July 7, 2001

San Diego, California




PROLOGUE:  The following was inspired by Raffy Bruan’s article entitled “Memories”.  This is not an attempt to upstage Mr. Bruan’s masterpiece.  The article is written to the best knowledge and recollection of the author.  Events depicted and names of persons and places mentioned are true and factual and were never intended nor meant in any way, shape or fashion, to demean, belittle, embarrass, or begrudge anyone.  Author was not commissioned nor received any remunerations whatsoever in writing this article.  It was all done in the spirit of camaraderie, love and friendship to which the Alumni is founded upon.

Writing a biographical account of one’s high school experience is a very easy thing to do if one has to do it fresh out of school or even maybe two or three years after graduation.  The names and faces of friends and acquaintances are still new in one’s mind.  The memories are still freshly imbedded in the brain that recollection is as quick and as fast as booting up a Pentium 4-driven computer.  Now, here’s the big challenge.  Try penning one 26 years later.  The thought of it alone grips you with fear.  Not so much on the accuracy of one’s facts, for the brain’s ability to retrieve data stored in a lifetime is remarkable, but on the names of people involved.  The inaccuracies of personality may obscure the genuineness of the facts. 

For two weeks I agonizingly pondered whether I could ably write my recollections of high school life in our Alma Mater:  The Divine World Academy (DWA) of Urdaneta.  This came about after “Apo” Johnny - the great organizer and reuniter - finally tracked me down here in Arkansas.  With the zest of a treasure hunter, he never stopped until he found his precious “bounty”.  The efforts he took and the amount of time he spent to locate an alumnus like me made me feel special.  Apo” Johnny considers me a treasure.  And so, even with the adversity that I was bound to face writing my memoirs, the decision to go ahead and proceed with the project would in the end justify the hardships and difficulties this man put forth in tracking me down.  So if you are all ready let me turn back the hands of time.

My recollection of my freshman year is very faint.  I do remember that my parents sent me to DWA because of two reasons:  it is the nearest Catholic school from my hometown of Asingan and it is where my older brother (Rocky), my older sister (Pamela), and my cousins (Ronald, Edgar, and Alice Acosta) were enrolled in (four years after I graduate it would also be my sister Cherry’s (Class ’82) alma mater).  I remember our room was the second one from the stairway on the first floor.  I had a big crush on a mestiza-looking freshman by the name of Fanny Untalan whose room was next to mine.  There is not an hour of the day that goes by that I do not get a glimpse of her.  What’s my secret?  It’s simple.  There were restrooms located on both ends of the school building.  Every hour on the hour, I go to relieve myself and always use the one closest to Mr. Ridao’s office because I get to pass her classroom!  Despite this “maddening crush” I had for her, I never found the courage to go up and tell her about it.  I decided just to wait it out until our sophomore year.  Unfortunately, there was no next year to speak of.  She ended up transferring to Urdaneta Community High School.  My plan went to smoke and so did my infatuation for her. 

Checking out cute gals was not only the order of the day for me.  Adventurism was also the call of the day.  I was gravitating with guys that were thrill seekers.  One day right after lunch, Rodolfo Mencias and a couple more eager-beaver kids whose names escape my memory, and I, agreed to go to the wooded area at the back of the school compound right across from the track oval.  Poor Alex Raposas who was not a regular member of the group, decided to tag along.  Once in the jungle-like environment, we went swinging from tree to tree ala-Tarzan.  The fun and joy was short-lived.  Alex slipped and came crashing down on the leaf-covered ground.  We all converged on him and held him up.  He was grimacing in pain.  Our eyes had that terrified look in them.  Alex had an open fracture on his right elbow.  Our hearts sank.  He was rushed to the hospital and came back to class with a cast.  He was to wear it for months.  Oh, were we guilty for bringing him along and instigating the dangerous game!  He later invited us to his house on the occasion of his birthday and introduced us to his parents.  I guess Alex did not give a full account of the incident to his old folks for the rest of the gang and I were greeted with smiles and served a sumptuous “lechon” dinner.

