San Nicolas and Santa Teresita: Historic and Folkloric Notes about some of its Barrios

Exploring forgotten stories about the barrios of San Nicolas and Santa Teresita.

Balandis: the Slanted Houses Along a Road in Cuenca/Alitagtag

Exploring this quaint area in Cuenca and Alitagtag where the houses are slanted away from the road.

Mataasnakahoy: Historical and Folkloric Trivia about some of Its Barrios

Revisiting obscure barrio histories of the barrios of the Municipality of Mataasnakahoy.

An Old Tourist Spot in Taal Called the Pansipit Fishery

A throwback to a by-gone era, when tourists around Luzon visited this resort in Taal and Lemery.

The Hitchhiker who Gets on at the Zigzag in Cuenca Batangas Lipa

A tall tale familiar to all who drive through this curving road in Cuenca. Is it really a tall tale, though?

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29 April 2017

Batangas Volleyball stands out in the UAAP Season 79 Final and the Palarong Pambansa 2017

Action in the 2016 UAAP women's volleyball final.  Image captured from ABS-CBN video on YouTube.

When the finale of the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball competition unfolds at the Araneta Coliseum on the second of May, Batangas volleyball will be prominently represented on either side of the green-blue divide, as it was last season.

25 April 2017

Why Marcela Agoncillo was asked to Design the Philippine Flag

Marcela Agoncillo by Unknown - Jackeline, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3021448.  Philippine flag by Emilio Aguinaldo - Watawat.net, Mandirigma Research Organization, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38277620.

It is one of those quirks of history that Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, in all honesty a peripheral figure to the Philippine Revolution, is arguably better remembered than her husband Don Felipe. The latter was very much involved in the revolution as well as in efforts to secure independence for the Philippines after the surrender of Spain to the Americans in 1898.

20 April 2017

Know the Towns of Batangas that used to be Part of other Towns in the Province

Lemery seen from the tower of the St. Martin de Tours Basilica in Taal.

Batangas as we know it in the present day had vastly different geopolitical subdivisions at the dawn of the Spanish colonial era, with only a few towns or pueblos as they were called. As the population of these towns grew and settlers branched out to populate other localities, new barrios were created which would, over time, become themselves new municipalities. In fact, as relatively recently as the 1960s, the geopolitical subdivision was still being rearranged. This article attempts to show readers how some towns of Batangas branched out from their mother towns to become municipalities in their own right.

19 April 2017

James H. Polk: The Batangas-born former US Army Europe Commander-in-Chief

By US Government (Army) - http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1969-GENERAL-JAMES-H-POLK-Signed-Photograph-VIETNAM-Saigon-/330869211700, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25557563.

There is this little known fact that one American born in the province of Batangas, and thus by the principle of Jus Soli1 (birthright citizenship) a Batangueño, rose to one of the United States Army’s most prominent positions. That would be the four-star general James Hilliard Polk, born in 1911 at Camp McGrath (a.k.a. Camp McGraw) in what is now Batangas City, admittedly at a time when the entire Philippines was still very much American territory.

17 April 2017

Wild West-Style Banditry of the Tulisanes and a Documented 19th Century Raid in Calaca

Image credit:  Bamboo Tales at Project Guttenberg.

I was amused last week to hear President Rodrigo Duterte brand Senator Antonio Trillanes IV as a tulisan. I doubt that many among the younger generations even know what a tulisan is, let alone visualize what one looks like. Those of my generation, on the other hand, grew up to a steady fare of afternoon black and white movies on television which had tulisanes as the perennial villains.

14 April 2017

Phivolcs Explains Batangas Quakes, Debunks Myths in Primer

The Batangas Province welcome arch. Image credit:  Google Earth.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has published a primer on its web site dated 11 April 2017 explaining the swarm of earthquakes that hit Batangas earlier this month. The primer also attempts to diffuse fears people expressed particularly over social media after the series of tremors about possible volcanic activity, tsunamis and even geothermal drilling.

13 April 2017

Taaleño Felipe Agoncillo’s Failed Efforts at Securing Self Rule for the Philippines in 1898

Image credit:  Taal.ph and Whitehouse.gov.

Most of us only have a cursory knowledge acquired from basic education text books of Don Felipe Agoncillo, the lawyer from Taal after whom a town in Batangas has been named and who is remembered in history as the country’s representative to the Treaty of Paris1 of 1898 and the “outstanding first Filipino diplomat.2” What the text books do not go into detail about is that he was sent to secure self-rule for the Philippines but ultimately failed through no fault of his or from lack of trying.

12 April 2017

Know the 15 Inactive Volcanoes in Batangas (and if you Live Near One)

Part of the Mount Malepunyo range just east of Lipa City.

When I first published an article on the inactive volcano Anilao Hill in Lipa City, somebody pointed out that there are many others in the province. Indeed there are fifteen in all; and these are just the ones listed by Phivolcs.  This list includes volcanoes that are partly in Batangas and occupy land in neighboring provinces as well.  There is no reason for concern, however. These are called “inactive” because they are not really expected to erupt anymore and many probably were last active thousands and even millions of years ago. Nonetheless, it is always good to know information even if we cannot immediately ascertain what it will ultimately turn out to be worth.

11 April 2017

Kalumpit, a Fruit Named after Batangas, Has Many Medicinal Properties

The kalumpit fruit. Image credit: Tagalog Lang.
The kalumpit fruit.  Image credit:  Tagalog Lang.

