Monday, August 29, 2016

158. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #9 Mariano Aceron

My Aunt, EAV, sent a message after reading these notes and related the story of her dad, Mariano Aceron, who was born in Taal. My aunt said, 

"According to Papa, life was difficult then that Papa had to sell newspapers wearing "bakya" (wooden clog slippers) as they could not afford to buy shoes. They moved to Mindoro, as most Batanguenos did, to find their luck. Lolo Amboy (Pablo) worked in a farm.  He worked hard that he was able to buy the land where we get the copra share from his boss.  Masinop daw si Lolo.  Lola Abe (Isabel) was in her small panutsa-making business. Papa was telling me this when we were talking about diabetes, thinking that the panutsa was the reason why he had diabetes. Ulam daw nila at baon nya pa while they were studying in Manila to earn a degree.    Si Papa lang ang nakatiis that's why, he was the only one who earned a university degree." 

I am teary-eyed as I post this story. And I am imagining how it was for the young Mariano Aceron to be walking around Taal in wooden clogs selling newspapers as a kid. I am thus urging every Aceron descending from Mariano, let's honor Papa every year on his birthday, August 29 (today is his birthday), by walking the streets of Taal in wooden clogs, after all this is how we all began. It will connect us to Taal  as it will connect us to him, wherever he may be. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

157. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #8 Orosa

In the movie, Memento, Christopher Nolan's lead character wakes up without a memory of his past. I have often questioned the plausibility of this premise, because a man with no memory should have no words, for our memory lives on our words. At the doorstep of the Orosa ancestral home today, I tried to recall where I stood exactly forty years ago as a kid one late morning to join the Orosa reunion.

As I went up the stairway, I saw the picture of Agaton Orosa, who was the brother of Isabel, my great grandmother. 
Why did our side of the Orosas leave Taal? Isabel left with her love, Pablo, and settled in Pola. But why did we never come back? The geologist in our tour mused that the volcano, temperamental as ever, was a natural adversary of the Taalenos. To live in this place is to live in constant danger. The volcano was active every ten years except in the last fifty years, but no one could tell when it would erupt again. Pablo and Isabel established their home in Pola, a bayside town in Mindoro island far from the volcano and its tempers. They tilled the land and prospered. But, they never left Taal. They brought with them their language, traditions, food, and stories. These stories are what filled the gaps of memory that separated me from Taal and the house that Agaton built. And so unlike Nolan's lead, as I stood there at the exact spot where I stood forty years ago, I am fortunately a man who carries the memory not only of my past but also of my family's roots. 

156. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #7 Taal Church

Taal Church was originally built in 1575, destroyed by the 200-day eruption of the volcano on 1754, rebuilt in 1755, destroyed by the great quake of 1849, rebuilt anew on 1856, and completed in 1865. The church is known as the biggest church in southeast asia. We toured its rich baroque interiors and got fascinated with its great altar. 

The churchyard is charming too. There is a repository of water where fish swim and  buckets are placed for people to throw coins after making a wish. Rizal's Padre Salvi in Noli Me Tangere was Augustinian, a political snide remark against the friars who built this church, but it is the mark of the congregation's founder, St. Augustine,  that I could feel here in this massive basilica, a great love for God. Pio Goco said, the church's story is also the story of the town that prospered by the fruits of the fertile land, but was empoverished by catastrophes of the earth as well, a boom and bust, the human spirit dominaring the earth and being dominated by it, a monument to the human faith in himself and in God. 

155. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #6 Hai Bing

Hai Bing was a Chinese settler in Taal who once vowed to build a church for the virgin mother of Caysasay. After the Sangley Revolt, a time when the Chinese settlers rebelled against the oppression  of the Spaniards, the Chinese were rounded up, brought to Taal Lake, and massacred. Hai Bing was one of the victims; his body riddled with holes and his head almost decapitated. But the story goes that soon after Hai Bing appeared in Caysasay on the shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mother. The waters of the shrine were known to heal any ailment, and its waters flowed through Hai Bing's wounds. 