Sophomore year was a lot more exciting for me.  I had beautiful, voluptuous and seductive classmates.  I began to admire girls with a bit of sophistication much like a wine connoisseur is to a bottle of wine.  The age of puberty has dawned upon me.  Among the gals that stood out in class were Josephine Sison (very talkative and had that look that would melt a guy), Elizabeth Mones (her gold-toothed sweet smile), Charito San Juan (pimple-faced, demure, leg-shaking pride of Nancayasan), and Rebecca Fernandez (snub, eye-rolling, pouting gal).  They may have different personal traits but they possess the same distinct, likeable physical asset most kids growing up like me look for:  an upper body that would have merited a guest appearance in “Kislap” magazine.  They were not only delectable but intelligent as well.  These girls were very famous with Mr. Encarnacion, one of our teachers.  He would call their names out loud, nod his head, gaze at them amorously, and then bite his lower lip.  Pretty as they were, I never entertained the thought of trying my luck on them.  For one, they were too tall for me and for another; the phrase “never take a dump in your own backyard” was foremost in my mind.  This made me look for prospects beyond my class.  The famous phrase was popularized by one of our male teachers.  I could not exactly pinpoint who it was now.

This period of adolescence marked the beginning of my fancy for female teachers.  One such teacher is Ms Andrion.  She wears mini-skirt uniforms; her shiny long hair brushed all the way down to her lower thigh, her face made-up like a beauty queen, and lips like strawberry wine (gosh, it sounded like one of the Beatles’ song).  She was a very religious lady, I suppose, because she always goes to the chapel upstairs and pray after lunch.  I cannot fully recall now but I ended up escorting her every time she goes to the chapel for her daily prayer dose.  Junior & Senior students would stare her down contemptuously that she felt she would be more secure with somebody escorting her.  I invited her to our town fiesta and I was surprised she showed up. I entertained her like royalty that I even offered her my parents’ bedroom so she could take a siesta.  The scene was almost a reprise of the movie “Mrs. Robinson” except for the fact that there were no seductress and seduced roles to be played.  My infatuation for Ms Andrion died a natural death when I later found out she was head over heels on a good-looking senior student.

Among our classmates, I developed a strong bond with Candido Bautista and Dionemar Ulep.  Dionemar was a recent transfer from seminary school in Binmaley.  He and fellow transferee, Geoffrey Altura, cannot hack it out with the rest of the “plebes” so they decided to go to a school that integrates seminarians and non-seminarians alike:  DWAU.  The three of us clicked right away.  We spend lunch almost everyday atop the “chico” trees at the back of the building.  After lunch, activity for me was solely devoted to playing basketball. This would later on have a bearing on my career as a varsity player of the school.  I also remember during this time that many varsity players from other schools in the province were coming on campus to play with our own varsity team.  One such team who had the “misfortune” of playing with our school team is Malasiqui.  The game was close and started to be physical.  Elbows were thrown on both sides of the court.  Then the unexpected happened.  A free-for-all ensued and players and fans alike joined the fray.  What I witnessed next was a treat!  Alex Asper (who was a senior), all of 4 feet 10 inches of him, flew in the air and delivered a resounding flying kick to one of the male fans of the opposing team.  The poor fellow must have misjudged the full measure of a small man.  He rolled on the grass twice upon receipt of the wicked blow, stood up and scampered to safety.  Cooler heads prevailed and the dying minutes of the suspended game was played afterwards.  The team did not only lose the game but went home with battered nerves and egos.  True to their name, “Malas-iqui”, it really jinxed them. 

Another unforgettable recollection I have is the seminarians of the school.  I did come to know a few of them like Virgilio Manipon, Primo Sipin, Wilfredo Penullar, Arnulfo Doctor, and Danny “Manok” Lauder.  I didn’t quite catch them red-handed doing it.  But I had it from a reliable source that many of these “seminaristas” were slipping and sliding away in the middle of the night making their way to Manhattan, a popular honky-tonk place in town owned by the Padua’s.  This was later on confirmed by one of the seminarians himself.  Accordingly, Manok was the instigator of the misbehaving group.  They would tie together ends of bed sheets; anchor it on the steel framed windows of their barracks and one by one slid down to temporary freedom.  Poor Father Herbers, he is always deep in slumber not knowing a “flock” of his is painting the town red!  No wonder none from that group ever became a priest.

