Sorsogueños Revitalize Crusade for Good Governance

By Luisito Panelo

      SORSOGON CITY, PHILIPPINES – A group of Sorsogon residents today re-strengthen an “anti-graft and corrupt practices” advocacy movement they formed in 2004, the Sorsogon Crusade for Good Government or “Cruzada” for brevity. The group aims to eradicate graft and corruption in the bureaucracy by providing the people an effective means of exposing and investigating graft and corrupt practices in the province and prosecuting its offenders.

      Cruzada hopes to “restore dignity in public service” by encouraging people to actively participate in ridding government of all forms of corruption beginning with the education of the people themselves on “what constitute corruption”.

      “After having been exposed to corruption from the Spanish Era to the Martial Law years, Filipinos seemed to have embraced it as a way of life. Most of them commit the crime without even knowing that what they are doing is a corrupt act”, says Carlos Reyes, one of Cruzada‘s trustees and concurrent vice chairman.

      “To most government employees, appropriating for themselves few sheets of bond paper or other office supplies is not unlawful. Being government employees, they think they are entitled to use them for their own private needs”, said another Cruzada trustee, “unwittingly hosting a ‘spawning’ of corruption inside them”, he added.

      Organized in 2004 shortly after the Presidential Elections, Cruzada embarked on a mission to “ensure an honest and efficient public service, free from discrimination”, by upholding the highest degree of accountability among public officers and employees.

      To rid itself of political opportunists, Cruzada has confined its membership to persons who are not holding any elective position or persons not related, either by consanguinity or affinity, in the 4th civil degree to any elected public official. In addition to these requirements, Cruzada automatically disqualifies any member who has filed a certificate of candidacy to any local or national elections, and that said member is deemed automatically resigned upon filing his certificate of candidacy.

      Cruzada’s officers are, Joesan Gabarda, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Carlos Reyes, Vice-Chairman, Atty. Joven Laura, President, Atty. Oscar Deri Executive Vice President, with Atty. Isagani Ocampo, Atty. Augusto “Tootsie” Cubias, Jr., Judge Antonio Estuye, Judge Gernacio and Judge Haile Frivaldo as Trustees.

     Atty. Cubias and former RTC Judge Gernacio of Barcelona were concurrently elected Vice Presidents for the 1st and 2nd Districts, respectively. The Executive Committee for Legal Affairs is chaired by former Judge Haile Frivado and co- chaired by Isagani Ocampo while the Committee on Media Affairs is headed by broadcaster Joey Gois. Municipal Chapters were likewise created and are headed by chapter presidents, former Vice Mayor Nonong Guyala was elected Chapter President of Bulan, former RTC Judge Frivaldo for Irosin, former RTC Judge Gernacio for Barcelona, former RTC Judge Edmundo Estuye for Gubat and Mr. Jesus Frayna for Sta. Magdalena.

      For his part former vice mayor Guyala promised to replicate Cruzada’s organizational structure in Bulan and named Sorsogon Newsweek senior writer Roy Gersalia as interim chapter secretary and Ruding Gogolin as his vice president until a regular set of officers are elected.

          Also elected during the reorganization were Mr. Aristeo Lastica, treasurer and Ms. Sevilla Tayam, secretary.



Family Day 

      Christians celebrate “family day” today commemorating Joseph’s triumphant liberation of his family from King Herod’s “death squad”. The latter searched for Baby Jesus whom the oracle foretold to be the King of all Kings. Afraid of the awesome powers this “new-born” King may have, Herod ordered the killing of all infants on site, hoping to stop this infant-King from challenging his reign.

      Acting like a good father of the family, Joseph saved his family, Jesus and Mary, from the onslaught of a desperate king.

       It is from this heroic stand that Filipino families draw its inspiration in taking care of every member of its family. From Joseph’s example we came to regard fathers (or mothers) as the protector of the children who’s always concern is the welfare of the family. Thereafter, civilizations affectionately use the term “father or mother” to mean protector, inventor, provider, savior, succor, etc., etc., ad infinitum, whenever it refers to a person or a person’s act of benevolence.

