The most prominent man of Abra was Don Quintin Paredes. He was our Representative to Congress and became Speaker of the House of Representatives. During the war he was Secretary of Commerce. After the war he became a Senator and was elected as President of the Senate for a short term. He was a tall, white, and very imposing gentleman respected by everybody.
Don Q. was married to Doña Victoria, whose name Victoria Park bears, on top of the Casamata hill.
Most of the time he and his family were in Manila and only came to Bangued during Holy Week, Christmas, and elections.
I met his daughter Guadalupe in Tampa during the funeral services of the late Pages Gienes in February, 1993. She told me that Berlet Pawles, the wife of ex-Governor Pepito Valera, mother of the incumbent Governor Vicente Valera, was not her sister but a cousin adopted by Don Q. when her father died at an early age. All the time we thought she was a daughter of Don Q., just as we thought that Pat’s father was Don Pacio and her mother was Nana Ansing Bayabos, because Pat was adopted as a baby when her mother, Nana Ulli, got sick and almost died.
I only found out later, in Manila in 1939, that Nana Ulli was Pat’s mother, after she escaped from Nana Ansing at age of about 16, when she was not allowed to go to high school.
Elix, my brother, used to play with Berlet and courted her. But, like me, he left for Kiangan in 1935 to join me there in the house of Tata Anton, where he fell in love with an Ufugero lady belonging to a Royal family by the name of Carmen Patejo.
Don Q. would have been a President of the Philippines instead of Elpidio Quirins of Vigan had he not been accused of being a Japanese collaborator for being a member of the cabinet of puppet President Jose Laurel during the Japanese occupation.
A university named after Don Q. stands in Manila. He should have a monument in the town plaza of Bangued.
One of his leaders in politics was Tata Equio. Hence Tata Equio’s illegitimate son, Mg. Jesus Topeg, was accepted as a Guard in the Bilibid Prisons of Manila through the strong recommendation of Don Quintin.
Don Q.’s political rival in Abra was Don Virgilio Valera, a relative of Don Benido Valera, our neighbor. Father, being a good neighbor, belonged to the Valera political faction and was therefore not pro-Paredes.
A son of Don Q., Tony, passed the bar and became a lawyer like me in 1950.
Don Q. gave a big banquet for all Abra lawyers in 1950. I was invited and seated beside him at the banquet table. I was then a Captain in the Philippine Constabulary.
When I asked him if he knew another bar candidate who did not pass and who used to be his employee in his law firm in Manila, he said: NI AYYONG, AHAS DEDIAS.
During the Jap occupation, he used to visit Miss Yujecico, a beautiful pharmacist in Avenide Rizel, Cir. Botanges Street, where we lived.
We had seen him chatting with the young pharmacist for hours, cooling himself with a bamboo fan. When his wife died, he married the elder sister of the pharmacist, much to the objection of his children, who desisted her. The pharmacist was Angeliny.
Don Q. had a son Isidro, who joined the RAF (Royal Air Force of England) during the war and was shot down over France during World War II. His body was found after the war through the help of Mr. Elenterio Terte, President of the Spiritualist Society of the Philippines. Mr. Terte related to me how he determined the exact place where the fallen body of Lt. Paredes was located.
Another son, Casing, an engineer, became an Abra Representative to the House of Representatives. The Provincial Building was burned following the counting of ballots while an investigation was going on for fraudulent voting.
Col. Carmelo Barbero, Ret., was at first affiliated with the Parades faction until he bolted and defied the Paredes Party to run for Congress, and he won. He was the incumbent Congressman when Jojo became Miss Red Feather Philippines, 1970.
The latest news in the Philippine News was about ex-Governor Jose Valera and his wife, Berlot, who were selected as PAS Family with 15 children, all having college degrees.
This was followed by news that Quintin Paredes III was accused of gun smuggling from California to Manila. I did not find out what happened with that case. But it was a black eye to the PAREDES CLAN.
He, Don Q., was honored by Abranians and the whole Paredes clan in the Del Monte Building in Plaza Goity, where wall-size pictures were displayed showing his achievements.
The A.H.A (Abra Historical Association) also honored him in Aristocrat, where I saw women whom he had helped show their appreciation, saying that if not for him, their family could not be as they are now. Praise the Lord!
Don Blasi Villamos was another son of Abra who became famous, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Like Don Q., he was a lawyer of the highest caliber.
He lived mostly in Manila with his family, and their vacant house west of the church was my hunting place for birds at dusk when they would go back to roost. I had a slingshot that I made and was quite good in using it.
Don B.’s daughter, Consuelo, became Miss Mindanao in a national beauty contest.
Col. Jesus Villamos, a World War II hero who fought the Jap planes with his obsolete training plane, was very well known like his father.