Junior year was not to be spent in DWAU.  I transferred to another private school in my hometown.  The youngest daughter of the school’s owner got me smitten.  We ended up as teen sweethearts.  In the end, I had a falling out with her parents as they found out that I was visiting her in her place whenever they are not home.  No hanky-panky, none of that stuff.  Like the gentleman that I was, am, and will be, I kept my hands to my pockets, literally.  Like a lost puppy looking for mama dog, I left and went back to my true alma mater to finish my senior year.  Along the way I recruited Benny Robeniol to come with me and experience the Divine Word life. 

Getting re-acquainted with old friends and former classmates was my first priority upon my return as senior.  I quickly realized I had the same seductive and voluptuous classmates as were during my sophomore year.  This time around, however, there were more curves on the waistline and I guess two sizes up on their shirts (if you catch my drift).  One gal that caught my fancy though was Filomena Marcelo.  She was not only diminutive but also attractive.  Problem was it’s not just me eyeing her but a couple more fellows in class too.  Rhodetto Magat, Dionemar Ulep, Rodolfo Rosales, and God know whom else.  Never wanting to compete with others, my focus was drawn back to our female teachers.  I rekindled an old crush on Ms Gilda Doot.  I did start to like her during my sophomore year but I brushed it aside.  Once more I was taken by her charm.  Unlike the first time I was not letting the opportunity pass by this time.  And so every day after we get done with her class, I always gave her pomelos.  Our backyard has two pomelo trees brimming with fruits.  Each morning before I leave for school I snatch two and stash it in my bag right at the very noses of my mother and older sister.  As this was happening, an instructor at the college class in school developed a fancy towards me.  Her name was Ms Moreno.  She was the diminutive version of Ms Andrion.  She touches my head and gives me that sexy stare every time she saw me.  This special attention I got from older women more than made up for frustrations I was experiencing with the younger generation.  The fad by then was twosome-coo some.  All the glamorous girls in school were already taken, if not being taken away by equally glamorous boys.  Local boys were always quick to the draw whenever the school gets beautiful enrollees or transferees.  Among the few lovey-dovey couples that gave the famed Tirso Cruz-Nora Aunor and Edgar Mortiz-Vilma Santos love tandems stiff competition were:  Rhodetto Magat-Jean Ruiz, Candido Bautista-Mercy Nirza, Norman Orallo-Grace Geronimo, Geoffrey Altura-Consuelo Sipin, etc.  In the meantime, Benny Robeniol picked up my habit of fooling around with teachers. 

One of the highpoints of my senior year, if not the highpoint, is my selection to the varsity team.  The rigors of training and the skirmishes that went with it were such a challenge that finishing each session was itself a triumph of the mind over the body.  Wearing two hats, Mr. Ridao was both principal and coach.  He made us run seven to eight rounds around the oval track and then made us run up and down the court afterwards doing ball movements, passing techniques, and set-plays.  You do not dare forget a set-play he designed or you run the risk of being dressed-down.  If General McArthur has his famous “I shall return” phrase immortalized, Coach Ridao has his (in) famous “murtogo” in his arsenal of words.  After weeks of training, he easily picked eleven kids to the team, a well-balanced combination of height, power, speed and shooting accuracy.  Now, he has one more slot to fill and two kids to chose from.  He had a dilemma in his hands.  Must he pick this one kid who possesses height and shooting power?  Or would he opt for this diminutive but speedy, ball handler and ball stealer kid?  He settled for the short, speedster from Asingan and the rest is history.  Of the numerous games that we won, the one that is most special to me was the one we played at the Urdaneta Open Basketball Tournament.  The best barangay players from all around town participated in it.  We beat the team from Bayaoas, the strongest and odds-on favorites to win the event.  It was comprised of fine players who once played for Mr. Ridao.  Coach knew their game plan like the back of his hand and he laid it out for us and we thwarted them.  I cannot recall if we won the championship or not.  I did know, however, that we won many a tournament and school intramurals.  I can never forget being pulled aside by Father Herbers asking me why everybody calls me “kiti-kiti” (one who cannot keep still).  I remember telling him it is because of my ball-stealing prowess and great speed up and down the court that I was called as such.  He walked away nodding and shaking his head either in understanding or in disagreement of what I told him.  The basketball season ended and the senior players on the team went on to graduate.  I did not have the opportunity to thank all the players of the team.  Their unselfish dedication and commitment helped bring about the numerous successes that we reaped.  More importantly, they contributed greatly to the camaraderie, friendship and happiness that pervaded the team.  Thanks to Mr. Ben Bello, Candido Bautista, Jessie Mamalio, Mr. Raganit, Peter Guillermo, and to those whose names I cannot remember but whose faces are still etched in my cranium (you all have to forgive me but this are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head).  

