Carmaggedon at our Precious Destination

Carmaggeddon 2

The words “bumper to bumper traffic” and “road congestion” have developed an affinity to places in the Philippines from the infamous EDSA, to Escario Street and Mango Avenue in Cebu City and Pozzorubio in Pangasinan.

It has been extended now to include Kennon Road and Loakan, as was experienced recently during the Homecoming week in Fort del Pilar. Minimum travel time from Manila to our precious destination was at least six hours extending up to ten for some, eliciting curses and bringing out the worst in a great many among us that could not wait and “counterflowed” to get up there faster.

With the alumni Corps strength estimated to be around 7,000, not counting former cadets and associate members – all being able to afford vehicles and bring them to Baguio for this annual event, it is anticipated that this will be the dreaded nightmare tradition annually, causing concerned alumni to begin thinking of alternatives to how to reconfigure Homecoming Week.

Social media was rife with postings on what to do and how it could be done, however a great many miss the entire point – the frustration can be mitigated if considerations can be made for alumni over cars going inside and outside of Fort del Pilar.

As my good friend, Cavalier Buddy Resurreccion 78 accurately pointed out several years ago, it’s all about “moving people, not vehicles”.

It’s likened to a huge volume of water that has to be pumped out of a large reservoir, using a 1/4 inch hose and expecting the reservoir to be empty in less than an hour. It’s unrealistic.

If we followed this guideline, we would have less frustration on the roads and more of the good memories to share with fellow Cavaliers both on and off the Borromeo Field during that yearly event.

Brilliant suggestions ranging from a managed pool of buses packaged for Loakan bound passengers coming from Manila for several days emerged – thus eliminating a good number of vehicles carrying only two to three passengers, and freeing some more road space.

Scheduling a bus transfer system from pickup points in Baguio to Fort del Pilar and back, and prohibiting individual vehicles – except for the guest of honor and entourage as well as organic PMA personnel will further free more road and parking space in Academy grounds.

The great ideas were discussed freely and quite a few made very good points, specially another good friend – Cavalier Proscoro “Bruce” Mundo 98, formerly of the Navy and now a consultant urban planner with excellent academic credentials – suggesting sound methods and resulting in getting dragged into the PMAAAI planning board for the Homecoming week by Cavalier Resty Aguilar 78.

Unless we are willing to make it happen, this is what we’re going to have to face every year and we’re going to continue to gripe endlessly about it. It reminds me of what my mistah, recently retired Cavalier Augusto “Jun” Marquez, Jr 84 said – if, the Baron gave the command “Pasa Masid” and I, as squad leader of the first squad, first platoon, Alfa Coy, gave a command to my squad saying “walang kilos!”, hindi maka parada ang Corps!”

That’s exactly what’s going to happen.

So let the Corps march. And not ride for hours on end, wasting fuel, generating frustration levels to the point of being dangerous.

(Photos courtesy of Cavalier Bob Yap 82, whose patience was mitigated by taking these pictures while waiting on the roads.)

Carmaggeddon 1

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The Cadet Corps Online


This week is Homecoming Week at Loakan.

Sir Dan Jimenez 77 sounded off an appeal to members of the Corps to change their profile photo to one of themselves as cadets.

The response was quick and viral. And very heartwarming. It was as if the Cadet Corps started appearing from all over and I was hearing the “attention call” faintly in the background. It was good to see my classmates, upperclassmen and underclassmen post images of themselves when their hair was shorter, their midsections trim and their uniforms immaculately pressed and shining where applicable.

All over social media, photos of the Corps in formation or otherwise started appearing, along with anecdotes of incidents that would not have been recalled had they not been recounted online.

Yet it was the old photos that rekindled the fires inside, bringing out a nostalgia that we had thought had been buried deep already.

Once again, I felt the need to brace up properly and conduct myself accordingly.

It had that effect on me as well as many of my other friends online who did so.

Where we are now is largely due to choices we made then, circumstances that influenced them and perhaps, destiny. While a great many lived out their careers in uniform, many others as well either left Loakan in civvies or hung up their uniforms much earlier.

Yet we are all the better for it.

This week in Fort Del Pilar, a great many of her sons and daughters will be riding vehicles across the plains of Luzon, hurdling the mountains of Baguio to reach their precious destination, the Philippine Military Academy. There,they will inhale the scent of fresh pine needles, walk through familiar pavement, visit old haunts, lament the destruction of the old barracks and look forward to the parades and seeing the other members of the Corps during their respective “times”.

And come back down to reality, refreshed, infused with another dose of what it felt like to be a cadet once more – when the environment was more ideal and it was possible to harbor idealistic goals.

Happy Homecoming to all the Cavaliers setting foot once again on Borromeo Field.

Academy, O hail to thee!

(Photo courtesy of Dado Enrique 83, the Class First Captain and Regimental Commander)

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Goodbye, Regis Hall.

Regis Hall

Several weeks ago, we were informed of the pending motion to demolish one of the cadet barracks buildings in Fort del Pilar, and though the news was jolting, I thought nothing much of it until there were photos posted on the ongoing demolition.

The images were quite shattering.

Regis Hall demolition guard room Erwin Luga

Regis Hall demolition 2

Regis Hall demolition 1

Regis Hall demolition 6

I never got to stay in this building during my abbreviated time spent in the Academy, but I was quite familiar with it, as I had to visit quite a number of upperclassmen before and after taps, for some unfinished business elsewhere.

Regis Hall was also where the Headquarters, Tactics Group held office, at the lower floors and if you found yourself there during office hours, the reasons were grave, for sure. Otherwise, they were neat places to hide in at night, when you didn’t want to get found.

To be sure, quite a number of adventures transpired in the rooms and hallways of this building. And many a former cadet from the classes of the 70’s onward have either frightening tales or hilarious ones of this place – from rooms to the rooftop.

And this is why the destruction of Regis Hall means a lot to it’s former inhabitants and visitors.

Regis Hall demolition 315 Erwin Luga

Regis Hall windows

While it may be true that nothing can erase the vividness of the memory of this edifice, future generations of cadets will have to content themselves with pictures and narratives of the adventures and misadventures that happened in the building that will now be replaced by another – sturdier, perhaps – with newer memories that have yet to be created.

Regis Hall will now continue to exist in the minds of those whose memories are beginning to fade, revitalized only during the small gatherings when stories are recounted and exchanged, lubricated by toxins of choice. Regis Hall will now be recalled along with the likes of other landmarks such as the Post Library, Lorenzo Hall, Central Barracks, the former quadrangle, which are forever etched into the memory banks of the Corps at that time when they were there.

Goodbye, Regis Hall. You were dreaded, longed for, a comfort, a bane and most of all, a home to a great many for at least a semester or trimester once upon a time.

