Saturday, July 26, 2014

*371. He Built According To God’s Plan: Arch. JOSE MA. ZARAGOZA

JOSE MA. ZARAGOZA. Renown for building ecclesiastical structures like the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, Zaragoza was hailed as National Artist for Architecture, Design & Allied Arts on 20 June 2014. His mother hails from the Velez-Infante family of Guagua, Pampanga. Photo ca. 1955.

A part-Kapampangan architect known for dedicating his life to building sacred monuments and churches was recenty honored posthumously with a National Artist award in the field of architecture, design and the allied arts.

 Jose Ma. Zaragoza was born in Manila on 6 December 1914 to parents, Dña. Rosario Velez y Infante and Elias Zaragoza y Roxas. the 1st Filipino graduate of Yale University in 1906.

 The Velez family, of Spanish lineage, were among the most prominent families of Guagua, noted for their vast landholdings and untold wealth, traces of which still remain to this day. No less illustrious were the Zaragozas; Elias himself was the 1st Filipino graduate of Yale University, earning a degree in Electrical Engineering, summa cum laude, in 1906. Later, the senior Zaragoza was granted a 10-year study at Faraday Institute in London.

 Apparently, it was from his father that Joselin, as the young Jose was fondly called, got his aptitude for numbers and design. After graduating from high school at San Beda College in 1931 as salutatorian, he enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas, where he finished with honors, B.S. in Architecture. He passed the government examinations in 1938.

 After passing the licensure exams in 1938, he joined the firm of Arch. Andres Luna de San Pedro, the Dean of Philippine Architects—and Juan Luna’s son. His Catholic upbringing shaped the direction of his lifeworks—one of his early works was the Villa San Miguel in Mandaluyong. But he rose to great prominence when he won the design project of the Sto. Domingo Church and Convent at Quezon City. It was a significant assignment as an ancestor, Felix Roxas, had designed the original Sto. Domingo Church in Intramuros , subsequently bombed during the war in 1941.

 Zaragoza’s other credits include the Pope Pius XII parish church in Manila, the Don Bosco Bosco church in Makati (finished 4 March 1978), the Union Church of Manila (also in Makati), the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Parañaque, and the refurbishing of the interiors of Quiapo Church. In all, Arch. Zaragoza was involved in the design and construction of over 45 ecclesiastical structures all over the country. But he also distinguished himself in designing corporate offices and edifices.

One important commission was from the Lopez Group founder Eugenio Lopez Sr., who asked him to design Meralco’s new Ortigas headquarters, previously based in San Marcelino, Manila. The new, state-of-the-art multi-storey building was completed and inaugurated on 14 March 1969 in time for the electric company’s 66th anniversary. Other iconic landmarks that Zaragoza handled were the Greenhills Shopping Center in Ortigas and Casino Español. 

 Along his professional line, Zaragoza was an honorary fellow of both the American Institute of Architects and the Philippine Institute of Architects. He also was a 2-term president of the Philippine Institute of Architects and also held the presidency of the U.S.T. College of Architecture and Fine Arts Alumni Association. He headed his own private enterprise as president of the J.M.Z. Home Industries.

 The devout Zaragoza was named a Papal Chamberlain of Pope Pius XII (Cape and Sword) in 1956. He was also a Cavalier Magistrale of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and a Knight Treasurer, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He sat as a director for the Catholic Aid Association and was an active Knight of Columbus member.

 Zaragoza was the first Filipino to attend the International Institute of Liturgical Arts in Rome in 1956. That same year, he also attended the conference at the Union Nationales des Cooperatives d’Énglises et Edifices Religion Sinistres, held in Paris, France.

 Married to the former Pilar Rosello, his family was blessed with 5 children: Ramon (writer), Loudette, Charina (Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 1968) and Vince. The family settled eventually in Makati where the esteemed architect lived out the rest of his life, attending to his pet dogs, as well as to his many religious activities. The acclaimed architect died at age 81 on 26 November 1994, and his memorial services were held at the same chapel that he designed, the Blessed Sacrament chapel of Don Bosco.

