut of a nearby relative close to her elementary school and would plead for food.
Going back to UP Law…When I told my classmates that we will be going to a town fiesta and would be the guests of Mayor Caruncho, almost everyone nodded in approval and joined in. I cannot remember which vehicle we used to transport ourselves to Pasig into Mayor Caruncho’s mansion. The air was festive in Mayor Caruncho’s mansion but what was most admirable was that the dining-buffet table was teeming with an abundance of food and every one of us had a mouthful. Singing ensued and Mayor Caruncho sung a song with ribald connotations and everybody in the hall including us were all gaily, nay rowdily laughing. I remember Mayor Caruncho egged us to participate in the singing and I could now barely recollect what I and Vicky sung in our duet rendition.
At the Magallanes town fiesta, I and Vicky seemed to have gone into a déjà vu as I and Vicky initially did the motion of a duet song, actually THE PRAYER, with me striving to mimic the Italian lyrics of Andrea Bocelli while Vicky was passing off with Celine Dion’s soprano voice. But there was some kind of improvement, as CA Justice Rorie Carandang (UP Law 75, who was Vicky’s classmate during her undergrad years in UP) joined in and the duet became a trio after an encore was “popularly requested” by our giggling audience. Myself once again, mimicking the Italian lyrics of the song’s male counterpoint voice complete with Bocelli’s Italian twang while Vicky and Rorie singing in unison and at times alternating in their seeming swooning with the female counterpoint lines ala Celine Dion.
The musical rendition was done after a lunch of embotido, lumpiang shanghai, afritada, morcon, menudo, fried & crispy plapla, mechado, grilled beef spare ribs, etc. After the mini-concert, courtesy of the karaoke set of the Sisante household; I got famished once again. As my late mother would always say; if you are a guest in a town fiesta; the best way to compliment the hosts and their kin and household help who toiled hard to prepare the food is to engorge as much food as you can. Thus, I engorged my stomach once more with the savory tasting and newly-cooked noodles aka pancit miki-bihon, still steaming hot. And we took turns in filling up our plates. I actually did a second serving and I was surprised that Babes would do a second serving as well.
During our U.P. Law days, as we, most of us, in the Evening Section are self-supporting students particularly the working studes and/or heavily dependent to allowance coming in seeming trickles from the provinces; we would almost always be impecunious. Thus, we would then be scrimping on money for food and/or snacks at the cafeteria located at the ground floor of the Malcolm Hall at the extreme western end. Being seen at the cafeteria would be some kind of a prestigious reflection of having money to spend. And some students would make do with bringing to school their own packed meals.
I remember my friend and partner Eufracio Segundo “Conder” Pagunuran of UP Law 1982 (who also came with us to the Magallanes town fiesta) recounting about his and his best friend and fraternity brother’s predicament, Medardo “Ludgi” De Lemos of UP Law 1983. They would share a packed meal of an abundance of rice almost brimming unto the sides of a plastic lunch box cum a big red tomato and one (1) boiled egg. They, while inside the carrel at the UP Law library then (as both served as library assistants while schooling at UP Law), and ashamed to be seen eating mere rice, raw tomato and boiled egg; would meticulously halve the cooked rice, the tomato and the boiled egg so that not one of them would feel aggrieved. After their modest meal, which is actually their daily fare, they would gallivant at the ground floor and would take a peek at the UP Law cafeteria. They would feel much envy as they would see some of their classmates and fraternity brods (from the Alpha Phi Beta fraternity) particularly the group led by Ray Alan “Ray” Drilon (UP Law 80) either smoking cigarettes, or sipping a cup of hot brewed coffee. And both of them, Conder and Ludgi, would say that those inside the cafeteria surely had a sumptuous and truly satiating meal.
Years thereafter, Conder and Ludgi came across Ray, now an RTC Judge in Bacolod, whom they always saw at the UP Law cafeteria after partaking their daily packed lunch at the UP Law library carrel; gleefully sipping a cup of steaming brewed coffee. As they reminisced the past, they (i.e. Conder and Ludgi) learned that they were better off then, as Ray confessed that to scrimp on his allowance, he would just take coffee for lunch everyday!
Our trip to Magallanes was joyful and satiating and hassle-free too; except that as we did not walk to the Catholic Church for the 9:00 AM mass, all together, my friend Anastacio “Jun” Revilla, Jr. (UP Law 78) who similarly joined us in the trek committed a not-too sacrilegious foible. As the Aglipayan Church which is about 5 meters distant from the Catholic Church, looked even more “catholic” than the nearby church erected within the poblacion; with hordes of people milling around, Jun, a Roman Catholic lay minister, attended holy mass at the Aglipayan cloister.