As a young boy back in the sixties, I always looked forward to foodstuffs that my uncle brought back as presents from his weekends in Nasugbu. Among these were buradol or flying fish daeng (fish halved and dried) or himbabao strings, the latter best stewed with fish paste. These were seldom, if at all, available in Lipa City.

09 April 2017

The Volcano in Lipa City You Probably Never Knew Existed

Anilao Hill.  Image by Cesar C. Cambay directly loaded from panoramio.com.

Just so I do not get accused of panic-mongering at a time when earthquake swarm has become a fashionable term in Batangas, Phivolcs lists this volcano in Lipa City as inactive.1 It is a mound of earth called Anilao Hill south of the poblacion in the Anilao area between Antipolo del Norte and Antipolo del Sur. Phivolcs gives its coordinates at 13°54' 121°11', which is erroneous because it falls on a piece of flat land.

The Phivolcs coordinates for Anilao Hill are slightly off.  Image credit:  Google Earth.

Geoview.info gives more accurate coordinates up to the seconds at 13°54'33.48" 121°10'41.16"2. Plotted on Google Earth, this yields a mound of earth with its curvature visible if you zoom down to an elevation of 977 feet. The image is shown below.

Geoview.info coordinates plotted on Google Earth shows an obvious mound.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program categorizes Anilao Hill as a pyroclastic cone, the last estimated eruption of which was during the Pleistocene geologic era.3 Pyroclastic cones are also called as “scoria cones” or “cinder cones.” They “are relatively small, steep volcanic landforms built of loose pyroclastic fragments.4

As mentioned, Anilao Hill is estimated to have been last active during the Pleistocene Age. This is a geologic time span calculated to have been between 2.8 million and 11,700 years ago. This epoch is often referred to loosely as the “Ice Age.5

Anilao Hill is part of a volcanic complex referred to as the Macolod (Maculot locally) Corridor. This complex includes, among others, Mount Makiling, Mount Malepunyo, the Laguna de Bay and Taal Volcano, including the lake. Down the geologic epochs, small pyroclastic or scoria cones were formed by relatively mildly explosive or Strombolian eruptions within this complex. Other similar volcanic scoria cones that have been identified are Tombol Hill in Rosario and Sorosoro Hill in Batangas City.6

Tombol Hill in Rosario, like Anilao Hill, is also a pyroclastic or scoria cone.  Image credit:  Google Earth.

Note that Phivolcs has classified Anilao Hill as an inactive rather than a dormant volcano. The terms are often used interchangeably but they do not mean the same. A dormant volcano has been inactive for many years but has the capacity and is expected to erupt sometime in the future. In contrast, an inactive volcano such as Anilao Hill is usually not expected to erupt mostly because of the very long time that passed since it was last active.7

Notes and references:
1 “Inactive Volcanoes,” online at the Phivolcs web site.
2 “Anilao Hill,” online at Geoview.info.
3 “Anilao Hill,” online at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program web site.
4 “Pyroclastic Cones,” online at Brittanica.com.
5 “Pleistocene,” Wikipedia.
6 “The Soils of the Philippines,” by Rodelio B. Carating, Raymundo G. Galanta and Clarita D. Bacatio.
7 “What are active and inactive volcanoes?” Online at reference.com.

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08 April 2017

Goodbye DLSU... Finally Completing my Academics


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This may seem utterly strange, and particularly so because I was under-loading in the two semesters of my final year at DLSU, but I couldn’t make myself take Business Math until I had absolutely no choice but to do so. All in all, I enrolled in the subject four times, failing the first time and dropping the next two.

I finally enrolled it for the last time during summer school. Partly because I needed to stay in Manila because I was playing Division I club football for San Agustin and needed an excuse to do so; and partly because, at least to my mind, the professors were probably more lenient during the summer because most students would in most likelihood be repeat enrollees.

I was fortunate in that my professor turned out to be this kindly lady who had a real knack for simplifying the complicated. While teachers can be trained, some are just born with the gift of teaching. This teacher was one of those. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I was actually enjoying a Math subject. Who would have thought this was possible?

Because I had so much time, to keep from getting bored at the house where I lived in Manila, I would practice solving problems provided in our textbooks until I had solved them all. The teacher was giving us daily quizzes and I kept perfecting these. Whenever I made mistakes, I was even disappointed with myself. I was getting praised by the teacher regularly. She probably thought that I was a Math geek. I dared not tell her that I was a take-4 Business Math enrollee!

And because of my excellent class standing, I was even exempted from taking the final exam! My final grade? 4.0! Hallelujah! I never imagined I had that in me! I guess the grade merely confirmed what I always knew – that I was not really a dumb-dumb in Math. It was just that I was never really interested in learning the numbers. When I was left with no choice but immerse myself in it, I actually did well!

But then, because I took my final subject during the summer, it was too late for me to join the graduation. Of course, this was exactly as I wanted it. Had I joined graduation, my mother would have discovered that I had only managed to finish Liberal Arts instead of Lia-Com. When I finally returned home to Lipa after summer classes, she wanted to see my transcript of records. I invented one excuse after another until she finally either forgot to ask or just got tired of asking. In fact, I would not see my transcript of records until the late nineties when I asked my former player Lester Padua to get it for me from the DLSU Registrar’s Office.

I needed the transcript because I was about to enroll in a master’s management program. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I dropped business from my Lia-Com program because I couldn’t see its relevance to my life and expected career two decades earlier. In 1999, when I enrolled into De La Salle Lipa’s Master in Management program, it was my decision rather than somebody else’s to study business. I was also better equipped to do so. But I still couldn’t help but smile when it occurred to me that a part of my life that I tried to work around ultimately came back to haunt me until I was left with no choice but to deal with it.