 Amidst the Nora Aunor brouhaha, Zaragoza was named as a National Artist on 20 June 2014. But unlike the thespian’s controversial background, Zaragoza’s lifetime achievements in the field of design architecture are, without question, spotless testaments of his brilliance as an “architect for God, for man”.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

*370. TEATRO SABINA: Where Zarzuelistas Take Centerstage

LIFE STAGES. The venerable Teatro Sabina of Bacolor, is the venue for the play, "Reina Malaya", produced and performed by students of Pampanga Trade School. Note the figure of Uncle Sam on the left, which would suggest that this play had a patriotic theme like many plays of the period. Ca. 1927.

In early 20th c. Pampanga, Bacolor’s first and premiere theatre – Teatro Sabina – was where Kapampangan actors and singers, playwrights and composers,  congregated to give vent to their new, artistic pursuits before an adoring town audience.

One such novel art form was the ‘zarzuela’, a play that was both sung and acted by performers,with dialogues and song lyrics in Kapampangan. The Kapampangan ‘zarzuela’ was a product of a brainstorm by the 3 leading poets and dramatists of their time: Proceso Pabalan (Byron) , Juan Crisostomo Soto (Crissot) and Felix Galura (Flauxgialer), who thought of combining declamations and songs in one stage play, sometime in 1900.

Previous to this, staged drama consisted of moro-moros and kumidyas, which only had straight and long dialogues that caused many an audience to sleep in the middle of a play. The group enrolled the services of composer Amado Gutierrez David to create song melodies, and soon, the first zarzuelas emerged from their prolific pens. Pabalan wrote his zarzuelas (Ing Managpe and Magparigaldigal) and Soto his ‘Paninap ng San Roque’.

The rehearsals for the ‘zarzuelas’ were held in the spacious residence of  Mateo Gutierrez-David, father of composer Amado and another zarzuelista—Jose Gutierrez-David, the future justice of the Supreme Court. The Gutierrez-David house is thus considered as the birthplace of Pampanga zarzuelas.

But a permanent venue was needed to accommodate the large repertory of actors, musicians and backstage hands – not to mention the audience. Luckily, Indang Sabina Joven, the unmarried sister of Pampanga’s governor, Don Ceferino Joven, had an idle plot of land in downtown Bacolor. With the help of her family, a theater was constructed that was to bear her name—Teatro Sabina. To further honor her, the performing troop called itself Compania Sabina, which toured all over Pampanga, Tarlac and even Manila.


Many zarzuelas—now considered classic—had their gala performances at Teatro Sabina, which was praised for its excellent acoustics, courtesy of water wells dug in strategic parts of the theater grounds. Pabalan had the privilege of having his zarzuela, “Ing Managpe” (The Patcher) staged first at the renowned theater on 13 September 1900, followed by Crissot’s ‘’Ing Paninap ng San Roque” (1901) and “Alang Dios” (1902).

Hundreds of zarzuelas were written and produced afterward, with many becoming word-of-mouth hits like “Ing Sultana”, “Mascota”, “Sigalut”, and “La Independencia”. Teatro Sabina became a popular venue for staging plays produced not only by professional theatre groups but also by drama guilds of nearby schools.


In 1909, the Teatro Sabina was reconstructed and remodelled. When inaugurated anew, a commemorative board was placed above the frontage of the stage, on the proscenium arch. It contained the names of Pampango dramatists and composers who played major roles in promoting the Kapampangan zarzuela: Proceso Pabalan, Juan Crisostomo Soto, Felix Galura, Pascual Gozun, Pablo Palma, Jose Prado, Amado Gutierrez-David and Jose Gutierrez-David.