       Quite interestingly, tagaBulans refer to Mayor Baby De Castro, as “May” and to her first gentleman as, “Pay”, perhaps with so much hope that their  chosen “surrogate parents” will deliver them from all hunger or at least tide them over to brighter future.

        With the operation of the new bus terminal in Fabrica, however, De Castro’s “surrogate” children are reconsidering the use of this moniker. “Padusa ugang ini si Rosa”, says one disgruntled commuter who complained of the higher fare he had to pay a tricycle ride from the poblacion to the terminal.

       A businessman who arrived from Manila expressed a similar gripe. After loading his luggage on the tricycle, its driver would not leave until there were at least four passengers, saying a single passenger’s fare could not pay for the gas a trip to the poblacion would consume. To the dismay of the businessman, he had to wait for another hour till another bus arrives so his (tricycle) driver could gather three more passengers.

       Porters who live in the poblacion also complain of the added expense of paying for their daily trip to Fabrica and back home.

       “Kada pagkadto mi sa terminal mapamasahe kami sin P14.00, iban ini sa kikitaon mi sa pag-baggage, kun may makontrata kami na pasahero. Kaso lang, kada naabot na bus, halos tulo o lima man lang an nagaarabot hale sa Manila, pagbabarahinon mi pa ini na mga baggage boys. Kun wara suwerte, mauli kami wara ngani kita, naggagastos pa kami sa pamasahe magdayo lang sin pag-baggage”, said one porter, “Samantalang san yadto lang sa poblacion an barabaan san pasahero, baklay lang nakatrabaho na kami”, he added.

        “Hanggang alas-otso man lang an arabutan san hale si Manila, pagkatapos sini wara na biyahe, balik naman kami sa poblacion basi maka-baggage naman sin mga epektos na indidiskarga san mga trak sa mga panindahan”, another one explained, “Diyo-diyo na ngani an kita namo, iibanan pa sin pamasahe makaabot lang sa Fabrika, nano an luwas namo? Rutoy! Marasapa ini si Pay mao ni May kay inpapasakitan ugang kami. Padusa talaga ini si Rosa, an sadiri lang nira an iniisip”, he concluded.

         In civil law, a person’s diligence is always equated to that of a “good father of the family”. Meaning, a good father of the family will always think of his children’s welfare over and above his own. But in the case of this controversial terminal, the conjugal concern of these “mother and father” of Bulan seems to be for their own family only, unmindful of the hardships their project has brought to the people especially to those who could barely survive their hand-to-mouth existence.

      Bad enough that our local government could hardly provide new jobs and/or opportunites for the growing number of starving families in Bulan, Her Highness Marie-Antoinette would rather “give them cake” or worse an overpriced Centralized Bus Terminal the only discernible benefit of which is raising the real estate value of De Castro’s agricultural land.

       And if you think that is all, this P80 million peso infrastructure project will soon be the exclusive private property of Geming and Rosa De Castro the moment they (Geming and Rosa) themselves decide to use this property for purposes OTHER than a bus terminal. A condition they so conveniently slipped right under the noses of our honorable members of the Sanguniang Bayan (with the exception of only one, Kagawad Roberto “Bobby” Que) providing for the reversion of the “donated” property to its original owners, the heirs of Manuel G. De Castro, foremost of whom is Geming and Mayor Rosa De Castro.

       In the spirit of the season, I tried to desist from writing a “gloomy” piece like this.

       However, we all know that Jesus Christ, who was sent by His Father, came not to sing praises to those who are comfortably entrenched in power, but to expose them as mere pretenders to the throne. His mission is to teach them that real power comes not from exploiting the weak, but in serving the needy. In giving rather than receiving. In making us all realize, that a good father of the family does not “abuse his children so as not to demoralize them”.

        May we all have a meaningful new year!

Another One Faces Same Fate


De Castro-Backed Liga ng mga Barangay

Prexy Disqualified

By Luis Panelo and Adan Silangan

Bulan, Sorsogon – A government tripartite board of election supervisors (BES) composed of the municipal officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG), the election supervisor of the COMELEC and the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bulan, disqualified Antonio “Toto” Vytiaco from holding the top post of Bulan’s association of barangay chairmen or the Liga ng mga Barangay (LnB) 6 days after he was elected president of the association and after having garnered 54 votes out of Bulan’s 63 barangays.

