Monday, July 16, 2018

Vive la France! Football champion of the World Cup 2018.

It was raining when Les Bleus received the World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium n Moscow.
(Picture: Getty Images@

It was a good thing that in this part of the world (Philippines), Manny Pacquiao's seven-round knock-out of the Argentine Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia came much, much ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia championship match of France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

It was midnight (Manila time), when France ran away with the Cup at 4-2 against Croatia. It was deemed a "fitting end to an outstanding tournament."

It was the second World Cup for the Les Bleus. The first time was twenty years ago when they trumped Brazil 3-0 in their home ground, Stade de France in St. Denis at the World Cup 1998.

We could only watch the match highlights from Monday morning, and read about turning points of the game from the FIFA webpage. 

The report says: "Despite Croatia having the majority of possession in the opening stages, France took the lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Antoine Griezmann's lofted free kick from the French right was nodded into his own net by Mario Mandzukic.

"Ivan Perisic levelled with a calm effort from the edge of the penalty area, but he would turn from hero to villain. A cross from the French right-hand side was handled by the Croatia No4, with a penalty awarded after a VAR review.

"After the interval, France increased their lead through Paul Pogba, whose performances in the tournament deserved a goal in its finale. After Kylian Mbappe stretched the Croatian defence, Griezmann teed up Pogba, who finished after seeing his initial effort blocked.

"After his tireless running tired the Croatian defence, it was only fitting that Mbappe himself got on the scoresheet, hitting a sweetly-struck effort from the edge of the penalty area with which Danijel Subasic stood no chance.

"Mandzukic then scored in the same net, but this time to Croatia's advantage, capitalising on some carelessness by Hugo Lloris to reduce the deficit.

"In the end, the big No17's [Mandzukic] strike was not enough to spark yet another miraculous Croatian comeback, and Les Bleus emulate their heroes of 1998 - including coach Didier Deschamps - in securing their second World Cup title."

adidas Golden Ball Awardee Luka Modric of Croatia and
FIFA Young Player Award Kylian Mbappe of France.
(Pictures: Getty images@

There were consolation prizes too with key players receiving "Golden", "Silver" and "Bronze" awards from adidas, as decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group.

Croatia's Luka Modric received the adidas Golden Ball Award. He is considered "supremely gifted' with his "tireless work in the midfield, where he used his incisive vision to great effect in guiding his team, setting the tempo, and exploiting gaps in opposition defences. He proved equally effective in the Final, dictating the pace as Croatia made a fast start to the match."

Thibaut Courtois of Belgium got the adidas Golden Glove Award, which means he was the tournament's best goalkeeper. He is credited for the historic third place of his team in this tournament. Described as "imperious," this "imposing keeper made the most of his large frame and outstanding reflexes to come to his side’s rescue time and again. Beaten only once by eventual champions France in the semi-finals, he turned in another commanding performance in the play-off for third place.

Thibaut Courtois, best goalkeeper, adidas Golden Glove awardee.

Kylian Mbappe of France won the FIFA Young Player Award, which is presented to the player with the biggest impact at the Russia 2018. 

Described as a teenage prodigy (he's 19 years old), Russia 2018 was his first world finals. He came to the World Cup as "relatively unknown before the opening ceremony, but emerged as a household name after the event."

He was greatly admired especially when he put two goals against Argentina. That made him the youngest scorer of a knockout match, replicating Pele 60 years ago when Brazil played against Sweden in 1958. 
Kylian Mbappe, FIFA Young Player Awardee.
(Picure: Getty images@

England's captain Harry Kane went home with the adidas Golden Boot Award. He made six goals across six games in Russia 2018. 

He was described as "one of the best finishers in the business, helping to fire England to their best finish since Italy 1990." 

England captain Harry Kane, adidas Golden Boot awardee.
(Picture from

The World Cup 2018 took a little more than a month to finish. It started with the Round of 16 in the knockout phase, a series of elimination from 16 teams to the final four. 

Visually, this was how the games held in various sites in Russia went:

FIFA World Cup 2018 championship history.
 And the top teams that went home with honors to the acclamation of their countries were: France (World Cup 2018 champion), Croatia (runner-up), Belgium (third place), and England (fourth place).