The zarzuela era flourished for about 3 decades, thanks to Teatro Sabina.  The support from the Joven family continued until financial difficulties set in. The legendary theater ceased operations in the late ‘20s, ending the golden era of Kapampangan theater.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

*369. KAPAMPANGANS AT THE 1904 ST. LOUIS’ WORLD’S FAIR


FILIPINAS AT THE FAIR! The Philippine Exhibit was assigned the largest space in the fairgrounds of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and a multitude of structures were built to serve as exhibit halls and residences of some 1,100 Filipinos (mostly tribal groups)  flown in to animate the event. No wonder, the Philippine Exhibit caused a major sensation

 “Meet me at St. Louis…meet me at the Fair!” 
So goes the lyrics of the period song that served as the unofficial theme of a magnificent American fair that was dubbed as “the greatest of expositions”, surpassing everything the world has seen before, in terms of cost, size and splendor, variety of views, attendance and duration.

 The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, opened officially on 30 April 1904, to mark the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Louisiana from France by the U.S.- a vast area that comprised almost 1/3 of continental America. From this land were carved the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and sections of Colorado, Minnesota and Wyoming.

 Save for Delaware and Florida, all the states and territories of America participated in all the activities at the sprawling 1,275 acre fairgrounds that took all of 6 years to build. As a U.S. territory, the Philippines joined 45 nations in organizing a delegation as well as the construction of its own exhibit grounds—the largest in the fair-- to house pavilions, recreated villages, presentations and native Filipino groups.

 Much have been said about the Philippine representation that included “living museums” with ethnic tribes (Samal, Negrito, Igorottes, Bagobos), and regional groups (Visayans, Tagalogs) showing their traditional way of living in replicated villages.

Before large audiences, Igorots demonstrated their culinary practices by eating dogs, while Negritos shot arrows and climbed trees. A pair of Filipino midgets were also featured stars, together with English-speaking, harp-playing Tagalas who represented the more “civilized’ side of the Philippines.

 On a more positive note, the Philippine Constabulary Band dazzled and thrilled crowds with their impressive and stirring performance of march music while the Philippine Scouts, composed mostly of smartly-dressed Macabebe soldiers ("Little Macs", as they were called by their American fans) , performed military drills with precision and aplomb.

 Then there were the superlative government exhibits that showcased the richness of Philippine talents and resources. There were exhibits in various categories: Forestry, Arts, Crafts, Cuisine, Education, Agriculture and Horticulture, Fish, Game and Water Transport and other industries. Tasked with the purchase of collecting and installing these distinctively Filipino exhibits for the St. Louis World’s Fair was the Philippine Exposition Board, specially created by the Philippine Commission.

The Board was allotted an initial budget of $125,000, with a further appropriation of up to $250,000 to mount a world-class exhibit that would show the commercial, industrial, agricultural, cultural, educational and economic gains made by our islands under Mother America.

 Recognitions were given by the organizers of the World’s Fair for country participants where their entries were judged by an international jury. Over 6,000 of various colors were won by the Philippines. Among those granted the honors were many outstanding Kapampangans who were represented by their inventive and creative works that wowed both the crowds of St. Louis and also the esteemed jury. 

In the category of Ethnography, the Silver Prize went to the Negrito Tribe (tied with the Bagobos) that counted Aetas from Pampanga as among the tribe members. They wre represented by Capt. Medio of Sinababawan and Capt. Batu Tallos, of Litang Pampanga.

 The Products of Fisheries yielded the following Kapampangan winners who produced innovative fishing equipment. Bronze Medals: Ambrosio Evangelista, Diego Reyes (Candaba); Fulgencio Matias (Sta. Ana); Macario Tañedo (Tarlac). Honorable Mentions: Alfredo Arnold, Epifanio Arceo, Pedro Lugue, Jacinto De Leon, Pascual Lugue, Mario Torres (Apalit); Eugenio Canlas, Teodoro de los Santos (Sto. Tomas); Andres Lagman (Minalin); Rita Pangan (Porac); Thos. J. Mair, Medeo Captacio (identified only as coming from Pampanga).

 Pampanga schools also performed commendably, with various winners in the Public School Exhibits, Elementary Division. Bronze medal winners include the town schools of Apalit, Arayat, Bacolor, Candaba and San Fernando, while Honorable Mentions were merited by Betis, Guagua and Mabalacat.

