I remember an incident in Tamag, Vigan, Ilan Sur, where Tata Anton was the C.O. of the P.C.Co. there when he got a chess table and chess set and tried to teach me the game.
He said that very few people know chess because it is a game played by Kings and rich, prominent people.
I was then a shoeshine boy of around 10. He did not know that I’d been playing chess with men double my age after the Champion Chess player of Abra taught me how to play the game and bet on me when I played with very much older people, because nobody would like to play with him with a bet.
Mr. Segundisco Avecilla became a National Chess Champion and a Grandmaster, touring the world representing the Philippines.
I pretended I did not know the game, and so Uncle placed the pieces, at the same time telling me their names and positions on the chess board. Then he explained how each piece moves and told me to imitate his moves.
Later on he told me to see how one piece “eats” another like “dama,” or how to avoid being “eaten.”
He placed the pieces back to their original positions and he was surprised how I “easily” learned their respective positions.
I told him I knew how to play the game as a shoeshine boy just watching other players.
So he challenged me to play against him. I noticed that he was just a beginner and I captured his King in four moves!
He got the surprise of his life, because he never thought I was that good. We played again but he never won at all, because I was very much trained by Mg. Gondino how to mate my opponents fast! Uncle finally gave up.
The following day a high-ranking P.C. officer, Major Jose Agdameg, arrived from Manila Headquarters to make an inspection. He challenged Uncle to play chess when he saw the chess table and set in our sala.
Instead of facing him, Uncle introduced me to the Major, saying that I play chess better than he, at the same time letting me face the old High Ranking officer.
Major Agdameg did not believe I could play chess at my age but he was a mature chess player with lots of experience. He did not easily mate me like I did with Uncle, but he finally won after a prolonged game. He said that I played well for my age.
Later on, when I was already in the service as Orderly of General Santos, I overheard from other P.C. officers that as a member of the Office of the Inspector General, Major Agdameg used to challenge the officers in the places where he made his inspection to a game of chess, bringing along his own chess set. Chess was always played with a bet.
Of course, the officers being inspected had to let him win so that he would not be so hard on them in his Inspection Report.
I don’t know how he rated Uncle because when we played there was no bet!
During the processing of officers for promotion in 1936, my boss, Captain Antonio Villalobos, Secretary General Staff, brought me to his house to help him compute the ratings of officers who were candidates for promotion based on their length of service, efficiency ratings, and inspection reports. One of the candidates was Uncle. Because he had been a 1st Lieutenant ever since I knew him in Juoag, Ilocos Norte, way back 1926 up to 1936, he deserved to be promoted in the mass promotion following the organization of the Philippine Army.
I was doing the computation without the aid of an adding machine which was sent and available then, and was up the whole night without sleep, because the findings had to be submitted by Captain Villalobos the following day to General Santos.
There I found out that my idol, Tata Anton, got very low efficiency ratings and inspection reports and that he had a case of spending soldiers’ mess funds in promoting the candidacy of Mg. Susing to be Miss Philippine Veterans Queen in 1934.
He was not recommended for promotion. But because of my overtime work for Captain Villalobos, I was promoted by him from Private to Corporal in 1937 at age 18! Tata Anton retired as First Lieutenant in 1940. I retired as Major in 1965. He was killed by the guerillas as a Japanese collaborator during World War II. May he rest in peace.