He and Lt. Paredes both joined the P.A.F. (Philippine Air Force) during its early organization.
Like the Paredes family, the Villamos family no longer live in Bangued.
The Bravo family of my mother also no longer live in Bangued.
But the SIBAYAN family is still there. Praise the Lord!
Don Eustaguis Purugganan was a Governor of Abra. His house was near the Paredes Building, south of the plaza. He was affiliated with the Paredes political party against the Valera faction.
His son Emilio was my classmate. Emilio became a lawyer like me and was a P.O.W. in Capas, where we shared the same Cadre building.
Capt. Emilio Purugganan, Reserve, was the Chief, Military Branch, while I was Chief, Civil Affairs Branch, JAGO, PL, Camp Crame. Our tables were side by side in the office.
Don Virgilio Valera replaced Don Eastoquio as Provincial Governor. Later on Don Virgilio, like Don Q., became a Representative when Don Q. became a Senator.
Don Virgilio’s son, Inton, was my classmate in Grade I. He was accompanied to school by a maid. He became the best tennis player of Abra, but died quite young.
His older brother, Oscar, took the bar but flunked. He failed to become a lawyer like his father.
They owned the biggest house west of the Provincial Building. A part of their house was our Post Office.
Don Virgilio headed the Valera political party of Abra and fought against the Paredes faction.
The only time these rival factions joined hands together was when the whole province of Abra backed up Jojo as Abra’s representative to the national beauty contest.
Pat and I had the same experience with this family when we were sent by our parents to ask for the payment for the dress or slippers they had already bought and were told to “come back” several times.
This Valera family no longer lives in Bangued.
Another famous person was our next-door neighbor, Don Bienvenido Valera. Tata Benid became a Presidente (Mayor) of Bangued, then became a Governor when Don Virgilio was elected as Representative.
During his administration as Mayor he had our streets paved with Abra River stones. He also signed ordinances prohibiting pigs from roaming the streets.
He had high blood pressure and I saw how leeches were applied to his neck to suck his blood. Although he had several women aside from his wife, he was the head of the Knights of Columbus of the Catholic Church.
His family had a carriage-drawn statue of Jesus cradled by Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, the most bulky statue paraded during Holy Week.
As Governor he visited me in my office in the Hq. Philippine Army. He told me that if I had anything for my father, to take it to his daughter’s dormitory before he went back to Bangued.
I wrapped a woolen blanket with Army towels and T-shirt and drawers for my father as a gift delivered through Don Bienvenido Valera.
I can just imagine the joy of my father when he got my gifts from Tata Benid. I was then the youngest corporal in the military service, only 18 years old and only eight months in the service. When our neighbor, Pvt. Barreras, was retired after thirty years, we learned that he was never promoted and remained as a cook throughout his service.
After the war when Pat and I visited him to send something to my stepmother and brother through him, he made this remark that I have valued and continue to value very much in my life: “ANIAIY, CAPITAN CAN NEN AROCADOKA PAYEN AYAI ANIA LAVETOI NGA RAGSAK HI INSIONGEN DIO ADDA PAYLA A BIAGITAN!” (“Wow, so you are now a Captain and also a Lawyer! What joy would (INSIONG) your father feel if he were alive now!).
He said this in front of his family. Tata Benid was a real politician.
I replied: “NI APODIOS AMIN TATA.” (“All from God, sir.”) He did not realize that indirectly because of
him – his encroachment upon our property – I had been encouraged to become a lawyer as Father’s wish.
Sorry his daughter, Nita, failed to pass the bar exam, which we took at the same time, in 1949.
But he had a nephew, son of his sister, who considered him as a father and became a lawyer, although he was a polio victim.
Roming (Romualdo Valera) was around the age of Elix, and we used to play together as kids. He was my classmate in the Far Eastern U. in Liberal Arts, Pre-Law, from 1937-1939.
When I was in Manila in 1993 I tried to find out the phone number of Governor Vicente Valera to tell him of my intended visit to him in Bangued. I looked in the phone directory for a “Valera” and I saw JOSEFINA VALERA. I found out that she is the widow of Roming. She said that they have a son who is a P.M.A. graduate with the rank of Captain. I also learned from her that Tata Benide’s daughters, Mg. Conching, a pharmacist, Mg. Cholong, a doctor, and Mg. Lordes, owner of a dormitory, have all died. The only member of this Valera family in Bangued is Felicing, who is still single and lives in their house west of our former property.
Fina did not know Virgilio’s phone number because she has not been in Bangued for a long time.
My friend, Nita, was in Bangued during my presence there in Holy Week, but we failed to see each other. Felicing was the one I saw before I left for Manila.