In the Secondary School division, Pampanga High School of San Fernando too home the Bronze. From among entries in the General Collective Exhibit category, Mexico was chosen to receive a Silver Medal. The Bronze went to Macabebe and San Fernando, while Honorable Mentions list included Bacolor, Candaba, Floridablanca, Magalang and Sta. Rita.

 The Fine Arts competition produced two Pampanga residents: Rafael Gil who won Silver for his mother-of-pearl art creation. Gil, and the highly regarded Bacolor artist, Simeon Flores (posthumous), also won Honorable Mentions for their paintings.

 The culinary traditions of Pampanga were made known to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair through the sweet kitchen concoctions of several ‘kabalens’. Angeles was ably represented by Trifana Angeles Angeles (preserved orange peel) ; Irene Canlas (preserved melon); Carlota C. Henson (preserves and jellies); Januario Lacson (santol preserves); Isabel Mercado (preserved limoncito); Atanacio Rivera de Morales (santol preserves, buri palm preserves); Zoilo and Marcelino Nepomuceno (mango jelly); Aurelia Torres (santol preserves) andYap Siong (anisada corriente, anis espaseosa) Mabalaqueñas also tickled taste buds with their homemade desserts: Rafaela Ramos Angeles (preserved fruit, santol preserves); Maria Guadalupe Castro (santol jelly) and Justa de Castro (kamias fruit preserve).

 The World’s Fair at St. Louis closed at midnight on 1 December 1904, and was declared a huge success—thanks in part to the blockbuster Philippine exhibits enriched by the modest contributions of Kapampangans who proved equal to the challenge, to emerge as world-class citizens.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

*368. JULIAN MANANSALA , The Father of Philippine Nationalist Films

MASANTOL'S MOVIE MAN. Julian Manansala, director, producer, film makee, was known as "The Father of Philippine Nationalist Films" for his many movies with patriotic themes.

 The esteemed director-peliculero from Masantol who would leave a name in Philippine movie history as a foremost producer of patriotic and historical films, was born Julian Manansala on 28 January 1899, to Miguel Manansala and Leoniza Mendoza. Julian, ho also was an accomplished layer, comes from an artistic family that counts Vicente Silva Manansala as a member; the future national artist is his nephew.

 In his teens, he was quite a popular figure in his hometown, heading social clubs like “Bulaclac ning Pamacalugud  in 1913 and as an adult, “Batis ning Tula” and ‘’Panyulat Capampangan’’, a literary group. He moved to Manila for his high school education, which he finished at the National University in 1915. Manansala next pursued his Bachelor of Laws, at Escuela de Derecho, which he completed in 1919.

 After taking the bar, he opted to work in Washington D.C. as a Solicitor for Pensioners for over 200 Filipino veteran soldiers who fought for America, helping them secure their benefits and rights as provided by the Law of Pensions and Compensations. He held this post at the Bureau of Pension from 1921-28.

Upon his return to the Philippines, Manansala surprised everyone when he jumped into the fledgling Philippine movie industry bandwagon, joining pioneers Juan Nepomuceno, Atty. Vicente Salumbides, Sen. Jose Vera and Dña. Narcisa vda. De Leon. After all, he had always believed in taking risks and capitalizing on opportunities: ‘’Samantalanan me at gamitan ing guintu mung panahun, qñg pamagaral ang metung a cabiasnan a talagan cajiligan mu, ebala ing nung emu man abalu ing aliwa,uling mayap at pakinabangnan mu nung lunto cang especialista qñg metung a cabiasnan, kesa qñg abalu mu ing sabla, dapot puguit naca man dili.’’ (Grab and use your time of gold to learn one field of interest. Do not worry if you cannot learn everything—it is better to be a master of one, than to be a Jack of all trades).

 Manansala directed his first movie, ‘’Patria Amore’’ in 1929, and proved to be a masterful film make. The movie created quite a stir with its direct reference to Spanish abuses. Considered as discriminatory, the Spanish community filed a case in court, asking to stop the screening of the movie for fear of a backlash against them. The request for a restraining order was denied. From thenceforth, Manansala continued to produce a list of movies with strong nationalistic themes.