With his resurrection, Hai Bing continued his work in building the Church of Caysasay, which was subsequently completed.

 Hai Bing died later on by the thorns of his carabao, an undramatic ending to an otherwise amazing story, but our tour guide said, it was probably because he broke his vow and became a bad person. Nonetheless, this is the first time I heard the story, but apparently, it is a well-known myth and the kids selling candles at the shrine could tell it from memory. The massacre of the Chinese, which brought about Hai Bing's first death, was the reason why Taal's participation in the revolution was downplayed, the Taaleno's obtaining a reputation of being the Spanish Khmer Rouge. 

154. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #5 Backroom Heroes

Taal was home to revolutionaries who were second-tier leaders, the guys who did the janitorial work, figuratively-speaking, for the stars like Rizal and Aguinaldo.

A paragraph is too short to mention their deeds here, but their biographies are a Google search away. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in the house of Gliseria Villavicencio, the godmother of the revolution, in the words of Emilio Aguinaldo himself. She supplied the logisitical needs of Aguinaldo's army and her house was  a frequent site for revolutionary meetings. Proof of this was the escape hatch that we found in their dining room, which was supposed to lead to a network of tunnels in Taal.
We watched a film of Leon and Galicano Apacible, compatriots of Rizal.  Galicano was President of La Solidaridad once. We also saw the oldest house in Taal the 18th century home of the spouses Marcela and Felipe Agoncillo, known as the first Filipino diplomat. Marcela is one of the ladies who sewed the national flag. 

Pio said Taal was a major player in the revolution but something happened that hushed the town's participation, known as the Sangley revolt, which happened to be a significant story in our next stop. 

153. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #4 Lunch

Pio Goco prepared an excellent lunch buffet for everyone in the tour. Bulalo soup to get started. Appetizers: green mangoes and salted eggs with tomatoes. The main entrees were chicken adobo with turmeric, pork tapa (known as tapang taal because the normal tapa was made of beef), and sinaing na tulingan-- mackerel braised in vinegar. There was a side dish of vegetables known as "bulanglang".  

For dessert, they served us suman with chocolate, and ice  candy, a delight that brought memories of my childhood days.

Culinary-wise, I'm happy to note that I am well-connected to my Taal roots. I've been served this food in many family homes from Mindoro through the years, albeit the yellow adobo they serve in Pola was yellow due to annato seeds or food coloring and not turmeric, as I never came across turmeric in our kitchens before. 

152. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #3 The Gocos of Taal

As it turned out, Pio Goco is the brother of Robbie Goco, the famous chef who owns Cyma,  a batchmate from San Beda High School. Pio gave a short introduction to Taal's long history, how the Taal volcano's temper shaped the town (200 days of eruption, the longest ever, in the 18th century)  and shrunk the mythical Pansipit River, the ilog referred to in "taga-ilog" later known as Tagalog,  the language on which Filipino is based. Pio is the son of Raul Goco, erstwhile Solicitor General of the Philippines. The house exhibits Fidel V. Ramos's scribblings on a draft letter to Mr. Goco and follows it until it was signed by the president. 

I mentioned to a fellow tourist that this memorablia validates Fidel V. Ramos's reputation as a hardworking president. But aside from Mr. Raul Goco, the house shares the memory of an even older Goco, 

Juan Cabrera Goco, who happened to be the Katipunan's Treasurer. He built the house of the Goco's and it resembles the Aceron house in Pola, Or. Mindoro, in material, lay-out, and design. 
The Goco house feels a lot like the house of Pablo and Isabel, the Taalenos who brought Taal to Pola. 

151. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #2 The Road

The trip would take three hours. Our host, Pio Goco, said the Tagaytay route is under construction, so we had to take the Talisay route or the Nasugbu route. Further research and a Waze search made us choose a different route -- South Luzon Expressway, exit Lipa, Laurel Highway, through Cuenca, Alitagtag, Sta. Teresita, Taal- Bauan, Taal-Lemery, two lefts, and two rights, and then Taal. By 10am, we arrived at Lipa City. In the seventies, Lipa City was a good one hour away from the SLEX Tanauan exit. The Star Tollway shortened the trip with beatiful view of Mt. Banahaw. I put on my Spotify playlist of baroque songs (my wife complained my rock songs were too noisy), and was surprised as my data connection was seamless. Except for a few kilometers of patched-up asphalt roads, the trip was a smooth ride. It went a little windy from Lipa to Tagaytay. As we entered Taal from the Taal-Bauan road, a big sign by the gas station said, "Gutom ka na ga? Kumain ka na dine Itaalian food." Alright, that made me laugh. My wife pointed me to a billboard that said "Aseron Funeraria." That made me laugh harder. We arrived at the Goco House at around 11am. As Jose Garcia Villa wrote, "have come, am here." 

150. Notes on a Trip to Taal: #1. Homecoming

I am Marvin, son of Edmund, son of Mariano, son of Isabel, daughter of Basilio, brother of Guillermo and Santiago Orosa. I should memorize that to introduce myself to the Orosa ancestral house and its occupants in Taal, Batangas.  The first and last time I set foot there was in the seventies, a year before I even started going to school.  It was a grand reunion of the clan, a day of song and dances, food, laughs, games, and a dip in the lake in the cauldron of the volcano. I remember a big house that resembled the one in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, which my great grandparents, Pablo and Isabel built a hundred years ago -- big staircases, high ceilings, capiz windows,  majestic with the whiff of history in the air. I came to Taal then with my parents; today,  forty years hence, I'm going back to Taal with my wife and kids,  a repetition of an event, a return from a descendant of Isabel,  the one who eloped with Pablo to Pola.  But maybe, Isabel never left Taal or she probably took Taal with her, for here I am, a great grandson  and a century away, on the road, with  bare memories of a happy event, anticipating that it would be just like coming home. 

Monday, August 08, 2016

149. Libingan ng mga Bayani at Diktador

The dead deserve to be buried -- that much we learned from Antigone. Whether we label the cemetery as the burial ground for heroes is a matter that does not matter to the dead. Only the living are concerned about where to bury the dead, but the living would soon be dead, and so in the end, no one would remember whether the dead were buried in a place where heroes or villains were buried. It only matters that the dead were buried. In the case of Alabang cemetery, where a mall was erected, they even unburied the dead and buried them someplace else where the bones would not get in the way of corporate profits. They re-buried the dead nonetheless. So to the proposition that Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, I pose a qualified consent. Bury him in the ground, save us some electricity, finish this Antigonesque drama, but label it right. Call it Libingan ng mga Bayani at Diktador. And to the President who is advocating this move, pwede ka na rin dyan sir. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

148. Drama

A man was felled by a bullet and his wife embraced his lifeless corpse. Drama? Let's do this again. 

Man shot; wife embraced dead body. Spousal relations too tragic? 

Man dead -- woman embraced body. Embraced too strong a verb? 

X dead. Y held dead body. "D" word too sensational? 

( X + Y) - X = Y. The minus sign still provocative?

  101100000001. Ayan, no more drama. 

Today, somebody is going to be shot again, and we should all speak about it in 1's and 0's, in order not to offend the powers that be, who refuse to acknowledge that when one dies, regardless if he's a crook,    a woman is widowed or  a child is orphaned. There I go again, putting drama in this government war on drugs. Indeed, the Government has delivered the numbers, but I am not ready to rejoice this early. Every war has two sides, and we haven't seen the other side respond. And while this war is happening, we will be driving on the streets, our children going to school, our family and friends doing things as if everything is normal. There would be casualties on all sides not just from the wagers but also from the bystanders. And soon, we will  remember this is the reason why we have laws -- so that people will not be killing each other casually as if they're buying stuff from the grocery. But that again is too much drama. I don't have the numbers to back me, but I still believe the way to win this drug war is to teach people how to be masters of their will.