You will live on in our hearts.

(Photo credits to Cavaliers Augusto “MarQ84” Marquez Jr. ’84 for the external views of the former Regis Hall, and two other Cavalier uppies and good friends for their images of what used to be a home for a great many cadets.)

Regis Hall 2

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Memories: The Boodle Bar

There are little nooks established throughout Fort Del Pilar, which most members of the Corps will cherish fondly in their memories. But one particular cranny stands out.

It’s that unofficial supply point located mostly in the laundry or trunk rooms of every cadet company, where enterprising cadets help raise resources for the company fund while enjoying a quick snack on the premises of the barracks area.

And this is the boodle bar.

Boodle bar

It is a given that all cadets, without exception, are hungry all the time. The plebes have reason to be hungry, given the mess hall pressures as well as having to exert more than the usual effort to get from one place to another.

Upperclassmen, because of the physical requirements of PE, intramurals, being members of the Corps Squads and many other reasons to exert themselves, end up being hungry as well.

So, a boodle bar per company seems like a logical addition where the hungry can avail of a quick snack immediately.

Mind you, this is the Cadet Honor code at work. No one mans the boodle bar. Prices are marked and for those short on cash, they write down what they take and the total accumulated debt for snacks are collected on payday. That’s how ideal free enterprise worked in Loakan – at least, during the time I was there.

Plebes had to have cash. Otherwise, if they were to be “listed”, there would be recriminations from other hungry and then, angry upperclassmen because of their “bravity”. (This is probably where the coined word “hangry” came from.)

The assortment of offerings varied according to the network of connections that the cadets had with the residents of Fort del Pilar. If one was friends with one of the enterprising daughters of the officers of the Acad Group, they would be fortunate enough to be supplied with cinnamon rolls or egg tarts. Others had the usual staple favorite, banana turon or banana cue. Others managed to outsource handmade sandwiches – which invited spoilage, but fortunately, more were hungry enough to devour them well before their expiry date.  For sure, there were more, but senior moments keep the memory bank fuzzy now.

Some enterprising cadets took it upon themselves to negotiate a deal with the company staff, ensuring them an income for the company fund and were able to generate accumulated modest profits in the process. The company staff saw no reason to challenge it – less work for them and the fund just kept growing.  And they had their boodles as well.

These gentlemen flourished with their business. And why not? Their marketing tactics included knocking on the doors of plebe rooms during tattoo and offering them their merchandise (authorized) and being firstclassmen, no one challenged their modus operandi.

Their efforts paid off handsomely during breaks and parades, when they had more than the usual sums to go on privilege in between practice or the official parades. But hey, that’s capitalism and free enterprise for you. Suffice it to say, these officers and gentlemen made a quick transition to retired officers and businessmen quickly.

There are many places which former members of the corps will always remember fondly. And the boodle bar ranks highly among them all.

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The Progressive Military Career (and how it usually ends these days)

(With all due respect to the true sportsman and sportswriter among us, sir Charly Holganza 78 – this is not an attempt to hijack his sportsmanlike theme in this online magazine.  This humble representation writes only to react at the observation that retirement ceremonies and testimonial parades are no longer complete without the testimonial golf game.

Hence this post.)

There used to be an inscription in the Jurado Hall, at the time when I was double timing around the area, where it said: “From these halls will come the future generals of the AFP”.

While it may be true for quite a lot of the grads, I always wondered why it was placed there instead of the foyer area of Melchor Hall, where it would have been most appropriate.

Perhaps a bit of modesty prevailed on the command to let it be displayed there, but knowing what I do now, I would have added: “And when they retire, they will become proficient golfers”.


The way it’s happened is that many a progressive military career has been capped with an obsession for the fairways, the greens and early morning flights – not the Air Force kind.

My own classmates continue to coordinate through Viber for golf gatherings in the various courses around Metro Manila on a daily basis, and many a “groufie” has to do with posing in front of the tee off areas or the putting greens in all sorts of colorful golf costume.

One would think that retirement would allow for late morning awakenings. Not so. Specially if tee of time is sometime before sunrise. The enthusiasm for the game gets them up even earlier to get there on time – by hook or by slice.

The Department of Physical Education should already begin considering the inclusion of the golf program into the sports curriculum of the cadets, knowing that they will be on the greens anyway, at a certain point in their careers. Not all, but a great many.

While plebes may be allowed to caddy or pick up stray golf balls, yearlings should be introduced to the game by learning how to drive and putt.  From what I hear, that is no easy skill set to acquire. (This humble representation only knows the game from hearsay.)

Cow year may be devoted to perfecting the drive, pitch and putt and first class year will be the introductory year to the fairways.  This is all, of course, in theory, but quite a number of bugos have already agreed that this program of instruction would be a good introduction to the game.  After all, in all likelihood, by the time that they will have enough funds to afford a set of clubs and green fees, they would be at least Captains or LtSgs already.  Unless of course, by some lucky streak, a generous benefactor would bequeathe a set of clubs to them because they don’t have room in their garages anymore for a newer set.

It will take a while before they become seriously addicted to the game and look forward to the tournaments that are held on a weekly basis in most courses.  Envelopes containing tournament tickets “considered sold” abound in offices.  And there is no shortage of takers.

Alumni week, after all, is highlighted by a tournament among the classes held in the nearby course beside Loakan. The Class of 1983 holds the greatest number of championships won for that game until trounced fairly – and rightly so! – by a class much younger.

The US based PMA groups now hold a week long sporting activity including a golf tournament among the groups – the Northeast Group, the Midwest Group, the SoCal Group, the NorCal Group and the East Coast Group. It’s a fun filled week full of laughter, a degree of competitiveness and lots of kayahizing, culminating with the awards night, where one final competition – the Karaoke competition – caps the event before dancing.

JC 2014 2JC 2014 1

But before that, the Group Champion is announced after scores are read out and the winner takes home the coveted Jurado Cup – yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as the Jurado Cup now.

JC 2014 4

So, for the sake of the future of the Cavalier community whose paths may take them there, it would already be a good thing to integrate both golf and singing into the training programs of the Cadet Corps while they are still there. It will prepare them for the future “progressive military career, which ends on the golf course and a Magic Sing competition”.

JC 2014 3

(All photos taken from the PMA Bugo Bugos Overseas Facebook Group, with thanks to the kodakers.)

N.B. I wish to acknowledge that this article was liberally laced with the use of vocabulary from Pardspeak, a language that was developed beyond the portals of Loakan.