Spain exited in the Round of 16 when it lost to Russia, but they received an award during the closing ceremony. They received the FIFA Fair Play Trophy for their "superb disciplinary record," and "exemplary behaviour on the pitch, where they picked up just two yellow cards in their four matches and committed a mere 34 fouls."

World Cup championship score card through the years.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hooyah! The Wild Boars soccer team successfully rescued.

Hooyah! indeed to the Thai Navy SEAL which anchored the rescue of twelve young boys and their coach--the Wild Boars soccer team-- from around 2.5 miles deep in the bowels of the Tham Luang cave.

'Hooyah' originated from the US Navy SEAL, its exclamatory word for a job well done or a successful operation.

The team entered the cave, some sort of initiation, with the intent of scrawling their names on the cave walls on 23 June 2018. It's the monsoon season in Thailand, and when the waters started to fill up, they could no longer get out and they had to seek higher grounds. They ended up deep inside Tham Luang.

"Operation Bring Wild Boars Home has been completed last night," the Thai Navy SEAL posted in their Facebook page on 11 July. "It's an operation the world will never forget!"

The rescue was an international effort, in many ways, and involved many characters.

The Thai Navy SEAL expressed great appreciation for "the help from all teams--divers from all over the world, medic teams, several ex-SEALs, supporting teams, Kruba Boonchum and other spiritual teams, great kitchen team, oxygen refueling team, water management team, electricity team, mountain climbing team, all generators, Mae Sai people, and people from all corners of the world."

The SEAL summed it up as "the united force of humanity at work."

This was best illustrated by the cartoon that was shared through the SEAL FB page:

Rescue operations cartoon. (Source: Thai Navy Seals FB page)

The animal figures stood for the different people who played significant roles in the rescue operations: white elephant - Governor Narongsak; wild boars - the children and coach; white horse - all heroes involved in the mission; seal - the Thai Navy SEAL; frog - all world-class divers; lion - rescuers from England; kangaroo - rescuers from Australia; panda - rescuers from China; crane - rescuers from Japan; moose - rescuers from Sweden; tiger - rescuers from Myanmar; brown elephant - rescuers from Laos; dog - K9 unit; martin - climbers from Libong Thailand; eagle - rescuers from USA; iron man - Elon Musk; birds - media; and of course, there is a crow - the nasty comments from people or some obstacles along the way.

Speaking of media attention, the operation was keenly observed by Las Ultimas Noticias (LUN) of Santiago, Chile. They had a similar rescue operation a few years ago when they rescued miners trapped inside a coal mine that collapsed.

The LUN magazine had this graphical rendition of the rescue procedure in their 09 July 2018 issue:

Rescue mission. (Source: Las Ultunas Noticias. 09 July 2018)

While there were tears of joy when the team has all been brought out of the cave, there were also 'bittersweet' tears of grief for Thailand and Dr. Richard Harris, who stayed with the boys throughout and was one of the last to get out.

Saman Gunan, former Thai Navy SEAL, who volunteered for the mission, died on duty when he was helping lay out rescue lines along the flooded cave tunnels.

Australian Dr. Richard Harris came out of the cave to learn that his father died on 01 July while he was assisting the boys inside.

The last four Thai Navy SEAL that got out.
(Source: Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page)

The Thai Navy SEALS kept the world fully informed of the operations with pictures and videos. There were no details of the procedures, 'mysterious,' someone said in the social media, but we came to see the faces of the boys when and after they were found, read their letters (in translation) to their parents, witness the ambulances and helicopters bringing the boys to the hospital, and finally, scenes of the families looking through glass walls at their sons beaming in quarantine at their hospital room.

The Wild Boars. (Source: Metro, UK from the iinternet)
CNN gave us the names of the Wild Boars team:
  • Peerapat Sompeangjai, who turned 16 when they went missing;
  • Ponchai Khamluang, 16, goes to Ban Pa Yang School;
  • Pipat Bhodi,15, like Peerapat has his birthday on 23 June, goes to Ban San Sai School;
  • Prajak Sutham,15, had his birthday inside the cave on 01 July, and is in 8th grade at Mae Sai Prasitsart School;
  • Ardoon Sam-aon, 14, is in the 8th grade at Ban Wiang Phan School. 
  • Akarat Wongsukchan, 14, studies at Darunratwitthaya School;
  • Natthawut Takumsong, 14, is in 8th grade at Mae Sai Prasitsart school; 
  • Mongkol Boonpiam, 13, is in 7th grade at Ban Pa Muat School;
  • Panumas Saeng-Dee, 13, attends Mae Sai Prasitsart;
  • Duangphet Promthep, 13, attends Mae Sai Prasitsart; 
  • Somjai Jaiwong, 13, attends Mae Sai Prasitsart;
  • Chanin Viboonrungruang, 11, is the youngest in the team and is in his last year at Anubanmaesai primary school in Mae Sai. He was the one who wrote his parents that when he gets out, he'd love to go eat fried chicken at the local KFC.
  • Ekkapol Ake Chanthawong, 25, coach, is popularly called Ake, was the last of the team pulled out.
These are very interesting vignettes about the Ardoon and coach Ekkapol:

Ardoon Sam-aon was "born in neighboring Myanmar, he was taken into care by the local Mae Sai Grace Church group when he was seven years old. ... he's a good student, he earns a GPA of 3.94 out of 4.00. He's also a good athlete, his favorite sports are soccer and volley ball." 

He is a stateless person, a refugee in Thailand. He was the only one who could speak English, and thus served as interpreter for the team with the rescuers. 

Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, the boys' coach, is described by the community as being"devoted to his young charges, and often took them for long bike rides in the hills.... He loves the football team [and] wherever he goes, he always has some of the kids with him. Their parents trust him that he can take of their sons."

Opovo, a news magazine in Fortaleza, Brazil, in its 11 July 2018 cover said that the rescue operation which mobilized and sensibilized the world was a 'story with a happy ending"

Thursday, July 5, 2018

UP Diliman 107th Commencement Exercises: Paglayang Minamahal

The 29 summa cum laude graduates. (Photo from UPDIO)

The rains came the night before.

That morning the sunflowers along the University Avenue shone, and 4,612 graduates beamed with sunshine on their faces as they walked on soggy ground to their seats. The MassComm graduates unfurled yellow umbrellas, and the would-be lawyers put on their wide sombreros.

Chancellor Michael Tan started the ceremonies with UP reality checks.

Alexander Michael 'Miggy' Bautista,
BS Business Administration, cum laude!
He looked at Alexander Michael 'Miggy' Bautista on his wheelchair in front of the Virata School of Business Administration contingent, and he recalled promising to Miggy the installation of an elevator at Palma Hall. The funds came but there were structural and logistical problems on the shaft. Miggy transferred to Virata. There were no elevators there too but he managed to walk through, figuratively, his course with the help of his parents, schoolmates and even security guards.

People with Disabilities (PWDs_were clearly in Tan's mind; likewise the financially-handicapped UP students who finish their courses the LULI way: lulubog lilitaw. He cited a library science student who went through that hard way and was finally graduating at the age of 34.

He went on to say too that among the graduates are some who suffer from clinical depression, and there were those who did not make it. One particular case, who dreamed of getting back to UP, got killed by the police because he supposedly held up a taxi driver,

Of course, he reminded that the free-tuition policy for undergraduates began this school year 2017-2018. No fees of any kind were collected and that meant, he said, belt tightening.

His parting shot to the graduates: "Many of you have benefited as iskolar ng bayan in the full sense of the word, and you are still exempt from return service, which will require starting this schoolyear for all who benefit from the no tuition fee policy.

"But even if you are not required to render return service, I hope you will think of coming back, and giving back. Huwag munang mag-isip na maging balikbayan, Ang kailangan, pagbabalik bayan, at least stay and work and serve our country."

The university bestowed Sen. Loren Legarda, BA Broadcasting '81, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Sen. Legarda receiving her honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

In her speech, she recalled the nerdy "student Loren", how she coped with the grind of UP life:  shuttling between classes around the oval via ikot jeepney, dealing with terror professors and the lines to get the best schedule and instructors during registration.

She acknowledged the 'resume peace negotiations' placards raised among the graduates, and said she's all for it.

She noted that there are things in UP that will never change ('hindi magbabago magpakailanman') like the graduation theme 'paglayang minamnahal: paglaya ng kaisipan, ang paglaya ng pamamahayag, ang paglaya mula sa kahirapan, sa kamangmangan, at sa kaapihan.'.

"UP would not be UP if we were to devote ourselves to anything less than service to the people in whatever form," she stressed. "UP would not be UP if it did not dare to lead, to be different, and to excel."

Yellow umbrellas for MassComm graduates.

