He was heady with that Nora Aunor thing the first time he came home. I got a bottle of Absolut Vodka for a pasalubong and he filled me in with his trip to Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur where his ancestors from the father side originated, showing me a photocopy of his great grandfather’s birth certificate written in flourishing old Spanish script. We went hiking and spelunking in Minalungao before he went back to Bangkok.
In 2003, I finally broke the jinx of being one of the few in PRRM who never got to use the “out-of-country” alibi. I was in Thailand for almost 3 weeks that year and on my first night in Bangkok, Oyet P. gave me a hurried city tour. He showed me the Temple of the Dawn and the nearby night flower market, walked through bustling Simlong Road and seedy Pat Pong, and snacked on deep fried scorpions and bamboo worms in Khaosan Road. Later on our last week in Bangkok, me and Ponga (i.e. Egay Paraguison) cooked him a dinner of sinigang na ulo ng salmon and sisig. We had Singha beer while watching his “Dara ken Lasag” family documentary and learned how the Americans bribed a little boy with candies who innocently ratted where the great Apolinario Mabini was hiding in Cuyapo. That boy is the brother of his great grandfather.
Oyet P. attended a lot of creative writing workshops after that (one is something like a loaf of bread in New York) although I thought there was no need for him to do so being the great writer that he is. Then his essay on Nora Aunor won him a Palanca grand prize. We gave him a bash and held an impromptu poetry reading in his honor at the garage of the NE Branch office. That was when he really got us going on creative non-fiction.
Oyet P.’s insistence that I can really write. Sure I am better than the average guy but I’m not that good enough to win a Palanca or earn a living writing stories. It’s safer to stick on writing those stupid reports, case studies, project proposals, and what you got. I even write love letters for a few bottles of beer.
Anyway, my odd Hispanic family name really fascinated me and decided to find out something about it someday. I did on one of those trips to Manila, taking the McArthur Highway instead of NLEX, and dropping by the Obando church. I started visiting relatives and dropping by familial places like Umingan, Cabugao, Baguio City and Manila’s Sta. Ana district. Slowly, the dots began to connect and surprising new information emerged. I was able to fill in most of the gaps from the multitude of relatives who came when our mother died in 2004. Now, I have a story.
My first blog article was posted exactly one year ago. It is a short narrative about my trip to Obando and what I’ve found there. Like my forgotten poetry and will-do-won’t-do attempt at creative non-fiction, Oyet P. inspired the blogger in me. My theme is old colonial churches because I like visiting them and their past although this is something that floored my friends being the self-declared agnostic that I am. And pansit of course for the simple reason that there must be something to break the monotony of those creepy and batty old churches.
There’s not much fan mail but the few that came blew me away. Like Manong Ben Guadiz from Colton, California whom I exchanged several interesting emails on Almaguer and NELA; book editor Cecile Pastrana from Makati who gave me the ultimate compliment of “bahagi rin ng kasaysayan ng ating bansa ang iyong mga itinatala”; and several more who either gave their encouraging compliments or were inspired to embark on their own search. So far, my cluster map has recorded more than 7,000 visits to my blog since 26 July 2006.
Being a citizen of blogsphere, I have my own blogging family. Numero Uno of course is the master and my maestro Oyet P. There’s future ex-Palanca winner, funky story teller, and just-turned-freelance Jun Lisondra who introduced me to Technorati, Picasa and other instruments of blogspace; will-be-a-nurse-and-go-to-the-states Meg Manubay of Pugad Baboy; fellow NGO worker Amy Salazar who’s the much, much better half of my Pareng Zos; haiku and tanka master Romy Halabaso of OPAPP; and shutterbug and salagubang collector Stan Cabigas.
There’s also what I called the exorcist bloggers who have the uncanny power of driving my demons away by just reading through their blogs: witty and prolific Frank Cimatu, the mysterious but insanely entertaining Maui Pacquiao and Mandaya Moore, and the intriguing Sarah Grutas.
Early this year, I linked my blog to flickr and was later gifted with a pro account. I decided to upgrade and retire my Olympus Camedia and got myself a Nikon D40. Jun Lisondra told me that my theme of churches and noodles are too limited for the stories I have to tell. Oyet P. on the other said something about finally finding my voice. After a year, this blog is changing title.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) Apo Oyet P, (2) Oyet P. and Ate Guy in New York.
(3) CHURCH OF SANTA CATALINA (ARAYAT, PAMPANGA). Arayat is named after its majestic mountain. Like the Macabebes, its people are known for their loyalty to Spain. It was accepted by the Augustinians as a mission in 1590. The first parochial buildings were made of light materials. There are no records on who built the succeeding churches including the present one. In 1706, the Chinese population of Bangabong, Carranglan, and Pantabangan were relocated to Arayat upon the orders of Governor General Domingo de Zabalbaru allegedly to prevent them from spreading their bad influence. In 1858, Fr. Jose Torres (OSA) had the present church restored. This was continued during the term of Fr. Juan Tarrero (OSA) and completed under the supervision of Fr. Urbano Beduya in 1892. Several renovations have been conducted since then.
(4) Rowen’s (of Agrarian Justice Fund) birthday pansit, (5) Pugad Baboy members (from left to right) Doro, Meg Manubay, Jun Lisondra, Zos, Lolay), (6) me playing with my new Nikon D 40.