Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Calling of Caramoan

It was around four in the morning back in February 15, 2008 when I woke up and filled my backpack with clothes and other essential items good for a 5 day trip. I boarded a small van at a dimly lighted bus stop near Saint Joseph School. Initially, I thought that the van would depart once 10 passengers had boarded the van. I was wrong! The van owner packed about 15 to 18 people inside that cramped van and squeezed our luggage on every available space! We were all packed inside that van worse than sardines that I can’t even move my legs. For the next 1 ½ hours, the only body part I was able to move was my head. Fortunately, I was still able to breathe!

Our sardine ride arrived at a small coastal town named San Jose. Ferry boats were waiting at the pier and I almost fell off a shaky plank trying to get to the boat. First class seats consist of a hard wooden board without back rests. I was a bit amused when the cargo crew struggled to load on the boat a large squealing pig plus a dozen well behaved chickens which seemed to have accepted their ultimate fate of becoming the main course of a family dinner.

To my surprise, our boat departed from the San Jose pier exactly 7:30AM. “These guys are more punctual than the Airlines”, I said to myself. The boat ride took about an hour and when we arrived at the Caramoan pier, the ocean was beginning to be choppy. As we stepped out of the boat, a heavy rain poured down on us and so all the passengers had to hurry to the passenger jeeps bound for Caramoan. The jeepney ride was bumpy but it only took us about 20 minutes to get to the town. When we arrived at the town of Caramoan, the first thing that I did was to search for a hotel called Casa De Roa. When I got to the hotel, I was told that every room was already taken. I walked around the town and found a vacant room at a nearby hotel called Rex hotel.

I think most of you guys know that Casa De Roa is owned by the late Dr. & Mrs. Nilo Roa. They have a daughter named Rosie Jenny Roa who graduated from Colegio de Santa Isabel back in 1980. Back in high school, Rosie always stood out in a crowd of blue uniformed Colegialas. A large number of Ateneans were enthralled by Rosie’s lovely looks and friendly smile. Sadly, only a handful of Ateneans possess a brave heart and a fuel of confidence to visit Rosie at her residence. Yours truly did not have any of these traits.

I found Caramoan to be a clean and peaceful town with very accommodating residents. There is only one restaurant there that vacationers seem to trust and that is the Camalig Grill. You can buy yourself a decent meal with a soda drink for about 65 pesos. There are two internet cafés that are opened until 11PM. Stores starts closing at around 6pm and majority of them would close shop at around 8PM. A leisure walk along the main street would be the only option to pass the time until it is time to hit the sack at 10 or 11PM.

I went to Gota beach during my first day at Caramoan. Near the beach were a bunch of newly built cottages which were constructed for the film crew and staff of the French reality show “Survivor”. I rented a boat along with three other vacationers and we went to Matukad island. In the middle of Matukad island is a lake and in that lake lives one large fish. I don’t know how that fish is able to survive on that lake since it is isolated. From Matukad, we transferred to another island located just across a small beach with a few cottages near Gota beach. Rocky mountains tower beside Gota beach like majestic giants. The place is a rock climber’s paradise.

The following day, I went to Caramoan pier and rented a boat which took me to several white sand beaches including two beaches owned by the Roa family. The beaches were astonishingly clean and its waters crystal clear. The limestone rock along the coastline in Caramoan is amazing.

On my third day, I rented another boat and we went to an island called Sabitang Laya. Except for a small family that lives on the Sabitang Laya island, the two boat crew and myself were the only ones in the island.

The fourth day, I hired the same boat crew that brought me to Sabitan Laya the previous day and we went to three other islands, one of which is close to the open ocean of the Pacific. The boat owner told me that we cannot travel beyond that island because just ahead of the island are huge Pacific Ocean waves that could flip his boat over. Our last stop was the Virgin Mary grotto located at Caglago, Tabgon and I had a workout just climbing up the 530-step stairs that led up to the grotto. The view on top of that hill is just spectacular.

I wanted to visit other islands on my fifth day but the weather was beginning to turn bad with stormy clouds rolling in. During my 5-day visit to Caramoan, I was able to visit 5 islands and slightly more than a dozen white sand beaches. What amazed me was during my beach and island hopping, almost all of the beaches I visited were deserted. I had the whole beach to myself! I never had this experience in my life.

I felt sad leaving the remote paradise of Bicol but I vowed to return to Caramoan in the future. I hope to hop on a boat again and visit other islands and beaches that are not commonly visited by tourists. The clear blue waters of Caramoan is so inviting that I regret not bring a snorkel gear with me.

To those of you who have a heart for adventure, visit Caramoan because it is one of the last least visited paradise in the Philippines. Its worth visiting.

Discover Caramoan before the world discovers it!

