Monday, November 06, 2006


On June 28 to July 5 of 2003, our company and its partners went to Indonesia for a study visit on the Parlemen Indonesia Untuk Kapendudukan Dan Pembangunan’s (IFPPD) family planning advocacy program. On the way to Jakarta, we had an overnight stay at Singapore’s Copthorne Orchid Hotel where we were treated by Doc Glen to a dinner of Singaporean noodles. I woke up early the next morning determined to hunt down a street called 57 Oriole Crescent. But Singapore is too big for a 2-hour exploration and we (the “Packard Boys” tagged along) turned back after reaching Singapore’s Management University.

57 Oriole Crescent is where Precy worked in Singapore in 1984 after quitting her teaching job. She left when Abet was on his first year at NELA in Alicia, Isabela where he was awarded a partial scholarship, and in abeyance of Apong Ino’s decree that all the children of Almaguer’s Sabadistas should attend high school there. He stayed at a dormitory that looks more like a military barracks with its rows of double deck beds, its dirty toilets and kitchen, and endured the school cafeteria’s daily menu of vegetarian food.

Kid Buntal brought Abet his first real shoes --- a red Adidas Hurricane and an Indian moccasin made of fake leather --- with the first money Precy sent home. Abet also had his bell bottoms bastonized with matching zippers. On weekends, he would ride a bus to Santiago to watch movies and for his favorite snack of the best pansit luglug he ever had (I tried looking for the restaurant where it was served many years later but it seemed to have closed down). This was also the year of Lolo Porong’s death in Auntie Angeling’s house in Almaguer. On his last moments, Kid Buntal ran to his deathbed shouting, “Patawarin mo ako Itay!”. They did not really have the chance at that father and son thing.

Abet planned to make it good in NELA but he carried with him the curse of Almaguer that doomed those who came before him, with him, and after him --- except Precy because she was an angel. He protested in silence when he was dropped from the school choir, and cried his failure to make it to the Dean’s List. After these setbacks, life in NELA was never the same again. Abet’s younger brother joined him in NELA a year later and, together with the children of other Sabadistas from Almaguer, they would will escape the tedious and boring Sabbath services that usually starts at Wednesday nights, then Friday nights, then the whole of Saturday until sundown. Their favorite hideaway is under the Paddad Bridge where they talk about the most beautiful girls in school, the scary Apong Ino, and the latest names they have given their teachers. Abet tasted his first liquor in NELA --- a pocket sized bottle of Andy Player Special whiskey with a pulutan of kropek. Later, Kid Buntal and their younger sister joined them in NELA. They stayed in a rented cottage with crooked posts, slatted bamboo floors, splinted bamboo walls, and a cogon roof.

Precy stayed for only one year in Singapore. She came home to Almaguer because she did not know that her whole family has moved to NELA. Abet was on an errand to Almaguer when she came looking for them in NELA. The first thing she did is to wash all the clothes and blankets. She also built a new and bigger cottage with the same crooked posts, the same slatted bamboo floors, the same splinted bamboo walls, and the same cogon roof. But she was too late for her two sons.

Abet’s rebellion started slow --- swiping a cooking oil from a neighboring cottage, then slaughtering one of the teachers’ chicken. He got caught in these two adventures. He learned to skip classes and would disappear to Roxas among Inang Baket’s relatives, or at Lolo Piryong’s law office in Santiago. His greatest moment of triumph is when he defecated in the desk of one of his teachers. He can hardly hide his glee at the school’s frenzy in trying to find the culprit. This time, he did not get caught. His last infamous act is harvesting the underwears left to dry at the Girl’s Dormitory and hanging these in the flagpole. There they wave during the next morning’s flag ceremony --- different sizes from awesome to really sexy, different colors from sensual black to fresh white to outrageous polka dots, and different brands from So-en to Triumph to fiesta baratillo. He was caught and was again sent to the aircon (i.e. the principal’s room) to face NELA’s inquisition. The whole bunch is there --- the principal, the pastors, teachers, dormitory managers, the cook and janitor, and probably even Jesus Christ. They are not smiling and they talk among themselves while Abet’s bones shake with cold. After one hour of this, they solemnly told him to go home. And so Abet left NELA as a young man and went home to Almaguer. His younger brother --- and some more from Almaguer --- will have the same fate.

The Jakarta Interlude

Apparently, Jakarta is a non-noodle eating city. But its tasty variations of nasi goreng at Pecenong Road, Nasi Goreng Kebun Sirih, or Pulan Dua were filling. We moved around a lot and never really have a chance of enjoying the city. There was of course that one-day sojourn at Bogor where we gawked at the world’s biggest and stinkiest flower and snacked on durian at a roadside fruit stand. I also had a photo taken at a Balinese temple replica at the Taman Mini Indonesia where a miniature of the fabled Burubudur is also on display. The highlight perhaps is when I was showed the prayer room of Gus Dur --- former Indonesian president who was succeeded by Megawatti Sukarnoputri --- at the Fatayat Nahdladtul ‘Ulama.

Photos (from top to bottom):
1) A dinner of noodles in Singapore;
2) Precy surrounded by violet orchid flowers at the Singapore Botanical Garden;
3) The yellow orchid flowers of Singapore’s Copthorne Orchid Hotel;
4) Rafflesia or Bunga Bangkay (very Filipino words which literally means “fruit of the dead")
the biggest flower in the world;
5) A Balinese temple replica; and
6) With Eboy at Gus Dur’s prayer room.

1 comment:

wilfredo pascual said...

your efforts to visit places where our departed loved ones had been is touching, reminds me of my own pilgrimage to pay homage to their sacred memory.

also i like the how the act of remembering hops from one memory to another in your entries; in the same manner i blog, believing that all our aspects of our life are hyperlinked.

pero kailangan ko pa rin ng tags!