 The next year, in 1930, he completed ‘’Dimasalang’’, starring Mary Walter and kabalen, Dr. Gregorio Fernandez, who would also foray into directing. He next signed up with Banahaw Pictures Corp. as its Technical Director and megged ‘’Ang Kilabot ng mga Tulisan’’ (1932), with Dolly Garcia and Salvador Zaragosa.

Unhappy being an employee, he resigned to put up his own Liberty Cinema Corp. Manansala directed and produced ‘’Pag-ibig ng Kadete’’, headlined by the Kapampangan poet, Amado Yuson. He next shot “Mutya ng Katipunan” (1939), with favorite actress, Arsenia Francisco, whom he would use again in one of his last films, “Tawag ng Bayan’’(1940).

 His political interest was piqued when he became the Secretary-General of Manila-based ‘’Nais Capampangan’’. Later, he would also join the consolidated Nationalist Party in Manila as a committee president, for 6 years.

 When his heyday as a filmmaker was over, Manansala returned to his first love--Law. A full 26 years after his graduation, he was finally admitted to the Philippine bar on 19 November 1945, and practiced his profession. He was married to married Donata Quito, 1921, with whom he had 4 children: Antonio, Bonifacio (who would also become a very successful criminal lawyer , at times, working side-by-side with his father), Carolina and Donata.

 Manansala lived by his life credo: ‘’Ing catapatan qng sinta qng calupang cayanacan, qñg meguing cabislac na ning caldua, at qñg Indung Balen, landas neng tune ning pamagtagumpe at caligayan.’’ (Your faith in your young love, in your soul mate, and in your Motherland are the real paths to achieving personal glory and fulfillment). Manansala has certainly treaded on the right path; today, lawyer-director is known as the First Father of Philippine Nationalist Films.

Monday, April 28, 2014

*367. Good Times, Great Eats: SPIC 'N SPAN

SPIC TO ME. A 1950s advertisement of Spic 'n Span, one of Pampanga's premiere and  popular restaurants founded by Pilar Mendez-Gomez, widow of Vicente Gomez of Angeles. 

 “Let’s have ice cream at Spic ‘n Span!” 

Whenever my dad was in the mood for treating us kids, he would holler those words, and we would all respond with squeals of delight at the prospect of having a good time over at Angeles’ most popular haven of refreshment.

 Long before McDonald’s and Jollibee, there was Spic ‘n Span, located along the national road in Balibago, Angeles City, near the Mabalacat town boundary. It was not exactly a fastfood restaurant, but it billed itself as a “cocktail lounge and restaurant”, catering to banquets, wedding receptions and parties at popular prices. But to us, Spic ‘n Span represented everything that was cool, clean and refreshing, a break from our humdrum routine and a special time for family to bond and recharge.

 In fact, it was the latter that became the guiding light of the Spic ‘n Span founder, Mrs. Pilar Gomez, in the successful management of her restaurant business, elevating it as one of Central Luzon’s best.

Pilar Mendez was born in Paco, Manila on 2 October 1899, the daughter of Manuel Mendez, a Tabacalera executive, and Benita Bautista of Victoria, Tarlac. Of Spanish stock, Pilar grew up speaking Spanish, and was educated at Sta. Isabel College and St. Scholastica College.

 Just a few years into college, she met Vicente “Centi” Gomez (b. 24 Nov. 1889), the son of Esteban Gomez and Josefa Pamintuan of Angeles. Esteban was the first-born of Nicolas Gomez (aka Fray Guillermo Masnou, cura of Angeles) with local lass Patricia Mercado.

Their short courtship culminated in their wedding on 19 Mar. 1920. Their children—11 of them-- would come in quick succession, and to help fend for the family, Pilar set up a small restaurant in 1945—“Linda’s Nook and Drive In”, which was to become the forerunner of “Spic ‘n Span”.

 In 1953, her husband, Centi, died leaving the widow alone to run the restaurant business. Her devotion to her family spurred her in steering Spic ‘n Span to greater heights, which eventually became one of Pampanga’s finest and well-known restaurants and caterers. For over two decades, Spic ‘n Span would serve hundreds of thousands of food-loving local and international guests (it was a favorite watering hole of Clark Air Base personnel), cater to countless wedding receptions, graduations and other milestone events. 