Monday, September 21, 2009

San Diego Pena Francia and Borja's Bulalo secrets

Toton Roque and his wife, Nieva arrived at Miramar in San Diego at around 8am last September 18th to attend the Pena Francia fiesta. The mass was held at around 10am. The Tinambac and the Naga group were the two groups that had the most attendees during the festivities. Tinambac had close to 20 food dishes prepared for its guests.

During the afternoon mass, the brother of Jerry Borja was busy cooking a big pot of bulalo. By the way, Jerry Borja never shared with me his secret bulalo recipe. A few years back, Jerry told me how he cooked the “Borja’s bulalo”. When I tried to duplicate his bulalo in my kitchen, my bulalo never came close to Jerry’s bulalo. I know Jerry is withholding from me a secret ingredient. Jer, sabihon mo na ngani idtong tinatago mong ingredients sakuya para man lang sumiram ang pagluluto ko.

September visits

The month of September had been blessed with batch meetings and activities.

A few weeks back, Edgar Genio and his lovely wife dropped by Los Angeles and met up with Toton Roque and Ronnie Arlante for lunch (or was it dinner? I could be wrong on this).

When I went to San Diego last September 7th, I was able to drop by Jerry Borja’s residence, which is near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last September 18th, Noel Valenciano, Toton Roque, Jo Azcarraga and Jerry Borja met up in the City of San Diego and attended the Pena Francia celebration there. I am assuming that Ronnie Arlante attended the Los Angeles Pena Francia fiesta because his family is very involved in the planning and preparations of the LA fiesta. Gabby Del Puerto dropped by Los Angeles for a visit.

Mike Moll is currently 7,000 miles away. Mike is probably enjoying this very moment a grilled ‘malasugi’ sprinkled with calamansi accompanied by a pile of steaming fried rice and chopped ‘itlog na maalat’ mixed in diced tomatoes. To cool himself from the humid weather, a tall glass of ice cold buko juice stands within his reach. Time seems to tick slower from where he sits which is on top of a hill overlooking a dense forest in a very remote and forbidding place called……Tigaon.

LG-20 (Kikiks) members are brainstorming right now trying to scribble out a plan for our class sponsored activity scheduled on October 31st. According to Edgar Zantua, the KKK members are eyeing Avenue Square as a possible place where we can have the 4th quarter activity. This will all depend on the budget that we will have. Kung magkulang daa ang budget, tibaad sa “Avenue” na lang ang celebration. Of course we won’t allow that because masupog man sa ibang LGs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The camera that captures life.

September 18, 2009

I remember back in high school in Ateneo De Naga, one of the popular school clubs that a lot of students signed up for was the APS (Ateneo Photography Society). The dark room of the APS was located on the first floor at the very end of Santos Hall. The dark room was equipped with an old photo enlarger and other basic photograph developing equipment and supplies. Though there were a lot of people who wanted to join the APS, only a handful of students owned cameras. Because of this, only a few actually became active members.

There were two very active APS college members back then that were handling the operations of APS. These two were Ramon Cervantes and Arnel Abiog. I forgot what brand of camera Ramon owned but I do recall that Arnel owned a Canon camera that uses a type of battery that can only be purchased in Japan or the U.S.

I constantly borrowed my father’s Pentax camera so that I could became an active member of the club. Ramon Cervantes and I became close friends and I sometimes assisted him in developing films at the APS dark room. Ramon gave me pointers on how to adjust the aperture and speed of my camera before snapping away. My very first camera was a Minolta brand and my father bought it for me because he got tired of me borrowing his Pentax camera.

During the Saturday Night Fever dance in 1978, I took some of the pictures that were published in Prism, which was the yearbook of ADENU high school class 1979. I bought a 36 exposure black and white film and brought it to the Saturday Night fever dance. After I used up the film, I went to Mr. Vernon De Los Trino and asked him if the school can purchase the photo paper that I can use to print the film on. It took about a week before Mr. V. De Los Trino handed me a stack of about 40 postcard size photo paper. After Ramon Cervantes and I developed and printed the Saturday Night dance pictures, I handed them to Mr. V. De Los Trino. I felt bad now that I did not keep a copy of the pictures because they would have been a valuable part of my photo collection.

I continued my love for the art of photography after college but I was never able to reach the same photography prowess that our fellow batch mate, Raffy Yllana, currently possess.

During my visits to the Philippines from 1997 thru 2008, I took a lot of pictures but there are a few pictures in my collection that kind of haunts me. The reason why I feel uneasy whenever I see those few pictures is because the person in the picture died a short time later after I took the picture. Who are they? Mr. Robert Lopez—died 1 month after I took his picture, Mr. Nick Acosta—Died around 8 months after I took his picture.

