March 3, 2024

und, play basketball, sing, and have fun. They must have loved the old cowboy movies at Pines Theatre where my old man Arturo worked and inspired by the Indians who fought for their land and people with tremendous spirit.
They then began calling themselves Baguio Apaches.
They held their first bonfire on the 30th of December that year and thus began an unbroken tradition until the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020 and that eve was silent. The traditional bonfire was back though last Friday at the Ibaloy Heritage Park.
A culture of fellowship, fun, food, family, and faith was embedded as the Apache Braves sang, danced, and partied around the bonfire lit by the spirit of a Supreme being. 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 in their selected fields, all committed to a Cherokee’s tender loving care for the city of their birth. It has evolved through the years, but the culture of brotherhood remains.
There is no written constitution and by-laws but the nation was governed by tradition.
No board of trustees either but there is a council of elders and past chiefs who determine policy. There is no election but a rigid selection process determined by the elders on who will lead the braves.
Being a Brave makes one feel at home like he has a blood compact to be a brother. One gets an assurance of people lending a helping hand, advice or consolation at times of need and sorrow or enjoying laughter, booze and music, the latter being a must in every Apache gathering, singing, and belting out songs passed on or newly learned.
We, too, have Indian names and mine is Yodeling Bear while Rudz Paraan is Bald Eagle, hopefully not pertaining to his top.
Membership to the Apaches is open to all but you must be invited and endorsed by at least one active Brave.
Originally, it is a must to be Baguio born but a few years back, the stringent qualification was relaxed to being Baguio bred with no character, reputation or integrity issues. Then you go through one grueling year of “peonship” where, among others, you are required to make “mano” to each and every single Brave you meet anywhere.
You serve and wait no matter who you are or who you think you are on the braves during meetings and other occasions as if you are a second-class citizen and do anything and everything you are commanded to do. Fear not though because all peons are treated with respect and given the dignity they deserve as human beings.
At the end of the year, all Braves vote whether to accept a peon or not (blackballed) and once you are in, the final test is at the bonfire where the paddle is bigger than the oar of a boat and the fist bigger than Pacman’s fist landing in my kidneys courtesy of relative Darwin when I went “usok.” Sorry I am not allowed to reveal what happens next.
Ray Olarte has been called and chosen as the next chief of the Apaches for 2022.
A true-blue Baguio boy from Aurora Hill and New Lucban, he went to Boys High School like us. He worked at the Hyatt Terraces Plaza and when it crumbled in the 1990 earthquake, became an overseas workers in Aruba and the United States.
Upon his return, he went into real estate, which flourished. His quest for financial gain was balanced by his compassion to help his fellowmen. He did philanthropy work in silence, sometimes anonymously.
He singlehandedly built a chapel at Engineers Hill with full support from his wife, Dr. Annie Olarte, one of the top, if not the best, cardiologists in town. He has a big heart and believes in the mantra of “walang iwanan.”
Thus 86 years of tradition goes on guaranteed to last forever. The spirit shall live on to make the Apache nation great again.
The years 2020 and 2021 were not really good for all of us but 2022 will be another story with new beginnings.
From one chief to another, carry on, Chief Ray!