In Her Quimona

Ina and Ama, Circa 1920s.

TIBURCIO, my paternal grandfather was an only child, an unico hijo.

His father Ciriaco was a livestock trader and was known more in Lopez than in Calauag. He roamed the whole of South Quezon practically on foot buying cows, carabaos, goats, and horses. He brought his herd to Padre Garcia in Batangas to be sold wholesale.

We were told that Ciriaco was a Lagunense who hailed from Paete and set his roots in San Roque, Lopez when he married our great grandmother, Victoria Leopando. He was a freemason and a bruited free thinker in Esperanza and San Roque, barrios both of Lopez.

His son Tiburcio predictably was a freemasonry convert as well. His tomb in the Calauag Public Cemetery stood out in a sea of Catholic niches adorned with crosses and images of the Holy Family as his was the only memorial with the trademark freemason column, a replica of one Doric pillar from the Parthenon.

Tiburcio studied in Manila and took up bookkeeping in one Catholic College, San Juan de Letran. His course looked like a suggestion from his businessman father who wanted his records and taxes straightened up.

Ciriaco earned the monicker Vaca suggestive of his calling, a beast merchant. His house in San Roque once swarmed with livestock of all sizes, bovines for the most part. No wonder people associated him from the sound of his commerce. Its variant was the sound Ungaa! a resonance emitted by grazing contented cows. He prospered in his line of work having bought a good agricultural enclave in San Roque in the town of Lopez consisting of rice and coconut lands. A distant bewigged uncle, Tio Tacio, called us, scions of Ciriaco, Ungaa! In any public place, Tio Tacio teased us no end upon sight of any one of us, apo ng Ungaa!!

Smitten Tiburcio

In one foray in Calauag in the early 1920s, while the father and son, Ciriaco and Tiburcio, were on the trail for merchandise, the only son who was then a bachelor at thirty, spotted a dainty fifteen-year old, an only daughter who turned up to be an adoptive one who was on vacation from Barrio Hagakhakin of Gumaca. But the lass had other things in mind. She was busy combing the hair of her handmade doll.

Ina Fabia was a Torres who was taken in by a childless couple, Jose Martinez and Bonifacia Lopez of Gumaca. The Martinez couple were so generous that Ina was made aware of her consanguinity with the Torreses who were then ensconced in Barrio Lerong of Calauag. Ina Fabia had other siblings from the Torres side and she simply adored them. On fiestas and Mahal na Araw annually without fail, the Martinezes made sure that Ina spent these days with her natural parents and sisters in Lerong. When Ina’s biological parents died they made sure that a two-hectare property along the Maharlika Highway in Lerong went to Ina.

Because the young lady was so beautiful, she was chosen as a Carnival Queen in one town fiesta of Calauag. She was known as a Gumacahin, and the young men of Calauag were ecstatic when she graced the annual parade and the grand ball dance in her honor. Among the well wishers was the young man from San Roque, the 30-year old bachelor-professional-businessman Tiburcio, the only son of Negocianteng Ciriaco. But the ardent admirer was stymied by her dashing mestizo escort, Felix Paraiso, who from all indications, made her all too spoken for. The lovers’ furtive looks and knowing smiles were the give aways and the suitor from San Roque went home dejected. Fabia Torres Martinez, the beauty queen, would never even grant an eye contact with the son of the trader. Tiburcio was not in the universe of Fabia. His looks were too pedestrian as he got the genes, for the most part from, the Leopandos. What to do?

A 30-kilometre old fashioned courtship

During the annual gala in Calauag, while the pageant empresses were on parade, Senor Ciriaco repaired to Calauag with bundles of pesetas. Impressing the townsfolk and announcing his intention that he fancied the young lass from Hagakhakin as future daughter-in-law, he flung the crispy pesetas from the windows of the old house in Quezon Street on the caruaje bearing Fabia. Stories had it that the sight of confetti-like pesetas raining on her and her escort, Favia nearly fainted as it was ominous of the end of her love affair with her escort, Felix.

