September 23, 2023

I WAS ALREADY teaching at Saint Louis University, Baguio City – rank of Senior Instructor, when I was invited to apply for a position at the Refugee Camp in Morong, Bataan. They needed a PhD. holder with some Teaching and/or Administrative experiences. I applied.
THE PROCESS WAS a bit detailed – the position; – like the others offered e.g. teaching, supervising, clericals, etc., were open – to all citizens of the country. We were five (or four?) applicants – two from Manila (no ‘NCR’ term yet before); two from the South; I was alone from Baguio (No ‘Cordi’ term then too). Old Lady Luck smiled on me.
PRE-FULL SWING Employment Initiative. Two or three days before my first day of work, I delivered a modest session on a ‘neutral’ topic. Was it on culture ‘Filipino’ etc.? I’m not perfectly sure now. Next,
I ASKED SOMEBODY in Camp – but Morong-born to escort me to the Municipal grounds to gather some basic info about the place and the people. These were those ‘some’ I learned:
MOST IF NOT all residents there were: Tagalogs, and they speak that Tagalog language with a unique or distinct ‘intonation’. Main occupations were: lands tilled; fishing; employment – there and abroad; business big and small; et cetera. And why did they name their place ‘Morong’? Two versions from their history books:
[‘LONG TIME AGO’, when they were fighting against an intruding group: at the height and thickness of the encounter, their leader shouted: walang uurong! (“None of us may move back!”) The other ‘version’ was:
[‘IN EARLIER TIMES, there were some boatmen from the South who were shipwrecked there. Months passed and, they decided to settle there. They were joined by later arrivals. They named their settlement: Morong] so go their local, historical records that time. Now, to our experiences.
IN CAMP – A few minutes ride from the Municipality, we were with other camps – mostly serving the Refugees. There was a Canadian Camp, a Norwegian Camp; and we were in an American-based camp. It was then known as: ICMC (or International Catholic Migration Commission).
OUR RECORDS OFFICIAL – whom I asked said we were ‘1,200 employees – Rank and File’ – at ICMC. We were doing Cultural Orientation (CO), Work Orientation (WO), and English as a Second Language (ESL)-tasks in Camp – for the new Refugee arrivals.
OUR REFUGEES that time consisted of three groups: the Vietnamese who were the majority – then, the Kampucheans, and then, the Laotians. [But let’s pause for a while: at this point of my Narration, how many ‘groups’ and/or ‘cultures’ have we mentioned so far? Answer]:
THE TAGALOGS OF Morong; then, you go up towards the ‘whole’ camp (known as: Philippine Refugee Processing Center or PRPC) you pass by the Canadian camp; and then, the American-based ICMC; and then, the Norwegian Camp; and then, the three Refugee camps/groups aforesaid viz. Vietnamese, Kampucheans, and Laotians. So, up to there? Seven. Plus yourself who is not from any of these, and then, your other colleagues too?
AT ICMC alone – aside from our American higher-ups, there were other nationalities, I still remember Dr. Zhiao Yi – an Adviser-Consultant from China.
AND THE ‘LOCALS’ too – Filipino groups not necessarily Tagalogs: the most numerous that time I was there were the Ilokanos and the Ilongos. And then,
THERE WERE THE Kapampangans, the Pangasinenses, the Bicols or Bicolanos, the Cebuanos, the Zambals, the Gaddangs, and so on. I met one [Zamboanga] Chabacano – though not one Cavite nor Ermitaño Chabacano (as you know there are three Cabacano sub-groups).
THERE WAS ONE Waray-Visayan, and: Igorots? Only two of us: one, Greg Taag – a Southern Kankana-ey, and myself: an Ibaloi, Nabaloi-speaking.
AT MOST TIMES, we were welcomed by the Ilokano-speaking group of Dorm 49 – majority boarders of which were: Ilokanos of Baguio City, Isabela, Cagayan, and Manila; and yes! there was a Tagalog boarder from Manila who just didn’t want to board in other dorms but there. Total ‘culture-exposures’ I had thereat: 15-20; yes! or more!
SUMMING UP ALL my cultural exposures at ICMC, there is no denying I learned plenty there and cannot cover or relate all/completely, in one Discussion. The events poured out there may not just be the surfaces though Ü. So, aloha, greetings po!