The origin of Pardspeak is the CEO of Bernadette Gardens, in New Jersey, by way of Dumangas, IL (not Illinois), Pinamungajan, Ceb and Pinili, IN (Not Indiana). He is rumored to be the Supreme Field Marshal of the NEG as well as the company of gentlemen farmers in CONUS by way of Loakan.

HIs greatest contribution to humanity is a concoction that has developed a cult following, and surfaces from time to time during large gatherings of bugos in CONUS, such as the Jurado Cup. It is famously known as the WFPP – or Werld Famous Pards Papaitan. There are those that were fortunate enough to have had a serving that trashed reason in favor of another serving – “Damn the gout and full bowl again.”


I wish to acknowlege his indirect contribution for the use of these words, which have become a source of enjoyment by quite a lot of those that bother to read these articles.

Pards 47

Thank you, sir Pards 47.

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Desiderata: in Other Tongues

Desiderata in Other Tongues
a joint translation post
by Dan, Mel and Jim 77 and Ponswa 83

Marubdob na Kahilingan
(Desiderata, Isang malayang salin)

Humayo ka ng mapayapa sa gitna ng gulo at ingay
at huwag kalimutan ang biyaya ng katahimikan.
Hangga’t maaari ng walang pagsuko
piliting maging kaayo-ayo sa bawat nilalang.
Ipahayag mo ang iyong katotohanan ng tahimik at malinaw
at makinig ka sa iba,
kahit na ang pulpol at mangmang,
sila rin ay may mga tanging kasaysayan.
Iwasan ang mga hambog at walang pakundangan
sila’y buwisit sa sangkatauhan.

Kung ihahambing mo ang iyong sarili sa iba,
maaaring ikaw ay yumabang o mainggit
dahil parating mayroong kulang o makahihigit sa iyo.
Namnamin mo ang iyong tagumpay gayon din ang iyong mga balak.
Tustusan mo ang iyong hanapbuhay, gaano man ito kaaba,
ito ay tunay na sa iyo sa pabago-bagong ihip ng kapalaran.

Mag-ingat ka sa iyong kalakal
sapagkat ang mundo’y puno ng mandaraya.
Ngunit huwag mong pabayaang ito ay bumulag sa ‘y o sa anumang kabutihang nagkalat,
maraming tao ay nagsisikap na maabot ang tugatog ng kadakilaan,
at lahat ng lupalop ay puno ng kabayanihan.
Magpakatotoo ka. At huwag na huwag mong itatwa ang pagmamahal.
Huwag ka ring mawalan ng tiwala sa pag-ibig,
dahil sa harap ng lubos na katigangan at kawalan ng paniniwala,
ito ay tulad ng kaparangang walang katapusan.

Makinig ng mahinahon sa aral ng mga taon,
samantalang malamyang isinusuko ang mga habi ng kabataan.
Diligin ang lakas ng dibdib upang makabangon sa biglang dagok ng kapalaran.
Ngunit huwag mong pahirapan ang sarili sa mga pangamba.
Maraming takot ay dahilan ng pagod at kalungkutan.

Bagamat kailangan ang pagpupunyagi at pagpipigil,
maging mabait sa sarili.
Ikaw ay anak ng kalangitan
katulad ng mga puno at mga bituin,
ikaw ay may karapatan sa mundo.
At kahit na ang lahat ay malinaw o malabo sa iyo,
ang kalangitan ay magliliwanag para sa iyo nang dapat lamang.

Tanggapin mo ang Panginoon,
kahit sino man Siya sa iyong palagay.
At kung ano man ang iyong ginagawa at inaaasam,
sa maingay na kaguluhan ng buhay,
panatiliin ang kapayapaan sa iyong kaluluwa.

Puno man ng kabuktutan, paghihirap at naglahong pangarap
ang mundo ay napakaganda pa rin.
Magpakasaya. Magsumikap na lumigaya.

“The greatest failure is that never attempted.”
C-3609 ’77 Bravo

For those from the land of hard tongue, my Bisdak take on Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata (with my sincere apologies):

“Paglakaw ug malinawon sa taliwa sa kasaba ug pagdali ug hinumdumi ang kalinaw anaa sa kahilom.

Kutob sa mahimo na walay paghunong sa pagsukol paningkamota na maayo ang imong relasyon sa tanan mga tawo.

Pagsulti sa imong kamatu-oran sa hilom ug tin-aw, ug paminaw sa uban bisan mga bogo ug walay alamag; kay sila pud, naa’y ilang istorya.

Likayi ang mga agresibo ug mga saba-an nga tawo, sila ang makapalagot sa espiritu. Kung itandi nimo ang imong kaugalingon sa uban, mahimo ka ug hambogero o pait.

Kay sa kanunay, adunay tawo na mas maayo o mas ubos sa imong kaugalingon. Pagtagbaw sa imong mga kalampusan ingon man sa imong mga plano.

Padayong interesado sa imong panginabuhi,bisan mapainubsanon; kini mao ang usa ka tinuod nga mapanag-iya diha sa pag usab-usab sa kahimtangan sa panahon.

Pag amping sa mga kalihokan sa negosyo; kay daghang mangingilad sa kalibutan. Apan ayaw pag piyong sa mga hiyas nga aduna; daghan nga mga tawo nga naningkamot alang sa taas nga mga sumbanan; ug sa bisan asa. ang kinabuhi puno sa kabayanihon.

Ayaw usba ang imong kaugalingon. Ilabi na, dili magpakaaron-ingnon.

Ayaw magsipala tungod sa gugma, Tungod sa nawad-an sa kahamugaway ug pagkalibog, kini kanunay nga adunahan sama sa sagbot.

Gamita ang tambag sa katuigan, ug sa maanyag nga paagi, buhi-i ang mga butang sa pagkabatan-on. Pag-amuma sa kalig-on sa espiritu aron sa pagpanalipod kanimo sa kalit nga katalagman.

Ayaw kabalaka ang imong kaugalingon sa mga hunahuna. Daghang mga kahadlok ang natawo sa kakapoy ug kamingaw. Lapas sa maayo nga disciplina, magmalumo ka sa imong kaugalingon.

Anak ka sa uniberso, dili mas ubos sa mga kahoy ug mga bitu-on. Aduna ka’y katungod nga ma anhi diri. Ug bisan klaro o dili kanimo, walay duhaduha, ga abli ang uniberso sa paagi nga kinahanglan.

Busa, magmalinawon ta uban sa Diyos, bisan unsa ang imong hunahuna mahitungod kaniya. Ug bisan unsa ang imong paghago ug nga pangandoy, sa pagkasaba ug pagkagubot sa kinabuhi, bantayi ang kalinaw sa imong kalag.

Uban sa tanan nga kaulaw, kabudlay ug mga nangaguba na damgo, nindot ra gihapon ug matahum ang kalibutan.


