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Memorabilia Book Review-by Marie Cagahastian Castillo-Pruden

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Joined: 07 Jul 2005
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Location: Fred Cagayat

PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:23 am    Post subject: Memorabilia Book Review-by Marie Cagahastian Castillo-Pruden Reply with quote

I requested Marie Cagahastian Castillo-Pruden (A.K.A Kang Maring in early Usap Paete) to make a critique of the Memorabilia book from a professional journalist point of view. As you know, Marie, a veteran journalist, wrote the article "About Paete" in the Paetenians Home Page, and with her permission the same article was published in the introductory part of the Memorabilia. Marie's last job was with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Below is a very thorough and comprehensive review she wrote about the Memorabilia book. Marie eloquently described her thoughts and feelings, just as how any typical Paetenian would react when he or she reads the pages of the book. I think, Marie said them all. Thus, I consider this review the ultimate evaluation and litmus test of the real value and legacy of the Memorabilia book to the town and people of Paete.

by: Marie Cagahastian Castillo-Pruden

As blood is thicker than water, Memorabilia 2004 is heavier and thicker than any other book on Paete, so far and by far. It's full of blood, and even now that it's been off the press for a few months, and into the hands of subscribers, the editor, Fred Cagayat, is still waging a bloody battle against criticisms of the book for being "incomplete." Memorabilia is full of blood - the bloodlines of families, that is. And for Fred, it also became his own baptism of blood.

But to back up a little bit. Some of the girls I grew up with in Paete used to complain how difficult it was to find a "katarato" in the town. Every available swain was taken. And the rest - plenty of them, for sure - were relatives! You found a "perfect match" with the new boy in school, the one who had just moved back to Paete from Manila - and your grandmother's expected refrain was, "Ay, bai! - Ay naku, huwag yun! Kamag-anak yun! Anak yun ni Kuwan na pamangkin ng pinsan kong paka-tatlo na pamangkin sa salubong naman ng Dada Poon - si Kuwan," etc. Well you got the idea..

This book of Paete families' heritage is just like how your Dada would have placed it. "O, ito ang mga litrato nila. Ito ang pinsan kong si Kuwan, ina ni Kuwan, na ina naman ng batang Kuwan na sinasabi mo!" How could you doubt it? This book is a testament to that fact. Because of the town's rich history, there is so much of the theory of relativity in Paete.

The good news is that the bloodlines continue to flourish. Just as the old families grow stronger with the years, new families keep on being grafted into established stocks. There is no danger that the bloodlines are about to go extinct any time soon. Instead, they create strong ties, producing fresh blood in healthy vines planted both in the native soil and abroad.

Paete Memorabilia 2004 is a joint effort of numerous people who have something to give or say in one way or the other. But the main effort should be credited to its editor, Fred Cagayat. It is the product of his blood (that word again!), sweat, and tears. You don't see his name as top billing anywhere near the front of the book, rather, modestly in a staff box toward the end of the book. Credit is also due to his wife, Cora Alday-Cagayat, originally from San Jose, Batangas, for her full support, patience, understanding and sleepless nights as she watched him work, gratis et amore, making sure he gets enough nourishment, if not enough rest.

And what a project it turned out to be! The book is hefty - weighing around six pounds, give or take. It's huge - 9x12 - hardbound and jacket-boxed, a keepsake worthy to enjoy over and over for many generations to come. The front and back inside covers are 4-color panoramic shots of Paete, from the hills and from the lake, respectively, and can hold its ground against any well-crafted rotogravure of recent years. The cover is a masterpiece, "Simbang Gabi," by Paete's own contribution to the national art treasury - Manny Baldemor. Owing, the great.

The tome is thick. The family directory doesn't get going until page 83, after all the backgrounders that include Paete's outstanding citizens then and now. But the awe and wonder has long started. The first time I truly understood how one person is related to another, how one family branched out from another, and how - despite Paete being a strip of narrow land wedged between the mountain and the lake - that town was able to produce such wonderful people.

You smiled, you cried a bit, you lingered at one page and nodded in recognition - or disbelief. It was the first time I was looking at the grown-up version of a beloved face, someone so close to me that he was almost a brother. But I lost track of him since high school, and now here is his face, binatang-binata! Frank Jr. Rivera - now Francisco Gagaring Rivera. Amazing. He looks much like his statuesque mother and so handsome! And what an impressive list of achievements he's garnered. That by a son who only has one sister (Baby) left of his family. Amang Isko, Inang Pitang, Kang Gil, Kang Viring, Kang Dita, brother Ner, and cousin Luding have all passed on to the great beyond.

Noel Cadayona, the town's mayor! Of course I've seen him twice before as an adult, but it never ceased to delight me what a fine man he has grown up to be - akalain mo? His father, Amang Ramon, used to take sons Emil (my classmate) and his little brother Noel to Mass, standing in back of the koro while my father with his three young daughters stood on one side. Noel used to slide on the floor getting between his father's long legs and make faces at us, just because we're girls! Now I'm Kang Maring to him and he is "His Honor." Who would have thought?