To hone her knowledge in the food industry, Pilar enrolled as a member of the Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association of the Philippines, and joined the delegation for observation tours to Japan and Hongkong.

 In all these years, Pilar managed to preserve the unity of her family despite time and distance. All but one (Pilar Ines, who died in infancy) would finish their education and move on to other fields of endeavour: Esteban (Commerce, La Salle), Pacita, Angel (Mechanical Engineering, Mapua), Hermelinda, Floriana (H.E., Sta. Paul) , Vicente Magno Jr. (Commerce, La Salle), Manuel Benito (Mechanical Eng., La Salle) , Pilar Vicenta (Secretarial Science), Benita Paula (Bachelor of Arts) and Salvador Senen (Bachelor of Arts, La Salle).

 Spic ‘n Span’s heyday would continue on till the 70s, and so did our regular after-school hours stop. On the long drive back to Mabalacat from Angeles, we would drop by for a scoop or two of my favorite chocolate ice cream—which was what my dear father could afford in those days.

By then, the area had become crowded, and alternative eating places, like A&W Drive-in (Open 24 hours! Angeles’ newest and most fascinating!), Shanghai Restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even Didi’s Pizza, had started burgeoning in far more spacious and developed locations. In a few years, Spic ‘n Span was no more.

 Mrs. Pilar Mendez would pass away on 21 October 1983, but her legacy lives on in the happy recollections of satisfied customers like me, who regularly had a dose of wholesome fun at her special place that brought hospitality, excellent taste and warm service together under one roof" Spic 'n Span!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

*366.THE APOSTLES OF MALELDO

 APOSTLE'S CREED. Ceremony of the Apostles' Washing of the Feet. ca. 1955. Pampanga.

Every year, during Holy Week, Pampanga’s devouts are not only treated to a spectacle of saintly characters during the traditional processions, but they are also introduced to a host of biblical personalities—the angels of the Resurrection, Roman centurions, and perhaps the most visible and busiest—the twelve apostles of Christ, personified by select male members of the community.

To be chosen as one of the disciples of Christ was an affirmation of one’s respectability and standing in local society. Once chose, an apostol has to fulfill a vow or panata of carrying out whatever responsibilities and duties are assigned to him during the entire Lenten season. First comes the assumption of the identity of a particular apostle’s name. No fast rules are observed in the naming of the chosen apostoles—although the title of San Pedro often goes to the most senior member and San Juan, to the youngest.

The members of Christ’s court are then given white sutanas to wear, with sashes of different colors that often have their written names on them for proper identification—not unlike pageant sashes that proclaim one’s beauty title: Miss Universe, Miss International, Mutya ning Kapampangan and so forth.

Nowadays, like in my city of Mabalacat, Pampanga parishes garb their apostoles with robes that adhere strictly to the liturgical colors assigned to every apostle saint: deep yellow and green for San Pedro, red and green for San Juan.

On Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) , the apostoles make their first major appearance: they accompany the parish priest in the re-enactment of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as he enters the church to a throng of palaspas-bearing churchgoers.

Once inside, the apostoles enjoy preferred seating in the church, occupying the front pews or chairs in the altar area. It will also be the first time for the parishioners to scrutinize up close the chosen twelve, often with a touch of amusement, as it’s not every day that one sees a neighborhood grocer dressed up like San Andres or Santo Tomas. Hushed arguments would be heard in the church as to aptness of the role assigned to this person who is deem either“ too short.. too fat..or has no hair”, and so on and so forth.

 On Maundy Thursday, the apostoles are in full force again as they participate in the “Dakit Cordero”. Held in mid- afternoon, the apostles lead the way in fetching the holy lamb of God , shaped from flour, kamote or potato, from the house of a designated hermano. They accompany the cordero, conveyed on a tray by the hermano, to the church, where it is blessed.