She then called attention to the 'need to protect and to promote our environment', which pushed her to author and sponsor the passage of laws on solid waste management, clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate change and people's survival.

The need to protect the weak, the dispossessed, and the marginalized people moved her to support significant legislation on women and children and senior citizens.

She tied these all up in her leading advocacy on culture and the arts.

"I have supported important initiatives," she said, "in the arts in their full range and variety, from our indigenous artisans to Philippine representation in the Venice Biennale."

Legarda is the co-author of the National Cultural Heritage Act, which mandates the National Commission on Culture and the Arts and the local government units to undertake the Philippine Registry of Cultural Properties.

She was forewarned of the lightning demonstration at the end of the ceremonies, which has become a commencement tradition.

She told the demonstrators, "I say welcome, and say your piece if you must ... UP will not be UP without you."

She urged them to look at 'higher forms of, and larger reasons for, protest and affirmation.'

"We need to act," she said, "in our respective spheres and communities, to protect the future. Samahan po sana ninyo ako sa adhikaing ito, at magkaisa tayo sa pagsasabuhay at pagtataguyod ng ating paglayang minamahal.'

China Marie Giuliani F. Gabriel, BA Broadcast Communication, was one of the 29 summa cum laude graduates. She was not the topnotcher, but she spoke on behalf of her fellow graduates.

China Gabriel delivering response on behalf of Class 2018.

She talked about freedom, and asked Class 2018: "... may dilag nga ba ang tula at awit sa paglayang minamahal? Tunay nga bang tayo'y malaya?"

"Insofar as our freedom is concerned," she said, with reference to the issue between China and our country, "we can be firm in our stance yet sensitive to the dynamics of global order. Whatever contention we might have can be worked out through diplomacy-hardcore, as it may need to be--but always keeping that delicate balance between an assertion and enjoyment of rights, and empathy based on a sense of global citizenship and common humanity."

She dwelt on fake news, martial law and historical revisionism.

"In this age of alternative facts and fake news, we can all agree that media plays a huge role in either advancing or combating revisionism," she asserted.

"I look at media as a means to promote positive values, to deepen our appreciation for our own Philippine culture, and most of all, to both mirror and defend truth," she added.

She recalled her mind-opening experiences in history classes and lessons learned on the streets.

Shifting the sablay to the other shoulder: a graduate at last!

"The truth is," she stressed, "we are not free from the horrors of our past. We contest the validity of our memories up to this day, and we find the same terrible chapters of our history repeating itself, with evil manifesting in a different form. For a freedom-loving people, we have allowed too many tyrants to rule our nation. Kung noon pa man hanggang ngayon sinisiil ang ating karapatan, ano nga ba ang kalayaan?"

She acknowledged that "the greatest gift that [UP] has given us is perspectives on using lenses of history, social justice, and our respective disciplines to look at national issues and to address them head-on."

"The call of the times is for us to become truth-seekers," she asserted, "but I challenge each of us to go the extra mile by becoming a guardian of hope and memory."

This was her call to Class 2018: "Magpakatatag at magpakagiting tayo para sa ikauunlad ni Inang Bayan. Let our enthusiasm to learn transform into enthusiasm to serve and to remember; together, let us create new memories for our liberated Pilipinas, stand for truth, and actualize our loving vision for the Filipino society."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Keeping track of the FIFA World Cup 2018

Messi in grief.  'The end of the Messi gneration.'

We could only view the highlights of games in the FIFA World Cup 2018 being held in various football arenas in Russia.

In the Round of 16, we saw the matches between Uruguay and Portugal, and France and Argentina, and saw the fall of the brightest stars of football: Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7) and Lionel Messi of the national teams of Portugal and Argentina, respectively. Their teams got eliminated and have gone home. The defending champion--Germany--had gone home after the first elimination round robin,

From these matches also rose the new stars: Kylian Mbappe of France and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay. Mbappe is 19 years old: is he a Pele in the making? Pele was 17 when his skills got noticed. 

We also watched Russia and Croatia clinching the berths for the Round of 8. Their games ended 1-1 against Spain and Denmark, respectively, They won by penalties at extension time. The Spanish and Danish national teams are heading for home.