There are also those who died shortly after I spoke to them over the phone or saw them in Naga. Edwin Luntok—Spoke to him last on February 14, 2008 and he died February 2009. Porfirio “Braggy” Bragais—Saw him in Elias Angeles Street February 2008 and he died March 2009. Reynaldo “Jabords” Borja—Spoke to him over the phone February 2005 and he died April 2005. Fr. Jack Phelan SJ—I spoke to him over the phone back in 2004 and he died in November 2005.

When I went to the Philippines back in February 2008, I was a bit uneasy in taking pictures of people because of the fear that they too might passed away shortly after I take their pictures. When I visited Attorney Nelson Paraiso, Mr. Vernon De Los Trino, Mr. Greg Abonal, Mr. Jovie De Los Trino, Mr. Diggs Villabroza, Fr. Juan Bonafe SJ and Mr. Obias, I warned all of them about the seemingly frightful reputation of my camera. I told them that my camera does not only take pictures.....It also can take the life of the subject in the picture. All of them dismissed the passing away of the previous subjects of the picture as mere coincidence.

Is it really a coincidence? Gusto mong magpa-kodak?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Alatco company history

July 1, 1914: a young enterprising American serviceman Albert Louise Ammen together with another American, Max Blouse organized a small transportation company in Iriga, Camarines Sur, with an initial fleet of one (1) auto-truck. He called the company ALATCO or the A.L. Ammen Transport Co., Inc. Its first route was Iriga-Naga. Mr. Ammen's venture into the transport business had become so successful that soon he expanded his fleet to service the other towns of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay and Sorsogon. ALATCO became the principal carrier in the Bicol region, inaugurating highway travel that was to open remote villages in the Bicolandia, to the mainstream of economic and social development.

1942: World War II aborted expansion of the transport company. When it resumed operations in 1945 with surplus US Navy trucks bought from the United States Commercial Company, the company was faced with ruinous competition and beset with problems of maintaining its efficiency and safety as a result of her expanded size and nature of operations.

1949: The Heirs of Don Nicasio Tuazon of Manila took over ownership of ALATCO, and, with infusion of new capital, embarked on an ambitious program of expansion and rehabilitation. One important development at this time was the company's "dieselization" Program that converted its gas-powered trucks to diesel.

1952: ALATCO operated four hundred (400) units in its fleet, and it centered its fleet in Iriga. It also maintained subsidiary shops in Daet and Labo, Camarines Norte; Naga City, Camarines Sur; Ligao, Tabaco, and Legaspi in Albay; and Sorsogon and Irosin in Sorsogon.

1953: ALATCO ventured to Quezon province by consolidating into local and express bus operations from three small bus companies servicing the area. It operated under the umbrella of the Eastern Tayabas Bus Co. (ETBCO) headed by Mr. Ramón Soler. EBTCO later entered into a 5-year lease contract with the Laguna Tayabas Bus Company (LTBCO).

1971: ALATCO and ETBCO were sold to the Mantrade Group that formally amalgamated the operations of the two firms into one company. It was named the Pantranco South Express, Inc. (PSEI) to differentiate it from its northern counterpart, which the group then already owned.

1973: Compounded by global crises and steep escalation of fuel costs, PSEI nearly collapsed. The new owners and manager (the Lopa-Coujuangco group) insisted on providing the service even during floods, road interruptions and bad road conditions. Debt-strapped and traumatized by high operation costs, the company's creditors decided to take over the organization.

1974: The Creditors Syndicate of PSEI decided to develop and implement a Corporate Rehabilitation Program. The same year, the Company added Catanduanes, Samar and Masbate to its scope of operations, having formalized tie-ups with passenger ferry operators in these areas.

1978: PSEI introduced its air-conditioned coaches in its southern route.

1980: The Company expanded its freight service operations and moved its central offices and terminal at its present site in Pasay City.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The day ground zero was born in New York

September 11, 2009

I clearly remember the morning of September 11, 2001. It was early in the morning and I was preparing myself to go to work. I turned on our kitchen radio hoping to hear the latest traffic conditions on the local freeways. The newscaster that came through the radio sounded like he was in a scene full of chaos. He said that an airline plane crashed on the World Trade Center building. Initially, I thought that the news was one of those prankster news that a bunch of comedians would sometimes pull. When I listened to it some more, I started to realize that the news was real. I turned on our TV and the first image I saw was one of the World Trade Center building was on fire. I woke up my wife and told her what was going on. I checked our wall clock and it told me that I need to leave soon to avoid being late for work. Just then, I saw a ball of fire explode on the mid section of the second World Trade center building. It was then that it dawn on me that this whole thing was not an accident.

