Saturday, October 28, 2006


The first simbahans built in the Philippines were made of local light materials and were called as kamarins or toclong. The massive stone simbahans were later built because of the constant threat from fires and typhoons. These solid structures are usually in the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles or a combination of these influences. The following is a brief description of these styles from Norma Alarcon’s “Philippine Architecture During the Pre-Spanish and Spanish Periods:

The ROMANESQUE style features square, octagonal or circular bell towers; shallow wall buttresses; jambs or “orders” in door and window openings; a rose or wheel window over the principal door; and arcades with circular columns. An example of this style is Guadalupe’s Church of Nuestra Senora de Gracia --- the first ermita to be established in the Philippines and later ecclesiastically accepted by the Augustinians in 1601 to serve mainly as a rest house for its missionary priests. The first makeshift parochial buildings were built between 1601 and 1605. There are no records on who initiated the construction of the stone church that was finished during the term of Fr. Eustaquio Ortiz (OSA) probably in 1629 or 1630. It was damaged during the 1645 and 1658 earthquakes. Repairs and improvements to the church were made from 1659 until 1753 but was again damaged during the 1754 earthquake, and ransacked by the invading British in 1762. Earthquakes in 1850 and 1863 inflicted more damage to the church and finally, the building collapsed during the 1880 earthquake during which the original image of the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe was lost in the rubble. Fr. Jose Corugedo (OSA) supervised the rebuilding of the church in 1882. The church was occupied by Filipino troops led by Gen. Pio del Pilar in 1898. It was razed by fire in 1899 during early skirmishes between Filipino and American soldiers. During World War II, it was turned into a garrison by the invading Japanese and was later demolished after the war to provide materials for the reconstruction of the Manila Cathedral. The ruins were again handed to the Augustinians in 1970 who had the church rebuilt until 1972 with the Nuestra Senora de Gracia as the new patron. Further restoration work was conducted from 1983 until 1995.

Walls supported by flying buttresses, openings spanned by pointed arches, the frequent use of piers combined with shafts, and tall flanking towers at the façade are the features of the GOTHIC style that is best exemplified by the Church of San Sebastian in Manila. It is the first all-iron church in the world, the first iron structure in Asia and the second in the world after the Eiffel Tower, and the first pre-fabricated structure to be put up in the Philippines. It was designed by Engr. Don Genaro Palcios y Guerra and required 52 tons of imported steel from Belgium. The construction of the church --- described as a model of Christian art --- was supervised successively by Fr. Gregorio Serma (OAR), Fr. Toribio Minguella (OAR), Fr. Bernardo Muro (OAR), and Fr. Francisco Moreno (OAR) until its completion in 1890. The first structure preceding this steel edifice was built of light materials probably by Fr. Rodrigo de San Miguel (OAR) in 1621. The Chinese burned this in 1651 and a new brick church was built. This suffered a cycle of destruction and rebuilding during the earthquakes of 1859, 1863, and 1880 until Fr. Esteban Martinez (OAR) proposed building the steel church that will withstand the forces of nature.

The RENAISSANCE style is characterized by walls crowned by projecting cornices and molded string courses, semi-circular arches for arcades and openings, domes on drums crossing the nave and transept, classic orders in the façade, and balustrades that camouflage the roof. These are evident in the Church of La Imaculada Concepcion in Batangas City that was accepted as a mission by the Augustinians in 1581. Fr. Diego de Mojica (OSA) had the first makeshift church built at around 1578. This was razed by fire in 1615 during a raid by moro pirates and was probably rebuilt. Fr. Jose Rodriguez (OSA) and Fr. Manuel de Buensuceso (OSA) later had a stone church built in 1686. This was improved in 1706, damaged by fire in 1747, and again repaired in 1756. In 1857, Fr. Pedro Cuesta (OSA) had the church demolished after sustaining damages during the 1863 earthquake. It was replaced by a bigger building that is probably the present church. Repair works were made after the 1880 earthquake. The church was again damaged during the 1942 earthquake and was repaired from 1945 --- the year that it was declared as a Basilica Minor --- until 1957.