It would be pure hypocrisy, to say the least, if I would fail to essay my low points as an alumnus.  Fact is, there were lots of them.  But one that I consider worth mentioning was the incident that happened at the old Villa Linda Restaurant.  For it’s adventurous nature, sheer boldness typical of growing teens and it’s subsequent comical ending, this one would have made it to the comedy books.  Benny Robeniol, Rhodetto Magat, Peter Guillermo, Jesse Mamalio, Geoffrey Altura and I went drinking inside the restaurant.  Over bottles of beer, we hatched the idea of forming our own fraternity group.  We argued that fraternity groups had their own way of distinguishing themselves from others:  handshakes or signs and a mark on their body.  The decision was swift and unanimous.  We decided to have ours on the right wrist.  And so we lit cigarette after cigarette and took turns holding the cigarette to the site we so agreed upon.  Unbeknownst to all of us Linda, the owner of the place, has tipped-off the police.  When it was time for us to leave we were accosted by a pot-bellied plainclothes policeman.  He asked us what was going on and why we did what we did inside.  We told him we were starting a fraternity and we meant no trouble.  He then started to ask who we are.  It was never our intent to name-drop our respective father but for no apparent reason the first person started the name-dropping and it caught on.  The group was gathered in a horseshoe formation and the name recital started from the left going right.  “Geoffrey Altura, son of Mr. Altura; Jessie Mamalio, son of Traffic Control Officer Mamalio; Yogi Diaz, son of Attorney Diaz; Peter Guillermo, son of Fiscal Guillermo; and Rhodetto Magat, son of Judge Magat”.  Dude, the policeman was stunned!  I swear, he paused for almost a minute, an eternity to us!  He then took a deep breath and told us we are free to go!   All this time, we did not know that Benny slipped away on the way out.  He showed up later laughing scornly.  Had we been arrested and incarcerated, Benny would have played it innocent and would have gone scotch free.  We would later recruit juniors into joining the group we christened “MS” for “Malayang Samahan”.  The ones that I can recall were Rey Padua’s brother and Randy (more diminutive than me but I can’t remember his last name).

For all the fun, excitement, infatuation, trials and tribulations that I experienced in high school, I will never trade it for anything else.  If I have to do it all over again, I would.  What would I have to change or do differently if given that chance?  I’d say I would discard my shyness in telling my true feelings toward girls.  I would muster the courage to say that I have a big crush on a cute classmate or anybody cute in school for that matter.  Liking female teachers would be a thing in the past.  I would graft pomelo trees so I could harvest more.  This time around I would give it to all the cute gals and not to teachers.  I would audition to become a cadet officer so I could drop Johnny and Rafael Soriano.  And yes, I would grow a bit taller and jump higher so I could dunk the ball and impress the coach and be a shoo-in for the varsity team.

EPILOGUE:  Writing this piece has made me young again.  I would have finished it in a day or two but I procrastinated because it made me feel good.  I was reliving my high school years and I felt like I was 15 years old all over again.  It was exacting on the mind remembering the names of classmates and friends, some I recalled, and numerous others I couldn’t.  I would like to believe that this website of ours was put together with the purpose of bringing alums together, young and old.  That old acquaintances be renewed, friendships restored, and for those unmarried or divorced ones, old flames rekindled.  We only live once in this earthly life.  It is my wish that before I breathe my last breath, I would continue to enjoy corresponding with those that were part and parcel of my high school life.  A life abounds with ignorance, learning, experimenting and character building.  This website is the bridge which was intended to bring us closer together, just like yesterday.  I hope we all share the common bond of striving hard to build this bridge even stronger.


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