Issue of July 14, 2019
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The valiant men of Post 124

Stella Maria de Guia
“We are all part of a larger community, a large world that needs our unique gifts. The more impact we make on other people and the world, the greater the fulfillment on ourselves. True fulfillment comes when we pursue meaning.” -- Louis Howes.

Such is the case for a group of retired military men who bonded together in 1996 and started a charter or “plank” and called themselves the United States Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 124 in Baguio.

Larry Senato started it all with only 25 members, who came from all branches of theU.S. Armed Forces with membership coming from Baguio, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos and Angeles, Iriga in the Visayas and mainland U.S.A.

Their two main goals: to help fellow veterans and their families with their administrative requirements like paperwork and documentation enabling their families to have secured future and to reach out to the indigent communities in Baguio, the Cordillera and neighboring towns.

At present the U.S. VFW Post 124 is headed by Commander Joe Bandio – Post Commander; Willie Gadiano – Senior Vice Commander; Joe Catacutan – Junior Vice Commander and Jun Poyaoan – Quartermaster.

Over the years, the hierarchy of commanders with Senato as the founder followed: Joe Agoot, Napoleon Kramer, Tom Jurado, John Lagrew, Willy Totanes, Alex Fores, Ed Narvaez and for 2019 Commander Bandio.

UNITED FRONT -- The officers, past commanders and members of the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars - Post 124 during their regular monthly meeting.

The charter and flag of the VFW

“After years of not seeing each other we are happy to reminisce and bond with each other,” says Commander Agoot.“We are proud to say that we are now the caretakers of the Camp John Hay cemetery 2. We removed the metal crosses and replaced them with headstones, which are 12 by 14 by 4 inches thick. At present there are about 473 marked headstones, a tribute to our comrades.”

Commander Bandio and Junior Commander Catacutan enumerated a list of the community projects Post 124 are involved in typhoon disaster assistance based on the request of barangays, indigent scholarships for K 7-12 students, stimulation therapeutic activity (STAC 5) – help given to disabled children which started in 1998, ETAIROS – help given to abused children in Northern Luzon by providing them with their living necessities, the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center diaper project for indigent newly born babies, operation tuli and medical and dental outreach projects for Agoo and Naguilian, La Union and an eyeglass outreach program.

Commander Bandio humbly explains, “We are happy when we are able to help the veterans and their families. This is our commitment. We also have recognition days for members.”

These valiant men continue to shine and share invaluable service and assistance to their comrades and their families, going as far as giving them military honors. Their slogan is “Serving Those Who Served.”

The officers and past commanders of the VFW Post 124 awarding a scholarship grant to one of its scholars.

From a membership of 25, they now have 217 members after 23 years. The Retired Activities Office (RAO) is located at the 2nd floor of Gilligan’s Island Restaurant, Legarda Road¸ with office hours from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

For veterans and their families who would like to avail of their assistance, please visit them at Gilligan’s. And for those veterans who would like to join, they hold monthly meetings every 1st Thursday of the month.

With this we end with a quote from the valiant heart’s song to honor our Lolos and lolas and the ones serving their families now, “O valiant hearts who to your glory came. Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, your memory hallowed in the land you loved.”

Salute to our gallant men and women and to the valiant men of Post 124!

The art of making tapey and etag

Nonnette C. Bennett
Making rice wine is simple. Even the “etag” (salted or smoked pork belly) is a way of life in the mountains of Sagada, Mountain Province. But it is not so much the process but the cultural legacy and its sacredness in the traditions of the ethnic groups that make them important.

Lakay Pulat Bosaing is an elder and a ritualist for different occasions in Sagada. Most revered for his wisdom and his intercessions for the mortals to the ancestors, as he performs the offering rituals for clans in those parts. His entitlement for his time and prayers comes in the form of meat. His token is often the pork belly or other parts of the pig that is offered to ancestors as thanksgiving for the earthly bounties. This pork belly is his gift to the next family. He says, he has too much meat for himself and reserves the preserved smoked meat for the next wedding or the next thanksgiving ritual as a gift.

HOW TO MAKE ETAG -- Lakay Pulat Bosaing rubs the pork belly with a generous amount of salt to preserve the meat.

Tapey or rice wine is part and parcel of the rituals performed. When thanksgiving celebrations are planned, the wine is brewed a month or so before in earthen jars. These jars are opened with a prayer to the ancestors to partake of it before a cup is dipped to draw the first taste of wine. Today, the rice wine is not so important with the availability of gin and other alcoholic beverages to replace it. There are just token jars of the rice wine for the family and a few friends to enjoy.

Last June, Dogo Siwang, the newly built art hub in Sagada, has opened the stage and the kitchen where cultural performances and traditional lifeways of the YSagadas can be learned and observed.

Lawyer David Dao-as and spouse Sonia hosted the art hub in their farm lot with a grant from the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) and the Cordillera News Agency (CNA).

Lakay Pulat was called to demonstrate the steps in making rice wine and salted smoked pork belly for the NCCA monitoring officer Diane Vallo and other guests. This purpose and other art activities are to be held in the space.

TAPEY, ANYONE? -- Native rice wine is made from half cooked rice that is sprinkled with powdered yeast and allowed to ferment until the day of the ritual.

Lakay Pulat took the slab of pork belly and wiped it dry before he made long slits on the meat. He said that salt should be rubbed on it generously making sure that it is well salted. He added this will ensure that the meat will not rot. This meat will be hung over the hearth to dry slowly. The smoke from the wood fire in the hearth gives the meat its smoky flavor. This salted meat is sliced in chunks and cooked with “pinikpikan”, a local chicken soup. Etag is preserved smoked pork meat in these parts. There are other versions of etag in different areas of the Cordillera. Some are sun-dried.

SHARING WITH ANCESTORS -- The elders call the ancestors to taste the wine before it is offered to people, which makes the wine even sweeter.

Tapey is made from half cooked rice. The rice is allowed to cool before the yeast is added. The yeast cake is broken and pulverized. The yeast is then mixed thoroughly with the rice and placed in a plastic container that can be sealed. The rice is mixed the following day again to ensure that the yeast is blended with the rice. After a few days, the mixture is transferred to an earthen jar to ferment. The top is covered with a cloth and tied well so insects or foreign objects can’t go inside the jar. It is covered with a wicker cover and allowed to ferment until the day of the ritual. The proportion of the caked yeast is ¼ of the cake to a kilo of half cooked rice. The early stage of tapey is called binubudan (sprinkled with yeast). Up to a week after it is allowed to ferment, one can eat the mushy rice that has a little soup. At this time, there is one to three percent alcohol in the sweet rice.

Not everybody can make tapey and etag. It is also a gift given to a few who make them perfectly. Making sweet rice wine and perfect salty smoked pork belly are arts, too.

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