The young man went straight to the two sets of parents of Fabia, the Torreses of Lerong and the Martinezes of Hagakhakin. The trek to Lerong and then to Hagakhakin, a good thirty kilometres apart, impressed the old folks. Here was a very zealous suitor with notable credentials enamored with their only daughter. Finally, the old folks chorused, masasalakab na ang ating iniingatang dalag. It was the 1920s when a young daughter of sixteen had no discretion on matters of the heart. Who dared question the unanimous decision of two sets of parents from Lerong and Hagakhakin?

Felix Paraiso was heartbroken.

Soon enough, the betrothal became inevitable. Felix Paraiso was devastated.

Soon enough, Fabia and Tiburcio were married in one of the most festive weddings in Calauag where Tomas Morato, the soon to be mayor of the town, stood as sponsor.

Favia turned out to be an iron-willed partner of Tiburcio, to the consternation of the in-laws. Tomas Morato inveigled Tiburcio to run as town councilor in the 1926 local elections. Morato being a fair-haired amigo of the sitting Commonwealth President had the total hand in local politics. Tiburcio won hands down, courtesy of the support of his Ninong and patron, Don Tomas Morato. When Morato was finally called by Don Manuel Quezon for his appointment as the first local chief of Quezon City, Tiburcio was left to his own devices. He had to seek reelection without the open support of his benefactor, Don Tomas. Soon voters swarmed the ancestral house along Quezon Street asking favors for this and that. They threatened not to elect the young husband if their cedulas were not paid for. At that time, voters could only qualify and vote if their community tax was paid. At 5 centavos each, that was a steep amount for the young and struggling couple. This got the nerve of the young wife and berated the throng of supporters massed in the staircase and announced that, without him knowing, her husband was withdrawing as candidate and would not join the madness anymore.

That was Tiburcio’s first and last dabble in local politics. Nonetheless, his term saw the defining infrastructures that to this day existed in Calauag. Calauag Seawall, the sturdiest structure in Calauag, was built around the poblacion in 1927. It corralled the town from the onslaught of the Cal Agua Bay, offering protection from annual tropical cyclones that visited the coastal town. It built provision for a 10-meter by one kilometer swamp that served as the sewer cum filter of the growing poblacion. He was also credited as the proponent of a rain water tank made of concrete constructed behind the municipio where his name together with Morato and a couple of others was engraved. In reliance to the legal doctrine of animus revertendi, this writer used this marker as evidence of domicile of Tiburcio’s son, Felix, when the latter run for Mayor of Calauag in 1987 and was opposed by the local election official for allegedly being a non-resident of Calauag at the time of the filing of his candidacy. We don’t know how our grandfather felt when Ina Favia named her third son Tito Honey or Felix, ten years into the marriage, after her fiancé.

The young couple

Tiburcio found himself to be bewitched by her young bride. In 1927 he built her a two-storey six-bedroom house made from sturdy timbers from Talingting. Its posts were unpolished Maulawins, the floor was made of red Narra, and the windows’ pasamanos were smoothened Yakals. Senor Ciriaco brought wood carvings from Paete that served as ornaments beneath the windows while the perforated wood carvings served as transoms. Decorative spear-like details held the roof gutter and hid the drip edges. The house was ninety percent wood, testament to its abundance in Talingting when Ama Tibo embarked on converting its forest into a homestead. It had the only multi-colored glass windows in the poblacion. The old man rented the ground floor to his old friend, Lim Bo Ah, the owner of the first grocery in Calauag.

In 1983, twin disasters struck Calauag. The first was a powerful intensity 9 earthquake that toppled many structures in the town. The house of Tiburcio precariously tilted south. The children wanted it demolished and a new one erected. Ina was adamant. She said she did not want the original materials discarded. The house should be restored. The town was hit by another tragedy when fire gutted down the panaderia of the Sta. Marias in Barangay 4, a good three blocks from the old house. The fire spread quickly aided by the old Salatan wind and burned down the old landmarks of the poblacion. Quezon Street is where the vintage houses of Calauag stood side by side. The residence of Morato was there, a two-storey affair made of the best timber of Tagkawayan, as well as that of Edgardo Cabangon’s, Lim Tek Seng’s where the facade of its ground floor  was made of European maroon marbles, Dr. Arsenio Nicolas’ which winding staircase was a reminder of Victorian American South, the Magsinos’, the Valenas’, and the Fernandezes’ and the Estradas’. Today, what stand are residential houses of modern architecture.