Don Juan Valera (Angcuan Bai), Fina’s grandpa, was one of the richest property owners in Abra. His wife, Nana Itas, was a very active merchant in selling their produce of rice, corn, tobacco, etc., to wholesale dealers of other provinces. Tata Angcuan had a store in the first floor of their mansion where he sold clothes, rice, soap, candies, etc.
Pat said that when she went to buy anything, she would say: TATA ANGCUAN BAI, GOMATANGAK MAN TI KARMELITOS. (Sir Juan “effeminate,” may I buy candy). And Tata A. would answer back: AKINNANA NGA ANAKNI ANSING DESTOYEH. (What a naughty daughter of Ansing you are.)
He owned a car and had a driver, Mg. Isong Bolente. Then he put up a cigar factory just across from our house, where Mg. Isiang worked as a cigar maker.
One unique thing he did was order a coffin to be made with the hardest wood of Abra, which coffin he stored in his garage.
When he went to church on Sundays, all his fingers were glittering with expensive jewelries. His cane had a silver handle studded with brilliant stones.
His family paraded the statue of Mary Magdalene adorned with the most expensive jewelries and holding a bottle of perfume. It was the most attractive statue.
He also ordered the statue of St. Isidro in honor of his deceased son but the church did not honor it.
As a writer, he produced scripts for Moro Moro programs shown during fiestas. His car was the first car I rode. It was brought to Bangued by means of a big bamboo raft.
Their house, being the biggest and most modern mansion of Bangued, was the place where dignitaries from Manila were entertained with dances and banquets.
Manang Cinchang, his only daughter, was easily the most sought-after bride by rich men, like her piano teacher Mr. Balla.
She was “Kayomangue,” (dark brown), tall, and very stately-looking, like a princess. I was her chaperon everywhere she went. We rode in her car together and when she had a passenger, I rode in the rumble seat (the baggage compartment with an upholstered seat).
The only bad thing about sitting in the rumble seat was that all the dust following the car covered the passengers there!
When I left for Bayombong to continue my high school studies there, Manang Cinchang got her cousin, Paevy (Francisco Valera) as her chaperon, then they got married when Fina was already noticeable inside her womb.
Theirs was the grandest and most talked-about wedding in town. The richest woman marrying the handsomest man of Abra. Praise the Lord!
I understand from Fina that the ready-made coffin of her grandpa was burned during the carpet bombing of Bangued, when only a few houses were left.
He died in their evacuation place outside of Bangued during the war.
Until now their burned house has not been restored. They built a small house within its ruins, where Fina’s family lived.
Nobody lives there now except their caretakers after Fina’s parents died.
“FOR THE GLORY OF MAN IS AS THE FLOWER OF GRASS, — “
Don Ciano Barcena once had the biggest house east of the church property. His wife, Nana Andang, could be seen puffing her BIG cigar or tobacco at a window watching her laborers pounding palay into grain and grain into rice. They were large farm owners.
Manang Moring, their only child, was like a fat pig who did nothing but eat and sleep. She was light-complexioned and, like Mg. Conchang, was the target of well-to-do or eligible bachelors. She had curly hair and a double chin.
Their tall mansion overlooked our small house just across the road. Ours was a nipa hut. They had lots of maids.
Downstairs below their house was a store owned by a Chinese named SODAK (KABKAB), meaning he never took a bath, such that he had scabs around his neck and arms. We bought our soap, matches, gas, candles, etc., from him when we had not yet transferred to grandpa’s lot. The most delicious food to me then was rice mixed with honey bought from Sodak.
Don Ciano owned a long cemented building called STORE north of their house rented to a Chinese family called Chang. They sold groceries. That store used to be the place where early movies were held by friends of Father from Vigan. They showed the earthquake in Japan.
The front part of the Store was a cemented sidewalk where we played very often because it was not dusty. We gambled there with rubber bands, washers, marbles, and coins. There were always children playing there.
Later on half of the Store became FARMACIA VALERA, where I read newspapers delivered at night by a Bus HORLUTRAH from Manila. It was there where the first child of Mg. Conching and Dr. Pepe Purganan was born. She turned out to be a retarded child. We were peeping through the bamboo wall when the delivery was happening.
Don Ciano had several servants. One of them was Ipang, who looked after the children of Mg. Pitong and
Mg. Moring. One time she pushed Elix to the floor and, like wounded animals, we fought her. Being a full-grown woman, while we were just small kids, she beat the hell out of us and we had to run away from her.
A servant of Don Ciano, Lupe, challenged me to a fight. At that time I had practiced boxing with gloves in Tata Anton’s house and he taught me and Mg. Baddong how to box.