Our thanks goes to for providing us the window to look at the coverage of Russia 2018 by foreign (esp. South American) newspaper. Thank you also to the newspapers whose front pages of their 01 July 2018 editions are reproduced in this blog: Clarin (Buenos Aires, Argentina), El Commercio (Lima, Peru), El Heraldo (Barranquilla, Colombia), La Vanguardia (Barcelona, Spain) and O Tempo (Belo Horizonte, Brazil).

'Goodbye to the stars'
'With grief and without glory'

Kylian Mbappe
The new heroes: Edinson Cavani & Mbappe

As of this writing (02 July 2018): those who go to the Round of 8 will be Uruguay, France, Crotia and Russia.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

'Dungaw' - Mary looks at the Nazarene from the San Sebastian balcony

The Nuestra Senora del Carmen in her niche at the altar (left), before she was brought up to the balcony (top right),
and as she looked out to see the Nazareno, the 'dungaw' (below right).

In a story I wrote for the weekly FilAm Star of San Francisco, CA on 21 January 2014, I mentioned that the 'dungaw' tradition of the Recollects revived during the 'traslacion' of the Itim na Nazareno that year.

For the first time, the Basilica opened its doors this year to the public to view the 'dungaw' from the bell towers and balconies. It used to be exclusive for the media.

My Dungaw pass to the balcony of the Basilica.

In a way, the 'dungaw' was invitational. We failed to register online for slots in the viewing areas but we hoped for a chance when we went to the office of the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation on 'traslacion' day. Thanks to the graciousness of the the project officers, we were able to join the 'exclusive' viewing group.

The Nazarene procession from the Quirino grandstand to Quiapo church took 22 hours this year with thousands of barefoot devotees, male and female, jostling their way to hold on to the rope for pulling the carroza of the venerated image, or to clamber onto the andas to touch the image or the cross.

Taken from the balcony as the 'traslacion' passes by on its way to Quiapo church.

The frenzy of the devotees was tempered briefly when the Nazareno, coming from Hidalgo St., paused at the Plaza del Carmen. The image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Nuestra Senora del Carmen) came out to the balcony of the San Sebastian Basilica to 'look' at her son. Prayers were said, and the anthems to the Lady and the Nazareno were sang, the devotees singing along and waving their white towelettes.

This is the 'dungaw' (Filipino for looking out), a representative image of Mary's encounter with her son Jesus on his way to Calvary, one of the stations of the cross of the Roman Catholics.

Both images are around 400 years old, both of Mexican origin, that the Recoletos brought to the Philippines. The firs mission of the order comprising 14 religious arrived in Manila in 1606. It is said that the Nazareno came also that year,

The Catalogo de los Religiosos Agustinos Recoletos (Sadaba, 1906) tells us that the image of the Nuestra Senora del Carmen arrived with Mission III comprising five Recoleto fathers in 1618. Fray Rodrigo de San Miguel brought it from Mexico.

Fray San Miguel was with the first mission. He exercised his sacred ministry in Bataan and Zambales, which established missions in Mariveles, Subic and Masinloc.

He went back to Spain in July 1614 and sailed back in July 1617 as Commissar and President of the third mission, arriving in Manila in 1618. He held the post of Vicar Provincial of the order until 1622.

In 1621, he founded the convent of San Sebastian outside Manila where the image of the Nuestra Senora del Carmen that he brought from Mexico was enshrined for veneration. Fray Rodrigo also founded the ministries of Cebu and of Caraga in Mindanao.

The Recoletos are celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the Nuestra Senora del Carmen this year. Events are expected to be announced soon.


  • Available from Google Books: Francisco Sadaba del Carmen. 1906. Catalogo del los Religiosos Agustinos Recoletos de la Provincia de San Nicolas de Tolentino de Filipinas. Madtid: Imprenta del Asilo de Huerfanos del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The feast day of the Immaculate Conception is now a special non-working holiday

Republic Act 10966 "declaring December 8 of every year a special nonworking holiday in the entire country to commemorate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the principal patroness of the Philippines," was approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on 28 December 2017.

This Act originated from the House of Representatives was passed by the House and the Senate on 02 May 2017 and 11 December 2017, respectively. A copy has been posted on the online version of the print edition of the Official Gazette (see picture below). 

RA 10966 as posted on the Official Gazette webpage.

This will make twenty-one (21) national, regular and special (non-working) holidays to be observed in the country this coming year, 2018. Twenty were listed in Proclamation No, 269 that Duterte issued on 17 July 2017. 