Serenading Ina Fabia
Serenading Ina Fabia

One summer morning in the early 1930s, Don Tomas astride on his handsome stallion repaired to Tiburcio’s house three blocks away from his manor along Pica Street. He found his loyal consejal busy trimming the grass down his porch along the camino real. After exchanging pleasantries, Don Tomas got down to business and proposed to his amigo about the summons he just received from his compadre Don Manuel Quezon, the former Tayabas Provincial Fiscal and Governor. The latter directed Don Tomas to proceed immediately to Manila for some urgent instructions. Quezon’s mandato to Tomas  included Morato’s trusted friends to help him out in his new designation as the first mayor of what was to become Quezon City. The Commonwealth President also allocated a hectare along what was then zoned as housing sites in Sampaloc Avenue as the new residence of the new city mayor. Morato offered Tiburcio the adjoining half hectare property for his young family at 50 centavos per square meter. Tiburcio deferred his decision and consulted his young wife. Eventually Tiburcio demurred, presumably prevailed upon by his strong-willed better half who intensely despised politics. The reason according to the Tiburcio was Sampaloc Avenue was too distant from Manila and the couple had no plans of resettling to the big city. Tiburcio apologized to his mentor Don Tomas about their decision saying they preferred the simple life of Calauag. Morato respected my grandfather’s decision and went on to become a national figure during Quezon’s time.

When the war broke out, Tiburcio felt initially vindicated because he easily evacuated his young family to San Roque in Lopez. His wife told him that had he tagged along Don Tomas, Tiburcio would have been a prisoner of war. After the war, Don Tomas remained in Quezon City and his property escalated in value. His trusted amigo stayed in San Roque, suffered from hernia and died of stroke in 1953. Don Tomas outlived Tiburcio by more than a decade, and died in 1965. There was talk going around then that Calauag would be named Tomas Morato. Between 1945 to 1955, Calauag elected two sons of Don Tomas as mayors, Arturo and Tomas, Jr. In the neighboring Tagkawayan, the site of Morato’s flagship timber company Sta. Cecilia Sawmill, another Morato son ruled the town for years.

Halfway paradise

Panahon ng Pagtatalok
Panahon ng Pagtatalok

San Roque amongst his descendants was part of our growing up years. When Tiburcio’s first edition children married and started out as young parents, San Roque to us was halfway paradise. We spent a great deal of our childhood in that place we collectively call linang. It was what you may call now as a day care center. Our parents worked in the Bayan, either as government employees or plain folks eking out daily living. Tia Lea, the eldest ran a carinderia in the public market. My father was a government employee. Tio Nesto’s job was minding the other agricultural lands of the old man. Tia Poning was a magkukulot married to Kuya Cadong, a jueteng collector. Tia Thelma stayed in San Roque operating a rice mill while husband Kuya Cesar tended their farm in Maguillan. We the grandchildren were herded and brought to San Roque, momentarily freeing our parents from exercising parental authority over us. There were Kuya Ferrer and Kuya Monching, sons of Tia Lea. Popoy and Lorna, the kids of Tia Poning. My father contributed this writer and his brother Gil. Popoy who was a couple of years older than this writer, taught us the art of fist fighting. Tia Lea has two grown up daughters, Ate Ludy and Ate Aden, but they were too old to be taken care of in linang. Ate Ludy, a budding teen-ager who always carried a phonograph with 45s of Gary Lewis and Dave Clark 5, was always in the company of Tia Ferin and Tia Sonia, both a little older than their niece. We learned the ropes of singing from Ate Ludy, the Spiral Staircase songs especially.

