"He is a role model and a hero."
President Rodrigo Duterte said that soon, it would only take five minutes to get from Cubao to Makati via Edsa.
I said to myself, this is yet another of his pronouncements that need to be clarified. The only way you can achieve this travel time is to drive at 185 kilometers per hour.
The President is neither a miracle man nor a magician, is he?
And indeed now the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority says we should not take the President’s words literally.
In another instance, after the President saw firsthand the congestion at NAIA where flights were either delayed or cancelled because of a lightning alert, he said congestion would be solved in one month.
How exactly, when congestion has been a perennial problem?
I wonder when we can take the President’s words at face value. As a journalist, I cannot be forever imagining what he might have meant.
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I remember my father, a simple government worker in the pre-war Department of Education. He was a district school supervisor. He was my role model, my hero.
My father was born in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur, the second in a family of four brothers and a sister. My grandfather was a Spaniard, a mercenary from Malaga, Spain, and who was brought to the Philippines by the Governor Juan Salcedo. Governor Salcedo made my grandfather Abdon a guardia civil in charge of a stone tower on the coast of Magsingal.
In those days, coasts always had towers to guard the villages from pirates. The Chinese frequently pillaged villages in the Northern Philippines.
When my grandfather Abdon retired, he asked his brother Canuto to join him in the Philippines. Both set up a farm near the seacoast of Magsingal.
My father used to tell me that his Uncle Canuto had two beautiful daughters named Maria and Marciana,who were courted by plantation and hacienda owners. Maria got married to a Marquez, a coconut plantation owner from Tayabas. Marciana was married to a haciendero named Urdabe, who was from Pangasinan.
My father said he had to elope with my mother, Margarita Pacis, because the Pacis family discriminated against the Jurados, who were simple farmers. The Pacis family on the other hand had a house beside the municipal building.
I consider elopement romantic. Imagine a lover hanging on to a ladder!
My father just finished high school when he was tapped to become district supervisor of schools in Abra by the Secretary of Education, Camilo Osias. In those days, there was a dearth of education graduates. My father had to go to Baguio every summer to earn credits so that he could get his bachelor’s degree in education.
When my father was district supervisor, our family had to go from one town to another. This is why three of my siblings—Manuel, Vicente and Petra—died in infancy. There was a lack of hospitals and doctors. Had they lived, we would have been seven in all! My father really did his homework.
He used to tell me stories about his job. He was always out visiting schools. One time, he came home with a spear and a shield, given to him by headhunters of the Cordillera mountains.
My father was a great swimmer. That is one of my frustrations—I never learned how to swim. My mother was so protective of me, because I was the youngest.
I recall that during the rainy season, when the Abra River swelled, my father did the impossible—cross it.
My father was a horse fancier, branding horses with his initials ECJ. He trained them to be pacers. He had a reputation for breeding good horses and pacers. In fact, he sold two of his pacers for P1,500 so we would be able to buy a car.
Alas, toward the end of the Japanese occupation, he got sick with Parkinson’s Disease, which forced his retirement. He was a patient and God-fearing man, always ready to help. When provoked, however, he was like a different person.
I dedicate this column to him, with Fathers’ Day coming on Sunday.
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Tomorrow June 14 is the 78th anniversary of a momentous chapter in Philippine history. Guerilla groups belonging to the 121st Infantry of USAFIL-NL fought an uphill battle with the forces of Yamashita. This was the Battle of Bessang Pass.
It is tragic that the nation is not commemorating this day when no less than 1,400 Ilocanos and Igorots were killed—and soon forgotten.
Only two presidents honored the heroes of Bessang Pass—Ferdinand Marcos and Fidel Ramos. What a tragedy that the nation does not consider this victory big enough to celebrate.