      In a decision rendered by the said Board of Election Supervisors this week, Vytiaco was disqualified from holding the position of LnB president “for having been convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude”  declaring, at the same time, Vytiaco’s vice president, Excel Zuñiga, as the new President of the association.

      The decision to disqualify Vytiaco stemmed from a letter-complaint filed by known anti-De Castro barangay chairmen, Permo Evasco of San Isidro, Antonio Boncan of Gate and Rey Loilo of Beguin, questioning the qualification of Vytiaco to run for president of the Liga ng mga Barangay. The triumvirate’s complaint made reference to Vytiaco’s prior conviction by the Bulan Municipal Trial Court for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (B.P. 22) otherwise known as the “anti-bouncing checks” law.

      The “anti-bouncing checks” law is a Marcos vintage law authored by former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza the purpose of which is to discourage the practice of putting in circulation worthless checks that may injure the viability of the banking system which, in turn, may injure the welfare of society and the public interest as well. Since its implementation in 1979, B.P. 22 has successfully curbed the harmful practice by unscrupulous individuals of absconding from their financial obligations by deceiving their victims to accept their bum checks and, once the check is accepted, the issuer eventually runs away from his debt completely.

      Vytiaco, however, expressed optimism that he will prevail over this predicament when he elevates the matter to the Pambansang Liga ng mga Barangay, banking on what he believed as the “decriminalization” of the law (BP 22) in the past decisions rendered by the Supreme Court reclassifying its violation to mere “civil obligation” which, according to Vytiaco’s lawyer, lifts his client’s conviction from the genre of crimes involving moral turpitude.

        In another development, Sangguniang Kabataan federation President-elect Annika Guelas faces the same disqualification with the issuance of an official certification by the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Guelas’ real date of birth to be October 23, 1989 debunking her claim in her certificate of candidacy which is October 31, 1989.

      It will be recalled that the Board of Election Supervisors that took charge of the SK elections dismissed Fernan Briones Frutos’ petition (to disqualify Guelas on her “material misrepresentation” that she is below 18 years old on the day of the SK elections in October 29, 2007) “finding more weight” on Guelas’ xeroxed certificate of live birth than the original copy of her baptismal certificate.

     When Fruto, however, filed his motion to reconsider the Board’s dismissal of his petition, he appended to his motion an NSO authenticated copy of Guelas’ certificate of live birth confirming Fruto’s allegations that Guelas “materially misrepresented” her age to be below 18 years old on the day of the SK elections. With such a development, Guelas is not only facing disqualification from her post as SK federation president, she likewise faces a criminal case for perjury since she lied about her real age when she accomplished her certificate of candidacy and declared the same under oath.

      Sources close to the Frutos, however, deny ever contemplating filing criminal charges against Guelas. “I don’t want to expose her (Guelas) to that kind of public trial. I don’t believe that was Annika’s sole decision. She was just an unwitting tool in the deadly game of politics played by her father and his political benefactors”, Fruto said in the vernacular, “It is unfortunate that grown-ups dipped their fingers on what is concededly an affair restricted to the young. Instead of leading us by good example, these traditional politicians exposed their true color, dark and grim, by showing us how politics should NOT be practiced.”

           Both Vytiaco and Guelas are publicly acknowledged De Castro bets in the recently concluded barangay elections. Ex-mayor Guillermo De Castro has reportedly campaigned for both Vytiaco and Guelas to be elected, not only as municipal federation prexies, he was also gearing them to be Provincial Liga ng mga Barangay and SK Federation presidents, respectively, who will sit as ex-officio members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sorsogon.


TagaBulans Unite Against Corruption

     I have to write this piece today to acknowledge the growing readership of sorsogonnews.

      The writers, reporters and I are truly touched by your unexpected outpouring of sentiments toward our beloved town and the indignation you expressed on the abuses hurled on Bulan by its supposed “public servants”.

      One may think that since a taga-Bulan chose to settle for good in the U.S., Zurich, Canada or elsewhere, that he or she no longer cares about what’s happening in his or her hometown. That expatriates cease to be Filipinos or taga-Bulans the moment they change their passports. Your responses to this blog confirm our colleague’s thoughts when he wrote:

      “What is appalling about all these indignities is that it inflicts on all Filipinos indiscriminately. It has a way of bugging us no matter how we ignore it. No matter where we are or who we are.