Lupe and I went to the Singson building under construction to have sport against each other. I jabbed him on the nose and he started bleeding. He picked up a big stone and tried to hit me with it. He was crying mad! I could not wrestle him because he was bigger than me. And so I ran away as he threw stones at me and chased me.
I headed for the Municipal building. When I reached that place, he turned back and went home.
Those were the only fights in my life!
Mg. Maning was married to Mg. Agapito Garduque, who came from another province. Their wedding was earlier than Mg. Conchang’s, and it was the most expensive one in town. They had several children, all girls.
I loved to watch Mg. Piting play tennis because he accompanied his strokes with KANTIAO, or sarcastic remarks. He was a “loudmouth.”
Tata Anton and Mg. Susing taught me how to play tennis in Bayombong.
Don Urbano Bañez was a retired Mayor and owned the first Pharmacy in Bangued. He is the father of the famous light-complexioned Bañez ladies, Cita and Nena, and of Tony, my best high school friend.
He is the light-bringer who had the electric plant, bringing much cheer to the townfolks. Previous to that the church was the only one having electricity, by generator owned by the SVD Missionary people for their convents.
He also owned the ice plant that brought down the price of “sorbeten”, a “holo-holo.” We no longer had to import ice from Vigan.
There was only one light per house. Hence the light was always bright up to ten in the evening.
Tony used to share with me his cold apples and oranges from the refrigerator. He had a shop to rebuild blown-out fuses and he made lots of money. One could buy new fuses only if he surrendered the old ones.
One Holy Friday I placed a centavo in our electric socket and replaced the bulb. All lights went off! The one who taught me how to do that was Tony, who became an Engineer and a Reserve Officer during the war.
No one was able to trace the cause of the trouble until I had to buy new fuses to replace ours.
Tony and I played tennis when I went to Bangued as PMA instructor recruiting new cadets. Our score was 8-all and we stopped because we were playing at noon under the summer hot sun.
The last time I talked with him by phone, he told me he was sick and couldn’t play anymore. They also owned a movie house after the war.
I had a classmate in elementary grades by the name of Maria Morania. She was known as a tomboy who challenged boys to fight. I found out that she was an illegitimate child of Don Urbano when I visited her family in Bangued after Pat died. She is the wife of Pat’s half-brother
Mg. Bandoy Emile. She was telling me about her claim to the Bañez estate that was the subject matter of litigations among the children of Don Urbano. Hence I discovered her paternal history. She is the daughter of Don Urbano with his maid named Mosiang.
Tony told me he gave up his share in favor of his sisters, who were causing trouble over their inheritance.
Cita was married to the older brother of Fina’s father, Giostanto Valera. He was a lawyer and a good tennis player. We paired together against another pair, Doning and his partner. Our game lasted a long time until they beat us. At that time he had just arrived from CA-S-A on official mission, and he was boasting about the many women he tasted in his trip. He was a tall, big white man and good looking.
Nena, the younger sister of Cita, was also known to be the girlfriend of Mg. Pacoy, Fina’s father. The two brothers were the most eligible bachelors and the two sisters were the most eligible maidens.
But Mg. Conchang beat Nena to the draw and married Nena’s sweetheart, much to the great surprise of everybody.
Nena got married to Eol, who was a sparring mate of Elix in boxing. Both sisters are now widows. When Fina’s mother died, they thought Mg. Pacoy would marry Nena, his former sweetheart. He didn’t.
Don Servando Valera, the grandpa of the present Governor of Abra, was a politician who was well known in Abra. He owned the first RICE MILL that revolutionized the milling of rice from manual to mechanical means.
I used to carry a load of palay, or unhusked rice, to be milled at his place. The rate of pay was half and half, for lack of money on our part. They also got the powdered rice husk, which was sold for pig meal.
Don Servando’s son, Pepito, became a famous Governor, like his father.
Today, November 8, 1994, is election day in Florida for Congress and for Governor and I recall how elections were handled in Abra when I was a young boy.
Our neighbor, Don Benido, had a bus marked VALERA TRANSPORTATION which on election day was draped with banners containing the names of the Valera Party candidates. We, the kids of the neighborhood, rode this bus as “noise-makers,” yelling at the top of our voices, “DON SERVANDO FOR GOVERNOR!” IBOTOS TAYO TI PARTIDO VALERA!” Our bus reached as far as Bucoy, the farthest town that could be reached by bus. Election day was a Holiday!
The candidates had a “WELCOME” sign at their door. Everybody was free to go in and eat. LECHON and delicious meals were served. How we wished every day was an election day! FREE RIDE AND FREE FOOD!
Money was used to buy ballots. A five-peso bill was cut in two, one to a voter and the other half kept. If the candidate won, you got the other half. Hence you would see peso bills pasted together later.