Just like that Business Math subject…

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The Crazy Three Matches in One Weeked


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Although I looked forward to my final NCAA season, and particularly because my bout with hepatitis almost cost me my place in the team, the season ultimately turned out to be something of an anticlimax. For one thing, the start of the tournament was delayed. Apparently, some of the schools weren’t even sure that they were going to have teams to enter.

Next, while there were still matches scheduled at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, too many of the other games were to be played at La Salle Greenhills or San Beda College. I wasn’t fond of the San Beda field at all; and I didn’t like the Greenhills field any better. It was wide, yes; but the grass was bad and the field uneven, with many bare patches in the middle. The pitch at the Rizal Memorial Stadium wasn’t very good; but in contrast to the one at Greenhills, it looked like Wembley Stadium.

Because the season started late, if memory serves me right, only one elimination round was played. After this brief round, we headed straight into the knockout semi-finals. But this wasn’t the weird part. After the conclusion of the elimination round, when as expected Mapua and ourselves were again the top teams, we weren’t even sure when – and if – the semi-finals were going to be played.

It was so late in the school year but finally Dima told us that the semi-finals and final were going to be played over one weekend; and that this weekend was to be right after the week of the final exams at DLSU. Because of the finals, Dima cancelled training for the whole week. Those of us who could arranged to train on our own. The situation was not ideal at all.

Then there was the small matter of club football. I had been attracting the attention of some clubs even in the previous season. Gigi Sanchez, the Spanish coach of the Division I club Magnolia – which was supposed to be the farm team of the champion club San Miguel Corporation – had seen me play at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. He sent word through my DLSU teammate Jojo Nicomedes, who was already a Magnolia player, inviting me to join his club.

I was flattered by the interest, but Magnolia and San Miguel trained early in the morning at the Xavier School field in San Juan. I was never any good at getting up early in the morning and San Juan was too far from where I lived, so I declined.

However, most of my DLSU teammates who were alumni of Colegio San Agustin in Makati were being recruited by the Spanish coach Tomas Lozano to play for the Division I team San Agustin Football Club. I was recruited as well. The monthly allowance was less than half of what players of Magnolia received; but training was in the afternoon and did not conflict with ours at DLSU. Most of my best friends in the DLSU team were also recruited, so it was an easy decision to accept the invitation to play.

The problem was, that weekend of the NCAA semi-finals and final, we had Division I club commitments as well.

We defeated San Beda comfortably in the semi-finals and had every reason to feel optimistic about the final the following day against who else but our perennial rivals Mapua. The problem was, we had limited training for almost two weeks and, to put things metaphorically, had a limited supply of gas. We played reasonably well against San Beda, but in the process expended most of our gas and had little left in reserve for the next day’s final.

Whoever scheduled the semi-finals and final, I can say without fear of contradiction, was a complete idiot! I mean, did anyone even pause for a moment to consider the recovery time essential after a match? My body was still painful in parts from lactic acid when we played Mapua. Although we lost the final narrowly, our performance was, at best, quite weary. It wasn’t really Mapua that beat us but, or so I felt, whoever that idiot was who scheduled the matches over two consecutive days.

To make things worse, many of us still had to play in the afternoon for San Agustin against U-Tex in a Division I game. The match was at the Amoranto Stadium in Quezon City. Normally, I was resentful if I wasn’t named to the starting eleven. This was one game when I would have welcomed not playing at all.

Wishful thinking, I knew, because I had started in all of San Agustin’s Division I matches and knew that I was probably starting this match as well. How I survived even the first half, I didn’t have the foggiest. To this day, I can still remember having been simply been overwhelmed by weariness, to the point where it took supreme effort to push one foot ahead of the other. At halftime, I asked to be substituted, the only time during my days in competitive football that I did so.

That night, because I had consumed three bottles of Lipovitan, all the while unaware that caffeine was its most potent ingredient, I desperately wanted to sleep but couldn’t. Every inch of my body felt like it was on fire, but sleep wouldn’t even come to relieve me of my misery.

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Getting Hepatitis and Fearing Missing out on my Final NCAA Season


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Midway through the first semester, construction workers built a wall made of thatched materials along the length of the football field starting almost from the northern post of one goal all the way to the other. We wondered what was going on and how we were going to train for the next NCAA season. Dima announced soon enough that a new building was to be erected behind the college canteen. This would be known later as the Velasco Building, which would be completed after I had graduated from college.

Meanwhile, we continued to train on what was, essentially, half a football field. It was ridiculous, really! More so when the ball sailed over the makeshift wall into the construction area and the guy who kicked it had to fish it out from the excavation. But train we did, and not just the stamina-building routines but also scrimmages.

That we couldn’t go on that way was obvious, but we continued to train that way for another two weeks or so. One day, Dima announced that training for the rest of the school year was to be held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, instead. About time, too. Our defiance in continuing to train on half a field was admirable; but it was also detrimental to our development as a team.

So thus, each training day, we trudged to the Rizal Memorial via the gate behind the school and walked along the narrow road that ran alongside the creek into the Leveriza indigents’ area. Some of us were wary about doing so initially because the area did not have a good reputation at all. Over time, we got used to passing through and I guess the squatters in the area got used to us as well.

It was not uncommon for us to see children hanging from the railings that lined the creek defecating into the water below. But there was this afternoon on our way back to school from the stadium when there was a grown man taking a crap into the creek. It was gross! His pants were pushed up to his knees as he squatted on the road, while he held on to the railing with his two hands. In broad daylight! What could we do? It was such an invasion of privacy but we needed to get back to school. So we just walked past him pretending he was not even there.