Paningkamot nga magmalipayon.”

Ponswa 83
Hawk Coy


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The Social life of the Corps

In the life of a young adult, socials are an activity to look forward to, and cadets are no different in that respect.

And this is why a “hop” is a major highlight in a cadet’s three year tenure (Plebes are not allowed this privilege until they take a step upward as upperclassmen).

You would think that a cadet hop was nothing more than a party. Think again. Cadet hops are more formal, and though it would appear to be more stiff, by comparison, it could be quite fun and memorable – specially for those couples whose journeys began with these events.

Cadet Hop 1939

(From the album of Cavalier Liberato Picar ’40, RIP)

The cadet hops are usually held in the mess hall, appropriately rearranged to accommodate a more lively three to four hour engagement, allowing cadets to mingle with visitors of the opposite sex. (* note that my limited exposure only allowed for the experiences of male cadets at that time. With the Corps being co-ed already, the culture is vastly different.)

Should the affair be held elsewhere, the same rules apply. Invitations are issued in advance, and should the hop be in Baguio, cadets were normally allowed to escort their “drags” or dates from their houses or wherever they were staying to the hop venue, and afterwards, they could escort them back. Whatever happened along the way is none of our business, but theirs.

These affairs were comparatively stiff, by regular standards. A “hands off policy” applied and cadets were always at their straight, braced up form – which impressed the ladies no end.

This of course, was not applicable when the music turned their feet to dancing. And a lot of them danced. As the night waned, the music took on a slower pace and there was a major increase of occupants on the dance floor – including tactical officers, with their watchful eyes monitoring the distance between dancers.

What a lot of people do not know is that there was a unit assignment of gentlemen that were tasked to be equal opportunity “entertainers” to visitors without drags. These cadets approached every lady, regardless of height, orientation, persuasion, or form. They were there to make sure that their time at the hop would not be one that they would regret going to.

And many a friendship began with this intended gesture or manuever. Some even took it a bit further. At any rate, these gentlemen are to be saluted for doing the Academy proud and leaving a good memory in the minds of these female visitors, who would have otherwise ended up being wall flowers.

I have no idea what happens now, with the female cadets.

During the recent visit of the Class of 2019 to Cebu, a hop was put together to allow cadets to mingle with the young adults of their age and allow the locals to see what cadets are like, up close and personal. Needless to say, it was a successful affair and we laud the officers of Central Command, which spearheaded this initiative and the Cebu Squad families for supporting them.

Cadet Hop

I am grateful for the use of the photo of Cav Dice Dignadice 00 of this hop – he was a foster father to several cadets and they all had a memorable time with him and his family.

One last thing – the hop usually ends with “Kaydet Girl” as the last song to be played and tradition mandates that the cadet dancing with the drag has the right to demand one kiss for the privilege of dancing. How this applies to the female cadets and “dragons”, I have absolutely no idea.

Times have changed things, indeed. But not the need to meet and mingle. May there be more of these engagements, and not necessarily entangled ones.

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Hotdarn, spirits and spirituality

Baguio has gained prominence as a destination for spiritual activities. It is home to various religious institutions for study, retreat and education.

While our precious destination in Loakan may not qualify as a religious institution in the conventional sense, there exists a profound “religiosity” among the members, most specially when dealing with contraband items such as “hot darn”.


“Hot darn”, as all who passed through the portals of Loakan know, is the informal term that is used to refer to anything intoxicating enough to warrant a class 1 slug, if caught. Many a cadet, caught with the said liquids in his possession, were turned back or dismissed because of them. Yet, the practice of “spiriting” these liquids into the barracks for occasional (though very quick) consumption continues.

A Witful uppie of the 60’s generation recalls that liquor was authorized for consumption during formal occasions with officers present. Presumably, this was so, because the cadets had to learn how to handle themselves with these spirits. Unfortunately, the practice was discontinued – and the cadets (ex cadets and alumni included) still don’t know how to handle themselves.

Fortunately, this is so – with or without inebriation.

The debate continues to go on beyond the gates of Fort del Pilar – considering the merits and demerits caused by prohibition of the use and misuse of these liquids. Whether or not they will be advantageous to the snappity of the Corps will have to be a matter to be discussed over a drink or two.

Spiritual activity, though has not been limited to liquid form. There was once, when the class of 1979 caused a stir for their own kind of “spiritual activity” – and this one involved a glass, but no liquids.

The question and answer portion that spread faster than “balitang sink” reached the intelligence groups and this eventually forced the transfer of their graduation rites to the now destroyed (by an earthquake) Baguio Convention Center. True or not, the Class of 79 will always remember having graduated from there instead of the traditional rite held at the Borromeo Field.

On the other hand, there is the very elating narrative of the PMA Christian Fellowship, which is currently being shepherded by no less than an alumnus, a good friend and kabayan, Cavalier Erwin Luga 82.

The congregation has flourished since they started as a small bible study and prayer group with a few officers and cadets. These days, they meet in a larger venue and are open to everyone in the area wanting to worship along with them during Sundays.

The PMACF also conducts their own activity during Alumni week, welcoming former attendees – former cadets and alumni and friends, and for a small contribution, are welcome to enjoy pizza along with their catch up conversations with those present.

This is one development that I wished I had when I was a cadet – the chance to nurture my own spiritual transformation and development, and help those that needed nurturing alongside the rigorous and punishing training that is only available in the Academy.

Yes, the halls in Loakan are hallowed ground as well. But may they always be – for the right reasons.

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The much misconstrued Boodlefight

Even the Inquirer attempted a definition.

“The Urban Dictionary defines “boodle fight” as “a military style of eating,” in which food, piled on top of banana leaves laid out on long tables, is to be taken with bare hands washed with water from jugs prepared on the side, which “eating combat” begins when the signal is given.

The dictionary adds, rather jocularly, that this is “Philippine fine dining,” in which everyone has to eat fast and can have his fill.

Source here:

This was contributed by a friend, the good Judge Simeon Dumdum from Cebu.

There are quite a few restaurants that have begun to offer their food in such a fashion, and it amuses many a bugo no end when they see people partake of the food awkwardly because they know only too well what kind of activity this really does entail.

When my classmate, the good general Noli Orense, was lamenting the matter of proprietarial considerations, I was inspired enough to look into the etymology of this tradition of the Corps, it’s origins and how it evolved since.

As with most terms that were incorporated into the Corps language, “boodle” has it’s origins in the depression era language of the West Point cadet corps of the time. From what I hear, the term is no longer in use in Hudson High, but lives on in Loakan and beyond her portals.

“Boodle” was a term used by gangs in New York at that time, and it meant money, stash, contraband, stolen goods and at times, prohibition outlawed alcohol and drugs.

