January 29, 2023

It is the 16th of December, 1952 A.D.; school is out, and the Christmas break begins. I am an 11-year-old kid happily trotting home, doing a skip here and there.
Bigger classmates are doing cartwheels, but my body is too frail to do any kind of tumbling, even if we all shared the same joy in our hearts.


The mayor at the time, if I recall rightly, was Dr. Jose Cariño, Sr. dad of Jose Jr., Leandro, and Nena.
My old man, Pete Sr., was one of his technical assistants, designated by Mayor Cariño as control officer, a position of some importance, given all the Chinese businessmen inviting him to lunch or dinner nearly daily, aware of the Ibaloy’s love for good food and good company.
But the part I like best was the never-ending deliveries of legs of ham and cakes, as well as crates of oranges, apples, and even grapes, the cost of which was beyond the pocket of the average man on the street.
I have no particular liking for imported fruits and prefer eating lanzones rather than grapes; singkamas, sineguelas, and lomboys over oranges; and apples which I traded mostly for flashcards and rubber bands from playmates.


And so, it was that at the break of dawn, neighborhood kids were knocking on our door, asking my mom if I was already up.
More amused than irked, my mom would tell them that I was still snoring in bed, but playing along, would ask how much a string of rubber bands, a bunch of flashcards, and a hundred bottle caps would fetch in terms of oranges and apples.
Too shy to speak out for themselves, my mom would take the wares out of their hands, line up half a dozen apples and an equal number of oranges on our veranda table.
The transaction practically complete, my mom would close the door and once inside the house, she could hardly suppress a hearty laugh listening to the squeals of the boys and girls scrambling for the fruits.
Peeking out a little later, she would see one or two of the smaller kids, usually the girls, ending up with nothing. Making sure they wouldn’t go home empty handed, my mom would give them an apple and an orange each, only too glad to see them happily scampering away, without even saying thank you.


After my dad had a falling out with his boss over ethnic differences and family pride, the Chinese quickly disappeared from the scene, I was suddenly overcome with a hankering for grapes, apples, and oranges. But what I really missed was the sweet Chinese ham. Sweet today, gone tomorrow.
I wonder if, in the next Chinese New Year, former mayor Morris Domogan would still be a welcomed guest.
Believe me, as a retired city prosecutor myself, I know whereof I speak.


Opting to go to Law school rather than seek new employment, my dad was forced to sell inherited property on installment basis. That way, my mom, aside from the apartment rentals, would have a steady monthly income for family use – food on the table, clothes on our backs, for tuition and other needs.


But during one particular forgettable New Year, with all the tenants begging off from coming up with the monthly rentals and installments, my mom, not being the naughty kind (OK, only to her husband and children), merely required them to please pay their arrears in full in the next month.
Five sons and two daughters with huge Ibaloy appetites, welcoming the New Year with one fried egg and a slice of loaf each.


When I became a family head myself, I always made sure – even in the most difficult of times – that the New Year would be a happy event, loading the dinner table with all kinds of goodies and meat, putting money in the pockets of my two boys, and also their mom’s purse. If I had more than enough, in the pockets of my siblings, nephews, and nieces.
So, every December 31st, all but all, except for my dearly departed Minda, expected more of the same, to which I would oblige.


Well, like the say, there are only three ways of enjoying money – to spend money where it was meant to be, stash it under the mattress or put it in the bank, secure in the thought that there will always be something available for the rainy days. But best of all, share it with family and those in need.
The church you say? Ask you a question. The mafia brags they are bigger than U.S. steel, but guess who is the bigger mafia – the church, but naturally.
Besides, your Sunday contributions on the collection plate or bag will just be for cigarette or gasoline money – part of it anyway, right father?
But don’t let me stop you – if you want to pay your way to heaven, then do so, by all means.


The most dangerous being in the world is a Filipino with a gun in his hand, even more so if he wears a uniform, which he deems to be a license to kill, like agent 007 James Bond.
Imagine a burly policeman shooting down a mother and her son begging for their lives.
He probably expects that like his two previous homicide cases which were dismissed, he will again get off.
Since his victims are poor folks, he will try to settle the matter with them. Once he has done that, he expects to get back his gun and uniform, free to murder again.
Beating the system is the name of the game, QED (quite easily done).
It is time for the system to show no mercy.


Nasaan si Bise Presidente? At long last, Veep Robredo exalts, “They are finally recognizing my legitimacy as the duly elected Vice President.”
Probably ma’am, but we do not think you are happy being Veep, you want to go to Malacañang. While you may not be exactly praying for Duterte’s demise, you hope to ascend to his throne one way or the other.
And all those wanting something out of it are egging you on, and you quickly rise to the bait. But of course.
Just like Grace Poe did. Well, those who know that you are not up to the job will not stand for it.
Savor the moment while it lasts.


You would have been happier being an RTC judge, which was what you really craved for in the first place.
If you even get to be president, I will eat not this column, but the entire paper. By the way, watch out for Bong Go.
It isn’t just Ping you need to worry about.


Happy New Year to every Filipina who knows whereof she stands and there are only a few of them – housewives and mothers, they are. Count them.


Postscript: Owing to the Covid-19, most foreign guests and students have gone back to their home countries – the South Koreans, the Japanese, and Americans. But not the Arabs. There is no such thing as LGBTQ in the Middle East.
Get the picture?

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