Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Remembering the honor & tragedy of my Boy Scout years.

June 6, 2011

During my elementary days, I remember feeling so excited when I finally stepped into the third grade because that grade made me eligible to sign up for membership with the Boy Scout of the Philippines.

Our scout master then was Mr. Besenio who, for many years, handled the boy scout program of the parochial school where I attended. Once in a while, Mr. Besenio would organize a weekend camping at the school yard. One of the highlight of the camping is the traditional bonfire. During these bonfires, Mr. Besenio would tell us interesting stories about his experiences during his younger days as a boy scout. I think he mentioned that he was a member of a Boy Scout troop that attended a jamboree in Mount Makiling. I don’t know if the jamboree that he attended was the 10th world jamboree held in Mt. Makiling back in 1959.

During that time, it seemed like every scout’s dream was to join the world jamboree. When I became a 6th grader, there was a huge buzz among the boy scout community in the Philippines because there was news that the Boy Scout of the Philippines national council was searching for qualified scouts to send to the 14th World Scout Jamboree in Norway. That jamboree was held in Lillehammer, Norway on July 29 thru August 7, 1975. The Norway jamboree was popularly called, “Nordjamb 75”. The world Jamboree in Mt. Makiling in 1959 was called “Bamboo Jamboree”.

I can no longer remember who got selected to attend the Norway jamboree but the troops in our school were disappointed when none of us were selected. There was a rumor that went around saying that for a scout to qualify as a member of the Philippine delegation to Norway, the parents of that scout has to afford the expensive round trip plane fare to Norway. I don’t know if this is really true.

To bring up the spirit of all Boys & Girls Scouts that were not able to attend the jamboree in Greece, camping jamborees were held in different parts of the Philippines. One of these jamborees was held at Cadlan, Camarines sur, which I was fortunate to attend along with a few boy scouts from our school. The jamboree was attended by scouts from different parts of the Bicol Region. I think this is the jamboree where we ate “Tocino” (sweetened cured pork) and rice for five days. I got tired of eating tocino after that.

It was during this Jamboree that I met my high school classmate, Ricky “Guitarman” Sadiosa. Ricky’s tent was set up a few tents down from where our troops had ours.

During the jamboree, I noticed that the girl scouts were assigned in an area that had large trees that offered the girls good shade from the afternoon sun. They also had a restroom structure in the middle of their camp which they call Girls Latrines. I guess they wanted it to sound more sanitary. The boy scouts had to do our “business” in places like fields with tall wild grasses, along the river banks or behind bushes. For those scouts that are shy and wants some privacy, these brave scouts would enthusiastically build a “kaybo” (outhouse). The only disadvantage when using the kaybo is when you had to “go” during the middle of the night and you don’t have a candle, a misstep inside the kaybo could bring your whole leg down the hole where the sun don’t shine. That’ll ruin your day for sure because every scout in the camp would learn about it making your misfortune the joke of the day!

Weeks after the jamboree that we attended, I heard the vegetation around the Boy Scout camping grounds we used in the town of Cadlan grew vigorously because of the massive “fertilization” the scouts did around the grounds.

While the Boy Scout council was trying to select the members of the Philippine delegate to Norway, I learned from the radio or newspaper that some parents were not very keen on letting their children attend the world jamboree because of a tragedy that happened back in 1963 that took the lives of a group of young Philippine boy scouts. Below is the information that I was able to gather without doing an in-depth research on the whole incident.

On July 25, 1963, then Philippine president Diosdado Macapagal received at the Malacanang palace a courtesy call from 24 scouts and scouting officials which will represent the Philippine delegation to the world scout jamboree in Norway. The members of the delegation were:
Dr. Florante L. Ojeda (Delegation head, Agusan council)
Fr. Jose Ma. Martinez, SJ (A faculty member of Ateneo De Naga & delegate chaplain).
Dr. Bonifacio V. Lascano (group physician)

The following are the scout members of the delegation

Manila Boy Scout council members:
Ramon V. Albano
Henry Chuatoco
Jose Antonio Delgado
Pedro Gandia
Wilfredo Santiago
Ascario Tuason Jr.

Quezon City Boy Scout Council:
Roberto Castor
Romeo R. Rallos
Rogelio Ybardolaza

Manila and Goa, Camarines Sur Boy Scout council:
Felix Fuentebella Jr.

