The ringing of the church bells at 6:00 in the morning woke up the town, then at mid noon made them eat their lunch, and at 6:00 in the evening made them say their angelus and eat their supper.
During the ‘20s and ‘30s our life was controlled by the church, from birth ‘til death. We had no clocks, radios, TVs, or telephones then. Only the rich read newspapers and magazines. The highest ambition of parents for their sons was that they become priests!
When Father Blando of Sinopenyan was ordained as a Priest, the town held a whole-day feast for him. I was there.
The first thing parents taught their children was how to recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Hail Holy Queen. We rattled those prayers from memory without much thought about their meaning or significance.
As small children, we were made to understand that God knew all our thoughts, words, and deeds. We also knew that we had a guardian angel watching over us.
Sundays were always regarded religiously. We had to go to mass without fail, take communion after our confession, our body had to be clean, dressed in the best clothes we could wear to church.
It was there where people congregated and got the town’s wildest news, good or bad. During a fair the church bells were rung; when one was dying, the bells tolled; after death the cross, black flag, and bell were paraded around town, announcing who died. Relatives and friends responded by donating money for funeral expenses, then attended the burial and the nine days of nightly prayers.
The most interesting religious observance in Bangued was Holy Week. It was when Manila students came home for vacation to relate their unusual experiences in the City. They usually congregated in the church or around the plaza to display their new style clothes, shoes, or hair styles. It is then when I had a lot of customers as a shoeshine boy.
The whole town was busy preparing arches called ABON-ABONG along the religious procession. Inside the big arch was an altar where prayers were made by singing psalmers called LECCIO. The 10×10-meter roof of the arch was loaded with hanging fruits of all kinds, decorated with colored crepe paper and balloons.
There the neighbors congregated to eat native cakes such as BIBINGKA, SINOMAN, PATOPAT, with coffee and cane sugar wine until about 5:00 in the morning or throughout the night.
Houses throughout the Holy Week held a LECCIO, where relatives, neighbors, and friends would go to sing psalms accompanied by a guitarist. Guests were served BASIMAMA and TABACO as customary “snacks” then. While the leccio was going on, people were served food consisting of PANCIT, PATOPAT, SINOMAN, and ARROSCALDO. Father and Mother always held a leccio with Mg. Trining, decorating the house with red, white, and blue crepe paper ribbons up to the ceiling.
The good leccio players were invited from one house to another. My grandpa and a friend of his sang psalms from a black book about the life of Christ, from His birth to His crucifixion, all throughout the week. That was the only book in the house, called PASSION. It was a sacred book like the Bible.
This holy book had mysterious powers. In Bayombong, where we evacuated during the war, Nana Odis, sister of Pat’s mother, asked me inside a room to hold an ORACOLO to locate where some stolen money was hidden.
She got the Passion, tied a string of palm leaf blessed during Palm Sunday in the page containing a picture of Jesus crucified, then opened a pair of scissors with which we followed the book with our forefingers.
She recited the “I believe in God” up to the RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, then stopped. She asked: “ARE YOU WILLING TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS?”
I saw the book twist, then fall, as she caught it with her other hand.
We re-placed the book as before, then she asked: “DID ROSING (our servant) STEAL IT?” The book twisted and fell again. We re-placed it, and she asked: “DID SHE PLACE IT IN THE TOILET?” The book twisted again. We again re-placed it, and she asked: “DID SHE INSERT IT IN THE WALL?” The book twisted again. Again we re-placed it, and she asked: “IS IT ON THE EASTERN SIDE?” The book did not move. She asked: “IS IT ON THE WESTERN SIDE?” The book moved.
We went to the toilet and, sure enough, the 20-peso bill was inserted inside the bamboo wall of the toilet. Praise the Lord!
I never had any repeat experience of this ORACOLO again.
It was quite a very scary experience!
Whenever Nana Odis went out to sell things in Barrio Busilae or Paitan, she would request me to meet her “for LUCK,” according to her. “According to your belief, so be it unto you,” the Bible says.
Before I left Bangued for Kianjan in 1935 after my graduation from high school, my Holy Week was very memorable.
My friend Manong Pastor and I accompanied Pat, her sister Ana, and her mother, Nana Ulli, going from one arch to another singing LECCIO until almost dawn. I never thought that six years later Pat would become my wife.