Some of these fall on weekends: 25 February (EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary), 31 March (Black Saturday), and 30 December (Rizal Day).

Two dates have yet to be set for the observance of national holidays Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha, which depends on the Islamic calendar.

RA 10966, in a way, revisits legal and school holidays of Philippine past.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception was not in the school holidays prescribed by the Royal Decree of 20 December 1863, which created the "normal school for teachers of primary instruction for the natives of the Filipinas Islands," but there were other religious feast days included.

The decree provided that "the holidays of the normal school shall be Sundays, feast days, Ash Wednesday, the day set aside for the commemoration of the faithful dead, and also the saint's days and birthday anniversaries of their Majesties and the prince of Asturias, and the saint's day of the superior civil governor," and "the shorter vacations shall extend from Christmas eve to Twelfth-night, during the three carnival days, and from Holy Wednesday until Easter. During said vacations, the resident scholars shall remain in the institution."

When the Americans set up the school system, the schools were allowed fourteen weeks' vacation each year, two of which were the usual Christmas break. In addition to these regular vacations, an Act from the United States Philippine Commission established the following holidays in 1902:

          New Year's Day - January 1.
          Washington's Birthday -February 22.
          Holy Thursday - March 27.
          Good Friday - March 28.
          Independence Day -July 4.
          Occupation Day - August 13.
          Thanksgiving Day - November 27.
          Christmas Day -December 25.
          Rizal Day - December 30.

In addition, the following church fiestas may be observed as holidays by the schools:  

          Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day -. January 6.
          Purification of the Blessed Virgin -February 2.
          Ascension Day -May 11.
          Corpus Christi Day -June 1.
          Assumption Day -August 15.
          All Saints' Day -November 1.
          Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary -December 8.

However, in a proclamation of the General Superintendent of schools on 10 August 1904, the feast of the Immaculate Conception was not included in the "second holidays" for public schools. It retained the Marian event of  02 February, and the patron saint's day of the town was added.

The 1904 listing comprised the Epiphany or Three Kings, January 6; Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2; Ascension Day, May 1; Corpus Christi; Assumption Day, August 15; All Saints' Day, November 1; patron saint of the pueblo, one day only.

The women who went to Catholic schools for girls do remember that the feast of the Immaculate Conception was no-classes day. Thus, they were excited when they first heard that a law declaring this a holiday was under discussion in the Seventeenth Congress.

  • Blair & Robertson. 1906. Royal Decree establishing a plan of primary education in Filipinas. Appendix: Education in the Philippines. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898; Volume XLVI, 1721-1739.
  • Atkinson, Fred W. The Present Educational Movement in the Philippine Islands. Chapter XXIX. Report of the Commissioner on Education For 1900-1901. Washington: Govt. Printing Office. 1902.
  • Department of Public Instruction. Bureau of Education. Appendix H. Some of the circulars of the General Superintendent. Annual Report of the General Superintendent of Education. September 1904. Manila: Bureau of Public Printing, 1904. Page 97.
  • The Government of the Philippine Islands. Dept. of Public Instruction. Bureau of Education. Appendix E. School Calendar. Seventeenth Annual Report of the Director of Education. January 1, 1916 to December 31, 1916.  Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1917. Page 129.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

'Naimbag a Pascua' (A Good Christmas) in boyhood country

The municipal hall of San Narciso, Zambales a-glitter with Christmas lights this year (2017).


More than a half a century ago, Pascua (Christmas) to us kids in the old hometown seemed to take too long in coming. When we learned to reckon its approach with the onset of the 'ber'-months, we had already lost the pure, innocent joy of waiting.

We can’t remember exactly what our great expectations were while the nights were turning colder, and we would need to wear a pranela (sweater) when we go caroling or simply prowling around with the neighborhood kids. 

We were told to be good so that Santa would bring us gifts come Christmas.  We have no recollection if Santa Claus ever came at all through the windows or the galvanized iron roof of our house of buho walls and bamboo stairs.

By November, our Inang (mother) would be having more sewing jobs to finish.  Her customers, friends and relatives, would be dropping by to have their dresses sewn for the Misa Aguinaldo (midnight mass) on Christmas Eve.  She would stay till late at night to fulfill her commitments, sparing enough time for her and my five sisters’ own clothes as these would be done last.