Other Scout delegates:
Victor De Guia Jr (Baguio City)
Antonio Limbaga (Zamboanga City)
Roberto Lozano (Dagupan City)
Paulo Madrinan (Pasay City)
Jose Fermin Magbanua (Negros Oriental)
Filamor Reyes (Cavite)
Antonio Torillo (Cavite)
Bencio S. Tobias (Tarlac)
Gabriel Borromeo (Pasay)
Patricio Bayaran (Pasay)
Four BSP (Boy Scout of the Philippines) officials departed for Marathon, Greece ahead of the main group. These ‘lucky’ officials were: Gabriel Daza (BSP president), H. B. Reyes (BSP deputy national scout commissioner), J. Plaridel Silvestre (BSP Vice President), Godofredo Neri (BSP executive).

On July 28, 1963, the boy scouts boarded a KLM plane bound for Hong Kong, which was the first leg of their trip to Greece. During a stop over in Bangkok, Thailand, one of the scouts nicknamed Chito wrote a post card to his parents. He did not know that the note he wrote on the card would be his last. He wrote these words on the card:

Dearest Pa, Ma, Brothers, Sister and Everybody:

We arrived in Bangkok at 10:25 PM (Manila Time) safe and in good condition. We departed Hong Kong at 8:45 p.m. (Manila Time). I already sent to Pati a postcard. Please pray for me. Thank you.

Love, Kisses and prayers, Chito

From Bangkok, they boarded another plane bound for Bombay, India and had a scheduled transfer flight to Greece. The plane that they boarded was United Arab Airlines (now called Egypt Airlines) flight 869. There were 52 passengers and 8 crew members in that flight. The plane’s pilot was Mohammad Shoura, a former pilot of Egyptian president Nasser. His co-pilot was Ibrahim Rustom, a veteran pilot. According to one crash report, this is what happened when they were approaching their destination in India.

At 20:16 (8:16pm) the plane reported being overhead the Santa Cruz VOR beacon at 7,000 feet and it was cleared to descend to 4,000 feet. The crew requested an instrument landing system approach to runway 09 and that they would follow the back beam procedure. The control advised them the procedure was not available and they should carry out an approach using the VOR beacon. The crew agreed to use the procedure and reported leaving 7,000 feet in the descent on the 272 degree radial from the VOR. The controller advised them that they may encounter heavy turbulence if they go more than six or seven miles west of the airport. The crew requested a left-hand procedure rather than the more normal right-hand one because of the weather. Permission was granted. The aircraft, already in severe turbulence, entered a left hand turn and then crashed into the sea nine nautical miles from Madh Island.

Only the bodies of Jose Delgado, Henry Chuatoco, Roberto Castor, Ascario Tuason Jr & Librado Fernandez were positively identified. Because no wreckage was salvaged and the crew did not report any problems, it was concluded that the aircraft was probably lost due to loss of control while turning in severe turbulence and heavy rain. But without the wreckage, the report remained inconclusive.

On the August 3, 1963, the Philippines decided to send a small group to represent the country. The new delegates were: Scouts Nicasio Fernandez (Far Eastern University), Guillermo Flores (Mapua Institute of Technology) and Luis Santiago (San Beda College). San Beda was the school where scouts Delgado & Fuentebella attended.

During the jamboree in Greece, the flag of the Philippines flew half-mast at a sub-camp called Antiochis, where the fallen Filipino scouts would have stayed had they made it.
On August 4, 1963, the frigate Kirpan of the Indian Navy steamed to the crash site. Indian consul general to the Philippines K.M. Modi and Commander J.D. Cooper of the Indian Navy laid a giant wreath on the waters to honor the dead.

Streets in Quezon City were renamed to honor the fallen scouts. Each of them were conferred a special medal of honor award. In 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino, chief scout of the Boy Scout of the Philippines declared the 28th of July of every year as Scout Memorial Day.

Remembering the Philippine Scouts’ moto,

“Laging Handa!”

I read this editor’s note from one of my sources and I just wanted to share it with you:

Bobby M. Reyes wanted to join the Philippine delegation to the 11th World Jamboree. Reyes was a scout of the BSP Sorsogon council and he attended the 10th world jamboree in Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines in July 1959. When he returned to Sorsogon after the world jamboree in August 1959, he asked his father to help him participate at the 11th World Jamboree in Greece. His father, Dominador S. Reyes, was then a candidate for provincial governor in the November 1959 elections. His father promised Bobby that he would help him attend the next world jamboree if he wins the elections. The father explained that he won’t be able to afford Bobby’s expenses to attend the world jamboree if he loses the election. Fortunately for Bobby, his father lost the election.