Ina Fabia, our grandmother, the missus of Ama Tibo, was our mother hen. Ina Fabia was surrounded by unmarried women and widows who depended on Ina psychologically and financially. Our old woman was the dependable shrink whose loyal clientele stayed by her side in her big house in the linang. Abandoned wives and Death March widows in San Roque found refuge in the house of Ina. We found them wailing, sobbing, and weeping for no reason at all, and Ina was there comforting them, assuring them that their husbands were in a place of solace denied the living. She was imperious all right, scolding one errant alalay at a drop of a hat, but she was loved because she provided them roof over their heads and of course abundant food on the table. Ina owned the widest rice field in San Roque and the manggagapas gravitated to her tubigans twice a year: September and March. Her house during those months was transformed into one enormous barn, home to wide-mouth bas-igs holding the season’s yield. I often had galis or boils because I slept close to the bas-igs and its palay contents were bolo-laden that caused skin irritations. The ladies around Ina were our nanay-nanayan. This writer’s brother Gil was practically raised by Ate Nene whom Gil endearingly called Nanay Nene. The two were inseparable. Came weaning time, Gil was inconsolable when he was brought home to the poblacion without her Nanay Nene. At that time Ate Nene was doomed to be a spinster for dearth of suitors in San Roque notwithstanding her good looks. It was Ina however who fixed her marriage with a reliable shy bachelor from Tiniguiban.

Ina was a repository of family histories. She knew practically the propietarios of Calauag and Lopez and even as far as Gumaca and Atimonan. One evening the parents of a boy who was about to get married went to Ina to inform her about the wedding. Ina asked the couple who the mother of the bride was. Upon being informed of who the bride’s mother was, Ina exclaimed, “anak ba ni gay-un, naku nabulok ang p..e n’un!” The wedding did not push thru.

Ina’s relatives made it a point to inform her of important milestones in their lives, getting married for one. Ina Fabia must be in the know. They knew that Ina felt slighted once she was bypassed in any affair.

During the war, the entire family of Tiburcio hied off to San Roque and hid his growing brood there. It was an ideal place. It was ensconced in one corner of the hills or sulok overlooking the great expanse of the rice fields and the tributaries of Pandanan, the great river of Lopez and Calauag that empties at Calauag Bay. From the sulok one could see from afar any approaching visitor. His eldest Lea was already a handsome lady then. Ama Tibo feared that some Japanese might take fancy of her. My father Ino was a lanky thirteen-year old while Tio Nesto was a roguish eleven-year old. All the rest were toddlers and some were about to be born. In that quaint sulok, Ina conceived her second edition children.

Ina Favia, the Widow

At age 40, Ina Fabia was a widow. The war produced widows and the culture of the day transformed families into matriarchal.

Ours became one big matriarchal family ruled by the rock-solid Ina Fabia. Her married daughters, Lea, Potenciana, and Thelma, stayed with her in the ancestral house along now Quezon Street. Her sons Higino and Eriberto eventually married and tarried awhile in the old manor then moved out on the opposite sides of the town. Ino settled eastward in Paang Bundok while Nesto nestled west in Sabang Uno. These older children managed to earn vocational courses and deferred to the opinion of the matriarch. The philosophy of the day then was that Ina could support them all from the bountiful harvest of copra and rice from San Roque, San Rafael, Talingting and rest of the homesteads developed by the old man. Her wartime kids Felix, Teofilo, Ceferina and Sonia on the other hand were anxious for city life and were looking forward for college education. Felix finished a degree in engineering, Phil went on to become a certified public accountant, Ferin completed her medical degree, and Sonia hurdled over a teaching course.

To Ina, her joy was in San Roque. Our house in that barrio is about a kilometre and a half from the Majarlika Highway. It was self-sustaining. Across it, to this day, is the Bahay Nayon. On its right is the Ermita. Ina had hundreds of native chickens that supplied her with abundant eggs and meat.

Sometimes we got awakened by the soft footsteps of Ina. I caught her gazing concerned look at us her grandchildren one three o’clock in the morning. She had the reliable Avegon radio and listened to some religious programs and local news. Her favorites were Johnny de Leon, Paeng Yabut,  and one Damian Sotto. At daybreak we all could hear Ina’s proverbial call of the wild, kuuuruuuukya, sprinkling the earth with fragrant newly harvest golden palay from her verdant tubigans. Soon the chickens came, swarmed about her rushing, feeding, adoring, like paying homage to a generous patroness. The aroma of kapeng barako wafted in the morning air.