      “Whether “national pride” or “national embarrassment” there is no way we can avoid its resultant effect. In fact, we can not say “Labas ako dyan, pare. Sila lang naman ang mandaraya.” Or  “Eh, sila lang naman ang gumawa ng kagalak-galak.” 

     “No! When the Filipino nation suffers, all of us suffer because we are the nation. Huwag mo’ng sabihing Kano ka na ngayon at hindi ka na naaapektuhan ng  mga kawalang-hiyaan ng kapwa Pinoy natin. Passport lang ang napalitan sa’yo. Pinoy ka pa rin!” (From Adan Silangan’s Keeping Stock of Our Old Selves”, Sorsogonnews, 14 Sept. 2007)

      Jun Asuncion’s reactions to these blog best exemplifies the unwavering loyalty tagaBulans have to our town. He writes:

      “It is important that we look back to our past, – to those leaders who put the interest of the people first, who sacrificed many things in their lives, even in some cases their very own families for the sake of Bulan,- to ground our political views at present.

      “Our town stands on a solid foundation laid down by many noble and dignified leaders of the past. Now it’s your turn to give tribute to them by being guided by their very own ideals as you go on with your daily political affairs in Bulan.

      “In this way there is this spirit of continuity, thus protecting the town from some people who are there just driven by their selfish intentions. Such people are not rooted in Bulan’s history, dissipated and vicious people, and therefore do not deserve to lead a beautiful town like Bulan.

      “Bulan deserves a bright future.” 

     Or Rudy Bellen who thirst for much-needed infrastructure projects in our town lamenting the snail-paced “development” in Bulan for the past 35 years.

      “(S)ince i left (Bulan) when his uncle (Mayor Luis De Castro) is the incumbent mayor there had been no significant improvement on the life of Bulanons. The only significant development i have seen is the cemented roads (McLane and side streets) of the town proper all the way to Polot. But other than that no other noteworthy development i’ve seen.” 

     Sally, Salve, Marta and Maryjoy (Does that sound like Marco Sison’s song?) almost “ganged-up” on Ms.Universe, when the latter hurled insults on those who were complaining on the way Guiming De Castro treats his wife’s constitituents.

      Enraged by Guiming’s “Rumalayas na kamo sa Bulan caper” Maryjoy, perhaps unknowingly, revealed she’s an EDSA I veteran when she quipped, “(M)aski ngani an mga Marcoses diri kami inpaharale sa Manila san nag-rarally kami with yellow tshirts for NINOY….”.

       While Marta gave us a hint of her “militant” past (Guess ko lang, tabi) with her call, “It is time for Bulan folks to unite and fight for their rights from this oppressive, abusive and corrupt administration.”

      Salve and Ms.Bulan 2007, on the other hand, did not mince their words articulating their indignation, Salve says:

       “Sin-o siya na mapahale saimo, ms. Universe? Sabot mo na tabi an issue didi? Salamatonon kun macharm mo siya na bawion niya an sinabi niya. After all, he doesnt own Bulan. Nobody does! Maski pobrehon na wara sin sadiri na ingud, diri nya pwede pahalion sa bulan. To disagree with any type of governance (official voters & absentee voters) makes up his power – his right to govern sadto na panahon. Thats politics- ms. Universe. Thats life!” 

and Ms.Bulan 2007, simply retorted,

      Ambot sa imo gimming san-o mo nabakal ang Bulan? Gurang ka na. Magisip ka sa insasabi mo.

      But Sally chose the path of the righteous saying,

       “Ms. bulan 2007…ipangadye na lang nato sa Dios si Gimmeng at an kabungto ta na mga Bulanon, na sana wara sin gulo para sa ikakaayad san banwa ta.” 

     Before anyone else, however, Daru, Jhone and Kevin blazed the trail where our readers now tread. They are the “musketeers” that dare speak against the unbridled corruption in Bulan. They fearlessly wrote to sorsogonnews when we were just beginning and made known their feelings to us. 