The most dominant style in the Philippines is the BAROQUE’s twisted columns, curved and broken pediments, huge wavy scrolls, and oval bays. A prime example of this style is Aguilar, Pangasinan’s Church of San Jose that first started as a makeshift structure built by Fr. Juan Vila (OP). In 1809, Fr. Bernardo Pons (OP) initiated the construction of a sturdier church. Fr. Juan del Manzano (OP) then later Fr. Nicolas Fuentes (OP) initiated building the convent in 1832 and probably supervised the completion of the church. The convent was completed during the term of Fr. Benito Sanchez Fraga (OP) who also initiated the building of the present church in 1846 that was continued by Fr. Ramon Dalmau (OP), Fr. Francisco Treserra (OP), and Fr. Pedro Villanova (OP) until it was finished in 1854. Fr. Lucio Asensio (OP), Father Gallego (OP), and Fr. Victor Herrero (OP) supervised further improvements and repairs until the late years of the 19th century.

Philippine colonial churches share common components despite their varying architectural designs. The most prominent of these and perhaps the most functional is the campanario (i.e. the bell tower or belfry). Aside from its main task of calling people to mass, the campanario also toll the hours, announce the arrival of important personages, warn of fires and enemy raids, herald significant events in the parishioners’ lives (i.e. baptisms, weddings, deaths), serve as look out posts, and used as a landmark by travelers. A variation of the campanario is the espadana which is a belfry placed on top of the pediment. The bautisterio (i.e. baptistry) is also usually at the first floor of the campanario. The location of the bautisterio towards the puerta mayor or puerta principal (i.e. main entrance) of the church symbolizes the welcoming of the newly baptized into the Christian world.

The pila (i.e. font) for the agua bendita is also located just after the puerto mayor/puerta principal at the narthex (i.e. lobby). Above is the coro (i.e. choir loft) for musicians and singers contributing to the ceremonial rituals of the mass. After the pila is the canon or tramo principal (i.e. nave) which is the central aisle leading to the apse (i.e. end of the church) where the presbiterio or sanctuario or capilla mayor (i.e. sanctuary) is located.

Many of the Philippines’ colonial churches feature a crucero (i.e. transept) which is an extension on both sides of the apse that gives a T-shape to the church. The crucero houses the capilla where the parish patron saint is kept. The altar mayor (i.e. main altar) is located at the presbiterio/sanctuario/capilla mayor with the sagrayio (i.e. tabernacle) as the centerpiece. It is also the common place for the retablos (i.e. reredo or a carved entablature over each altar table). Behind or adjoining the presbiterio/sanctuario/capilla mayor is a small room called the sacristia (i.e. sacristy) where the priest vested himself with the ornamentos (i.e. vestments) and where the vasos sagrados (i.e. sacred vessels) and alajas (i.e. precious decorations) are stored.

Usually perched along the church walls is the pulpito (i.e. pulpit) where priests delivered their sermons. It features a tornavoz (i.e. tester or sounding board) that looks like a dome or turret perched above the pulpit to magnify the priest’s voice. Also line up on the walls are the confesionarios (i.e. confessionals) and the via cruces (i.e Way of the Cross).

Attached to the church is the casa parroquial (i.e. the rectory) which have been misnamed as the convento. This is the residence of the parish priest and usually forms an L or U shape with the church. In its strict definition, a convento is actually a building where a community of nuns or monks live.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


THE ROAD WAS STILL UNPAVED, pockmarked with an infinity of potholes. Around the bend, or kurbaan as his people called it, the same plaza stood with its crude and improvised basketball court. Except for the wooden planks and beams which had grayed with years of stolid existence and now played host to varied species of fungi, everything was the same in Almaguer as he left it ten years ago.