Then she wore her rubber boots and on she went behind her house, a three hectare coconut land interspersed with fruit trees: mango, santol, lukban, kalumpit, pilaway and basiad and the sweet-smelling paho. She gathered her day’s supply of sahing from her basiad trees to keep her abuhan aflame. The sahing that smelt of petrol looked like tears shed by the sturdy basiad and pilaway. With the sahing gum tucked in her bao or coco shell and covered with banana leaf, she then scraped sikdut from fallen coconut trees, tinamaan ng lintik years before. Sikdut thrives most at the timber’s west or shaded side. Sikdut is a variety of mushroom peculiar in San Roque and the best tasting ever with gata, flavoured with hawot with a sprig of tanglad or lemon grass. Notwithstanding a bangkalas sinaing, any meal was unforgettable with these dishes.

If it was a Sunday she collected her green papayas for guinataang or tinolang dumalaga and rich malunggay leaves. From there she passed on the north side of her house divided by an expanse of tubigan across the house of her favourite kasama, Tatang Kileto, with her familiar yell, “may ulam na ba kayo, Kileto?” Kileto answered back, “tulingan po Nanang Fabia!” Soon we saw the wife of Tatang Kileto crossing the pilapil towards the house of Ina holding a palayok of guinataang tulingan spiced with siling labuyo with generous bulbous eggplants. On her way back, her palayok was filled with tinolang dumalaga or tandang. At post lunch we always saw Tatang Kileto with sons Erning and Dado blissfully enjoying their siesta side by side in their duyang yantok.

Mayohan sa San Roque

The Feast of San Roque Labrador is celebrated every 16th of May. A week before the feast, the Bahay Nayon and the barrio chapel or Ermita are filled with hermanitas and hermanitos, looking forward the festivities by festooning these landmarks with pahiyas and buntings made from coconut and anahaw leaves.  On the appointed day, the town’s top personages arrive in droves, since its mid summer, and partake on the celebration. The old reliable tambuli, made from carabao horn, took care of the barriofolks’ summons.

The town officialdom was welcomed by Ina. In the morning, a thanksgiving mass was celebrated by the Cura Parruco in the Ermita. Lunch and supper were served in her house where she was regaled by local officials with tributes as a pillar of San Roque, etc. Local politicians knew that Ina had a following in the barrio and her suggestions sounded like commands. Ina would simply cut off the grovelling official and change the subject. Ina didn’t suffer fools gladly; she simply went on with her business. She would remind the hermana-mayor that it was getting late, “ang gabi lumalalim, ‘di naman hinuhukay,” and it would be better that the program begins, she suggested. She led the welcoming committee on the way to Bahay Nayon and always delivered the welcome address and thanked the guests for visiting them and ended her remarks with a closing prayer, “ipag-adya po sana tayo lagi ng ating patrong si San Roque at bigyan ng kasaganaan sa taong darating. Siyanawa!.” She obliged without fail one ceremonial dance.

Ina in her quimona

Ina was so handsome in her terno. But she was unbeatable in her signature quimona. She had a number of quimonas all made from the finest jusi, sinamay, and pina. From what we heard, she had them personally embroidered from the maglililo of Lumban, not very far from the provenance of her father-in-law, Paete. Ina’s legendary quimonas have different designs. Foremost was the one with the familiar embroidered landscape of San Roque depicting a lady frozen in time stabbing the earth with green palay binhi. Stories had it as well that Senor Ciriaco personally designed the wooden statue of San Roque the center piece of the old Ermita. Nanang Soleng, a Death March widow swore that the image bore the likeness of the old man’s visage. Sadly, a day after one stormy November day, the statue went missing sold by the thief to an ambulant antique broker.