Three months before the start of the NCAA season, disaster struck. I came down with hepatitis. First, I had what looked like the ‘flu. When I was well enough to go back to school, I found that I could barely eat. When I went home for the weekend, I started to urinate blood. That scared me! So off I went to the Fernando Air Base Hospital where I was diagnosed with viral hepatitis and confined for a week.

I was distraught! I was looking forward to playing my final NCAA season and this disease was the last thing that I needed. I worried less about the hepatitis itself and more that I wouldn’t be able to play. My older brother Ronaldo had previously had his own bout with viral hepatitis and he was advised not to undertake any strenuous physical activities for six months. My mother was insistent that I would stay away from football for the same amount of time.

Fortuitously, my doctor was a tad more modern than my brother’s probably was. One time, and of course when my mother was not at the hospital, I asked him exactly how much time I needed before I could return to the football field. “Two months,” he told me. “You’ll be as good as new.” I could’ve jumped with joy! Of course, my mother continued to rant on even after I was discharged from the hospital that I was not to play for six months. Like I ever listened to her. She was not a doctor, after all. I had every intention of playing my last NCAA season out; and had no intention whatsoever of letting her know.

I never did discover where I got the hepatitis from, but my suspicion was this cheap eatery along Leon Guinto Street where I ate whenever I was running low on cash. The fact that the food was cheap also meant that the place didn’t really look very hygienic.

Two weeks after I first came down with hepatitis, I was ready to go back to school. The most outrageous reaction I got was from my Humanities professor Joey Reyes, the very same guy who would become a celebrated movie writer and director years later. When I approached him at the teacher’s desk to show him my doctor’s certificate, after I told him that I had hepatitis, he raised his hands dramatically and cringed away from me. I wasn’t offended at all. He looked funny and I just laughed at him.

I was by no means close to him but Reyes was still one of the most iconic professors during my time at DLSU. It was not uncommon to see him walking along the corridors with his good friend Manny Castañeda, who would also become a famous entertainment industry personality, and the two of them surrounded by students, all so obviously enjoying themselves.

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The Bittersweet Final NCAA Match Versus Mapua


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The season came down to the crucial final elimination round game against Mapua at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Cardinals, as players of Mapua continue to be called even in the present day, had won the first round. Heading into this crunch final game, Mapua was ahead of us by a point. To make a long story short, we needed to beat them to force a playoff.

We were by no means scared of Mapua, notwithstanding the fact that they were the defending champions. Personally, I felt that ours was the better team, even if their defense, anchored by their superb Thai sweeper, was difficult to breach.

Midway through the first half, I scored the opening goal to give us hope that we could reclaim the championship for DLSU. I was not a prolific goalscorer and was more the creator of chances for my teammates to score. However, Mapua’s goalkeeper laid a goal at my feet, and I took the chance without hesitation whatsoever, thank you very much.

I actually thought that the preceding attack was fizzling out because the Thai sweeper had intercepted the ball and passed back to the goalkeeper. But I did not stop my run and sprinted to press the latter, who turned out to be a nervous wreck. First, he dropped the ball when he saw me arriving. Then, he panicked and dove to catch it. Instead of catching it, he only succeeded in pushing it away. I was after the ball in a flash and quickly swiveled to shoot at an untended goal. The angle was narrow, but I wasn’t going to miss when the goal was unprotected.

That was probably the happiest moment of my entire three years as a DLSU varsity football player. The match was not a final but it was as close as one could get. I felt that I couldn’t have chosen a better time to score than this match. Unfortunately, Mapua equalized before the end of the first half, and no further goals were scored in the second.

Thus, at the end of the game, the entire Mapua team celebrated retaining the championship. Our runners-up finish was so much better than the previous season, when we could not even reach the semi-finals. But I was still distraught. I honestly thought that we would win this game and force a play-off. That day, I guess I discovered how football could be a cruel, cruel game.


My final year at DLSU in school year 1980-1981was strange to say the least. It was my fifth year at the university, but I was actually overstaying a four-year course. I was a senior the previous year, so was I then “terminal,” the term reserved for students at the fifth year of their 5-year engineering courses? I never found out.

I think I had less than 30 units left that final year, and all of these were general education subjects since I had completed my major ones the year before. I needed to spread these out so that I could play my third year of NCAA football. So thus, I became a habitué of movie houses in Santa Cruz and Makati. There were days when I would stay inside a moviehouse for several showings just so I could rest in airconditioned comfort.

The most annoying thing about this final year, in an academic sense, was that I felt like the senior citizen of all the classes that I attended. My classmates were either sophomores or juniors, and I never really got to know anybody all that well since I had a different set of classmates for each subject. I missed my East Asian Studies group, most members of which had already graduated.

For instance, we had this field trip to the export processing zone in Mariveles for one of my subjects, and my classmates were all sophomores. They all knew each other so the trip was a nice outing for them. In contrast, I had to make small talk with the guy who sat next to me in the bus for the four hours going there and another four hours to get back to Manila. I’m sure he was as bored with me as I was with him.

This trip to Mariveles did have its merits. I was able to visit the factory of Puma and was able to observe at close quarters how football boots were manufactured. I was particularly fascinated by the press used to mold the cleats under the sole. Too bad, or at least we were told, that the football shoes were not for sale locally. I found this particularly appalling considering the travails I had to go through shopping for football shoes before I could try out for the varsity team two years earlier. I didn’t even know before this field trip that football shoes were, in fact, being mass-produced in my own country.

