Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coming home to welcome the Age of Aquarius

“When the moon is in the Seventh House/ And Jupiter aligns with Mars/ Then peace will guide the planets/ And love will steer the stars/This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Aquarius, Aquarius! Aquarius!/Harmony and understanding/ Sympathy and trust abounding/ No more falsehoods or derisions/ Golden living dreams of visions….”
The spirit of the lyrics of this 1969 song which won the Grammy in 1970 is very much in the heart of our family’s shaman, my brother Gabriel. He believed in every promise of the song, and is excited about the coming of the Age of Acquarius on Dec. 21, 2012. In fact, Gabriel has booked our flights to make sure all family members will be coming home for a special dinner in the evening of the forecasted great sky of harmony. I am listening to my brother’s drumbeats, and I am coming home for the dinner as it will be the entrée to my Christmas vacation. Looking forward to the 21st of December event has kept me stargazing at night. I have my sightings of the possibilities, but I need Dumaguete’s sky expert Norman Marigza to verify. I love looking at Norman’s Facebook page and this week, he made this shout: “The November full moon gives the world its smallest full moon of the year.” I looked up to see the moon and it reminded me of my brother’s call. My brother has been telling everyone that coming together on Dec. 21 will ensure blessings of harmony, peace, and progress for the family. Gabriel has been on the trail of the Age of Aquarius since his student days here at Silliman from 1967 to 1971. Like most men of his generation, he believes that we are now at the threshold of the Aquarian frontier. He observed that the ancient calendars have reached a point agreement. The evidences of the deconstruction of the old beliefs and values are now seen and felt. The giving of an African-American leader a second term in America is among the forecasted signs. The end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 is among the indicators pointing to the arrival of the Age of Acquarius. In all of the cultures of the world, the ancestors had written one common thing: the shouts to announce the shifting of the ages of this time. On that evening, the planets visible to the naked eye will be in a rare alignment. It is said to be just a visual effect as Science measure will not call it an exact alignment. This alignment was predicted by the Mayan calendar. The alignment is not something that’s actually new to 2012, as it happens every 36 years. Remember the convergence of the sun and the dark dust clouds in 1998? But this 2012 alignment is special because it coincides with the alignment of the 12 Zodiac constellations. One constellation that is visible in our current equinox will be in a changing phase. This 2012 drama in the sky will have Pisces move away, and paving the way for the dominance of Aquarius. The turbulence of our planet, characterized by economic instability and war with nature challenged by earthquakes and storms that marked the end of the Piscean era, will now be replaced by “harmony and understanding” in the Age of Acquarius. This promise from the song, and the movements of the signs mean a lot to the watchful mind of my brother. He wants us to be home and be blessed by the powers of the natural forces that only God can command. The evening -- at home -- on the 21st of December will be filled with thanksgiving prayers, gifts of forgiveness, songs of love, and floods of food and drinks to welcome the Acquarian force of prosperity.

Petronila’s parenting

SIATON, NEGROS ORIENTAL -- On the first day of November at sitio Agbagacay in the seaside barangay of Bonbonon in Siaton, Negros Oriental, all children and all those who have experienced being her “children” came home from all over the world to be with their beloved mother and grandmother, Petronila Gadiana Jaugar-Palalon, born Nov. 1, 1916.
It was afterall Petronila’s birthday. The special day overshadowed the Halloween, All Souls’ and All Saints’ holidays for it had become an annual homecoming for this huge clan. Petronila’s household is home to children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren from her own immediate family, to that of her brothers and sisters. With a very sharp memory, Petronila enumerated them from the oldest: Basilisa, Valeriana, Ponciano, Premitiva, Eleuterio, Cornelio, Roberta, Atelana, and the twins Eugenio and Bernardina. Petronila is the youngest, and admits to be pretty but she said, “…not as popular as Valeriana as she was taller, slender, and really more beautiful with natural curls in the crowning glory. Am really the not-so-pretty-one when compared to my sisters.” People around her always disagree. Petronila survived them all, and has remained oh-so- beautiful at 96. On her birthday morning, as she was serenaded by her children and “children”; as she was looking regal in emerald green. I love the sharp European features softened by the Asian lineage, so evident on Petronila’s lovely presence. She told me that the Jaugars are of Polish origin. She said, “Wanti’s grandfather was from Poland.” Proof to this good-looking lineage is the fact that two of the Island’s beauty queens come from the fifth Jaugar generation: Miss Negros Oriental Centennial Theoliza Jaugar Quilnet, and 2007 Ms Silliman Sarah Jane Martin. Wanti, the great great great grandfather of the Jaugars, is Siaton’s legendary man. Known not just as the town mayor but as the one with the extra ordinary powers that drove all pirates away. The creek near the old seat of government was named Wanti in honor of his heroism. Wanti’s legend comes strong in Petronila’s total being. He was her hero, and she understood much her father Jose’s authoritarian discipline as all stemming from the original “superhero” of the family. Why this much love for Petronila? Our birthday celebrator is fondly called “Mama Itdol” or “Lola