From there Ina went out of the Bahay Nayon to admonish the youngsters to go easy on lambanog and tuba and avoid violent confrontations with visitors from other barrios, ticking from memory the names of the well-known trouble makers reminding the barrio tanods to especially be wary of the names she mentioned. Then off she retreated to her enclave followed by her loyal court, the widows, spinsters and the abandoned wives of the barrio. One time we saw her pinching the groin of one widow who seemed bent on tarrying on the dance floor with another young widower. Her entourage was in titters as we figured the words she uttered, “magtanan na kayo!…magpakasal kayo sa banig!”

Years later, this writer was approached by the local officials of Lopez requesting written tolerance from where to build a remodelled Bahay Nayon. Ina’s Bahay Nayon was built principally by Ama Tibo, felling large timbers from his lands in San Luis and Esparanza. The logs were floated down Pandanan River and the barrio folks in unusual frenzy erected the Bahay Nayon of San Roque before the war. As it had seen better times, the Bahay Nayon was rehabilitated in 1998. Tia Sonia to whom that part of San Roque was assigned by way of toka signed a written tolerance in favor of the Barangay to get funds for the project.

Her college educated children settled somewhere else. Felix and Sonia in Manila, Phil in New York and Ferin in San Diego. I was the one who broke to her the news that Tito Phil passed the CPA board examinations. I found her weaving a large bangkuang made from strips of buli with her loyal court of widows. I showed her the page of the Manila Bulletin where his name appeared. Her tears fell as she went on with her task. She told me return the next day as she prepared hearty servings of minukmok or espasol.

Soon one by one her war-conceived children got married. Tito Honey wed an only daughter of a rich couple from Lopez. A year into the marriage, Tita Baby, Tito Honey’s first wife died of ectopic pregnancy. On the seventh year of his widowerhood, he found a new love of his life, a beautiful school teacher from Mauban, a scion of the Caliwaras.

Tito Phil announced later that she would be marrying a beautiful lady from Laguna. The pamamanhikan was tedious as the parents of his girl friend asked for some form of dote or proof of sincerity. The family was forced to ask for vale from Amah Lim Tek Seng to source the cost of a Quezon City lot. Ina sold all her copra to Amah. The copra produce at that time was enough to send children to college, tuitions all and board and lodging. After the San Pablo getting-to-know-you, the bride’s family asked that it wanted to meet the groom’s family in Calauag this time. That entailed another preparation that busied up the household of Ina. The San Pablo delegation rode the train and someone asked how were they to fetch the visitors from the train station in Sta. Maria, a good one kilometre from the old house. My father and Tio Nesto suggested borrowing the car of Ong Bon Jieng, the Chinese merchant. Tito Phil prevailed upon them however to be up front and engaged the services of Ka Liloy’s calesa. Tito Phil married Tita Ating in what was bruited about as a grand wedding not only in Calauag but in San Pablo City as well. Some senators and governors were on hand as sponsors. This writer’s sister Chona, now the town judge of Lopez was the flower girl.

Tita Ferin was the next in line. After graduating from the College of Medicine and getting her license, she settled in Calauag to practice. Ina transformed the south side of the upper floor of her house as Tita Ferin’s clinic. Part of the ground floor of the house was also a clinic of Dr. Lim, the eldest son of Bua, the Chinese family renting the silong. Ina Favia’s house became a landmark because it was the site of two medical clinics. People made a beeline to the new klinika ng doktora. We never saw the happiness shown on her face before. Right after, suitors came in droves. The beautiful doctor who could dance and sing attracted admirers everywhere. Ina was busy screening the applicants. While the Calauag natives were spared of the intense questioning because of her familiarity of their provenance, those from other towns were subjected to gruelling inquisitions. Unbeknownst to Ina Favia, Tita Ferin was a step ahead of her mother because a couple of years later she was to marry her long time beau, Tito Jay, a US based navy officer. The two were childhood sweethearts and their love story was legend in the small town. Soon after, they wed in Calauag officiated by Tita Ferin’s friend, Father now Monsignor Armando Perez, of Atimonan. For reasons of her own, Ina was opposed to the marriage that soon became moot. In a matter of months the couple flew to San Diego. Ina was dejected. A year later, Juan Tiburcio was born. Tita Ferin surprised Ina by coming home in 1968 with a new member of the family, JTibs, the first American in the family.

