Posts Tagged ‘Masbate’

Wanted: Umbrellas

I just had a chat with one of my former elementary classmates back in Masbate who is now a teacher. I was moved as he related what he saw on the road this afternoon, going back to the city proper from the remote town of Aroroy—school children going home from school at 2:00 pm, on foot, under the scorching heat of the sun, without protection.

In the vernacular, he told me:

“Kanina, hali kami sa Aroroy kay naki-birthday sa superintendent. While on the road home, nakita namon an mga kabataan hali sa school mga 2 p. m. Naga ralakat lang. Kahalayo san linakat kag kainit. Wara man lang kalo o payong. Pan-o kun naga-uran, maralakat lang guihapon sinda? Kun dili man mag-lakat, absent sa klase. Kaluoy gayud.”(“This afternoon, we came from Aroroy from a superintendent’s birthday celebration. While on the road home, we saw school children going home from school at 2:00 p.m. They were on foot. They walked a long way and it was very hot. They didn’t have hats or umbrellas. What about when it rains, would they still go on foot? If they don’t walk to school, they’d be absent from class. Pitiful indeed.”)

“Dapat may mga payong o kalo manla. Wara na gani siguro pamasahe, wara pan pandong. Hay buhay. Naluoy gayud ako kanina…” (“They should have umbrellas or hats at least. They don’t have money to pay for transport, and they don’t even have anything to cover their heads. I pity them.”)

Hence, once again, this note to you my friends—I am gathering umbrellas, or hats, or raincoats for the school children of my home province of Masbate.

With a little help from you, we’ll give them protection over their heads—rain or shine.

Your generosity will go along way.

Let me know. Thank you.


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Do you remember the first time you did your own laundry, or cook your own food, or shine your own shoes? How old were you?

When I look back at my younger days in Masbate, there is only gladness in my heart now. I couldn’t have lived through life away from my parents beginning at the tender age of 13 had it not for years of learning, albeit resenting at times, all the things they taught me then.

I remember the words of my father who would admonish all girls in the family, telling us that our place inside the house was at the kitchen; that we should not be wasting time doing useless things and instead be present there where cooking was happening. “Girls should learn how to cook,” he would lecture, “what would you feed your husbands?” Whoa, that was scary—I didn’t know any better then. Who would? I was barely in my teens. Was that about “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?”

Next was the laundry, and ironing, and going to the market, and lighting the Petromax, and cracking the coconut including grating the meat. It wasn’t long enough when we were taught husking it, too. The bolo was too heavy for us, I thought. But, there was not escaping the ire of parents who were only concerned with teaching us life skills.

I knew then that starching clothes, especially those worn for work, including my school uniform, was a must. The starch had to be cooked in water, and let cool before dipping the clothes. And sprinkling dry and starched clothes with a little bit of water and rolling them to soak for a while before ironing. I remember that I had fun looking at the creases disappear when the hot iron touched them. I now understand why ironing clothes is one of my favorite chores, minus the starching, because starch today comes in spray cans.

Pablo and Monina are great teachers. I wouldn't have learned all the things I know today had it not for their patience to teach me, and my siblings.

In the market, telling fish from one another was such a challenge. But, we had to learn that, too. One kind was good for grilling; others were best for frying, or sweet and sour, or paksiw. The eyes had to be bright, the meat firm, and the stomach intact—these reminders would ring in my ear as I navigated through the fish stalls in the public market. Imagine what needed to be learned when it was shrimps, or crabs, or squid that I was asked to buy. Getting fresh meat was the easiest for me, because I thought that they were slaughtered in the morning and should stay fresh. I never saw any frozen things in the town market. And plastic bags. The bayong was our only way to carry our purchases.

When did I start learning all of these, and many other “skills” like how it is called today? I remember cooking my first boiled rice at age nine or ten. Pardon, but there was no electric rice cooker then. Your middle finger was your only measuring device to make sure the water was just enough so the rice would not turn out undercooked or overcooked. Otherwise, the entire meal is ruined, even if you had the best ulam.

I thought I had paid forward my parents’ sacrifices and persistence and determination to teach me all the life skills I have used since I left home to pursue my studies. I have five children of my own, all adults now, and I should say I am fairly successful at continuing the tradition my parents had set out for me and my siblings. We have no household help, and five children are an entire crew to be able to live without it.

My first granddaughter, insisting that she joins in washing the clothes. Too early? Not quite.

Life skills are not to be undermined. They are one of the best things we can hand down to our children, much more important than jewelry or property or money.

When do you teach them life skills?

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The used rubber shoes we gathered for Masbate boys months ago have long found the feet for them, but the story reached me late, courtesy of bouncing emails.

Well, finally those shoes were put to good use during the Children’s Month, where the boys got to join the Futbol Fiesta that October, competing in dribbling, slalom, target shooting, accuracy pass, and juggling. The shoes were prizes given away!

A piece of heartwarming news–one of the Masbate football players in the “Homeless World Cup/ Homeless Football Festival” they participated in April last year which was held in La Salle, Greenhills was chosen to be the captain of Team Philippines that participated in Italy last September. Truth is, he played for Nayon ng Kabataan in La Salle; he is studying in Rizal Technological University in Mandaluyong.  He is one of the Masbate 80+ football scholars playing for the different schools and universities in Metro Manila. Masbate football scholars have graduated from  La Salles, FEU, UST, UE, MAPUA, PCU, and ST. BENILDE.