The West Point cadets appropriated the term for themselves, and when some of their graduates were assigned to train the cadets of what used to be the Philippine Constabulary Academy, the term was absorbed into the culture.

From then on, it evolved and became associated with food consumed outside the mess hall by the perpetually hungry cadets until one brilliant soul decided to put together a small feast of paper bags of what used to be steaming rice, a can of sardines, all dumped on a sheet of newspaper – to be consumed by available hungry cadets lucky enough to be in the area at the prompting of one, shouting “Booodlefight!!”.

Class 81 boodlefight demo

(Class 81 boodlefight demo during class, courtesy of LtGen Alan R. Luga (ret.))

Then, the fracas begins.

Everyone, regardless of class distinctions jumps in for a fistful of food – some accompanied by bits of newspaper – and mouthed as soon as possible, to make room for another fistful, if one was fortunate enough to get another.

To be sure, elbows and sometimes fists missed the boodle mountain and landed elsewhere.

Intentional or not, this was considered to be part of the fun. Woe betide you if the target for the “hit” was an upperclassman and if he saw who aimed it at him. Inadvertently or not.

To make things even more exciting, these non culinary events were held in company trunk rooms and lights were purposely turned off before the boodlefight call was shouted. This made for more “hits” and you can be sure they weren’t misses.

The key element to the success of these small “celebrations” was an appetite honed sharper by continuous physical activity such as road runs, PE classes and athletics. This is why cadets were always hungry. Plebes, even more so.

And there was never a shortage for a cause for celebration: birthdays, company victories, or any other reason – all one had to do was to order a few plebes to ferret out paper bags of steamed rice out of the mess hall and have a can or two of sardines handy.

After study period, a quick prep of the mess to be was engineered – and those in the know began to hang around the trunk room area, eager for the sweet call of “boodlefight” to be shouted out. And quicker than a jump from a C-130, everyone fell into the mess, willingly.

This is why, when “boodlefights” are held to commemorate a victory or an achievement by a unit, knowing former cadets smile wryly. Because they know how different the nature of their boodlefight is from what they know to be the real thing.

Matikas boodlefight at CentCom

(A more “civilized” boodlefight, held at Central Command, by Matikas Class 83 classmates and families to commemorate someone’s visit. The food was delicious and the fun was hilarious.)

It used to be that when Cavaliers, former cadets and retired alumni gathered together, they initially attempted to capture the spirit of the boodlefight during the mealtime of the affair. But alas, they could not. After the first few handfuls, everyone began to fill up rather quickly and the food would still be plentiful.

These days, plates and a buffet style of serving has become more de rigeur. And the boodlefight consigned to a memory.

But, there are still some times when some of these friends from the Corps decide to eat together and get a can or two of sardines and, well, you know the drill.

Just for the taste of it. Once again.

Bon appetit, ladies and gentlemen of the Corps.

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Seasons, Cycles and Summer

Summer is finally here. Preparations are under way for the annual Southern Cruise – which by the way, will now be using two PAF C 130’s instead of Navy ships. How’s that for modernization?

The Cebu Squad is now coordinating with CentCom to prepare for assisting the Class of 2019 for their brief visit to Cebu City.

The new graduates/officers are enjoying their brief lull before reporting for basic training in their respective branches of service training centers.

The Academy is inundated with tourists and visitors once again, and you hear the ever familiar “Cadet, cadet…pa picture sana kami, kasama ka”.

In this age of selfies and smart phones, it’s more time consuming then ever. It’s not just one pose, but a series of poses – because one group usually has at least two smart phones.

You get the picture.

This can actually extend to unscheduled “escorting” around the Academy grounds until the cadet is threatened with a report for “escorting in improper uniform” and has to return to barracks to change into privilege uniform (dress gray pants) or stay there – because he is not authorized to do any escorting due to deficiencies.

But now, before that happens, there’s a quick exchange of mobile phone numbers.

The new connectivity.

And yes, last April 1, the Class of 2021 was formally received for Summer Camp training at the Borromeo Field.

A whole new season and cycle has just begun. Again.

Class 2021 Summer Camp

(Photo courtesy of 2Lt Rinze Marrion Eviota of Class 2017, AOC, HTG, PMA)

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These I Remember

Bae and I were planting seeds. She was digging the hole, I was dropping two seeds per hole. Once I dropped three seeds and tried to recover the extra one. Then came the hoe almost severing my middle finger. I never seen her cry so hard. I miss her.

It was one of the longest afternoons. I left Camambugan to study in the city. I would be staying with my paternal grandparents until my family got settled. The train ride took my father, my brother and I from the province’s sunlight to the city’s darkness. I was too young to leave home but old enough to pursue who I wanted to be. The wages of life.

It was my graduation from elementary school. I was an honor student. I should wear a tie, a long sleeved shirt with cuff links. My cuff links were not a pair. My father said, no one will notice. The emcee called my name, I went up the stage and my father pinned me my medal. All I could think of was that my cuff links did not match.

High school was a test. No, correct that. High school was an agony. Four years could not have gone quick enough. Zits covered my face prompting classmates to call me “buwan”. I had four friends. When everyone was steady dating, I was at the market helping out so I could continue to go to school. Graduation relegated me to the last honorable mention even if my grades proved otherwise. Leading a student walk out one afternoon did that. The only satisfaction was my being awarded the best writer in English and Pilipino. My shining achievement. The one I really cared about.

I just won the 2nd Prize in the Tula category of the Rector’s Literary Contest. One of my Engineering Course professors called me to her office and congratulated me. She also questioned if I am in the right course. I did not know. Never received the award, whatever it was. I reported to the Philippine Military Academy April 1st, 1973. Some awards, I was bound not to receive, deserving or not.

She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw. A refreshing sight in a sweltering afternoon. “Midnight Rainbows for Marilou” started the courtship I still enjoy up to now. A courtship, I will pursue to the very end.Thank you for looking my way.

That December day was for tears. She left with all the uncertainties of the future with a promise I cast to the wind. Only God knew. It was only God I could entrust my fate to. To suffer but not to forget. To long but never to give up. In the darkest of nights, there would be the lonely star to keep the hope. Until one day, she came back. I was alive again.

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A Bright New Day for Philippine Sports


After an eternity of ineptitude and dismal performances, Philippine Sports is given a reprieve. For 13 years, Peping Cojuangco had ruled ruthlessly over Philippine Sports, tinkering with it the way he pleased, treating it the way a spoiled brat would abuse an unwanted personal toy. As President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), he wielded the power to make or unmake athletes and sports associations. Sadly, his reign would be riddled with charges of corruption, favoritism, manipulation and incompetence. Last Friday, February 23, in an election forced on the POC by a Pasig court ruling, the amiable Boxing head, Ricky Vargas, finally ended Peping’s inglorious reign of terror. Athletes and sports lovers of the country are rejoicing. For today is the start of a new era for Philippine sports.