Some, I believe, got through to the local market, albeit I wasn’t sure how. This I knew was because locally made Puma football shoes were supplied to us before the start of the NCAA season. It was hit or miss, really. The pair I received was alright and I was able to use it throughout the season. However, one teammate took one hard kick with it and the sole immediately broke from the rest of one shoe. My teammates and I wondered if we were being supplied the factory rejects.

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The Red Card I should have Gotten but Never Did


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Letran turned out to be all hype and little substance. The Visayans the school recruited from the national training pool were skillful and knew how to play. In our match against them at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, they enjoyed more of the ball than we did but lacked penetration. In the end, we won comfortably, 3-1.

I will forever remember this game for when one of Letran’s players whacked me just under the right knee with his boots, in the process burying two of his studs under the skin. I had tracked back to defend and slid to take the ball away from him. He could have pulled out but instead, swung his foot with all his might. I had no doubt whatsoever that the kick was malicious, and in the modern game would have been given a straight red card. He wasn’t even given a yellow.

How I was able to play on, I did not have the foggiest. There were two gaping holes oozing with blood just under the knee and initially I couldn’t even get up because of the pain. Dima came to me and stretched my leg this way and that before the team doctor took over. The latter first cleaned up the blood then sprayed the wounds with antiseptic. Afterwards, he sprayed the entire knee with something cold that was probably some kind of anesthetic.

I was expecting to be substituted but Dima worked my foreleg this way and that again and then told me to get back into the game. I managed to finish it but the next day the knee was swollen and I limped around the campus to go to my classes.

That Letran game was also significant in another way. One of the team managers – DLSU alumni who brought us snacks and drinks every match – spoke to me after the match and I told him that I was only playing at a fraction of what I was capable of at the left wing. He must have spoken to Dima because the next game I was back out on the right. My season turned for the better the day I returned to what I always thought was my home position.

That was the game against San Beda which was scheduled to be played at that school’s own field at the Mendiola campus. All of the previous season’s matches were played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, which I just loved even if its field was often bald and gravelly and its empty stands always looked remarkably sad. But playing at San Beda’s field offered a bit of a novelty.

The novelty would soon wore away and I couldn’t say that I became very fond of the San Beda field. It was a tad smaller than the Rizal Memorial field, so I had to run less. That said, this also meant that there was less space available and very little margin for errors. The Rizal Memorial field was kinder to mistakes.

I was surprised to see Manolo Lucido in San Beda colors when we started to get ready for the match and even had a short chat with him. Dima had restored me to the right wing, so when the match started and I saw Manolo playing at left fullback, I was even mildly amused by the coincidence. We were two Lipa boys on opposite sides, and his job was to mark me. I hadn’t seen him play since I moved to Manila for college; but I knew from coaching his Little Olympics team that he wasn’t blessed with pace.

Midway through the first half, I managed to turn him and gained a couple of yards. Enough for me to deliver the sort of cross that I just couldn’t really manage when I played on the opposite wing. The pass was inch-perfect for Monchu Garcia, who was bursting into the penalty area from midfield. His shot was even something of a miskicked half-volley, but it helped that he did not make full contact with the ball. The goalkeeper’s timing was thrown off and the ball crept under him into the goal. San Beda was an improved team from the previous season; but we still won the match comfortably.

This was one of the best matches that I played in the entire season. Being restored to my favorite position had something of a liberating effect on me, and mostly because I was comfortable and didn’t have to overthink what I was going to do.

In the second half, the San Beda coach must have seen that Manolo was having difficulty keeping pace with me and sent in a substitute. If anything, I had an easier job with the replacement. I was sending in cross after cross and we would have won by a wider margin if San Beda hadn’t often resorted to manhandling our center-forward Paul Zuluaga to prevent him from scoring from these.

For once, Dima appreciated what I was doing on the field. There was this instance when I broke free from the entire San Beda defense from the halfway line and had a chance to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, I lost my nerve when I saw their sweeper bearing down on me through the corner of my eye and took a shot. I knew as soon as the ball left my foot that I had made a mistake and really should have tried to bring the ball forward some more. The ball went wide of the far post and I was half-expecting to be admonished by Dima. Instead, I heard him shout, “Nice try Rex!” I didn’t see that coming, but it felt good! I instantly knew that Dima was happy with the way that I was playing.

There was an incident in the second round match also against San Beda that I would never forget, but for an entirely different reason. I wasn’t playing bad; but I wasn’t playing particularly well, either.

Midway through the second half, I chased a 50-50 ball just inside the penalty area. The San Beda goalkeeper got to it just fractionally ahead of me and I had already sidestepped him to avoid a hard collision. But the goalkeeper raised his forearm to protect himself and hit me on the chest.

Although I was generally even-tempered, I was also occasionally prone to unpredictable and sudden bursts of almost maniacal anger that would dissipate almost as quickly as they came. The San Beda goalkeeper’s elbow hitting my chest triggered one of those episodes. Without even pausing to think about it, I raised my arm and smacked him on the back of his neck as hard as I could. I’m sure it must have hurt.

Instantly, I was surrounded by the entire San Beda team, each one shouting invectives at me. I pushed each one away and was mentally preparing to defend myself if anybody threw a punch or a kick. Nobody did. I would think about the incident many times afterwards and wonder why nobody dared. Perhaps, they all saw the murderous look in my eyes. I must have looked like a crazed dog and frankly, I felt like one.