Wow! So this is how Bien Saniano looks now. Very distinguished, especially with a "Dr." before his name! His sister Rosy was my best friend in high school. Touching Bien's picture on the book, I find myself whispering, "Send my love to Rose. I hope she's doing fine."

Speaking of Rosies, this one is a real show-stopper. My classmate, Rosita Madrigal, was cute and svelte with soulful eyes even as a young girl. Now, look at her picture - a real knock-out! Attagirl, Mrs. Villarin!

Another heartbreaker was the photo of the late Atty. Eusebio Dalagan, founder of Eastern Laguna College, a man with a zest for life and a long string of degrees after his name. He was not modest about his achievements but the one for which he is most remembered, he would never have guessed: It's his great love for young people. Here was a man who would walk around Paete, knocking at every door, tracing every parent as his relative to the nth degree, and urging them to send their kids to his high school. No graduate of Paete Elementary School ever felt more important than when Mr. Dalagan went on a whirlwind courtship tour of the town's parents. Mr. Dalagan was a good man and a great educator - God rest him.

Memorabilia 2004 is thick - and why not? Here's your guide to solving mysteries that have baffled you in your youth. Like, "Paano natin naging kamag-anak sina Ganay-on?" Just look at all that genealogy charts. No self-proclaimed professional journalists could have taken the yeoman's job as Fred did. You've got to be an accountant like him to process the details. After all, it was St. Matthew, the patron saint of accountants, who wrote the Gospel on Christ's genealogy. It'll require a lifetime to sort out the charts and that's why this book is for keeps.

The book is fat. One hundred-fifty pages later, we're still on the B's - Bagongahasa, Balan, Balandra, Baldemor. Ba-i, talagang napakabig-at. Big-atin talaga.

A big jump to page 231 and we're suddenly on the M's! Whatever happened to the letters in between? O, I just happened to turn over a big handful of pages, that's all! We're on Milan now - a name naturalized from Meycauayan, Bulacan of fond memories. I'm related to them. My grandmother was Dada Azon's cousin (first-degree? second degree? who knows!) I've always thought Amang Junior was Romeo, but now the truth is out - his real name is Remigio! Wonders never cease.

If you weren't as careful as Fred Cagayat, it would be easy to lose your way, just indexing family names. Even a computer would find the job unwieldy. Someone with a surname starting with D could get married to one whose name starts with P. You go forward and backward and all over the alphabet, then forward again. You could lose all rhyme and reason just arranging and rearranging the names. You'd have to do the best you could. And Fred came out with flying colors.

Memorabilia 2004, as a chronicle of Paete, would be woefully incomplete if it did not celebrate its heroes and role models.

I mean real heroes, not celebrities.

Foremost among heroes are the people who find themselves living in Paete either by birth, by marriage, or by migration in search of a job. They form the hearts and minds of the town by standing firmly through life's every twist and turn. They use their strength of body and spirit in earning a living, raising a family, educating theirs and other people's children, helping the needy, or serving in government or civic clubs. They stay in Paete. They love, live, and die there. They are heroes in and out of season - the parents, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. They are the teachers, the writers, the vendors, the woodworkers, the magtataka, the farmers, the fishermen, the religious pastors, the musical, artistic, and athletic mentors. Though memorabilia 2004 could never adequately cover them all, it is with them in mind that the big book project first saw light.

The second kind of heroes - more glorious than the core group - includes those who have made the supreme sacrifice of giving up their lives and limbs for town and country during the war. These heroes could easily be forgotten if not for the painstaking work of the survivors and wounded braves who have made it their life's mission to keep Paete's WWII heroes' memory alive. In narrative, in chronology, and in poetry, Col. Frank B. Quesada (my ninong) and Inang Flora N. Filoteo pay homage to these unsung heroes on pages 364-374.

Ninong Paquito's article showcases the following groups of war heroes: The suffering, the escape-goats, the heroines, the mentally-shocked, the physically consumed, and the tortured. On page 370, a dozen more martyrs for freedom are listed. One could only touch the printed names of these gallant men and women and say a prayer. Two poems by Inang Flora, "Where have all the soldiers gone?" and "regret to inform..." just about tore the heart to pieces with sepia-colored imagery. So achingly beautiful, and so devastating...if you could go on.

Apart from the war heroes, Memorabilia 2004 also boasts of peacetime heroes, as they were, in the rebuilding years following WWII. They are the "Matanglawin," the group of Paetenians who went to college in Manila, got employed, married, and stayed there. To their credit, they would go back to Paete at the drop of a beloved's name, or each time the church bells ring. They were the role models of war babies who grew up holding them in high esteem for their high ideals, high regard for higher education (are there enough "highs" there?) and their noble service to the community. Matanglawin is a venerable organization, having survived all the slings and arrows of fortune for 70 years - Imagine that!

