July 18, 2024

In 1939, a group of Baguio-born boys mostly belonging to Boy Scout Troop 56 got together to basically hang around, play basketball, sing, and have plain, simple fun. They must have loved the old cowboy movies at Pines Theatre where my old man Arturo worked and was inspired by the Indians who fought for their land. It started the Baguio Apaches.

A culture of fellowship, fun, food, family, faith was embedded in every Brave. Food was always chili beans and hotdogs, as the boys sang scout chants, Christmas songs, and Cosby oldies but goldies with “It’s a sin to tell a lie” as the unofficial anthem. The boys became leaders in their own right and 87 years of brotherhood remains.

There is no written constitution and by-laws but the nation was governed by tradition. No board of directors, but a tribal council of elders and past chiefs who determine policies. There is a rigid selection process for the next chief initially determined by the elders but now in a democracy elected by the Braves.
One of the elder Braves who has guided the trail of the nation was the late Judge Fernando “Nanding” Cabato, who took me in his law office immediately after I passed the Bar.

He took charge of taking care of all the Braves with uncle Sonny San Pedro as his sidekick, making sure that the brothers were taken care of, giving a helping hand, advice or consolation at times of need and sorrow, or plain enjoying the coffee company.

During his term, he took charge of the peons, out them into a scrutiny and screening seeing to it that no misfit entered the clan. For this, he was the first Brave to be given the “Geronimo” Award. Tidbit: Geronimo was an Apache leader and medicine man best known for his fearlessness and steadfast concern for the tribes.

On Oct. 22, the Baguio Apache Park with a Memorial for Braves now in the “Happy Hunting grounds” was blessed at the Wright Park. This was the culmination of the many achievements of chief Ray Olarte during his term and paved the way for him to be the second Apache “Geronimo” awardee.

A true blue-blooded Baguio boy from Aurora Hill and New Lucban, his elementary days were spent at Saint Louis University Laboratory School and secondary days at Boys’ High. Eventually, he earned a Radiologic Technology degree. He landed a job at Hyatt Terraces Hotel, Baguio at its Purchasing Department, then front office when the 1990 earthquake hit his hotel, he became an accidental but unsung hero when as first responder at the scene of the devastation, he rescued 13 survivors.

With Hyatt down and Baguio economy standing on shaky ground, he tried his fortune as an overseas Filipino worker starting as janitor at Hyatt in Aruba. The hard work and difficult hours did not stop him from learning to improve his craft, thus in 1994, he graduated from the Tony Roma University in Dallas, Texas as a restaurant manager, Benihana’s Japanese Steakhouse, South Beach, Miami in 1996, and four years later by Hooters International, Atlanta Georgia.

He moved on to work stateside from 1998 to 2008 as director and vice president of Operations, Aruba Resource NV and as Tony Roma’s regional manager, Central America, based in Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Panama.

Upon his return, he went into real estate, which flourished, and opened up cafés with Carlo Avila and Dereck Agunos. His quest for financial gain was balanced by his compassion to help his fellowmen. He did philanthropy work in silence, sometimes anonymously.

He founded a scholarship foundation to send less fortunate but deserving students to college. He single-handedly built the Divine Mercy Chapel at Engineers Hill with full support from his Squaw, Dr. Annie Urmaza-Olarte, one of the top if not the best cardiologist in town.

Ray and Doc Annie have big hearts and many Braves, including uncle Sonny, have been beneficiaries of the medical and financial assistance they freely give.

As chief, Ray’s performance was excellent, though not perfect. There were kinks in the armor sometime, somewhere but hey, that’s all water under the bridge as under his watch, the Apache Park and memorial became his everlasting legacy to the nation.

He has done well and good despite the doubting Thomases and deserves the “Geronimo” award.

Hail to the Apache chief, Ray!

Sigh.