A fresh new start for Philippine Sports!!! (Inquirer)

We were proud champions in the South East Asian (SEA) Games in 2005, the year Cojuangco took over the reins of the POC. From that much-acclaimed position, Peping would lead the Philippines to its darkest, most difficult, most disappointing times, freefalling to 6th place in the next Games in 2007. By 2013, we would garner the lowest position ever in the regional event, landing a pitiful 7th in Myanmar. The list of dismal performances goes on and on, but surprisingly, Peping would be able to survive these nightmares. Until yesterday.


Let’s rally behind our new set of sports leaders and our athletes. (Inquirer)

Speaking for the first time as POC President, Ricky Vargas talked wisely about reconciliation and making changes for the athletes. During Peping’s time, sports had become very divisive and controversial. Many National Sports Associations (NSAs) had 2 organizations; one propped up by Peping and the other vehemently anti-Peping. Much energy was wasted on the negativity and the political struggles, as opposed to the actual action in the sporting arenas. Much of the resources were funneled to questionable activities administered by the ‘old boys club’ identified with Peping. Many athletes simply retired or migrated, in disgust over the clear mishandling of Philippine sports. Even the selection of the Philippine representative to the International Olympic Committee was mired in controversy with Peping’s daughter, Mikee, taking the post after the retirement of Frank Elizalde. Ricky’s present task then will be challenging, as he deals with a sports leadership that used to be nothing but Peping’s virtual rubber stamp.


Going for Gold!!! (3 Golden Smiles)

But this fresh start is precisely what the country needs. The clamor is for a leadership change that will pave the way to the dismantling of Peping’s Mafia in Philippine Sports. The need is for a sports leadership that will be focused on the athletes’ development, and not on protecting turfs and on perpetuating the leaders’ stay in power. The demand of the times is for patriotic and dynamic action, youthful vigor and modern methodologies to replace our antiquated systems which were run by senior citizens with their senior moments.

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32 years have passed. Memories have dimmed, characters have disappeared, causes have blurred, even doubts have surfaced. EDSA not only changed the Philippines. It changed the world. But perspectives are as permanent as the shifting sand, always at the mercy of the waves, the wind and the currents.

Rex Robles was RAM’S spokesman and media conduit. From beginning until the end, he was in the thick of it all. Here are eleven questions, snippets if you will, of once upon a time.

Edsa Memories

1. Thirty two years after People Power 1, what memory stands out the most, what memory you will like to remember the most and what memory you really will like to forget?

The civilians standing up to the tanks. I have an account in Bulletin Today (probably out by feb 21 or thereabouts).

I will remember the most our meeting with PFM (read BT article).

Everything is good to remember. Part of my life’s tapestry..

2. What is your role in EDSA? Greg Honasan? Boy Turingan? Red Kapunan?

Mainly as spokesman. Propagandist if you will. I tried to give RAM a unique face. I coordinated with diverse groups in media and study groups (Asia Society) and think tanks (Hudson Institute). Military attaches (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Korea). Met with bipartisan committee from US Congress. National Public Radio, who gave me a number to call in case I needed to broadcast anything about our reform efforts.

In depth background with regional Bureau Chiefs: Time (Sandra Burton, Bob Stewart} Newsweek (Melinda Liu}, Far Eastern Economic Review (Rodney |Tasker, who developed an escape plan for me from my detention cell at the Phil Navy HQS Roxas Blvd). Connections with Pentagon desk (Mary Tai), Col William”Bill” White, of East Asian Affairs and low level desk people who were contacted in person by Ltjg Alex Pama. (We used a conference in Argentina to mask a detour to Washington.} These “low level” deskmen were key to presenting a clear image of the RAM to US top brass all the way up to Reagan.

Local news editors, Letty Magsanoc (Inquirer), Max Soliven (Star), Ninez Olivares,(Tribune). Young fledgling reporters (Jessica Soho, Jarius Bondoc, a gaggle of woman writers (Shielah Coronel, Glenda Gloria….}Makati Business Club; Opus Dei,

For my role in Edsa, read my BT account.

The acknowledged leader of RAM was Col Tirso Gador {‘66} until he died in a training exercise a few months after.

Greg and Red were a team. Greg was tactical commander and Red handled intelligence. Tthey planned to breach the palace together. Red monitored radio transmissions about vote manipulation to the Comelec computer managers at the PICC which led to the famous walk-out by operators led by Red’s wife, Linda.

Greg and Boy Turingan (overall Chief of Staff) were the organizers with Boy T doing a yeoman’s job keeping things in order, to include finance and logistics. We were getting high powered firearms and other weaponry from Israel, Singapore and UK (————————-). Friends from Hongkong provided us with scramblers for our radios.

3. Who hatched the idea of a military take over against Marcos?

The plan was not for a military take over. It was to enter the palace, take custody of the President, and announce the takeover by a Transition Committee preparatory to an election. Members of the Committee would not be allowed to run for any public office. This was explained to Peping Cojouangco and Ramon Mitra in a meeting a few says before Edsa.

4. What is your opinion of Enrile’s memoirs?

JPE’s Memoirs was controversial in the part where he describes the ambush of his convoy. I was out of the country when this happened. I was an advanced Mechanical Engineering student at the US Naval Postgraduate School, graduating in mid 1974. I asked Tirso about it since he was duty adc when the ambush occurred. The portion of the vehicle where Enrile was supposed to be sitting was peppered with bullets. Tirso was sitting in front and the driver described themselves as deathly scared. (Putlang putla daw si Tirso, who sustained minor scratches}.As security precaution, Enrile was that day riding in another vehicle in the convoy.

I think what happened was SND’s men were anticipating an attack. Because days before, DND security led by Greg and Tirso staged a commando raid on the lair of an assassination squad earlier identified by AFP intelligence. The whole team was wiped out. Before that, there had been a bitter exchange beween Imelda and JPE at a palace meeting. Afterward, PFM called Enrile aside and warned him to be careful because “some groups” were out to get him.

My take is that during the press con at DND where Enrile and Ramos declared their withdrawal of loyalty to the president, Enrile decided to throw in the story of a staged assassination to bolster his case, but this version later worked against him.

But that’s only me.

The rest of the memoirs makes for fascinating reading. Nelson Navarro, who spent months cloistered in Menado, Indonesia to edit the book told me that he must have taken out at least 30% of what the author actually wrote.

