The church has always been a focal point for everyone who grew up in Bansalan.
I remember the days when at the sight of Fr. Pelletier, kids would run up to him to make amen. Leaves me asking if the kids of today still do this.
I remember too seeing all the madres from Holy Cross devotedly helping with anything that is church related. To this day, I remember with much fondness, Sisters Jo Fran and Diega Agcopra (may her soul rest in peace), the twin sisters (oh how Sister Myla - played the guitar- she was the female counterpart of Rudy Cartin). I always wondered how the sisters hair looked under their head dress until Sister Jo showed me hers.
Going to church was more of a social event for the younger set. Sundays meant teenagers chilling out by the main entrance. I wonder if they really paid any attention to the sermons or was it just a ploy to see their crushes going to church?
I remember too my Ninong, (Mayor de los Cientos) who was always first out of his pew for communion. I thought to myself, this guy has an internal alarm that goes off before everyone else does. With that reaction time, he would have been great too with Jeopardy!
I remember the old church with the wooden stairs where most of us got baptized. I should know, I fell twice from those stairs!
I remember joining the altar boys group just to find out the brand of wine that the parish uses. To this date I still search for the Mompo when I go to the LCBO (the government controlled chain of liquor stores in Ontario , Canada ). Darn that wine, it tasted sooo good and yet soooo hard to find. I wouldn't be surprised if some priests would down this to the last drop.
Can anybody tell me where to get this in Toronto or NY?
I remember eagerly waiting for school season to end as that heralded the start of Summer Bible School which culminated with the Flores de Mayo. This is where the evangelical seeds were planted and has been contributory to my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior.
I remember the church cantora. She worked as a photographer too. She with that distinct beautiful melodious voice that soared unmistakably. To this day, I still have to find a mezzo soprano just like her. (Ed's note: The lady's name is Alejandra but was fondly called "Anda". Sad to say that she already passed away.)
Dolo was where I spent my fifth grade. Had to go there to go with my favorite Auntie, Feliciana Navarro, the school principal. It was a fun school with lots of caimito but I hated the required gardening. All my classmates had bountiful produce (radishes, beans and cabbages). Jeffrey Nique's crop was so healthy, I hated him for that. The thought of fetching water from the river for the plants was beyond me. I have always wondered why the water could not be diverted to the garden plots instead of punishing our tender and young untrained hands. We were in grade 5 for Pete's sake! End result? I had the most unhealthy looking crop – cabbage that never grew past 3 inches, raddishes that were as small as my pinky, eggplants that did not even flower.
At such a young age, I vowed that I will use my hands for something else (turns out I would be using these hands to save lives—especially lives in extremis). To this day, I believe I passed that course because the School Principal was my aunt! But hey, now I tend my garden for summer and friends say I do have a green thumb afterall. (Perhaps making up for lost time?)
I remember cutting classes to go to this little paradise of Bansalan called Mt. Carmel where the fruits are sweet and plentiful and animals were humongous. In Canada , they have orchards where you pay a set fee and you can harvest as much as you can and pay for the harvested fruits on your way out. Mt Carmel was different in a lot of ways. You harvest and you eat to your gustatory limits. I remember bringing salt with me for this little harvests. And the milk! I would be chugging liters upon liters of this milk. The curd was something to die for. I remember my exasperated mother telling me to stop clogging my arteries with that special fatty layer that I would scoop out and feast on after boiling the milk.
Not far from Mt Carmel was Miss Jackie Sayon's farm. We made it a point to visit their place whenever we visited Mt. Carmel . There was always lunch available with every visit but more importantly, it was the warmth of the whole family that made visits to Kinuskusan more interesting. Liceria (ooops Sister Liceria) was the shy type who was always in the background. Right Joshua?
This was the barrio where my Mama was the headteacher. It is a nice and quaint little barrio with rice fields everywhere that I used to visit by foot. It was fun walking to this place from home inspite of the uncemented roads where the scenery is one of rural comfort and serenity highlighted with greenery everywhere. I never complained being told to go to Rizal to get something. The place is made more special with memories of the Buenos (they used to own a rice mill) in that area. Later on in my life, I had the chance to meet and work with Dr. Bong Bueno, a fellow surgeon in Manila who also hails from Rizal, Bansalan. Great guy to work with. I also remember the Mateos from this place especially Teresita Mateo, a classmate in high school.
The Pretty and Brainy Girls
There were lots of them—Aurea Bernasor, Cedeno Sisters (Sharon and Nell Rose), Stella Barrios, the Mabandos Sisters (Imelda, Brunhilda, Criselda), Tejero Girls (Teresa and Nimfa), Mi Vera Amor (the name alone is a knock-out), Ofelia Parcon (to this day Ofelia, you amaze me Dr.), Lucresia Ulep, Florita Bacus (you were always a character) and many more.....
The Teachers Who Made a Difference
Florencia Bodiongan, Jackie Sayon, Lilia Castor, Angela Tubo, Ms. Antipala, Zosimo Juntilla, Cletah Mamites (RIP), Romulo Nuyad and countless others who have been instrumental in molding us to who we are today....
(Bong Lapena is one Bansaleno who made a name for himself in a foreign soil. After graduating from Holy Cross in 1979, he took-up Pre-Med at the University of Philippines and became a Doctor of Medicine from UERMMMC in 1987. He completed his residency in General Surgery in 1993. Bong currently resides in Toronto, Canada and is the Director of Subject Recruitment and Medical Screening Services of the Biovail Corporation. No small feat considering how he made cutting classes into an art form while studying in the barrios of Bansalan. You've gone a long way Bong! )