The tricycle stopped in front of a pan-aw thatched sawali hut enclosed in a wide array of greenery. Before it, the banauang flowed placidly around a bunch of aba. Yes, there were some changes. From a crystal-clear creek that was once a haven for tilapia and ar-aro, it now reflected the polluted hue of metallic green.
“So, technology has caught up here,” he muttered as he crossed the creaking bamboo bridge. Soap suds floated lazily, indicating a laundry in progress. “There are really some changes,” he mused. “The tricycle fare is now five pesos. It was only a peso then, from pobalcion to the barrio. Ten years ago”.

A dog greeted him as he treaded the grassy pathway.

Inang, Inang! Come quick! Manong is here!”, an excited cry emanated from the hut followed by an equally excited scampering of feet. It was Etet, his younger sister. “She must be a full bloomed woman now,” he sighed.

Commotion followed. A frantic, gaunt old woman in kamison brandishing a tin ladle in one hand and a rag in another barged from the house. Following her was a tall, homely lass and an old man with dried mud flakes clinging to his sun burnt ankles. They all dashed at him and choked him with hugs, mangled his hair, wetted his checks with tears and simultaneously asked him a thousand questions.

Lunch followed, with bowls of inabraw and adobong manok and large slices of papaya. The family resumed their bombardment, giving him hard time to enjoy the sumptuous meal.

“Why only now, Guilleng? We waited for so long.”

“I was transferred to Mindanao, Inang.

“But you should have written us.”

“I’ve been too busy, Tatang. Besides, our detachment is isolated, too far away from civilization.”

“Have you fought some Muslims, Manong? I’ve hear they are cruel and ferocious.”

“Almost everyday, Etet. The place swarms with them.”

After lunch, he walked to their small bangkag to find respite from the ceaseless questions. The perantes he planted long ago were now heavily laden with yellow fruits, big as baseballs. Beside the rusting cyclone wire, the imposing old mango tree still stood. He and his brother used to rest beneath its cool shade. They would talk the afternoon away sharing their plans.

“I want to be a soldier, Manong.

“You’re still too young, Nonong.”

“I’d like to be one someday.”

Nonong did. Both of them did. Unfortunately, Nonong was killed during the Jolo campaign. His remains were severely mutilated by the rebels. The picture of his grieving father and mother flashed in his mind, and he felt sick. Reluctantly, he turned away from the memory, his heart bursting with emotion.

“How’s Iyyang, Tatang?”, he casually asked his father after returning from the backyard.

“Oh, she married Ukong five years ago. They now have five children.” His father looked at him calculatingly while rolling a cigarette.

He said nothing. He gazed at a distant hut near the kurbaan. It hurt. Iyyang promised to wait for him. Under that same old mango tree. But she married somebody else, his best friend.

A screech followed by swirling dusts caught his attention. A rundown jeep stopped in front of their hut and a muscular potbellied man in his late 20s got off. The man was waving four bottles of bilog. Its Tok.

Soldado, you finally remembered your roots!”, Tok shouted as he dashed to meet his old buddy. It was a heart warming reunion of two long-parted friends.

“Where are the rest?”, he asked.

“Roy, Ruben and Joni have joined the CAFGU. But they’ve promised they will come when they heard of your arrival. Ninoy went to the cabizera but he’ll be back tonight. And Ukong,” Tok let out a stifled laugh, “he’s really scared. Especially now that you are a soldado. He thinks he’s double-crossed you.” They both laughed aloud.
THE PLUCKING OF A GUITAR and a rich baritone voice filled the night. Bottles of bilog and cigarette butts littered the ground. Everybody was there. After these years their friendship had remained intact.
They talked about their youthful exploits, their mischief and delinquencies, their reckless adventures. They laughed when Ninoy told of Tata Tansyo’s expression after learning that they raided a portion of his rice crop the night before, or when they harvested Tata Goying’s mango fruits during a storm. And they kidded him about his record-breaking run when Iyyang’s father chased him with a bolo after catching them in a malicious act.

Then somebody stepped on a dry twig in the dark. He instinctively drew and cocked and imaginary pistol. His muscles were taut, his mind alert. Impulsively, he reached for a grenade that wasn’t there. Then he began to tremble. He waited for the unseen enemy to cut him down but it never came. His friends were shocked, their mouths agape and quizzically stared at him. And he remembered, let out a sheepish smile and continued with the jovial mood they had earlier.