     When we started our advocacy for a graft-free society in Bulan, we thought our voices will all just be in vain, muted by an uncaring mass of indifference. We almost fell on the trap laid by grafters, believing in their line that “everyone carries a price”. And that nobody cares anymore about elections, since people entrenched in power will always lie, cheat and steal or worse, kill!

      Your responses, however, kept us going. Your notes are truly reassuring, especially on our “low-batt” hours. Every word you write rekindles the daunting spirits in us, lifting us back to what we should really be doing – expose the evil doers and bring them to justice. For that’s what Christmas is really all about, “one not of revelry alone, but of the rebirth of selflessness”, a selflessness that puts our country first over ourselves.

       This season, and the many seasons ahead of us, we hope to read more from you, and speak for those who, can not and will not, dare speak against the excesses of our ‘chosen’ leaders.

       Merry Christmas!


 To Jun Asuncion,

      Thank you for your much-needed encouragements. I really hope to write more about Bulan’s past and the kind of nobility our past government leaders exhibited while in office, among whom is your lolo, the late mayor Adonis Asuncion.

      As you might have seen in the photo in my last article, “Remembering the WWII Generation”, your lolo and mine (Amado Golpeo) and the late mayor Guillermo Latinazo, all became mayor with only one goal, serve the people, serve them well and serve them always.

      I hope to interview your mom, as well as her other siblings, to learn more about your lolo. I was lucky enough to record some of my family’s stories when most of my lolo’s children were still alive. From the scanty information I gathered from them, your Lolo Donis was among my Lolo Mado’s best friends together with mayor Latinazo and the late congressman Norberto Roque. I think it was this closeness that made your Lolo Donis name one of his daughters, Amada, to ‘seal’ his friendship with his friend ‘Amado’ Golpeo.

      Maybe for starters, we can share our families’ stories from time to time and come up with a ‘unified’ version.

      Till then, please keep on reading sorsogonnews and keep on fighting!

                                                                              Nonong Guyala

Indian National Dead in Stabbing Incident

by Roy Gersalia 

  BULAN, Sorsogon – – (Philippines) – – An Indian national and a woman billeted at One Concepcion Place in this town suffered stab wounds on different parts of the body that resulted in the former’s death, Monday, December 3, police said.

      The Indian national was identified as Rajhwant Singh, a local trader, while the woman was Anna Gipit, 23, all of barangay Managa-naga this town.

     The victims were taken to the Pantaleon Gotladera Memorial Hospital for immediate medical treatment but after a few hours, Singh expired. Gipit was later brought to Sorsogon City for further medical treatment and was transferred again to a hospital in Legaspi City where she is now recuperating.

      In an interview with DZMS Radio, Friday, December 7, Gipit admitted that she was the one who stabbed Singh to prevent the latter from raping her.

      Police investigators, however, are still investigating the case. Initial reports reveal that the victims were at Room 201 of the One Concepcion Place, a local lodging house here in Zone 4 when the incident happened. Eyewitnesses said, they were alarmed when they saw the victims running outside from the hotel with blood all over the body. The woman was naked while the Indian national was without shirt and was wearing only his pants.

       Police operatives recovered from the crime scene a Nokia cellular phone, key, a deformed fan knife (balisong) measuring 10 inches long with bloodstains, a pair of blue pants, a black “carter” brief, a white sando, bra and red shirt while a ring covered with bloodstains was found on the floor outside the room occupied by the victims.  

Bulan SK Federation Elects Over-Age Prexy Amid Protest

by Adan Silangan

      In what observers see as an “obvious attempt” to favor the election of a De Castro-sponsored Sangguniang Kabataan municipal federation president, local governments officer Rico Gaurino ignored bids to disqualify Annika Sherryn Guelas on grounds of misrepresentation about her real age.

      Annika Guelas, daughter of rabid De Castro supporter and incumbent SORECO director Tito Guelas, declared her age to be below 18 years old in her certificate of candidacy claiming her birthday to be October 31, 1989 while her baptismal certificate showed otherwise.