Itdol” by everyone here in Siaton. Lola Itdol is well-loved as she was their very loving mother. Her niece Rosario Jaugar-Quilnet, former supervisor of the Department of Education here in Siaton with much sense of pride to her close connection, recalled that she was the baby who brought Mama Itdol home. The Jaugar sisters were forbidden to be with any of the Palalon boys. The sisters’ father Jose told them that he did not find a goodlooking one in the Palalon pedigree. But the Palalon boys were so obsessed with the Jaugar sisters that everyday, they would wait for any of the girls to be on the road. In the olden days in this town, the men would get their women by force, and it was for this reason that women would have a lanot (woven chastity belt) under their long skirts. Two of the Palalon boys successfully won over two of the Jaugar sisters, and Jose was already at war with the Palalon family. It came as a shock when the youngest Itdol, 24 years old then, eloped with a young tailor named Hilario who turned out to be another Palalon. Itdol was disowned by his father and so Hilario took his young bride to Bacolod. But Jose’s favorite daughter-in-law Isak, the Spanish mestiza wife of Cornelio, died while giving birth to Rosario. Jose had no choice but to ask Itdol to come home and breastfed baby Rosario. Itdol had her two-month old baby Librada, her first, when she came home for baby Rosario. It was through the need for parenting that Petronila was reunited with her beloved family. And it did not just end with Rosario. With enduring life lessons, she became the mother of all the children in the Jaugar clan. Generation to the next generation, she became the “mother” with much wisdom for life’s survival. Petronila was as hardworking as her husband Hilario. She was her husband’s assistant at the tailoring, and proved to be a good tailor herself. She would join him in their cornfields, and in the evening, they would go fishing as they had their own bungsod, a traditional fishing gear. Petronila and Hilario then went into copra-trading, and she became more entrepreneurial in spirit with a lot more sources of income including cattle and goat raising, piggery, poultry, rice fields with carabaos-for-rent, a sari-sari store, sound system rental for benefit dances and other public events. Petronila taught her children to work as hard. The children only had the helpers of the copra business looking after them while their parents were busy working. The Palalon kids learned to do household chores at a very young age, and became helpers themselves to their parents’ various undertakings when they reached their teenage years. With their mother’s emphasis on the importance of education, some of left Siaton to find work in Cebu to sustain their respective dreams of schooling. Petronila now takes much pride in her children’s success stories: Librada is an elementary school teacher in General Santos City, Edilberto is a professional driver in Toronto, the late Julian was a Philippine Navy coastguard, the late Jaime was a nautical engineer, Lydia is an agriculturist who opened the door for her siblings to find opportunities in Canada, Tommy is an electrical engineer in Toronto who is studying in a flying school to become a professional pilot, Teresita graduated with a secretarial degree, Rodrigo finished Commerce and is also working in Toronto, and the youngest Maria Elena graduated with an accounting degree from Silliman University and now also works in Canada. All of them are thankful to their mother Petronila for teaching them the value of hard work. Petronila’s way to good parenting was not to manicure the road-to-success for the kids to have a smooth life, but to teach them the value of work and good manners when with other people -– the best keys to face the realities of what she remembers as pait nga kinabuhi. “Life can be bitter, and so children must learn to work for their future sweet life,” Petronila says. What was awesome in the birthday gathering were the testimonies of sweet life that all came from being with Lola Itdol, their “world’s greatest mother”, according to world-traveler grandson Jeferson who grew up under Lola Itdol’s loving care because his father had died when he was yet a little boy and his mother went away with another man. Thank God for a great blessing named Lola Itdol.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Papa’s Power of the Peridot

Judge Virgilio Noja Atega is the name of my father. He was born on October 9, 1916. His birthstone is the peridot. This humble gem of the pharaohs echoed much of my father’s life choices. A peridot is known to give the wearer power to dispel the terrors of the night. This loveliest of all green gems is not as light-dependent as rubies and diamonds. It tends to look regal under all light conditions. Many more on the peridot’s subtle power somehow shaped the glory which perfectly captured a cut very much like the life of my late father. My father Virgilio was the youngest son of the unexpected union of then Don Andres Azura Atega, the military general son of a powerful Spanish priest Rev. Father Pedro Garcia de la Virgen de los Martires born on September 1, 1840 in Zaragoza and Juana Beray Noja born on June 24,1897, among the pioneering teachers in American public school system in the town of Cabadbaran. Unexpected because Don Andres, known as the most powerful man in this side of the island of Mindanao, was married to Roberta Curato and had a son Mariano born in June 1900. Don Andres got to be concerned with Juana, daughter of Roberta’s first cousin Teofilo Curato Noja, when the young teacher became the girlfriend of the American principal of the public school. Don Andres, who was already a widower as Roberta died so young, just did not want a lovely Filipina like that would be taken away by a foreigner. One day, his protective nature had grown into an attraction and out of obsession; he took advantage of her innocence. Afterwards, Don Andres offered to