He was home.

(This short story was written by someone from the past who called himself Kimat T. Amianan, and was published by the CLSU Collegian in its September-October 1991 issue. It was based on the coming home of his uncle soldier after 10 years of nothing. The accompanying illustration was drawn by Angelito Saliganan who was the publication’s artist at that time.)


In 1987, a big issue raged at the High School Department of the Nueva Vizcaya State Polytechnic College (NVSPC). One of its senior students flunked 3 major subjects and will not graduate. The problem is the same student was one of the school’s top three performers in the National College Entrance Examination. The issue is whether to reward him a medal for this achievement when he will not be joining the graduating class. In the end, there was no medal --- a scenario that will be replicated many years later in another school in nearby Nueva Ecija.

And so it was that Abet fled Almaguer to escape the wrath of Kid Buntal. He first took refuge among his cousin soldiers in Fort Magsaysay and decided to be warriors like them too. But boredom made him restless and several weeks later, Abet made his way to Lilop in Sta. Ana, Manila. One day, Abet asked his Kuya Jerry to bring him to a bus station bound for the south. Several hours later, Abet surprised Uncle Kidlat with his sudden arrival in their camp in Baanan, Magdalena, Llaguna.

Uncle Kidlat’s outfit in Baanan is the 4th GHQ Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ GHQ Brigade. It is made up of composite forces from the army, the navy, the air force, and the constabulary. While waiting to be enlisted in the army, Abet spent most of his days doing errands for the soldiers’ wives, scrounging for snails and ilocano vegetables, and weaving coconut leaves for the extension wall and roof of Uncle Kidlat’s bunkhouse. During lull moments (and there were many of those), Abet spends most of his time in a river just below the camp where he built small weirs of river stones and caught freshwater crabs by throwing left-over rice and shredded coconut meat in the water, enticing them out of their holes. Abet was a pretty good climber and on weekends, he harvest young coconuts for soldiers who will be going home. In Baanan, coconuts were harvested through bamboo sukdals and have no pangals to assist climbers. But Abet climbs them effortlessly like a spider.

Later, Uncle Kidlat brought Abet to Fort Bonifacio to prepare for his army training. But then Col. Gringo Honasan launched his coup. Abet’s training outfit got involved and was eventually dissolved. With nothing to do, he went back to Sta. Ana where Kid Buntal found him and took him back home to Almaguer.

The sleepy town of Magdalena is located in the heart of “Inner Laguna” which is the most picturesque part of the province with its rolling hills and crisscrossing crystal clear streams. It boasts of a well-preserved colonial church that features a marker at the base of the convent’s grand stairs declaring that the stains covered with a protective glass panel is the blood of Emilio Jacinto who took refuge in the church after being wounded in an skirmish with Spanish troops in the nearby barrio of Maimpis during the height of the Philippine Revolution in 1898. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria Magdalena, was built in 2 phases within a period of 16 years: from 1829 until 1839, then from 1849 to 1855. Fr. Antonio Moreno (OFM), assigned as Magdalena’s first parish priest in 1921, probably started the construction. The bell tower was later added in 1861 while the convent was built from 1871 to 1872.

If one is traveling towards Lucban in Quezon province, the next town after Magdalena following the right fork of the road (the left fork leads to Majayjay) will be Liliw. It was once called as Lilio and was established as a Franciscan visita of Nagcarlang in 1571 until 1605. Its first church was made of wood and built in 1620. A stone church --- dedicated to San Juan Bautista ---was started to be constructed in 1643 that was finished in 1646. This was seriously damaged during the 1880 earthquake and was reconstructed in 1885. The church suffered minor damages when Col. Buenaventura Dimaguila liberated Lilio during the Philippine revolution against Spain. It was again damaged by fire in 1899 during the Filipino-American War, was repaired, and later again razed by fire in 1989.

