It was there in 1970 when my daughter, Jocelyn, was being honored for winning the beauty contest as Miss Red Feather Philippines as Abra’s representative that I got an accolade from a beautiful daughter of our late neighbor, Ex-Governor Bienvenido Valera, saying: “Magpintas laketdin ta anacyon, Momon Siniong!”
It was the late Tata Benid, her father, who said to me in 1950, upon meeting me in Manila, “Ken abogado ka payen aya? Ania laketdin nga ragsak ni Insiongen no ada a biag itan!” “And so you are now a Captain and a lawyer. How happy would Insiong (my father) be if he were alive now!” That was the best compliment I ever received, especially considering the fact that when I was playing with his daughters as a child he told them not to play with my brother and I. He would drive us away from his yard because we belonged to a poor family, the sons of a slipper-maker while he was the “Presidente” or Mayor. Or maybe it was because we were quite dirty compared to his immaculately clean children who had maids to take care of them.
Ironically, he never knew that my late father wanted me to become a lawyer to recover property from him. Over the years his fence encroached closer and closer to our house posts until eventually a common boundary tree was beyond our reach from the fence. The same was also true of our back fence which was already several yards from a common well and an Acacia tree that, according to my mother, used to be a part of our fence. The owner of the property behind our house was the common-law wife of Tata Benid. I could have easily reclaimed our original boundary because I saw that when my grandfather sold the property to my parents, he was one of the witnesses to the Deed of Sale that contained the lot measurements. Instead of going to court, I just sold that property to avoid trouble with the neighbors.
I was very fortunate to be in Bangued during the opening ceremonies of Victoria Park and hear the speeches of prominent politicians mentioning the Forestry Director, Mr. Viado; Tobacco Director, Mr. Aquino; Don Quintin Paredes and others who contributed to the completion of the project. To me it was a dream come true, but it marked the turning point of the Paredes Political Dynasty for honoring a person instead of dedicating it in honor of the Virgin Mary or St James (Santiago), the Patron Saint of Bangued. From that point on the Barbero Political mill started grinding down the Paredes Political faction.
It was in the house of the late Congressman Carmelo Barbero where my daughter, Jocelyn, was brought to meet the prominent Abranians from Manila, headed by Professor Procopio Boromeo. The house on the side of Casamat Hill overlooks the town of Bangued and commands a good view of the entire community. There, Congressman Barbero asked Jojo to sing, Professor Boromeo, the foremost Pilipino guitarist, tried to accompany her, but could not get the right music because it was a new song entitled “I’ll never fall in love again.” So my daughter, who knew how to play the guitar, took the guitar from Professor Boromeo saying “Siac langen Tata,” and accompanied herself.
I was thinking of Ham Tuazon when Jojo was singing because he was madly in love with a Josephina Abaoag, our classmate. When she married another man, he never fell in love again. Ham was there and he told me that he would help with the candidacy of Jojo as the representative of Abra for Miss Red Feather Philippines. He didn’t know that Jojo’s baptismal name was Josefina.
Pat and I were Congressman Barbero’s honored guests and he placed us closest to him facing all the other guests that included all the prominent Abranians having a reunion in Bangued. We were met by the Treasurer of Abra Province at Tangadan who placed a lei of flowers around Jojo’s neck and escorted her to the High School building where the reunion was being held. From there we were brought to the house of Manong Meling (Carmelo Barbero) at the foot of the Casamata Hill. Pat and I were bursting with pride and joy as we never expected such a thing to happen in our humble lives at all.
The following day we had a picnic with all the famous Abranians in Borobor, the source of the water system of Bangued at the Alzate Park. We swam in the cool swimming pool where I alone used skin diving gear, to the amazement of all the guests, who, I guess, had never seen one before. Jojo was also an eye-opener and a great attraction in her swimsuit, especially in the pool on top of the Casamata Hill. The people of Bangued gathered to see the Miss Abra who was a candidate for Miss Red Feather Philippines. She was highly publicized in the papers and on the radio of Manila and Bangued, where she sang and delivered speeches. Those were glorious days for Pat and I, beyond our wildest dreams, being mentioned as the parents of Jojo, the most famous beauty of Abra Province, who united all political parties, clubs and people. Governor Patroning Seares predicted, “The first and only Jocelyn of Abra will win!” He was right.
When Jojo won the contest, Vice-Governor Aquino offered us the Victoria Park Guest House where the beds and mattresses I gave him were readied for our use as VIP’s. But we preferred to stay with Manang Salome and Dariang and Attorney Balleras who always welcomed us during our visits to Bangued.
One early morning we were awakened by the loud conversation of merchants boarding a bus about the parentage and ancestors of Miss Red Feather. We heard the names of ISIANG, INSIONG, SINIONG and PATRING mentioned. So we concluded that we were the talk of the town! Pat and I were both tickled to death. Everyone claimed that we were their relatives or friends, notwithstanding the fact that Pat and I were practically nobodies and unknown when we left Bangued years ago. When we returned with Miss Red Feather, we were greeted by school children and teachers from Tangadan, Pidigan, Palao and Bangued waving small flags and shouting “Welcome Miss Red Feather!” Then we heard the bells ringing, rockets bursting and sirens blowing as we entered the town. It was a triumphant return to Bangued!
Governor Seares asked everybody to pay respects to Jocelyn the First saying, “Agrobab tayo amin ken Reyna Jocelyn!” I saw the Congressman, the Governor, the Mayors and everybody bowing towards my daughter, Jojo, inside the Provincial Building! That was the highest point of recognition one could get. I guess nobody else ever received such an honor in Bangued ever. Jojo was wearing her crown and scepter as Queen Jocelyn the 1st with her tall trophy from the President of the Philippines.
Similar honors were shown in the towns of Abra where Jojo was presented to the public by their respective mayors.
Tayum was our first stop on our motorcade to the northern towns. Mayor Carino also delivered a DANIW for Jojo in the Provincial building during her reception in Bangued, had all the school children and town’s people turned out to meet us. We were invited by the Catholic priest to see his new organ and have a sister play it for us. He also showed us a baptismal font made of hard wood around four feet in diameter and several hundred years old. At the balcony of the Catholic School Jojo received the people’s acclaim and applause.
Lagangilang had a banquet prepared by the school teachers in the Agricultural School Building.