One of the forerunners of Masbate football told me that he saw that football can put a child through college. He said 10 out of 15 of the team members do not usually proceed to college because of financial difficulties. But with football, they are able to try it out in the varsity team and most of them, if not all, are accepted, he said.

“Coaches want our players kasi parang mga kalabaw daw sa stamina,” he told me.  Malaki talaga tulong ng football sa mga bata namin that’s why I’m always looking for opportunities to entice young children to play football.”

Next time you think about throwing those rubber shoes away, think again. A Masbateno boy will have use for them.

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This picture had been on my mind for as long as I can remember. In this, I was not a year old tomorrow, January 3, 1963, but barely three months old.


This is a four-generation photograph of my father’s family, the Santa Cruzes, including my late great grandmother, Lola Sela, [center, seated] in my grandmother’s side, the Licups and Maristelas.

Second from the left is my father, and beside him is my mother carrying me! This photograph, which is in the possession of one my aunts [leftmost, on the floor], is 46 years old, taken in the Santa Cruz home in Masbate by the lone Eclipse photography studio. We had better keep a digital file of this. Thanks, Aunt Anita!

I am the first-born granddaughter of one of Masbate’s more prominent physicians, the late Dr. Pablo “Pabling” Ferrer Santa Cruz, Sr., whose wife, the late Rigoberta “Ritzing” Licup Santa Cruz, was a pretty pharmacist, had a set of fingers that were so candle-like. Together they set up a medical clinic and a pharmacy on Quezon Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Masbate. I remember being there in the Farmacia Ritz in my elementary days, watching everyone tend to the customers–the medicines then had generic names, until medical representatives from Manila came to see my Lolo and leave tons and tons of “samples.” I also remember seeing patients come to my Lolo’s clinic, watching him treat them. Very vivid to me until now is the white, rectangular pot that he used to sterilize instruments including needles and scalpels and what have you. Tambay ako sa klinik niya noong bata pa ako.

I grew up in this big house, with my lone uncle and aunts, them taking turns in feeding me, or taking me to the movies, or just taking me along wherever they went. I remember the first tune I learned to sing as I was learning to play the guitar was “Can we stop and talk a while” by Jose Mari Chan, which was often sang by my Aunt Tita.

That Santa Cruz home on Quezon St brought me up, along with the good food, Santa Clause surprise visits, for-rent comic magazines which my Lolo was opposed to, even the spanking when I went home late from school.

There are more memories to tell, but for now, I am grateful for having born into this family. I always thought it was cool to be a Santa Cruz. And it is.

Happy New Year to all!

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Do you know anything about Masbate? Anything at all?

I grew up in the city proper (the town proper before it was declared a city), on Quezon St., studied at Amancio Aguilar Elementary School for my 1st and 2nd grades; transferred to Jose Zurbito Elementary School for my 3rd-6th grades. Both are public schools, which by natural selection, would extend my schooling to Masbate High School, also a public school. Today it’s called Masbate Comprehensive National High School (MNCHS). But I left in 1977 and came to Manila to continue my 3rd and 4th high school years. Nevertheless, I am an adopted alumna–I learned as we prepare for our 30th homecoming in 2009. I am happy I am still in.

Every time I am caught in an exchange of pleasantries, home towns an inevitable topic, I would always be asked: “Anong meron sa Masbate?” (“What’s in Masbate?”). Tough question, for me who hardly visits, nor kept very good memories of my childhood there. Thankfully, now that our batch is coming together for a reunion, my classmates would be a good help to refresh them.

Today, however, I have decided to tell you about cheese, sausage, coffee, saud (Masbateno for flea market), and Fazenda de Ezperanca.

First: Did you know that we have mozzarella cheese made in Masbate? I bet you didn’t know that. Yummy. They are made by drug rehab patients in Fazenda de Ezperanca–bet you didn’t know this either! My childhood best friend Ofel gave me a block of it, thanks to her. It’s the freshest you can get since I have no doubt it is made from fresh cow’s milk. Small wonder because Masbate is cattle country of the Philippines!

And then there’s the sausage–also made by the hands that till the land in Fazenda. Great with the mozzarella! Yummy! Yummy!

And then there’s Masbate Buffalo arabica coffee–completes an afternoon snack.

Second: Every Friday and Saturday of the week, there is what we call a saud, or flea market, where you can get all these, plus many more: dried fish, rice, vegetables. Merchants gather round the capitol and sell their wares to people from as far as the Bicol towns and some foreigners who just want to pick up some mozzarella cheese!

(Original photos by Ofel. Thanks to Mr. Willem for the pose.)

Third: Fazenda de Ezperanca is truly inspiring. I can’t help but borrow a video upload of a 7-minute AVP from YouTube. Thanks to the original author. I am proud this drug rehabilitation center is located in my home province, and is doing wonders changing lives for the better–and giving us mozzarella and sausage!

Fourth: But certainly not the least, here is another video upload of an AVP on Masbate and all its undiscovered beauty, “The Hidden Beauty of Masbate, Philippines,” uploaded originally by ladyarchi.

What’s in Masbate? Now, I have some answers.

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