Memory tells us that we always wore a white polo shirt on Christmas.  Inang took care, we now think, to shield us from the usual taunts, no matter how friendly these were, that loud colors do not seemingly match our earth-brown skin tone.

In those days when we went to school in wooden clogs, and later in rubber sandals, Christmas was the only occasion when we had to wear shoes despite our heavy protestations.  Many a time did we suffer blisters at the back of our feet.  Probably, it’s because parents did not do much personal shopping then.  Unless they did, the bilin (request) system was deemed most convenient whenever a close friend or relative was bound for Manila or Olongapo.  They would trace our feet on a piece of paper and cut this out.  The shoes might fit the pattern correctly, but it did not assure the comfort of poor little kids who should look their angelic best on Christmas day.

Far from our childhood Christmas trees. These are competing 12-ft trees in our town's contest.

In our six Christmases at the San Jose-Patrocinio Elementary School, our Christmas tree, just like in most of the pupils’ homes, was the lowly kuribetbet shrub shorn of all its leaves.   Bands of green crepe paper about two inches wide were cut and then folded along its length.  Narrow strips were cut perpendicular to and along the fold, taking care to go just about halfway, and when done, the bands were spread open and refolded the other side to yield a leafy effect.  These were then wound around the stem and branches of the bare kuribetbet producing an evergreen tree on which to hang colored, usually red, paper balls and bells.  

Industrial arts projects in December invariably would be a parol (lantern), usually the simple bamboo star.  We would cover our projects with colored Japanese paper or cellophane and attached the rayos (rays) made of the same paper at two adjacent points of the star.  Sometimes, we would put a rim attached to all five points of the star.  Some would put a belen of cardboard at the middle, or some other decorative paper cut-outs all over.  When schools closed for the Christmas vacation, we would bring home our lanterns to be hung at our windows.

At home, we always had these breakable decorative balls to hang.  During those years, when the dollar exchange rate was taymes tu  (times two) yet, Inang would ask aunts married to US Navymen to buy these things for us in the navy commissary in Subic.  They had buying privileges even when their husbands were away at sea.  At the end of each season, Inang would have less decors to keep for the next year since the Christmas tree toppled over several times, or because we loved to look at the warped reflections of our faces on the balls’ surface, and we broke several of them.

In some houses, swaths of white cotton would be attached to the tree branches probably inspired by pictures of trees laden with snow in Christmas cards, which were all imported at that time.

We also made chains using crepe paper of various colors to wind around the tree. Tiny blinking color lights around the Christmas tree or hanging from the eaves of roofs were not yet in our imagination.  Electricity came around only at six o’clock in the evening, when the Ramos Electric, the power company of richer relatives, turned on their diesel generator to light up San Narciso.

We always asked Inang why we couldn’t have an aru-o (local pine) branch for a tree, just like what we saw in other houses.   We soon found out that this would not be evergreen at all. The needles would turn brown even long before the start of the Misa de Gallo or dawn masses (‘simbang gabi’ or night mass to the Tagalogs; we don’t know why), and would be scattered underneath before Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar ever reach barrio Alusi-is.  Christmas would not end until January 6 when the Three Kings lead the parade from Alusi-is.

In later years, the bare kuribetbet would be painted all white, probably as a matter of fashion rather than as tangible proof of one’s ‘dreaming of a white Christmas.’  In high school, we did this as a matter of convenience; it did not take long to finish it.

Our childhood gift ritual was never that exciting.  We can’t recall ever jumping and yelling with glee when we found a gift lying beside us when we woke up in the morning of December 25.   We probably would get only a car model to be pulled with a string.  The girls in the family had dolls but not the walking and talking types, and Barbie was not yet born.

Our generation started schooling with English as the medium of instruction.  Our first Christmas song was “Silent Night.”  Thus the Christmas jingles that came with the early evening air in our childhood days were the strains of ‘ol is cam, ol is brayt’ as we, the neighborhood kids, went house-to-house caroling about the oli impan (holy infant).   We were happy with a five-centavo caroling token from each house.

Stingy house owners though would get a musical rapping from us --

            Bulong ti apatot,                                   Leaves of apatot plant,
            Paskuayo a naimot.                               Gifts to stingy people.
            Umulog ti makarurod                           Come down if your angy,
            Ta narnaran ti dandanog.                     And we’ll beat you with our fists.

-- as we ran away, scared that they would come down and face our dare. 