marry her. However, refusing to tie the knot with the man who destroyed her life, Juana ran away. Don Andres looked for her all over and found her hiding in the house of her father’s cousin in Talacogon, a riverside town in Agusan del Sur. Juana was pregnant with his child when he got her back. He brought her home but she refused to join the other women in the dakong balay – this was how townfolks would call my grandfather’s house up until today. The women of my grandfather included Roberta’s sister, Veronica. Veronica had three daughters and a son with Don Andres: the first one was also named Roberta who was born on September 22, 1905; the second daughter born on November 30, 1909 was Canuta who was named after Don Andres’ mother. Veronica’s third daughter was Prosperidad born on November 16, 1913. Veronica gave Don Andres only one son named Pedro born on May 1, 1908. With Juana’s refusal to join in the growing dakong balay family, Don Andres decided to build a house for Juana in front of the town plaza and right beside the Aglipay church. Juana gained the respect of the townfolks as she became known as the most loved sweetheart of Don Andres and she had one point of understanding their business partnership with Don Andres. I was told by late Uncle Mimi Barrientos, the chief police officer of our town, that he grew up admiring the lovely Juana as she had the most beautiful pair of deep-set brown eyes. He also told me that among the women of Don Andres, Seῆora Juana, as she was known, was the only one who would bring bundles of money to the dakong balay. The regular remittance from the shared business marked Juana’s sense of independence, one reason why Don Andres’ admiration for this woman had grown deep and he never stopped offering her marriage. On the other hand, the constantly jealous Veronica was kept busy taking care of her own children, her sister’s son Mariano and the daughters of the Ibay sisters, Luisa, Romana and Estanislawa who were already in the house since 1892. Don Andres’ union with Roberta was only in 1900 and she gave birth to Mariano on the same year. Her sister gave birth to her first child Roberta in 1905. The Ibay sisters had one daughter each. Luisa’s was named Maria born in 1892. A week after Maria was born, Romana gave birth to Ana. Consolacion, daughter of Estanislawa, was born much later on December 19, 1900. Their mothers were the first three women of Don Andres within the dakong balay. Don Andres’ was known to be a womanizer and his eldest son was Antonio born on June 12, 1894, his mother was Hilaria Magarte-Fernandez who was the wife of Don Andres’ business partner. Juana gave Don Andres two sons and a daughter: Archimedes born on April 14, 1914 was the eldest who really looked like his father, Esther who was as lovely as Juana was born on May 19, 1908 and the youngest Virgilio. Veronica also gave birth to her youngest daughter Basilisa a month after Virgilio was born. A neighbor Perpetua Maestrado gave birth to another son of Don Andres named Plenio on October 21, 1920. My father really came from a family which indeed was like a mother stone of the peridot, so green and with many unpredictable branching – some were from stories intentionally silenced by the complexities of the pedigree. Virgilio was very much like his mother in entrepreneurial spirit. As a little boy, he was already earning money from being a newsboy, shoeshine boy and his farm eggs harvest. Virgilio was also born a leader, he led friends to memorable adventures on horseback rides to mountain slopes, went bamboo rafting on rivers, and in fishing, they went as far as Camiguin Island. After finishing a business degree, socio-civic responsibilities pre-occupied the young professional. When the Japanese occupation came, the challenge of the power of the peridot was muted by a huge responsibility that came to my father’s young career. He was appointed town mayor during the war. It was during this time that he met my mother who was teaching children in a coffee farm. There were three sisters: the beautiful Cecilia, the shy Crisanta and the youngest Maximina, who according to my father, had loveliest pair of legs. My father expressed his love for mother through sending three horses as gifts to her family’s coffee farm. My father’s competition in winning the heart of the lovely Maximina, the pretty and smart teacher, was the Japanese military commander who had been seriously wooing her for quite some time even having built a Sunday school for my mother. Nonetheless, the Virgilio and Maximina were inseparable as they were one in their secret mission: to help the Filipino World War II guerillas. They used their influenced to provide food and medical supplies. However, because nothing is kept secret forever, my father’s secret support was uncovered by the Japanese intelligence and his loyalty was questioned. To avoid further investigation and to save the town from total Japanese control, my father pledged his loyalty to the Japanese. To erase all doubts and to show deep sincerity, he shot the center point of the palm of his right hand in front of the Japanese officers. Truly a peridot in heroism – subdued and in silence. The bloody promise somehow convinced the Japanese authority and gave my father all the support he needed as mayor. When the Americans came and the country was set free, my father also got the appointment from the American regime to serve both as mayor and as military officer. After serving the full term, he decided to go back to school. He was enrolled at the College of Law in Silliman University. Moreover, he was the captain of the debating team and became the president of the student government, the first after World War II. He graduated in 1949 and was reunited with Maximina in Manila while reviewing for the bar exams. The two were married on June 11 of the same year. Unlike my grandfather, Virgilio’s peridot brilliance was mounted with loyalty that endured all challenges around his chosen pearl.