There were not a lot of cars on the freeway that morning and I had my car radio on listening to the developments in New York. When I got to my work, my supervisor brought with him a radio and was listening intently to what was going on at the other side of the country. My supervisor was a former U.S. marine sergeant and a crew chief of a marine helicopter during Desert Storm. He was obviously irate because a small band of terrorist was able to create such havoc in the country.

During my shift, I was able to talk to one of our company’s clients in New York over the phone and she told me that she can see the World Trade Center from where she was. She said that the police and fire department did not allow them to leave their building because of the chaos outside. Since she was stuck inside the building, she decided to continue doing the payroll of their company.

During the next few day after the 9/11 terrorist attack, I noticed that whenever a law enforcement officer pulls over a car, the officer would ask the owner of the vehicle to open the car’s trunk to check its contents. Many parents in our area kept their children from going to school because of fear that there will be another attack. The day after the attack, there was a sudden surge of enlistment in the military.

Years after the 9/11 attack, one of my friends went to ground zero for a visit and she told me that she cried during the visit. My old friend, Jeff Grisham, always wore an American flag pin on his shirt the day after 9/11 to show support for the military.

My prayers to the families who lost a love one during the attack.

Taps to the heroes of 911.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Uncommon Grub

August 31, 2009

Two and a half weeks ago, my wife and kids decided to go on a 3-day vacation to the scenic areas of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, which is located about 200 miles north of our house. My wife enjoys visiting those places because the scenic landscape there is just adorable. Both cities sits along the coastal area of California and so long stretches of light colored sand beaches abound. To the north of the cities are numerous camping grounds and hiking trails that travel along the coast and also snakes up to the mountains. There are vast vineyards and wine aficionados flock to wine tasting stores. Yours truly has shied away from wine drinking because my 11 year old daughter is repulsed by all types of alcoholic drinks.

On our last day, we went to Pismo beach, which is a well known beach in San Luis Obispo. After lunch, we passed by this candy store and I was surprised to discover that one type of snack that they were selling were insects coated in white or dark chocolate. It reminded me of the TV reality show, “Fear Factor”. I asked the young girl, who was tending the store display, if the insects were clean. She assured me that they were. Wanting to experience something different, I decided to purchase one chocolate coated cricket (Lukton) for 25 cents. I took a deep breath and tossed the cricket in my mouth and chewed like crazy. The fat tail (a.k.a. butt) of the cricket was a bit nasty because when I bit it, it popped spilling its contents. Its tiny legs gave me a problem swallowing because they poked my throat on their way down. I vowed never to eat a cricket after that.

Next to the crickets were a tray of chocolate coated scorpions. The price was a little higher--$1.50 per scorpion. I asked again the girl on the counter if they already took off the poison from the scorpion’s tail. She assured me again that they already took care of that and the scorpions are safe to eat. I looked at the scorpions and all of them still have their stinger tails and also claws. I don’t know what possessed me that day but I paid the $1.50 and ate my very first scorpion. To my surprise, it tasted good! At first I thought that there will be a gooey stuff in the scorpion but it did not. The scorpion tasted like a small chocolate flavored “Chicharon”. I enjoyed it so much that I bought another scorpion! The teenagers who were watching me eat the scorpions gave me a look of disgust. I could be wrong but I heard before that scorpions are a good source of protein.

Bugs appétit!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pasko na kaibigan ko.

Is it safe for me to assume that every Filipino is aware that today is the first day of the Christmas season in the Philippines? While I was writing this article, the Christmas song, “It’s Christmas all of the World”, was playing in my computer. Do you guys remember that song? It was made popular by Sheena Easton back in the mid-1980’s. Most of us just stepped out of college when that song became one of the songs in the movie “Santa Claus the Movie” back in 1985.

One morning a few years back, I came to work and greeted my good friend, Jeff Grisham, merry Christmas. After checking his calendar, Jeff gave me a puzzled look and said, “Isn’t it too early for Christmas?”. I told Jeff that Christmas season in the Philippines starts when the names of the months ends with “ber”-SeptemBER, OctoBER, etc. Jeff was skeptical at first thinking that I just made it up until another Filipino confirmed to him that Christmas in the Philippine islands starts on September 1st.

Jeff and I always enjoyed discussing historical facts about the American civil war and world war 2. Jeff used to be a crew chief in a C-141 starlifter aircraft that transported supplies for the U.S. airforce from Norway to Germany during the 1960’s. He told me about his travels around Europe.

When I tranferred to another department, Jeff and I continued to e-mail each other, specially on September 1st. Then one day, I received an email from one of Jeff’s friends informing me that Jeff died. Last September 1, 2008, I went to the military cementary where Jeff was buried. I placed a picture of Jeff and I on top of his tomb and I told Jeff, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Jeff….I miss you, my old friend”