Friends who can hum the tune and sing some of the lines remember that they heard it first from their grandmothers.  Some words in the lyrics are archaic Ilocano.  This suggests that the carol is older than San Narciso, and might have been brought by the settlers all the way from Paoay.   

The chorus of the indigenous carol is an invitation to celebrate the Lord’s birth and to proclaim his power and glory –

Rambakan tay a pada-pada                        Let us all celebrate
Panakay-yanak to Dios ditoy daga             the birth of God on earth.
Umadani tay met kenkuana                        Let us all go to Him
Idir-i tay tan-ok ken gloriana                     proclaiming his power and glory.

The two narrative stanzas speak of His humility and mercy --

Ay dimtengen a ti Dios Apo                      Ay, the Lord God has come
Simnek kaasi na kadatayo.                       Because of His mercy to all of us.
Ti Mesias manipud ngato                         The Messiah from above
Immay nga'd la makipagbiag                       came down to live with us.

Maysa a rukib a paglinungan                   A cave that serves as shed
Ti kinayatna nga makapanganakan,        He preferred to be born in;
Ket kuloong met laeng piman                  And merely a manger
Ti inna pinili a nagid-daan.                     He chose to sleep in.

Before “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” became the de rigeur anthem at the close of Midnight Mass, churchgoers sang the “Rambakan” in cheerful chorus as they troop out of church, greeting each and everyone along the way with “Naimbag a Paskuayo!”

Paskuami, Apo!  On Christmas Day, this is the salutary greeting of children going from house to house seeking gifts.  As a young boy, following Inang’s stern orders to just go to one’s relatives or godparents, I would be back at home in due time to hand out candies to fellow youngsters.  Cousins would stick around for a while hoping that Inang would instead give them a 5-centavo coin or two.  

Lucky are the kids whose godparents are around at Christmastime.  In my time, very rarely did I see my ninongs (godfathers) and ninangs (godmothers), real and surrogate, this last one being the wives of my ninongs.   Two of my ninongs were US Navymen, and when they came home to retire, we were old enough to talk to them in a buddy-buddy way though we still addressed them, with proper respect, 'ninong.'

Agmano (take his or her hand, and place it on your forehead) was the order of the day, whether you were calling on your godparents or older relatives, to show your respect.  Deep in your heart you wish all the time that they would add to your coins in the pocket rather than candies, and worst of all, suman paskua.  

Before refrigerators came to town, much to-do was given for the salapusup, preparing and wrapping glutinous rice into the suman paskua.  This delicacy would be kept in baskets that are hang in the kitchen.  There was no danger of spoilage; in fact, the suman tasted even better after a few days.   There would also be platters of leche flan resting on milk cans half-submerged in a basin of water to keep away the red and black ants.

Food for the Noche Buena would be cooked before the older ones left for the Misa Aguinaldo at midnight.  Unless we were properly motivated to join them to church so that we can watch the ‘walking star’, a parol pulled from the choir loft to the nativity scene in the altar, we would never be able to partake of the midnight repast. 

Sometimes there would be queso de bola, but we now think that these were put on the table to serve as d├ęcor. They would remain uncut even onto the New Year when it would serve a superstitious purpose, being red and round.  We preferred the taste of other cheeses like the ones that seemingly melted on the tongue.

Some families might serve ham, which their visiting kin bought from the popular stores in Chinatown or Quiapo in Manila.  But generally, there would always be special dishes of pork or chicken.

Pan americano, or suman, or puto, or the kutsinta ordered from Baket Tirsing would be sufficient to go with the meats and coffee or chocolate.  

Imported castanas, apples, pears, oranges and grapes were luxury food in our boyhood.  An aunt, widow of US Navyman, made sure she bought the stuff from the commissary in Subic and kept the fruits fresh in an icebox, for the family reunion lunch on Christmas Day.  

Again, chicken and pork, cooked in various ways, would be the main fare in the reunions on Christmas Day.  There might be lechon (roasted pig), quite a standard fare, no matter how long and tedious it would take to turn the bamboo pole spit over hot glowing embers.  

Year in, year out, it’s always a fiesta on Christmas Day --  the hustle and bustle around the sumptuous table, the gleeful shrieks of relatives who have not seen each other for years, the shrilly shouts of children having fun. 

Naimbag a Paskuayo! (Merry Christmas!)