Bagis Mike was, in his own right, a legend of the United Ilocandia Fraternity and Sorority or UI. Abet will meet him at the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) when he joined UI as a freshman. His batch is officially called 89-B (that was Abet of Almaguer, Glenn and Joven of Aurora, and Joey of Isabela) and they were initiated in San Jose City’s Campo Cuatro (now known as Diamond Park) which Bagis Mike presided over as the Master Initiator or MI. It was pure hell for 89-B that day having to endure a “warm” welcome reception, a paddle session, palming and belting, a 30-second free-for-all frenzy, a dizzying round of mental torture, and the Indian Run finale. The initiation culminated in the UI tradition of “Sunugin ang Samar” as a symbol of the neophytes’ new life (i.e. baro nga patubo).
Initiation rites are the MI’s domain and he/she should make sure that protocols are observed. Violations are punished by a paddle hit, the number depending on the gravity of the offense. But maintaining order among sigas pumped up with adrenalin in a primordial satisfaction of dominance is a big challenge that require really tough people. And Bagis Mike is a really tough guy. He is UI’s official enforcer: he led the “dukots” and maintained the frontline during “troubles”. When there are none of those missions, he created them. Meeting a drunk Bagis Mike is like meeting the devil himself. It must be avoided as much as possible because Bagis Mike is at war with the world.
Abet never got to find the reasons for Bagis Mike’s rage but he tried to look beyond it and saw gentleness, and fear. Maybe, Bagis Mike is just trying to survive the harshness of Samtoy. And perhaps, Bagis Mike also realized this understanding from Abet because it was only him who seem to be able to come near Bagis Mike and calm down his rage. When Abet was selected as the overall supremo of the NCI (i.e. the triumvirate of UI, and the confraternities of the Samahang Ilocano or SI and the Genuine Ilocano or GI), Bagis Mike made it clear that he stands squarely behind him. It was this loyalty and support that helped Abet survive a full blown war with another fraternity, ended a long-running feud with another one, and instilled discipline among the kabagises.
One night, Bagis Mike met the enforcer of a rival fraternity and shot him. He survived but Bagis Mike was caught and jailed at the Munoz police station. When he was bailed out, Abet brought him to Oyet’s house in San Jose City to for the meantime to hide him from the “resbak”. At nights, they would climb up the roof and drink Red Horse. Mike enjoyed these moments and spent many hours gazing silently at the night sky, perhaps counting and reading his stars. He eventually jumped bail but before he left, he paid the “would-like-to-be-Mike” kabagises a visit. The message is clear: “Natayen ni Mike, madi yu tultuladen isuna. Agsingsingpet kayo.”
Bagis Mike hails from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur that was first established as the Augustinians mission of Nalbacan/Nalvacan in 1587. The town is part of the Ilocos Sur church belt and a 5-minute drive from neighboring Sta. Maria and its world heritage church. Narvacan’s first church and convent were built upon the mission’s establishment but these were destroyed by fire in 1611. Another church was presumably built that was probably where Bishop Rodrigo Cardenas and his priests were imprisoned during Malong’s Revolt of 1661. Fr. Cristobal Montero (OSA) initiated building what might be the third church in 1701. The church, made of lajo stones, was damaged by an earthquake in 1707, was rebuilt, razed with the convent by fire in 1722, probably rebuilt again, and the convent burning down again in 1829. Fr. Benito Rosendo (OSA) initiated building the bell tower in 1864. What is now the present church of Santa Lucia, Virgen y Martir, was probably the one that Fr. Jose Corugedo (OSA) had initiated to be rebuilt and enlarged in 1883. The church was damaged by American bombs during World War II and was reconstructed with assistance from the United State War Damage Commission.
Narvacan is the gateway to the province of Abra. In fact, it was Fr. Corugedo who built the road to the province that enabled the Augustinians to established the mission of Bangued in 1617, then build its first church from 1722 until 1807. In 1861, Bangued was proclaimed as the provincial capital of Abra and, in 1920, the mission was handed to the secular clergy. The church was destroyed with only the walls and the bell tower standing after American planes bombed it and the adjoining buildings that were being used as a Japanese field hospital in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1947 and proclaimed as the Cathedral of Santiago Senor in 1955.
According to Abet’s Uncle Andreng, Lolo Porong brought 3 skilled Tingguian carpenters from Abra with him when he moved to Davao. This information plus the fact that I’ve never been there put Abra in the list of places that I should be visiting someday. I finally did on 18 June 2005 just after a series of assassinations that placed the province under Task Force Abra. There were checkpoints and police in full combat gear are everywhere, supposedly to neutralize the warring political rivals and bring stability to the province. But on 16 December 2006, Abra’s Rep. Luis Bersamin, Jr. was gunned in front of the Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City and police point to Gov. Vicente Valera as the suspected mastermind. The war in Abra has escalated.
National Heritage: Tayum’s Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria
Ten minutes from Bangued is the town of Tayum where the secular clergy built a church in the 19th century that features palayok art motifs. The church is fairly intact, dramatically rising in the middle of a open field. It has been declared by the National Commission on Culture and Arts as a national heritage site. Some 15 minute farther into the interior is the town of Lagangilang, the hometown of INAFI’s Manang Ching. Its Spanish era Church of Holy Cross is still being used although the interior has been redesigned with the altar being moved in the center of the building and the main entrance in one of the nave walls.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) The UI seal at its CLSU park.
2) Bagis Mike and Abet with UI kabagises during the Open House of Ladies’ Dorm No. 2.
3) Narvacan church.
4) Bangued cathedral.
5-6) Tayum church.
7) Lagangilang church.