In 1969, Tito Honey was set to get married. We were all hauled to Lopez aboard a jeepney filled with huge taliasis and kalderos brimming with dinuguan, apritada, and menudo. Our destination was the quaint Bungalow near the banks of Talolong River, the residence of the Ramos family.

Soon after, Ina was along the Isle of Manila Cathedral giving away his favourite son, the namesake of her first inamorata. In less than a year, Tito Honey, as he is popularly known, was a widower, his young bride succumbing to the treachery of ectopic pregnancy. Felix is a natural politician, having cut his teeth early on in heavy equipment trading. He dabbled in local politics having won the previous post of his old man. In 1999 pursuing a juicy local government requisition of heavy equipment up north, he suffered cerebral stroke.

The last days of Ina

There was this movie where the dialogue went on where the lead character asked his literature teacher why she usually give good grades on stories about grandmothers. He asked dismissively, “What’s so poignant about them? They always die anyway?”

In the early 1980s there was marked upsurge in rebel activities in the nearby barrios of San Roque particularly De la Paz, Salvacion, Maguillan, and Pisipis. There were reported sightings of New People’s Army partisans. They were conducting political teach-ins among the barrio folks at the same time soliciting moral and material support. By all indications, the inhabitants of these far flung barrios appeared to be capitulating. Military atrocities were rampant in these parts. In fact, the Mayors of Calauag and Lopez were successively assassinated. These local officials were perceived to be rebel symphatizers. Ina, being the generous benefactor thereabouts, was approached by some NPA cadres and was asked for arms and provisions. The Philippine Army got wind of the nocturnal visits and countered by putting up a mobile detachment near Ina’s territory. Some sympathisers were arrested and interrogated. Knowing the brutal tactics of the military, Ina’s children, especially the US-based, were worried. They decided that Ina should stay put in the poblacion. Ina brushed off their fears. She said those communist rebels had the best of intentions and harming her was farthest from their minds. All they need was something to fill their empty stomach and she had just enough for all of them until the last harvest.

But her home based children particularly the daughters were insistent. She had to be out of harm’s way, or so they claimed. She was told to abandon her house in San Roque in the mean time that there was a raging rebellion in the countryside. Ina was prevailed upon by Tia Poning who practically kept vigil to bring her mother out of San Roque. Ina was finally persuaded with a heavy heart.  She packed some belongings foremost was her exquisite quimonas.

In one scorching summer day in 1992, she was hauled off to Manila en route to Las Pinas. She was never asked whether she wanted to travel in that direction. The children assumed that a change of scenery would invigorate the old woman.

Upon reaching Manila, they were stuck in monstrous traffic all through out as the country then was in the midst of energy crisis and power outages were the order of the day. The old woman suffered in silence. Her bladder was full and nobody asked. She was embarrassed to tell as they were on top a bridge that was a virtual parking lot. Her trip was agonizing for an 87-year old. She developed fever and infection that progressed to pneumonia. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and was soon moved to the ICU. I heard the doctor telling us that her organs were failing one by one. It was only a matter of time.

Her wake in Calauag was well-attended. People from Lopez and Gumaca showed up and paid their last respects. Politicians and all were there telling their own stories about Ina. Her eldest son Higino was stoic all through-out. It was when the casket was being rolled out towards the crypt when I heard my father whispered, half walking, half running, “Nanay ko! Nanay….” I held my father still, embracing him as I felt his shoulders failed, while I was conjuring the faint smile of Ina dressed in her delicate Lumban quimona.

* images and video from Teocarlo Pulgar

3 Replies to “In Her Quimona”

  1. Hi Sonny,

    It’s been a long time since I last heard from you. My late husband and you were neighbors in Quezon and we were school mates in UP.

    I hope you still remember me.

    Please e-mail me.

    Warm regards,

  2. I’m an acquaintance of Howard Marshall’s. I’m a professional author writing about the battle for Bataan and its aftermath, particulaly a work detail at the Basaid River in 1942. I need some help with the geography of the area. Can you send me your e-mail address and phone, please. Thank you.

    [email protected]

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