5. In the aftermath of RAM, what went right, what went wrong?

RAM did not agree that the site of Cory’s swearing in would be club Filipino. They preferred the DND ceremonial hall where the withdrawal by JPE and Ramos was announced. Enrile himself vetoed this suggestion, saying that Cory would sooner or later need their help, anyway. But pursuing their own plans, Cory’s advisers had her ignoring the pledge of power sharing with Doy Laurel and the prior agreement to form a transition council. The blunder was to allow Cory and her clever minions to have their way.

6. Considering everything that has transpired from the day Marcos was toppled to the election of Duterte, will you do it again?

#6 is a leading question. The takeover of the yellow horde caused the country to march back into a marcos era without marcos but with the new elite gradually consolidating power without regard for the country’s welfare. From hind sight the military should just have allowed the country to learn its bitter lessons. If I had to do it again, it is to do it with people who would go right ahead and execute a takeover. Then if we fail, even after initial successes, then we really have only ourselves to blame.

But I always was an advocate of non-intervention. I agreed to join RAM on naïve notion that if we can force Marcos to step down, that would facilitate the entry of legitimate civilian groups and restore a democratic regime.

7. The opposition is pushing for another EDSA to get Duterte out of office, do the circumstances warrant such? Having participated in the successful overthrow of Marcos, what will you say to those who desire so?

The push for another Edsa is a pipe dream, pursued by those who enjoyed their halcyon years of unbridled stealing. Edsa was unique in its circumstances (please read the BT article).

8. What do you think of Marcos’ burial at LNMB and how the people’s perception of his presidency has moved from despicable to admirable?

The burial was just and proper for an erstwhile commander in chief. The swing in attitude for some is caused by the total mishandling of the issue by the yellow horde. They overplayed their hand and are consequently forced to defend a weak position.

9. How will history remember Rex Robles? How does Rex Robles want to be remembered?

History has eyes that can only see the past, but at the right distance. There comes a time when the focus becomes clear. Even only 60, 70 years from now, I don’t expect or hope to be remembered. I am not big at leaving footprints in the sand. Only to live life as best as I can, being of help to some, maybe, and a joy or inspiration(?} to my grandchildren whom I totally adore.

10. Who of the characters of EDSA will you still stand with after all these years? And who will stand with you still?

I have weekly breakfast meetings with Ram old guards, Felix Turingan, Jake Malajacan, and other septuagenarians. I look forward to those meetings and relish the time with them like an old fogey should. I stand by them.

11. What advice do you have for those who will like to change the world?

There is a saying, If you always aspire to do a lot, you may end up doing nothing. Be satisfied with the small successes and don’t forget about love. It is a blessing that we should all share.

If you plan to post this, please use discretion. I try not to talk too much about certain things, but sometimes that cannot be helped because of the need to make people understand. The relationship with the US is a sensitive area for me. Especially after Stanley Karnow made Edsa look like a brilliant US success in his book “in Our Image”. He spent several hours interviewing me and a dozen U-matic tapes. But he largely downplayed the role of the military (read his summary of events at the end of the book).

Rex’s narrative in Manila Bulletin :…/i-was-an-eyewitness-to-this-dramat……/ram-leaders-meet-president-marcos…/


We are now practically a generation away from that uniquely Filipino event known as the EDSA Revolution, and yet invariably, memories come flooding back as naturally as the ocean tide on a warm summer evening.
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I’m Back!!!

Hello there, sports fans!!! After a month’s hiatus, I’m back! Like the sun after the dark of night, I’m back. Like a wave after the ebbing tide, I’m back! Like Gen Douglas McArthur wading to the shores of Leyte, I’m back! Like a plebe ordered by his upperclassman to resign, hell, no, sir! I AM BACK!!!


I’m Back!!! Ay, apo, andito na ko!!!

And what a great time to be back! Late last year, we witnessed the glitz and glam of the UAAP cheerdance competition. We ooohed and we aaahed at the non-stop drama as Ateneo emerged as the UAAP men’s basketball champions. We marveled at the shocking San Beda upset win for the NCAA cage crown. We cried for joy at the 2-win streak of the latest edition of the Gilas Team. We got our almost daily dose of unpredictable NBA action. And we gave a collective sigh of relief as the PBA teams finally got their acts together. And yes, there seems to be some development in regard the move to oust Peping Cojuangco from the POC!!! Indeed, the sports gods have been kind enough to favor us couch potatoes with a feast of tricks and treats to whet our insatiable sports appetite. Bon a petit!

The changing of the guards at the UAAP cheerdance competition was unexpected. The National University juggernaut had dominated for the past 4 years; and they were gunning for a golden opportunity to tie UST’s unequalled string of 5 spectacular championships from 2002 to 2006. That said, the NU Pep Squad came ready to shock-and-awe as the first presentor at the full house MOA Arena.


As always, the UAAP Cheerdance Competition is a great crowd-drawer. (ABS-CBN)

But the jinx of the first performer seemed to have cast a spell on the erstwhile-invincible troupe. From dauntless to doubtful, the NU performance tumbled with a spate of errors. From masters to mere mortals, they meekly exited the mat. Giving the rest of the teams the confidence and the audacity to perform with wild abandon. Unheralded Adamson, whose best finish by far was last year’s 3rd place finish, joins the prestigious ranks of UAAP Cheerdance champions.


A first-win ever for Adamson. (Arvin Lim)

Then, we feasted over the much-ballyhooed UAAP men’s basketball finals between arch-rivals Ateneo and La Salle. Indeed, it was a treat not for the faint of hearts. It was Ateneo’s system against La Salle’s mayhem. For foreign flavor, it was Ateneo’s Baldwin against La Salle’s M’Bala, It was the blue sky against the green forest. The crowd was loud, and the cheering merry. In the end, Ateneo got the crown, while La Salle could only frown.


Ateneo celebrates after finally copping the UAAP Basketball crown. (Inquirer)

And we still hadn’t had enough. In the rival NCAA cage league, a rampaging Lyceum quintet, unbeaten for 18 games in the elimination round, found themselves facing the grizzled champs, San Beda, for the title. Needing just 1 more win to clinch a glorious season, the Lyceum Pirates found themselves banged, bamboozled and badly beaten. The San Beda Red Lions, proud champs in 10 of the last 12 championships, banked on their championship experience and a solid defense to etch out a monumental drama-of-an-upset. From cheers to tears, the Lyceum Pirates simply unraveled. For the Red Lions, it was steady pacing, patiently learning and peaking just right on time for the games that really mattered.