After a couple of minutes, the referee managed to calm everybody down. Including me. Typical of my temper flashes, it was gone almost as quickly as it came. The San Beda goalkeeper tried to explain that he was only trying to protect himself from my momentum, but I countered that I had already sidestepped him and that he had absolutely no need to do that.

Play soon resumed, and I would wonder later why the referee did not show me even just a yellow card. Even in those days, smacking an opponent was a straight red card, and I really should have been issued my marching orders. Yet, I finished the game, which ended in a draw.

As for my DLSU teammates, none even came to my aid, the bastards! I was even the object of good-natured heckling at the college canteen in school the next day because of what I did. I should have known better than to expect sympathy.

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My First Taste of Dima's Cardiovascular Sprints


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When the NCAA football season finally came around in the second semester of my senior year, I wasn’t sure at all because of the Gencars fiasco that I would still retain my starting position in the team. But I did, and it would turn out to be a much better season for me that the one before.

Because Rey Ferraren had either graduated from college or used up his years of eligibility to play in the NCAA, and several of the previous season’s squad had not returned for one reason or the other, I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being one of the squad’s more senior players. I was still only a sophomore as a varsity player; but as a college student, I was already a senior. For the second year running, Dima was in rebuilding mode; and many of the new players drafted in were either freshmen or sophomores.

It was not so much that the new players were better than those drafted the previous season. Rather, it was a case of majority of the players not having club football and so could join the regular midday training at the field. This enabled us to get to know each other better unlike the previous season when we would see some of the players only on match days.

Because Dima failed to win the championship for the first time in eight seasons the previous year, his methods improved somewhat in pre-season. Tactical coaching, to my mind, was still awfully limited; but at least physical conditioning was so much better than the previous year. Much as we hated all the running, particularly this modified version of the Swedish training method called Fartlek, none of us could deny that it was beneficial.

It was insane, really. The Fartlek was developed in a country close to the Arctic Circle; yet there we were in the tropical midday heat running till we got vertigo. I would be so exhausted from the training that, after grabbing a quick lunch, I would hurry to the air-conditioned comforts of the library to doze off even for just a few minutes on the sofa so considerately made available for students at the periodicals section. One time, the librarian snuck up behind me and gave me a light tap on the shoulder and reminded me that the library was a place for study, not naps. I muttered an apology under my breath and pretended to return to the magazine resting on my lap. I went back to sleep as soon as she was out of sight.

Then there was the Saturday morning when Dima introduced me to my first cardio-vascular test. We were told the previous day to get up early, eat a light breakfast or not at all and be at the Rizal Memorial Stadium by eight in the morning.

The test consisted of five consecutive two hundred meter sprints. That may not sound a lot to those who have never tried this but believe me, it was lung-busting. A thousand meters may not seem much for middle distance runners, but these were sprints. Moreover, to pass the test, we needed to complete each 200 meter run in 27 seconds or less.

The first sprint wasn’t bad at all, especially for a natural sprinter like me. The second one still wasn’t too bad, even if the legs started to feel a tad heavier. After the third and fourth sprints, you just wanted to die at the finish line. You needed to grit your teeth and call on powers you never knew you possessed just to get there. Curiously, the last sprint felt fine once again, probably because by that time, the adrenaline had kicked in.

By nine, everyone had completed the runs. Dima called the entire squad into a huddle and told us we would scrimmage against the club team of the Philippine Air Force, a Division I side. “You need to be able to run even when you are tired,” he explained. So naturally, the Air Force passed the ball around us as though we weren’t even on the pitch. We were too tired to care.


Mapua, which won the championship the previous year with its core of expatriate Iranian and Thai players, were still the favorites to retain the title. But we were also wary of Letran, which did not participate the previous year but was doing so this season after having recruited practically an entire team from the national youth training pool.

Dima also warned us not to be complacent about San Beda, whom he said recruited new players from Lipa. One would turn out to be Manolo Lucido, who was in the Little Olympics elementary team that I coached when I was still a high school senior. The other one was Ogie Bautista, whom I did not know yet at the time.

At the start of the new NCAA season, Dima deployed me out on the left wing in a classic 4-3-3 formation. Paul Zuluaga, a college freshman who was, however, playing his sophomore year with the college team, was the center-forward. Ronnie Joseph, like me a rookie the previous season, was playing my favored right wing position.

I was being sent out to the opposite flank, Dima had told me, because I could kick with my left foot. This was only partially true. Yes, I could kick with my left, but nowhere near as accurate as it would become in the future and certainly nowhere as good as my right.

At any rate, because I wasn’t even certain before the season started that I would retain my place in the starting lineup, I was happy to play anywhere as long as I started. Unlike the previous season, we stayed close to Mapua who as expected led the standings as the season progressed.


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The American European History Teacher who Blew His Top


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In all my years in college, I only had one evening class. I wasn’t particularly fond of night classes so I tried to avoid them. Because I was an athlete and trained at midday three times a week, I was frequently next to brain dead by five in the afternoon. I have always been a bit sensitive in a paranormal sense. I don’t see ghosts, but I sure as hell feel it when there is one in the immediate vicinity. This was why I didn’t like staying on campus after dark. The St. La Salle Building, the one facing Taft Avenue which was for all intents and purposes my “headquarters,” in particular, gave me the creeps. Some washrooms at the building’s northern end used to give me goosebumps for no apparent reason even in broad daylight; but even more so after dark.