Her sister Aning was my age, and Pat was to me just another girl. At that time I did not even know that Aning and Pat were sisters. All the time I thought that Pat’s mother was Nana Aning, her aunt. We were singing the LECCIO or PASSION together all night long and did not notice time pass by until it was almost daybreak!
Now all of them are gone and are, I hope, singing directly to God songs of praise and thanksgiving, which I will soon be singing together with them again, God willing. (Nana Ulli died in 1944, Pat in 1982, Aning in 1992, and Mg. Pastor in 1992.)
The Holy Week procession of statues of saints was a very colorful and exciting happening there. It followed the Palm Sunday, when we all went to church and carried palm leaves to be blessed by the priest, who sprinkled holy water to everybody in church as we waved our palms as he passed by. Then we placed the palms at the entrance of our house to ward off evil spirits. The leaves were woven into bird-like or butterfly-like shapes, or stars or flowers.
Every Palm Sunday my brother and I always had new clothes sewn by Pat’s mother.
Father had a lot of orders for slippers before Holy Week. Mother sold conolles, cigars, and candies near the church.
The statues paraded were those of St. Peter holding big keys; the Nazarene with Jesus carrying a cross with a rope tied to his neck, being pulled by a Roman soldier; Veronice, with the three faces of Jesus on a handkerchief; Magdalene, with perfume on one hand and a handkerchief on another; Virgin Mary, with tears on her eyes and a rosary; the ANGUSTIA, with Jesus being cradled by Mary at the foot of a cross.
Before the electric lights, our house was the most brightly lighted, with carbide lamp that did not go off even with a strong wind.
Then there was a parade of ladies dressed in white with blue sash reciting the rosary. The last was the priest with his sacristan. The crowd who wanted to see the arches around the town followed in a very disorderly way. They went around, men, women, and children, sampling the food offered in the arches.
People lit candles on their windows as they watched the procession.
Holy Saturday was the counterpart of Good Friday, when meat-eating people went and bought meat to make up for their Friday fasting.
When I was in Bangued during the Holy Week of 1993, I joined the Reunion of Alumni of the CSC (Colegio del Segredo Corazon), now College of the Sacred Heart. My white Toyota car was draped with a placard, “CLASS OF 1935,” on its hood. I could hear people gasp, “Class of 1935!” as we passed by around the town in a motorcade headed by Gov. Valera and followed by the Mayor, both alumni.
Being the oldest alumnus in age and class, I was asked to open the program as Invocation officer and also to be a Guest Speaker, being a Balik-Bayan from the U.S.A. I became the center of attention. I got a lot of pictures and also a video tape of the program, including my speech. I was the only 1935 alumnus present.
I prayed for God’s blessings in that everything we thought, said, and did would all be for His glory.
My speech was K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short, Stupid). I opened it with the story of a maid of Mrs. Solivan from Abra who answered the phone and was heard saying: “BOTOM MET AH!” (Your “dick” also!) Mrs. Solivan asked her why she answered that way. The maid replied: “KET NO ‘OKIM’ KONANA KETDIN!” (Because he said: “YOUR ‘PUSSY.’” Mrs. Solivan corrected her, saying: “SAAH NAKKONG ‘OKAY’ KONANA.” (“My daughter, he said ‘Okay.’”) The audience liked it.
Then I made an observation about the TEN COMMANDMENTS posted at the front of the church, saying that it had become obsolete with the New Covenant commandment of Jesus Christ of LOVE (love of God above all and of neighbor) as Jesus loved us. Then I ended my speech quoting John 3:16: “For God so loved the world …. “
I noticed that in their auditorium, which served as a basketball court, there was no picture of Rev. Father Laurence Leising, S.P., our first Principal, Boys’ Department, High School, C.S.C. God willing, I plan to donate a BIG picture to be placed in that Gym to honor a GREAT MISSIONARY man. JBS
I observed the Easter Sunday in Bangued in 1993 following our reunion. The last time I had seen it in Bangued was in 1935 after my graduation. It was quite different this time, although the DOMINGO SABET was held in the same place, in front of the house of Don Quintin south of the town plaza.
After the early 5 o’clock mass, the procession of the two statues emerged from the church. The statue of the resurrected Christ moved towards the east of the plaza, while that of Virgin Mary moved towards the west.
I headed for the Paredes family home across the town plaza and went upstairs. There I met the mother and father of Gov. Vicente Valera, who warmly welcomed me as a long-lost friend.