San Beda displayed the mettle of champions, coming from behind to beat a heavily-favored Lyceum squad. (Inquirer)

The newest edition of the Pilipinas Gilas scored 2 dazzling wins over Japan and Taipei to land in a tie with favored Australia in the ongoing Fiba World Cup Asia qualifier. After an inglorious run in Beirut where the team got blown out embarrassingly by South Korea, the twin wins are an encouraging morale booster for the country. Here’s hoping that the year 2018 gives Gilas the right breaks.

FIBA Gilas Pilipinas vs Chinese Taipei

Jason Castro led the Gilas Team to 2 coveted wins in the ongoing FIBA Eliminationion Round. (Rappler)

The PBA season is underway. It is hoped that the snaffu that led ultimately to Commissioner Chito Narvasa’s unceremonious resignation will simmer down quickly. Indeed, it was a tumultuous off-season for the PBA, after Narvasa approved what was clearly a one-sided trade for prized rookie Christian Stanhardinger. But there are new players and new alignments that make this season quite interesting. Despite the brouhaha, we just have to move on, folks.

And finally, in the wonderful world that is the NBA. There is never a dull moment, what with the new format for the All Star Game this week, and the mammoth overhaul of the Cavs’ line-up after a spate of losses early this year.

For the All Star Game this weekend, Lebron James and Steph Curry were named the 2 All Star Game captains in the new format after getting the most votes in their respective conferences. And – using ordinary pick-up style gym match-ups – the 2 captains get to choose who they want to play with in their respective teams. This refreshing format will see exciting new line-ups where fans’ conference loyalties are thrown out the window.


Going back to the regular season, the merry mix-up of marquee players, plus the arrival of this latest batch of upstart rookies, makes for more excitement. There is unpredictability, there is great innovation, there is dazzling speed and fearsome flight in every game they play.

And so, to my fellow couch potatoes, there is so much for us to look forward to this year. So bring out your popcorn and pour out the beer. Bring out the pompoms, the bullhorns, the gear. Keep the folks happy, so they won’t mind your mess. Make yourself comfortable, and don’t mind the rest. For the best is yet to come. And yes, you do have fresh batteries for the remote, do you?

Don’t you dare change the channel!!! (Pinterest)
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Ghosts of My Christmas Pasts

There is something in the cold, in the shortened days, in the long clear star-studded nights that makes one remember the fallen leaves of the past. In all the merriment of the coming Christmas and the anticipation of the new year, to look back seems not only natural, it is a reverent tribute to what can be no more. So the mind wanders before it forgets, the heart poignantly cradles before it discards. Ten days before Christmas, the ghosts haunt again.

1. We live time according to stages. In infancy, minutes if not seconds dictate what must be done. Feed the baby, change the diaper, put him to sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then days come with schools and play dates. Not too long, the teen age years of awakening and self actualization bring forth the new person. Then he goes away to college and comes back on breaks, changing each time to be on his own. Then one day he graduates, finds a job and seasons pass for holidays to dictate that yes, it is time to visit home. If only for a while.

2. December 24th was always the busiest time at the market.It was also the time I would gather my brothers so we could spend Christmas eve with my parents and the rest of my younger siblings. The jeepney ride would take over an hour with sleepy commuters hauling their Christmas presents while carols tried to give meaning to Jesus’ birth. Christmas was not easy on the poor. The stark difference of haves and have-nots was glaringly more unmerciful. It was a realization that the past never buried, that the hurt never forgot. Tears flowed freely on Christmas days.

(5 days to go)

3. The letter was waiting when I got home Christmas eve. It was supposed to break the silence and to bridge the distance. Most, it was to keep the hope alive. Uncertainty and doubts had reduced the fire to dying embers. I did not have to read the words to know the contents. Jesus was born on Christmas Day to give hope, to offer salvation, to give peace, to affirm love. I had always felt the purity of pain on Christmas. A pain that memory would refuse to let go.

4. I just wanted two six shooters with a holster. I did not care about new shirts, new shoes or new pants. I wanted to appear the meanest and the baddest sheriff in town. At 5 years old, I just wanted to rule the world on Christmas Day.

5. The Simbang Gabi also referred to as midnight mass was a time for teen-agers to show off their their brand new duds and to scout for “steadies”. I stayed late with Tata Vener so he could finish my bell bottomed jeans. He finished it just as the sun rose. As the church bells signaled the end of the mass, I watched the faithfuls head for the “puto bungbung” and “bibingka” stands. I watched my contemporaries laughed and exchanged glances in a flirtation called youth and life. With empty pockets and empty dreams, I just watched. Youth was never my time. I was never young.

6. The upperclassmen had left. Fort del Pilar and the Philippine Military Academy, were all ours to rule and enjoy. We, the plebes, were kings of barracks! No parades, no inspections, no Academics. Just food, sleep and sports. Would we go back to civilian laxities and disregard 8 months of military discipline? Surprisingly, reveille and taps made sure we did not. The traditions of the outside world did invade our disciplined existence. Yes, there was the midnight mass, the “arroz caldo” after wards and on Christmas day, we marched to the Cadet’s Chapel and just like the rest of Christendom, bowed our heads in gratitude and full faith to remember the birth of Christ who would deliver mankind from sin. From far away, I missed those I love as the cold of the mountains hummed “silent night, holy night”. The wages of the life I chose and was destined to live.

(one week after)

7. Gift giving was a tradition Marilou pursued with conviction. Each child must have the same number of gifts. Twelve days of Christmas were counted with gifts being opened. Then they grew up and the gifts waited under the tree until they came home. Still the number of wrapped presents remained equal. The child regardless of age, never grew up.

8. There was something in solitude while in a crowd. To be an island was a choice. The mind would defy reality and believe its own. In Sinta’s, Jo’s, Andrew’s and Coco’s absence this Christmas, the heart sought the refuge of the past. They were missed sorely, a missing almost akin to pain. But the hidden smiles buoyed what the present could not deny. Love ruled the past, the present and the future.

8. Another Christmas past, my dearest would post. The decorations came down yesterday, kept and would be put up again in 11 months. Hopes were raised for a completeness only loved ones could fulfill. The ghosts would go to sleep but would surely awaken with the first carols and the last falling leaf. I would refuse to count how many more Christmases before the last. Still mortality would make reminders in painful creaky joints and wrinkles more permanent than time. As must be, the dwindling numbers made days like treasures. What was scarce could only be of utmost importance.

9. Jesus was and is and will be the reason for Christmas. The ghosts that haunted would come and go and would decay with age and fading memories. I had believed in Christmas when hope almost faded and desperation ruled. I had sought refuge in tearful carols and wishes of good tidings. I had trusted strangers’ kind smiles and peace to all mankind. Christmas would be past but like the kid who would never give up, I would look forward to the one down the pike with all the expectations of love, of happiness and yes, “of good will to men”.

Christmas would be forever.

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