I went back to DLSU to speak at a Lasallian Youth Convention in 1985 and received a hard-bound history of the university for my participation. It was only after I read the book that I understood why some parts of the St. La Salle Building used to make the hairs at the back of my head stand back when I was still a student. Several Brothers, it turned out, were massacred by the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

At any rate, there was this one time when I had no choice but to take a six to seven o’clock European History evening class because it was the only one on offer. The course was an elective, but not a required one. It was one that I selected because I had always been fascinated by Medieval Europe. In fact, if a European History program was available, I would have opted for it instead of East Asian Studies.

Our professor was this burly mouse-haired American who was in his early thirties and worked, he told us, as an attaché at the United States Embassy. I’m afraid that I cannot recall his name. CIA, we would jokingly ask him outside of class because he was very approachable. He would always deny that he was, but we were nonetheless sure that he was.

He was obviously a novice at teaching because he read off several sheets of yellow paper. Brother Raymond Antolik would later explain to me that this was really how lectures were delivered in universities in the United States; and to be perfectly fair, Mr. CIA always came meticulously prepared. I can now imagine the hours upon hours he spent writing these lectures. In my years as a teacher, I don’t believe that I ever prepared a lesson as conscientiously as he did.

But this was the Philippines. Being a teacher in this country, I would realize soon enough on my own, required a bit of innovation, plenty of interaction and definitely even a bit of show business. Pacing the front platform reading off several leaves of yellow paper just wouldn’t work. Brother Raymond thought so, too, and changed his teaching style after one semester to one that he felt would be more appreciated by Filipino students.

Mr. CIA, of course, was on his first teaching stint in the Philippines. If I was his student in the present day, I would simply have turned on the Voice Recorder app of my Android phone and then gone back to it to check anything that I felt significant. But this was the early eighties; and one needed to have stenographic skills to take down notes. I was admittedly struggling to keep up and would employ the same technique we used with my Malaysian Culture professor to slow him down. This was why he got to know me and would often stop for a chat if I encountered him along the corridors. I was always the guy asking all the questions.

But this was because I was interested in the subject. Not true for my classmates at the back, a ragtag collection of History-Political Science and Asian Studies majors; not to mention those from other programs. The chatting behind me began discreetly low-toned; but as everyone became more familiar with everyone else, the talking became decidedly louder with each passing lecture. Those of us in the front row must have been the only ones paying attention.

Until one evening, Mr CIA finally had enough, threw his yellow sheets into the air and slammed his palm hard on the teacher’s table. Instantly, the noise died down. I never would have thought he had it in him to sermonize a class of senior college students as though we were Kindergarten kids, which incidentally was the very same metaphor that he used. It was just that he was always so formal and even-toned and didn’t seem like he cared if we all went off as long as he was able to deliver his damned lecture.

And he was intimidating angry, mind! He was a bit smaller than me but one could see he was well-built under the suit that he liked to wear to class, never mind the tropical heat and humidity. Imagine this burly American glaring down at all of us with his hands on his hips.

By the way, the basketball star Kenneth Yap, who would also play in the PBA, was among my classmates in this European History class. I never really got to know him because he was always among those sitting at the back chatting to the guy in the next seat. And among those who suddenly looked angelic when Mr. CIA blew his top.

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Meeting F. Sionil Jose and Nick Joaquin, the Einsteins of Philippine Literature


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Because of my change in programs from Lia-Com to just plain Liberal Arts, I needed to follow the 1977 curriculum instead of that of my freshman year in 1975. The direct consequence of this was that I had to take six units of Filipino, which by this time law required to be taught in college as well.

Because I was an East Asian Studies major, the curriculum I had to follow was saturated with language courses. On top of a series of English and Literature required subjects and electives, I also had to take twelve units of Spanish, six units of French, six units of Nihonggo and now another six units of Filipino. It was not really a problem because all except Nihonggo, which has the verb always at the end of a sentence, have the same technical structure.

Aside from this, French and Spanish are both Romance languages which share many similar words. The only initial difficulty that I encountered with my French I class was the approach of Dr. Lantin, the professor. He was a kindly bespectacled man who also taught Religion. The moment he entered the classroom and set down his attaché case atop the teacher’s table, he immediately started on a befuddling soliloquy in rapid French.

What little I had heard of the French language previously, I had already loved. This was why I was blown away by the professor speaking fluently in the language in front of the class. Of course, nobody understood a word of what he said. He would later enlighten us that the approach he was taking with us was not dissimilar to children learning a language for the first time. It was totally unstructured and not very effective. He seemed to have forgotten that children spend hours upon hours with their families and their environment completely immersed in their language. In contrast, we only had three hours each week.

Dr. Lantin continued in this mode for a couple of weeks before starting formal instruction. It was only when he did that I started to make something of the French language and started to realize that it sounded a lot like Spanish and even English but that the spelling was so much more elaborate.

I loved French and learned quickly; but as with Spanish, I knew that learning it would be a waste unless I would get opportunities to practice it.

I suppose it was inevitable given the number of language subjects in my curriculum that I would end up taking four in one semester. In the second semester of my senior year, I was taking French II, Nihonggo II, Spanish IV and Filipino II. It was, in a language sense, simply the craziest semester in all the years I was at DLSU. Sometimes, when taking quizzes, I would find myself absentmindedly using words of the wrong language.

Yet, despite the obvious difficulty in trying to learn all these languages, I actually got good grades in all. When I come to think about it, had I gone into Foreign Service instead of education after I graduated from college, I could easily have become multilingual instead of just bilingual. Neither French nor Spanish was far different from English; and although Nihonggo was structurally different from the Romance languages, in fact it was a lot less complicated. All I needed was practice, which unfortunately I would not get working as a teacher.