Another right turn from Liliw is the town of Nagcarlan. In 1583, Fr. Tomas de Miranda (OFM) had the first church of San Bartolome in Nagcarlang built of light materials when he was assigned there as the resident priest. Aside from his zealous missionary work, Father Miranda also pioneered the successful cultivation of wheat in the upland areas of Laguna. In 1752, Fr. Cristobal Torres (OFM) had a stone church built to replace the early makeshift parochial buildings. This was damaged by fire in 1781 and repairs were initiated by Fr. Atanacio de Argobajo (OFM) and Fr. Fernando de la Pueblo (OFM). This is probably the present church. Fr. Vicente Velloc (OFM) initiated improvements to the church in 1845. He also supervised the building of the Nagcarlan cemetery and its underground crypt that was later used by Katipuneros as a secret meeting place during the revolution in Laguna in 1896.

National Heritage Site: A Catwalk to Heaven

Turning back to Liliw towards Luisiana or Lucban is Majayjay that was first established as an encomienda in 1571. The first church in the area was built of light materials in 1573 by the Augustinians in a place called Sitio May-it. This and the next three churches were destroyed by fire: the Augustinian church in 1576, the church built in 1578 by Fr. Juan de Plasencia (OFM) after the Franciscans took over, a stone church in 1606, and its replacement in 1660. Fr. Jose de Puertollano (OFM) had the present church of San Gregorio Magno built from 1711 until 1730. A typhoon damaged the church and repairs were made between 1839 and 1848. Fr. Gregorio Platero (OFM) replaced the roof with galvanized irons in 1892. American soldiers occupied the church during the Filipino-American War. In 1899, Emilio Jacinto --- the “Brains of the Katipunan” --- died in Majayjay from the wounds that he sustained during an skirmish in the adjacent town of Magdalena. In 1912, another major repair work was conducted on the church. The church remained mostly intact and features a catwalk called langit-langitan (i.e. “heaven”) above the ceiling that lead to the bell tower. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.

On October 5 this year, retired 2Lt. Guillermo “Kidlat” Lazaro --- survivor of 27 years of war --- was side swept by a bus while on his way to buy cigarettes. He was 61 years old. He was buried with full military honors 10 days later in Almaguer.

PHOTOS (from top to bottom):
1) A monument marking the supposed bloodstains of the wounded Emilio Jacinto. The marker reads: "Dito napahimpil na may sugat ang katawan ng Hen. Emilio Jacinto ng Pebrero ng 1898 dahil sa labanan sa Maimpis, sakop ng bayang ito, laban sa mga kawal ng Pamahalaang Kastila. Ang mga dugong nakikita sa baldosa ay tunay na kanya."
 2) The site where Emilio Jacinto was wounded in Maimpis, Magdalena. The marker reads: "Sa pook na ito ng Maimpis binaril ng mga kawal ng Pamahalaang Kastila si Emilio Jacinto noong Pebrero 1898 kaugnay ng himagsikan ng Pilipinas noong 1896-1898."
3) The church of Santa Magdalena in Magdalena, Laguna.
4) The church of San Juan Bautista in Liliw, Laguna.
5) The church of San Bartolome in Nagcarlan, Laguna.
6) Entrance to the Nagcarlan underground cemetery.
7) Majayjay's church of San Gregorio Magno in Laguna.
8) The langit-langitan can be seen above the main altar of the Majayjay church.
9) Emilio Jacinto's Recuerdos de Patay in Majayjay. The practice of taking photos of the dead is common in some parts of Nueva Ecija.
10) Emilio Jacinto's grave in Majayjay. His remains were later exhumed and reinterred at the Mausoleo de Veteranos de la Revolucion then at the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park.
12) Uncle Kidlat's wake.