      The fact of her birth, however, is reflected as October 23, 1989 in the baptismal certificate issued by the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of Bulan. Emboldened by this discovery, two of Guelas’ contenders for SK federation president, Lemuel Gerero of Zone 2 and Fernan Fruto of San isidro of the municipality of Bulan, questioned Guelas’ qualifications to run for any position in the SK federation. For his part, Gerero presented to local government officer Gaurino a letter-protest and a copy of Guelas’ baptismal certificate while Fruto filed a formal and sworn (verified) “petition for disqualification” before the said local government officer.

      Instead, however, of giving due course to the disqualification contests brought before him, Gaurino completely ignored the two SK chairmen’s protest and proceeded with the election of Guelas.

      Sinubukan ko po’ng ipa-alala sa kanya (Gaurino) na mayron akong protesta sa edad ni Annika (Guelas) ngunit dali-dali po niya akong pinaupo sabay sabi sa akin na, ‘Bakit ka lumapit dito, hindi naman kita tinatawag?’”, Fruto narrated to Sorsogonnews.

       A municipal employee present during the SK elections but who requested anomymity said, Gaurino based his decision on Guelas’ photocopy of her birth certificate saying she was born on October 31, 1989 and therefore Guelas was below 18 years old when she was elected SK chairman of San Juan Bag’o. Gaurino reportedly confided to this employee that he can not do anything but give credence to the representation of Guelas as to her real age.

      While perusing the petition for disqualification, Gaurino was reportedly overheard consulting someone over the phone saying, “Sir, may petition for disqualification po kasi dito”, followed by “Okay, sir.. okay, sir!”. After the phone conversation, Gaurino carried-on with his business without even informing the SK delegates of the pendency of a disqualification protest against Guelas or even “lifting a finger” to try to resolve the question before proceeding with the election.

      A former SK official who requested anonymity, expressed surprise with the dispatch Gaurino dismissed Gerero and Fruto’s petition for disqualification. He said the local governments officer owe it to the Sangguniang Kabataan delegates to apprise them of the qualifications of those running for SK Federation officers so that they would be guided properly in making their choices. Gaurino should have informed the SK delegates that Guelas’ age qualification is put in question and that there are legal steps that will be followed in settling this dispute. But the more important thing is to let the SK delegates decide whether it is in the best interest of the Federation to elect Guelas.

      “I read the petition and Fruto’s proposed manner of ‘temporarily’ resolving the controversy by requesting the Election Committee to consider votes for Guelas as ‘stray votes’ or at least defer counting votes for Guelas until her true age is settled with finality. The way I understood it”, the ex-SK official continued, “the DILG officer need not resolve it (the disqualification bid) right away. But that the counting of all votes in favor of Guelas be set-aside temporarily and be appreciated only after the disqualification proceedings is terminated. But worse than that, Gaurino did not even inform the SK delegates that Gerero and Fruto are seeking Guelas’ disqualification which unnecessarily revealed Gaurino’s bias in favor of Guelas by keeping mum about the petition to disqualify her.”

      “The DILG officer has no business suppressing the disqualification of Guelas”, another observer said, “he is bound by his oath to obey and execute the laws and all other legal orders without fear or favor. He should have been more circumspect in his actions so as to allay any suspicion of favoritism especially that the SK candidate benefited by his “suppression” of her disqualification is closely identified as a De Castro supporter.”

      Meanwhile, about 20 SK chairmen who learned of DILG’s alleged suppression of the disqualification case against Guelas are planning to call for her resignation to preserve, according to them, the integrity of the Sangguninag Kabataan.

      The SK chairmen elected municipal federation president will sit as ex officio member of Bulan’s Sangguniang Bayan which explains why any incumbent mayor would be interested in electing his ally to the post to fortify his influence over the municipal legislative body. And if the mayor is ambitious enough, he may even sponsor his SK municipal federation president to bid for the provincial federation post and have his representative in the provincial board or the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

      After he or she has qualified as an SK provincial federation president, he or she may again run for the National Federation and be elected national president. 

     Sorsogonnews tried to get the side of local government operations officer Gaurino but his cellphone “could not be reached”.


Remembering the WWII Generation

          Communication has gone a long way since the invention of papyrus and the ink, far from what our parents had in the past, especially during the Second World War.

