Wednesday, October 04, 2006

THE OTHER CHURCH

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.

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