The afternoon event culminates with the celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper, that features the procession of the Blessed Sacrament and its enshrinement at the monumento or Altar of Repose . Here, the apostoles are put on spotlight with the traditional washing of their feet by the priest, in imitation of Christ’s act of humble service.

The apostoles, smartly dressed in robes and sporting newly-shined shoes, fresh socks and professional pedicure take to the altar for this sacred re-enactment, attended by a gawking audience and a flurry of camera flashes. Must-join too, are the processions for both Miercoles Santo and Viernes Santo.

At the latter, the apostoles escort the most important figure of the prusisyun, the Santo Entierro or Apung Mamacalulu, the carved figure of the dead Christ encased in a gilded and flower-bedecked calandra. It simulates a real funeral procession, winding along the town’s main street and ending in the church. Easter Sunday will find the apostoles busy too, as they participate in the ritual of Salubong, in a show of solidarity with their Master and of course, the people.

For an apostol, there’s not an idle moment during the season of Lent. Though just a temporary role lasting no more than a week, it is a role that he embraces and takes seriously, a special privilege to serve God and humanity in a way that emulates and imitates Christ. Lucky indeed is he, for as Christ himself proclaimed, many are called, but few are chosen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

*365. LETTER TO LOLA

(In January of 2009, my mother, Estrella del Rosario Castro or simply, "Imang Ecteng" to many people, was diagnosed with a terminal illness. After learning of her sickness, her first-born grandchild, Charisse Diane Hamada wrote this letter to her Lola Ester. Charisse had grown up under her watch in Mabalacat, while waiting to be reunited with her U.S-based parents. Before Ima expired in June, she had the pleasure of seeing her first great-grandchildren-Mia and Ethan-twins of Charisse, who flew them home in March 2009 to see their 'Lola Easter' for the first--and the last time. The picture accompanying this article shows my young Ima with daughter, Celine, mother of Charisse, in 1952)

January 29, 2009
10:14 PM

 My Dear Lola,

As I put Mia and Ethan to bed this evening, we said a prayer for you. We prayed that your illness will not cause you unbearable pain. We are saddened that you are going through this Lola, but we know that you are a very strong person and can face what's to come.

I often wondered how you managed your life with 8 children! Edgar and I have 2 and already we are saying "no more". Reflecting back on the years we lived with you, I want to tell you how forever grateful we are for your love and support (and Lolo's, too).

 I know you made a lot of sacrifices for my family. I remember that you had to build an extension to Sta. Ines to house our family of 6! I remember you helped us out financially, tirelessly tried to help us get visas to come to the States, raised Charmaine and I while Mom/Pa were in the States. That must have been so taxing on you. You never complained about the responsibility. I also remember giving you so much heartache growing up.

So Lola, I want to take this opportunity to say how sorry I am for ever hurting you. Who I am now is a reflection of how well you and Mom/Pa raised us and I am proud to be your oldest apo. As an adult - a mother like you - it's all very clear to me where my independence, resourcefulness, perseverance, drive and loyalty comes from - it's from you, Lola.

You have set a role model for your children and your apos. I will remember you always as being generous of yourself - so selfless and devoted to your family, always putting your family first before yourself.

You love and you give unconditionally, Lola and this is how I strive to live my own life and hope my children do the same.

Lola, I am honoring you by bringing Ethan and Mia to meet you and know you even for a short time. You are not a stranger to them as you might think. They give me and Edgar laughter and love and that is what I'm hoping they would bring to you during our short visit.

When God calls you, remember those you are leaving behind as we remember and cherish you. Know that WE will be alright. Know that it is okay to let go and be at peace. You will no longer have to feel pain or worry as you've done all your life.

We will all be OK, we have each other no matter the distance. Lola, we love you - we always have and we always will. Thank you for everything you've done for us, from the bottom of our hearts. Give our love to Lolo and Tito Eric and to all our family who have gone before us. May God Bless You and watch over you.

Your apo, Charisse

P.S. Lola, how could I forget to mention? Your cooking! You've shown us love through the food you've fed all us these years. We will never forget you... I just wished I learned (even a little) how to cook like you...