Matanglawin's chroniclers, Amang Odon Fadul and Inang Flora, insist that their club's name is rooted in the word "tanglaw," meaning light. Matanglawin thus means "bearers of light," or "torchbearers." But why the explanation? Well, you see, sometime in 1956 (and I was there), we heard ELC's founder, Atty. Eusebio Dalagan, in one of his more memorable speeches, refer to Matanglawin as "Eye of the Hawk." As in, "mata ng lawin," and he wondered aloud, whatever could that mean? The grand old man of education thought there must be a mystery behind the name, ("Would the meaning be changed if they had instead called themselves, Matang-baboy?" he boomed, to the delight and guffaws of his students!)

What of all the school furniture and supplies and free milk donated by Matanglawin to schoolchildren? And the boxes and boxes of medicines given to the puericulture center? No doubt about it, Matanglawin deserves an erratum. So after all these years the truth is offcially out. The word, Matanglawin simply means "lightbearers." No mystery there. And God bless them.

The current crop of "heroes" that crosses over geographical and chronological lines is an umbrella organization called Paetenians International, located all over the world - in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, and America. It's the biggest, loosely-connected but tightly communicating group of Paetenians so far organized. It's an organization that takes after Matanglawin, except on a much-grander scale. A social club to start with, they celebrate and recreate festivities in their various locales, as celebrated in Paete. They attend each others family's baptisms, weddings, housewarmings, and funerals. They hold picnics and parties and visit one another wherever and whenever they travel. They also organize Christmas gift-giving projects, medical missions, fund-raising for the restoration of Paete waterworks and churches, and set up disaster relief operations when their beloved hometown calls.

Their remittances alone - as true with other groups of Filipino expatriates the world over - account for one of the country's highest sources of income. Locals think they are richer than the heroes mentioned above, but that's debatable. After mortgage payments, health insurance premiums, property taxes, and children's college tuitions are taken out of their earnings, there usually is nothing much left. But always there's something for family in the Philippines - must not forget that. It's not an exaggeration to say that most townspeople want to join their ranks.

Paetenians local and abroad could choose to get connected with all others through the internet. There's a rather nifty website for Paetenians created by Rey Carolino, which is now a burgeoning resource for news and information on the town's families, history, politics, economics, and culture. Most times people just log in to see if there's anybody or anything they should know. An informative article on Paetenians Home on the Web is in the Memorabilia, written by the lovely Lee Quesada of Canada. Don't miss it.

As expected, Paetenians International and the Paete website joined efforts in organizing the grand Balik-Paete 2004, where "abroaders" were treated by the locals to the things they missed most: Christmastime in Paete, Simbang-gabi, a Serenata, Awards night at the plaza, Santakrusan, Salibanda, pabitin, palaro, street-dancing, a Rizal Day parade complete with beauty queens, picnic at Tatlong Kurus, an exhibit of Holy Week poons, a ball grander than that of Sabado de Gloria, fireworks, reunions with classmates, relatives and friends, and food, food, food!

Balik-Paete 2004 was too wonderful and too precious to just be relegated to memory and pleasant get-togethers. It has to be written down, and with plenty of pictures, compiled into a book. The result is this impressive Memorabilia 2004, with the most upbeat and most entertaining account
(pgs. 379-381) of the event by the talented young writer, FloraLou Cadawas.

The book is chock-full of photographs. Photos. Photos. Photos. Old faces. New faces. Stranger faces. Old places, new places. Familiar, vaguely familiar, and totally unfamiliar faces and places. But all faces and places one could have loved if one had lived and stayed in Paete. The face of Paete is diverse but the binding thread is still there: Love of the town, love of the people. Church buildings and school houses, public buildings, athletic groups, civic groups, cultural groups, religious groups, youth groups, the Talon, the Wawa, lanzones, kanduli, paintings, woodcarvings, and books - they will all come to an end, even in memory. But the love of God is eternal. And the love of family, friends and neighbors are what keep the townspeople going, despite poverty and unforeseen calamities.

The article in the web (not in the book) written by my Manila Times mentor, the late Juan Quesada entitled "Once and Future Village" came to mind as I skimmed through the giant book. In that article Amang Nito realistically took a hard look at the town and concluded that he could not see beyond two inches into the future. "Perish the thought," he wrote, or words to that effect, if I remember right.

No, Amang Nito. Wherever you are, I wish you could have seen this book and find to what direction Paete is going. You would have approved. Paete is alive in its wonderful people, in their love for the land, in their love for the work of their hands. In Paete and wherever else they have been transplanted, they bloom.

But if you don't believe me, keep the book anyway. It'll grow on you. It's a lasting portrait of how the town was at the start of the millenium. Whether or not the world survives for another millennium, at least we have proof that once upon a time, there was Paete.

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