      I remember my aunt, the late Araceli Golpeo-Enriquez, who used to tell us her war exploits. She relished telling us how she would pass through Japanese sentries carrying critical intelligence reports from guerrilla units to another, with the Japanese guards hardly knowing what she was doing.

           Better than your memory chip. Asked how she did it, Mama Peteling (as we fondly called her) simply said, “I rolled the paper (where the message was written) so thinly and slipped it through my hair and casually walked pass the guards.”      

           In contrast with the WWII Generation, the wwwgeneration may be hard-put in devising such a scheme with its heavy reliance on the cellular phone and/or the “memory chip” that stores and delivers almost any information we could think of today.

       Come to think of it, our parents (or grandparents) had a much better “memory chip” in their heads than the ones we have on our laptops or ipods. In those days, they had nothing but their guts to fight the onslaught of the foreign invaders. Creativity and an undaunted spirit were their only means of survival.

        This week, the bombing of Pearl Harbor may be remembered as just another day in military history. Today’s www-generation may not remember it at all. But to countless of families in Bulan, December 7, 1941 changed the course of their lives and left them a lasting legacy. The following are excerpts from my notes, “A Family Odyssey“.

        Guerillas in the midst. Amado Golpeo was Sorsogon’s outgoing First Board Member (the equivalent of today’s vice governor) of the Province when the war broke out in 1941. He was only six years old when National Hero Jose Rizal was executed and was barely eight when the Philippines gained independence from Spain. But the seeds of nationalism subconsciously stuck to his heart and blossomed into his own children.

       When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Amado’s eldest son, Benigno, had military training only a few years back. He had trained for almost half a year in Camp Murphy under the compulsory military training program of the National Defense Law. So that as early as November 22, 1941 Benigno was already called to active duty. He immediately reported to the 1st Cadre’s “mobilization center” in Sorsogon under Capt. Edmund Wilkes of the United States Armed Forces in Asia or the USAFFE.  

        Single and still very much into fun and frolic, Benigno was tossed into the war having no inkling of what awaits him. He was 25, enjoying every ounce of his youth. Marriage was far from his mind, muchless, fighting a foreign invader. His only concerns then were his shoes and clothes and the routine of sipping fine liquors with his cronies or the regular visits to known beauties of the town. After all, he was his father’s eldest son and Amado was not without means to support him. benignopierj5.jpg   benignopierj2.jpgbenignopierj2.jpg      Amado was uninterruptedly Presidente Municipal of Bulan, Sorsogon from 1932 to 1937. At the prime of Benigno’s life his father was still well entrenched in government Amado being Sorsogon’s First Board Member, first in 1929 to 1931, then from 1938-1940, interrupted only by the ensuing world war. The family’s comprahan as well as the yields of the rice and coconut plantations sustained most of the Golpeos’ needs.     amadofrendswanttn.jpg 


          But as soon as the news about the war broke out Benigno had to give up all comforts and fearlessly face whatever enmity war forebodes.

      In war, as in peace, it takes a lot of sacrifice to leave home and loved ones, a lot more of faith to hope to win the struggle and return – a great deal of courage to learn to face the truth.

        Even before Bataan fell in April 1942, the rest of the Golpeo siblings have long learned to face the truth.

      The fight for freedom was not for the combatants alone. Information of the enemies’ movement, weapons and strength were all critical. Intelligence work was far more important than actual combat.

      The Spy he had in mind. At the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, Araceli (Ma Peteling), the fifth of Amado’s brood of eight, was a graduating student of the Sorsogon Provincial High School in the province’s capital town.

       Like any other student, she was eagerly anticipating Christmas and the extended vacations at hand. But the moment she heard of the war, she saw Christmas in a different light – one, not of revelry alone, but of rebirth of selflessness.

       She thought of her brothers Benigno and Saling (former vice governor Absalon Golpeo) who earlier left home to join the army. She remembered her childhood with them. She remembered the time they would spend marveling being ‘heroes’. The boy Saling would insist on confronting the guardia civil with his lastiko (sling shot), Benigno with his bolo, while she would prefer to douse them with a bucket-full of urine.

      When the authorities were forced to close down the schools and graduating students in all levels were deemed graduates, Ma Peteling just thought of doing anything to help fight the Japanese.