Emilio Jacinto's Recuerdos de Patay photo was taken from Ambet Ocampo's "Looking Back" while that of his grave is from"Kasaysay: The Story of the Filipino People".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Uncle Kidlat was born just after the war ended. He is the youngest child and was considered as the bohemian of Amang Lakay’s children. His always being in trouble made Amang Lakay decide to ask Uncle Nonong to make Uncle Kidlat into a soldado and change his ways. And so at the tender age of 16, Uncle Kidlat endured 18 months of harsh military training. He would be assigned in many places, the longest of which is Mindanao where he was in combat duty for 13 years mostly during the height of the Moro secessionist movement. He was wounded in action once and will survive 2 nephews (by Amang Lakay’s brother Andres) who were killed in action in Patikul, Jolo. Uncle Kidlat seldom went home during his active military service. Perhaps it was his protest against his lost youth. But he finally went back to Almaguer for good after 27 years with the army.

Relatives said it was alright for Uncle Kidlat to have 2 wives because he is a soldado. His first wife is Auntie Remy with he whom he was estranged. He would later live with Auntie Tess who went home with him in Almaguer after he retired. I was intrigued by the name of Auntie Tess’ hometown --- Goa in Camarines Sur --- which I first learned in elementary grade as a Portuguese colony in India that was later occupied by crack Indian troops in the 70’s. I developed an itch of wanting to go there someday and so during one trip to Bicol, I decided to satisfy my curiosity. Of course, it was just another reason to go church hunting.

My chance came when I was invited to deliver a talk at the Camarines Sur State Agricultural College in Pili. The gateway to Camarines Sur’s Partido District is Ocampo and from there, I did my visita iglesia in Tigaon then turned right to Sagnay that was recently made famous by a dead butanding. Afterwards, I went back to Tigaon for the small idyllic coastal towns of San Jose, Lagonoy, and finally Goa.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) Tigaon's CHURCH OF SANTA CLARA DE ASSISI was established as a Franciscan mission in 1794. The church was built at around 19th century.

(2) Sagnay’s CHURCH OF SAN ANDRES APOSTOL was established as a Franciscan mission in 1684. Its church was probably the last of a series of several structures built during the Spanish era.

(3) The CHURCH OF SAN JOSE was established by the Franciscans in 1816 who later built the church.

(4) Lagonoy’s CHURCH OF SAN FELIPE AND SANTIAGO was established as a Franciscan mission in 1734. The church was probably built at around the second half of the 18th century and renovated in the 19th century.

(5) Goa’s CHURCH OF SAN JUAN BAUTISTA was established as a Franciscans mission in 1777. The church was probably built in the 19th century.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The border towns of Badoc in Ilocos Norte and Sinait in Ilocos Sur are politically separated but spiritually joined together by their famous resident milagrosos: the Sto. Cristo stayed in Sinait and the La Virgen Milagrosa in Badoc where they remained enshrined since 1620.

Fr. Alonzo Alvarado (OSA) who was with the expedition of Juan de Salcedo was the first Augustinian to set foot in what is now Badoc in a settlement called Barol. In different times, the place was also called as Bagos or Barao. Its present name was derived from a plant called badoc-badoc. In 1591, the Augustinian mission in Badoc was formally established. A church was presumably built afterwards that might have been the one raided by Andres Malong between around 1660 and 1661. In 1807, the rebellious Ilocanos entrenched themselves in Badoc during the Basi Revolt. Fr. Antonio Estavillo (OSA) --- the builder of the great Paoay church --- probably initiated building the present church of San Juan Bautista in 1722. The great but tragic Filipino painter Juan Luna was baptized in the church by Fr. Sebastian Dien (OSA) on 27 October 1857. Fr. Ricardo Alfonso (OSA) had the church repaired between 1888 and 1898 after the 1885 earthquake damaged it. In 1902, all of the town’s population except three families joined their parish priest --- Fr. Mariano Espiritu --- in the newly established Aglipayan church. The church was again damaged in 1913 and 1931. A major restoration work on the church was initiated by Fr. Juan Ballesteros in 1980 but again was slightly damaged during the 1983 and 1989 earthquakes.

