Great article, Totie! I get this feeling that after reading your article, Sharing a Narrative, prospective article contributors to this blog, myself included, may be too intimidated to put their post side by side yours. But there are stories that must be told. Anyway, I learned in Diliman that geniuses are suckers for great stories and are very tolerant of even the worst writing style. So here I am.
How I wish all other Ibalon alumni, even the younger ones, just know you at personal level. Natural na maboot in a way that soothes the soul. There was no Ibalon yet and I was a freshman when I first met you —not in Diliman but at the chaotic ticketing section of the Tutuban PNR station while waiting for my turn to part with my precious P35 to buy a De-Luxe ticket back home to Bicol. There were over a hundred people before us and the crowd was getting unruly, so the young me was scared to end up in the Economy class and face, at best, the prospect of sleeping on my luggage in the aisle of the train, shoulder-to-shoulder with floor-spitting co-passengers. The worst prospect was to miss going home for Penafrancia (or was it Christmas?), unthinkable for a freshman going home to Bicol for the first time. There were no buses going to Bicol in those days. The over P100 airfare to Naga was beyond my budget; I could only console myself with the thought that all flights would by fully booked by VIPs anyway and there was a typhoon near Bicol. Then you came as a breath of fresh air, a Bicol-speaking, handsome young gentleman from Naga, UP Diliman pre-med sophomore, who took all the confusion in stride and talk about the whole scene with academic interest.
To me, you are the collective personification of the Ibalon members I met in my UP Diliman days. Maray na tawo gabos, with pure hearts. As you enumerate names, beautiful faces of innocence keep flashing in my mind. Parang mga tupa ngani in their goodness. Where are they now? May they be afflicted with bouts of narcissism and search their names in Google so they find their way into this blog!
Of course, may mga misunderstanding man. During my senior years, I recall one flare up by Min. Ini man kayang mga kids— Ruby Sevilla, Cheche Pandes, Abet Guballa, and others—mahali na an bus pa Naga, nasa bowling lanes pa nagkakarawat. Nagbubusina na an Philtranco bus. Nagsunod si Nanay Yasmin and on the way she accidentally shattered the glass door of the bowling lanes. Iriwal dikit. Sabi man kan mga kids dai man daa sinda nag bowling. Nag snack lang ta nagutom. Yaaaan!
May duwa man mataray-taray daa (dangog ko lang, kaya hearsay): si tarty Vines and Susan Tootsie Septimo. Is it any coincidence that they are both in America? Kayang kaya makipagsapakan maski sa mga Negro? Tootsie came home last year. She is married to an American. My wife is looking for Tootsie’s e-mail ad. They are batch mates at Colegio.
Bebeth Espeso is also in your list of recollection. I remember Bebeth as a 3rd (or 4th year) year BS Chemistry student. And I remember her wake and funeral at Tulay na Lupa, Labo. Even after 30 years, I still picture the face of her grieving mother as she sat beside her coffin. I could sketch her expression from memory. I’d gladly join an Ibalon project in Bebeth’s name. She is part of the history of Ibalon.
On the brighter side of 1977, it was during the Kami Minagalang preparations that I found my future wife, Nancy. One of the beneficiaries of that project was the Don Susano Rodriguez Mental Hospital. Don Susano was still alive then, and lived with Nancy’s family. I was tasked to solicit donation from Don Susano. A tall order considering that the old man was a well known miser. Nancy was there during my meeting with Don Susano and acted as interpreter through hand signals because he had difficulty speaking. Nancy needed to shout into his ears because, at more than 80, his hearing was already impaired. I probably stayed more than necessary at the house and it seemed Don Susano could sense that a romance was about to begin because he kept on gesturing his finger at Nancy Hala isusumbong kita! We’ve been married for 23 years now and we have two sons. The eldest, 22, works as engineer at Globe. The younger one is in the last year of his ECE course at AdeMU. Two angels much like the Ibalon members I meet in Diliman. Too pure hearted to lie and cheat. And that worries me because our government do not like people with these traits. I do not encourage my sons to leave the Philippines, but given the atmosphere here, I wouldn’t mind if they do. At least, temporarily.
Binabagyo kami digdi ngunyan. Sana matapos na ining typhoon Gloria, so we can help clean up the garbage she leaves behind.
Halaba na ini, Totie. More to come. I take your prompt post as a gesture of appreciation for the creation of this blog. Thank you. Laba labaan mo pa an sunod mong article.