From Paglaom’s ashes, rose UP Ibalon, a motley group of Bicolanos which never run out of narratives since they banded together in 1973. Thirty-five years passed, the pressure to tell their own tale was obvious when the group met in that Naga reunion this year.
Andy ignited Ibalon’s interest to relive those days when we walked together in the wooded confines of Diliman—at the time when the post-pubescent catfish in the school’s lagoon was jumpin’ mad and the lotus blooms were starting to open! Watching the videos, I recognized the admirable effort of sharing a chronicle that must be told for Ibalon, specially for those who weren’t present.
Nostalgia. That was the word.
I imagined days when we huddled together at the AS Tambayan, some 35 years past trying to figure out which shoes was good to wear in our first formal ball at UP Alumni Center. Floro Balce, in his favorite yellow Shakey’s T-shirt, was almost about to give up on that tight black pairs of shoes which looked better than his dank sneakers! Boy Remo was sure it was time for Ibalon’s girls to stop acting like tough (Taft) people and for the guys to be gentlemen. No wonder Julius Lecciones started wearing bellbottom pants, tall shoes and sunglasses!
I recalled Greg Forcadela targetting a pinboy’s leg in his bid to win Ibalon’s first bowling derby, the event he seriously prepared for at dawn’s break in Molave Residence Hall. Butch Robredo got high marks in Philosophy when I squeezed time to read Kant, Machiavelli, and St. Augustine for his final exams. Mario Genio and Eden Borja helped me pass Chem 26, with a broken Florence flask well-hidden on the last day of school.
Nips Valenciano wasn’t happy when I grew tired bringing Drosophila melanogaster culture bottles to our class and I sometimes succeeded in getting that thick Morrison & Boyd’s Organic Chemistry book reserved in a dash from the library. Julius didn’t approve of me hiding stolen “atis” to ripen in my cabinet, but he liked being paged by Butch Robredo in the Molave intercom for a free ice cream at Dilimall.
Sabu Sabularse snored with a wiggle when the weather was cold and his body was wrapped in a red blanket hewn from Bicol! I remembered Min’s, Fem’s, May’s, Jo’s and Vine’s soprano as I struggled to come up with that ethereal voice for “Neath,” my best-loved Christmas song that earmed Ibalon P100 at Oro’s door (Elizabeth Oropesa) inspite of Eden Borja, Don Salvosa, Arnel Malaya, Gods Lanuza and Gilbert Vargas gasping for that hard “DingDongDingDong” tune that Bebeth Espeso and Susan Septimo loved.
Mario Genio didn’t want to sing carols. He preferred to watch his favorite TV program–“Pulong-pulong sa Kaunlaran,” an endearing joke of Gary Ceballos, Ray Rayel, and Julius Lecciones benignly hewn against him who was dead serious in becoming Iligan’s top anesthesiologist.
My recall couldn’t be complete without memorable Jo Prades, Analee Badiola, Fred Salva, Delen Padilla, Boro Redondo, Elsie Munoz, Jake Repomanta, Joni Cadiz, Cora Palma, Egay Rosero, Boy Oliva, Susan Septimo, Nestor Raneses, Bebeth Espeso, Allen Bonafe, Joel Cadiz, Arnel Malaya, Ona Vigil, Lani Alberto, Sherry Palencia, Fems Espinas, Divinia Nolasco, Jojo Palencia, Merle San Jose, Grace Princesa, Susan Princesa, Stephen David, Amy Hidalgo, Caring Nasol, Lily Hidalgo, Chichi Pandes, Ruby Sevilla, Asena, Yoly Reyeg, Kiks Espinas, The Dy Sisters, Sinka Balleras, Siony, and Nerissa. Did I miss a name?
Faces I would have known, voices I would have heard, and confidences I would have listened to, were all too real. I was glad to meet the new Ibalonians, just the way I wished having to cross their paths. Except for a few innocuous signs of ageing, which weren’t consistent to the org’s ageless persona, the group seemed focused on wholeness—Yes, Ibalonians wanted unity from the embers of the fractious Paglaom, not only for ourselves, but for the nation as well.
T’was obvious, those present in Eden’s home felt cozy. Our host was gracious in that huge house brimming with elegance and hospitality. I loved the capacious cathedral ceiling under which May V. Yorobe sat. Jaze, Fatima, Totoy and a host of young Ibalons must be elated seeing Eden Borja-Fernando gave her warm welcome in that frame that brought recall of the days when she was eating only half a cup of rice and a sliver of tocino at Sampaguita.
Mighty who travelled far from Davao was an inspiration. Zuyen Tria, Zards Colambo, Totoy Badiola, and Butch Robredo were affirmations of time past and blessings gained A few inches of fat in the right places, a few wrinkles on the forehead and streaks of gray or none at all didn’t make identification difficult. Those who followed us (the younger Ibalons) seemed to share our ages and our wits. They introduced themselves as if Yasmin Paje-Banzon was there to have called for a quorum!
Joel Cadiz, I kept Joni and all Ibalons in my prayers. I felt my heart jumped aflutter when you recountedyour need for colonoscopies following the demise of affable Joni.
I thought of my esteemed NPS teachers Jesus and Julia Olin when the camera focused on Jun, who was a mere atom when I was one of mom’s (Miss Collada’s) favorites in kindergarten.
Oh Ibalon! I could go on and on. But for now, may I ask you to share your story too? Hmmm….Andy I hope I did my part for now!
Augusto (Totie) Mesia
Astoria, New York