     Barely 18, she had nothing but a face of innocence. She was, however, full of vigor, bright, fashionable and genuinely attractive, truly a chipped-away from a precious jewel. To her elder sisters, Manay (my mother Gloria) and Paring (the late Amparo Geronga), she was a frail, helpless teenager whose flamboyance draws risks than safety. But Saling thought otherwise. Her looks and wits perfectly matched the spy he had in mind.

        Soon, Ma Peteling was to become the youngest, and probably the only female guerilla of Bicol.

       Memoirs to the next generation. Just before she died last year (December 6), she handed over to me her “handwritten” account of her exploits as an intelligence operative of the guerilla unit of then Constabulary provincial commander, Lt. Licerio Lapuz. She was initially assigned in Bulan under Lt. Guillermo Gollena to monitor the activities of the invading Japanese at the garrison that they set up in Bulan. To provide herself cover, she set up a store cum coffee shop right beside the Japanese garrison and even befriended Japanese Army officers, Ochoda and Komro. Ma Peteling then ran another store near Bulan’s shorelines when the Japanese transferred their headquarters there. She called the store, the Fisherman’s Inn.

      Her intelligence work was nearly discovered when a Japanese collaborator was killed near her store. The Japanese soldiers raided the Fisherman’s Inn and desperately searched her place looking for guerillas. She knew she had to stay calm despite the Japanese’ blazing eyes and bayonets in hands since she knew that the murder weapon used to kill the collaborator was just lying underneath the fishing net she was sitting on.

      In mid-September 1944, Papa Saling, who was then a Lieutenant under the Lapuz Unit, was assigned to organize a command conference at Tangkong Baka in Camarines Sur. Ma Peteling was one of those who attended that conference. From her own account she recalled:

       “I was with my brother, Lt. Absalon Golpeo, Lt. Rufino Aureus, Lt. Gerona and Lt. Sebastian on our way to Tangkong Baka when we were caught by a storm. We shivered from our soaked garments and could hardly move our feet by morning. But we had to struggle and practically dragged our bodies since we did not want to miss our rendevouz with Lt. Tomas Karingal and Capt. Leon Aureus in Pasacao. In Pasacao, we were treated to boiled mais for breakfast but had to leave quickly for Tangkong Baka.

      “I don’t recall having seen or met a woman guerilla in that command conference. Those who attended were mostly men so that when my name was called, Major Lapuz, who was obviously surprised to find a woman guerilla in their midst, stood up and addressed my brother Saling. He quipped: Golpeo, bakit mo pinayagang sumali ito sa guerilla? Sayang ito kung mahuli ng mga sakang, kawawa naman. But I quickly retorted, Hindi naman ako pahuhuli ng buhay sa kanila, Sir!

       “When the conference was over, we had some sort of a party. We were all jubilant of the news that McArthur was on his way to the Philippines as promised. Major Lapuz then asked me if I wanted anything. Roming (Lt. Romeo Honasan), who perhaps thought Major Lapuz wasn’t serious about it, egged me to ask for ice cream which I readily obliged.

      “Roming and I almost fell on our seats when Major Lapuz ordered Lt. Rufino Aureus and Capt. Bonnevie to go look for ice cream and the poor guys had to take Ia “slow” boat to Naga in search of my ever precious ice cream.

      “Quite interestingly, cavaliers that they were, Lt. Aureus and Capt. Bonnevie came back with a gallon of melted ice cream. Left with no choice and with the prospects of being hit by a Japanese bullet anytime that day, we relished slurping the ice-cream-turned-milk-shake in the wee hours of the morning.” 

     Nipped from the opulent and blithe pre-war period, Ma Peteling had all the reasons to be bitter of the way the ensuing war had robbed her of her youth. But this did not stop her from becoming a hero in her own right. Such a blossoming of nationalism in her is evident in her war memoirs when she wrote:

      “I am now 84 years old and I was barely 18 when war broke out – an age when most teenagers enjoy the best part of their life frolicking in merriment. But young as I was, I was unable to ignore the call to nationalism. I gave my best years of my life serving my people. I lay in rest proud that I have given something of myself to my country – to make the Philippines a much better place to live in.”