I had a most interesting assignment in one of my literature electives. I and one of my classmates were required to interview the prolific and multi-awarded writer F. Sionil Jose. Fortuitously, Jose’s son was among my classmates, so it was through him that we arranged to visit his father’s bookstore somewhere in Malate.

At the time, I really had no idea who F. Sionil Jose was. When I finally met him, I was initially totally unimpressed. He was of average height, balding and soft-spoken. If we hadn’t already been introduced, I would have mistaken him for a bookstore clerk.

I would only get to realize his literary genius after I read a few of his works much later when I was, in fact, already working as a teacher. Even our interview went on quite mundanely. Jose was a master writer as his numerous awards attested. But while I remember him as kind, polite and accommodating towards us, his was the personality that one would not remember for the rest of one’s life.

In fact, for almost the entire duration of the interview, I was having difficulty staying focused and taking down notes because Jose’s son and another of my classmates were interviewing another literary genius – a very drunken Nick Joaquin. Now this one left quite an impression.

For starters, his voice was loud and often drowned out Jose’s responses to our questions. That he was drunk so early in the day was hilarious in itself, but he was also witty in a sarcastic way. He would roll his eyes whenever my classmates asked him their questions, as though he thought the questions were not well thought out enough.

At one point, he called out to me and my partner, “Are you sure these two guys are your classmates?” Then he haughtily nodded his head in the direction of the two guys interviewing him. “Look at them,” he spat out, “they don’t even know what to ask me! I’m interviewing myself!”

And we all broke out laughing.

Too bad I was, at the time, next to ignorant as to who the gentlemen we interviewed really were. Jose and Joaquin were like the Albert Einsteins of Philippine Literature, but I would not get to realize this until years later.

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Trying to be too Smart with Mrs. Honda, our Nihonggo Teacher


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By my senior year at DLSU, all the fears I used to previously harbor about being kicked out had been laid to rest. I was consistently getting good grades even in those subjects that I failed in my freshman year. Because I had these very same subjects erased from my accumulated total, I even began to entertain thoughts of graduation.

I knew that this year would also be peculiar. Few of my East Asian Studies classmates were Lia-Com, so I knew that at the end of the year, most of them would be graduating. What this meant was that I would be left virtually on my own the following year. I had no recourse but to overstay because I still had a bit of a backlog and wouldn’t be able to take all my remaining subjects in just one school year. Besides, I still hadn’t told my parents that I had dropped Commerce from my program. I was also deliberately under-loading each semester so I would need to stay until the following school year and keep up the Lia-Com farce.

I had the football team, of course; but I was still determined to enjoy my final year in the company of my East Asian Studies class. After spending the better part of one year together, we had become quite a compact group.

As East Asian Studies majors, we were required to take six units of the Japanese language, Nihonggo. Nihonggo I was taught by an expatriate Japanese woman by the name of Mrs. Honda. She spoke, apart from her native Japanese, passable English as well as passable Tagalog. Like many Japanese people, she struggled with the letter “l” and often pronounced it as “r.” I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently this is because the sound “l” is not present in the Japanese language. Because the Japanese people, while growing up, don’t really hear the sound, when as adults they try to learn languages that have the letter “l,” invariably they have difficulty reproducing it.

This was why our Nihonggo class was just this seemingly endless laugh trip. Shallow college students that we were, we burst out laughing at each mispronounced “l,” which if I am being honest was really quite funny. Mrs. Honda never took offence, and this was largely why Nihonggo was so enjoyable. She was this bubbly personality who liked to laugh at herself; and often we just laughed along with her.

But there was this one time when she really got upset at the class and gave us all an earful. Our room was at the fourth floor of the Benilde Building, which had two staircases. One was north side of the building where the staircase led to what everyone called the college canteen. The other staircase was south side and led to the rear of the canteen and the football field.

University policy for late professors was for a class to wait 15 minutes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 20 minutes for Tuesdays and Thursdays before it could consider itself dismissed. Our Nihonggo class was an M-W-F one, and there was this one time when Mrs. Honda was not at the classroom when the bell rang. This in itself was strange. Being Japanese, she was always on time.

It was not at all that we didn’t want to see Mrs. Honda because most of us liked her as a professor. Rather, we were certain that she wasn’t coming at all because she was just never late. That was why, after a mere ten minutes of waiting, we all decided that there was simply no point in lingering inside the classroom. But we cheekily took precautions in case she did arrive. We knew that she always took the northern staircase, so we filed out of the classroom and headed towards the southern end of the building. My word, but most of us were already making plans about what to do with the suddenly free time.

Did I not say that it never pays to try to be too smart? We were all happily chattering like early morning sparrows as we descended down the stairs when those in front stopped dead on their tracks at the second floor landing. Guess who was standing breathless right in front of them? Mrs. Honda must have used the southern staircase just that one time in the entire semester, and it just happened to be when we were trying to elude her. The timing of her arrival, when I come to think about it, was really quite creepy.

She did not even say anything to us. With a pointer finger, she waved us up the stairs and back to the classroom. She told us she had a personal emergency that she had to attend to and had to rush just to be able to teach us. Her disappointment in our attempt to elude her was obvious. Imagine us, a class of college seniors, being lectured like elementary kids. Of course, before long, we were having fun again. Mrs. Honda was not the sort to stay mad; and we weren’t the sort to stay somber.

Our professor the following semester in Nihonggo II was a Filipino who had worked in Japan for a few years. He was by a mile the better teacher than Mrs. Honda ever was, but his classes were not as much fun.

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