The first Ilocos Sur town after Ilocos Norte is Sinait --- a former encomienda of Juan de Salcedo. It was established as a pueblo in 1574 and in 1591, the Augustinians accepted it as a mission. The first church was probably built before 1620 and was later damaged by an earthquake. The place where the succeeding churches were built seems to be always exposed to fire for the churches were always burned down. This was again the case of the present church, dedicated to San Nicolas de Tolentino, that was reported to have been razed by fire in 1760 but was again rebuilt until 1822. Fr. Celestino Paniuga (OSA) had the church restored from 1889 until 1895. It was damaged by a typhoon in 1953 and was repaired by Fr. Raymundo Garcia.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) Badoc, Ilocos Norte; (2) the rebuilt Luna house near the Badoc church where reproductions of Juan Luna's paintings are displayed; (3) Sinait, Ilocos Sur.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


One of the guerilla leaders who frequently visited Amang Lakay during the war is Apong Ino, Miguel’s son and Amang Lakay’s capidua. It was Apong Ino who brought the guerillas to Amang Lakay’s house. One day, a plague of measles, small pox and typhoid fever visited Almaguer. Many children got terribly sick including Auntie Ibang. All the doctors are in the war and all the medicines are used to treat the war’s wounded so Inang Baket can only boil dangla and other leaves to ease Auntie Ibang’s pain and fever. One night, Apong Ino who is a Sabadista came to Amang Lakay’s house with a group of guerillas for their usual supper and he learned of Auntie Ibang’s condition. He asked Inang Baket to boil some water then wiped Auntie Ibang with it with a labacara. This healing technique is called pamenteysyon that Apong Ino learned from the Americanos. Auntie Ibang got well and in gratitude to Apong Ino, Amang Lakay and his whole family converted into Sabadistas.

That was how Precy, who was born before the war came to Almaguer, got her religion. A nurse called Loleng who would later become a lieutenant during the war attended to her birth and requested Amang Lakay to name the child Eufrocina. She is Amang Lakay and Inang Baket’s second child to survive. Eufrocina or Precy graduated from high school in NELA in 1957 where she was baptized as an official Sabadista by Pastor Trofino Aliga. She enrolled at Saint Mary’s College in Bayombong but it will take her thirteen long years to finish college, having to work in between so she can support her studies.

While trying to get a college degree, Precy met Kid Buntal during a Sabadista crusade in Bayombong. Kid Buntal is a member of Bambang’s copycat Pitong Gatang who never go to church, and with a lifestyle that go against the doctrine of the Sabadistas. How he got to the crusade was never told but perhaps it was the same gasat that brought Lakay Burik and Baket Leoncia, and Amang Lakay and Inang Baket together. Precy was so scared of him that she would not even shake hands after they were introduced by Pastor Geronimo Calangan. But Kid Buntal persisted and began attending the Sabadistas’ bible studies. He cut his hair and was on his way to be baptized in the dacquel nga carayan when a jeep rammed into the calesa he was riding, throwing him into the air and fracturing his leg when he landed.

They got married one year after Kid Buntal’s leg healed and was finally baptized. He was accompanied by Uncle Doming and Lolo Pulis during his pamamanhikan. It was a grand wedding on 21 April 1969 at the Bambang Seventh-day Adventist Church with 15 pairs of ninongs and ninangs. The wedding ceremony was administered by the president of the Sabadistas’ Northern Luzon Mission himself, Pastor Jeremias Medina, which is equivalent to having the bishop. Two cows were butchered for the grand padaya at Auntie Angeling’s big house. One year later and pregnant with her first child, Precy finally graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Kid Buntal supported her last year in college.

Precy had ambitions and was the most socially active among her siblings. In her lifetime, she served as a president of SAYBC (Almaguer’s youth association where the barrio’s fabled basketball team was named), became the youngest elected director of the Bambang Senior Citizens Association (it was she who introduced the song “Never Grow Old” that became the official song of Nueva Vizcaya’s senior citizens), worked as a domestic helper in Singapore, sidelined as a sales agent and a literature evangelist, and was appointed as Almaguer’s barangay secretary. That is on top of her being a missionary teacher.