Ex-Governor Pepito Valera took me inside his bedroom. There we watched the entire Sabet proceedings from his window overlooking the people on the street. We were in the second story of the house that appeared very high when I was a small kid carried by my father on his shoulders for me to be able to see the angels singing and unveiling the statue of the Virgin as her son’s resurrected body was approaching from the opposite direction.
This time the angel was no longer hauled by a pulley up to the top of the Abong-Abong as before but was already perched atop a high scaffold to reach out for the veil as the statue passed by her.
Bolet, the Governor’s mother, said that she used to unveil the Virgin as a small kid but this time her great-grandchild did it.
There was a time the Sabet took place in front of the Baule residence, where Mg. Ines Baule sang “Ave Maria” before the unveiling took place.
All the time I thought that Jesus Christ appeared first to his mother upon resurrecting because of this tradition. But the Bible says Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.
After the meeting (SABET) of the two statues, the procession went back to the church, passing towards the west of the plaza while I watched from inside the plaza near the tennis court.
The tennis court used to be at first east of the Provincial Building. Then one was built in front of the Philippine Constabulary Barracks on the western side of the plaza. Later on it was transferred to the eastern side of the Abra School of Arts & Trade Building near the Cadre Barracks.
I used to play tennis west of the Provincial Building with a racquet that had a slot or sliced hole in the neck to give some sort of spring as it hit the ball. But at that time the type of play was chop-chop called BRAV NI ANORES PONIANCIO because of the bolo-chopping or slicing motion of the racquet. Hence, our poor tennis balls became “bald” very fast and they “floated” as they were hit because there was no more weight to them. And we couldn’t even afford to buy new balls.
My tennis partner, David Barza, died quite young, just like Inton Valera, both of whom were my classmates.
On that Easter Sunday in 1993, nobody was playing on the new tennis courts that I saw. As a matter of fact, there were no back stones.
Doning Valera, my compadre who used to be my tennis mate in Bangued, Baguio, and Manila gave me a BIG blowout in 1993 in his 17-story penthouse owned by his daughter, Pat’s friend, TITA, when he learned that I was a balik-bayan. But he can no longer play tennis, because he had a stroke and is quite paralyzed, with trembling hands. He is younger than me. Praise God, I can still play tennis if I want to. 11/12/94
Before leaving Bangued after the “Sabet,” I hiked up the Casamata hill to see the sun rise and watch the town lighted up. I climbed up the tower where the statue of Virgin Mary stood, giving a full view of the place all around up to Calaba River towards the west and down to Makarkermai and Depot where I used to harvest rice from our rice fields there in the far east of the hill.
While reminiscing the past, my step-mother ordered her grandson Bobet to look for me and bring me back home, for fear that I might be kidnapped or harmed in that hill, where several killings had happened lately, according to her.
Every time I visit Bangued I always go and see the grave of my late father and pray for his peaceful repose. I also took a picture of his tomb the last time I was there.
On my way to his grave I passed by tombs of people whom I knew, like that of Mg. Conchang, Mg. Pacoy, Tata Angcuan Bai, Nana Iltas, Mg. Sidro Valera. Theirs is the most prominent mausoleum at the northeast corner of the cemetery. I also see the tomb of Ramon Viendo, our salutatorian, who died as a law student in Ateneo de Manila of heart attack at about 20 years old, before the war. He was a very intelligent man. SAYANG!
There was buried not long ago my best friend and neighbor and classmate, Pastor Benedito. I invited him to our banquet in the hotel, where he met Maria and remarked during our after-dinner speech that I am a very intelligent and a lucky person. We had pictures together with his wife, Eling Reparial. They were both COMEDIANTAS in the Moro-Moro and were very popular in town for their artistic talents.
I spoke with Tata Binnong Benedito, his father out of wedlock, and asked him why Mg. Pastor did not progress very much, in spite of his talents. He said that because of his disobedience to his mother in marrying Eling.
I met Eling, a widow, in 1993 and had a picture taken with her and Mg. Solome, also a widow. Eling said that they had children with Mg. Pastor but all died at an early age. She now looked very old and haggard, with wrinkles all over her face and hands. She still applied a lot of makeup and lipstick, but she was now a very far cry from her beauty during her younger years when she was a very much sought-after bride by eligible men in Bangued.
Mg. Pastor was then considered as a very lucky man for being able to marry Eling, a Moro-Princess in the Comedia or Moro-Moro drama. We called her “laglaglit” (very spritely), the way she handled her sword as a warrior princess of the Moslem Army.