As a missionary teacher, Precy will be assigned to different places where she and her family stayed in houses besides schools and churches. The earliest of these is the house in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya that is squeezed between the school and the rear of the church. There is a place nearby where big white flowers grow and where Precy’s two young sons loved to go. Precy was next assigned in Naguillian, Isabela and by this time, Kid Buntal started working as a literature evangelist. They stayed in a house a stone’s throw away from the school and the church. Every Sunday, their two sons will walk through endless swaths of tobacco fields to go swimming to a river which is actually the downstream part of the dacquel nga carayan in Almaguer. They next resided in Mapandan, Pangasinan in the other half of a concrete duplex house beside the church in front of the school; then Paniqui, Tarlac where they rented the upper part of a house after the school and beside the church.

In between these movements is Almaguer where Precy was assigned in 1978. They stayed at a dormitory behind the school and beside the church. It was her children’s first time to see the frightening Apong Ino, wearing black pants and a white sando, sitting in his rocking chair at the balcony of his big house on top of a hill beside the church. The church and school actually stands on a property that was donated by Miguel Tomas. Sometime ago, I came across a black and white photo of Kid Buntal standing along one of the terraces in front of the church during the funeral of Apong Vito --- Miguel Tomas’ wife and Apong Ino’s mother. I was fortunate to have been able to make a modern reproduction of that scene before the church was given a facelift courtesy of a donation from one of Apong Ino’s children who’s based in the United States, and just after the big flood of 2005.

Kid Buntal (standing in the middle) at the Almaguer SDA church during the funeral of Apong Vito

Kid Buntal's son in the same church 35 years later

Angels will figure prominently in Precy and Kid Buntal’s lives during these early years. Their eldest child Abet will have his first encounter with them when they moved to Lolo Porong’s farm in the barrio of Sto. Domingo in Bambang. Abet followed a flock of ducks into a deep irrigation canal and at his age, he was supposed to be swept away by the swift current and drown. But Precy said she saw Abet in the middle of the rushing water holding on to something that looked like an angel. In another incident, Uncle Doming found the second child Eric hanging with his fingertips from the balcony of the big house in Bambang. He was supposed to fall but Uncle Doming swear he saw an angel holding him. A year later, the third child Sherrie Lyn was born. She will live for three days and died on Abet’s birthday. Precy told her two sons that their sister went to heaven and became an angel.

The angels in Naguillian came when a boy named Hope who died in the mountains was brought to the Sabadista church for a one night wake. A slide presentation about the Bible was held and the pastor told Abet and Eric that Hope is now one of God’s angels. In Mapandan, the angels come on Sundays when Precy and Kid Buntal will leave the children to sell books. When they come back, they always bring pasalubongs for the children who have been angels while they are away. The angels in Paniqui are more surreal. There is a house beside the school where people come to get cured. They brought lots of eggs which the healer breaks and places in glasses of water beside a life-size white statue of the Virgin Mary. The healer will look at the eggs and write on a piece of paper words that only she can understand. Then she will wipe holy water on the sick person. And they got healed. The landlord said the lady is guided by angels.

Back in Almaguer, Kid Buntal will be reunited with his surviving Pitong Gatang buddies and will always go home late and drunk. On occasions like this, Precy will ask her children to pray with her for God to send his angels to guide their father home safely. On Abet’s 6th grade, Precy quit her teaching job. This time, they stayed in Purok Sonsona in a hut beside the two-story wooden house Auntie Angeling bought when she sold the big house in Bambang. It was their first time to live away from schools and churches. One night, Kid Buntal was brought home by a jeep, all his front teeth gone and a part of his lips hanging grotesquely from his chin. The angels are gone.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1-2) Young Precy and friends; (3) Precy as a college student at the Saint Mary's College in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya; (4) The wedding of Precy and Kid Buntal in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya; (5) The church front in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya circa 1974 and (6) circa 2005; (7) Naguillian, Isabela circa 1977 and (8) circa 2005; (9) Kid Buntal during the funeral of Apong Vito in Almaguer (10) and his son standing in the same place 35 years later.