A welcome change was the strong water pressure brought about by the place’s proximity to the Balara filtration plant. If you live in Sampaloc during those times you will understand the elation of one experiencing an abundant water supply. In Sampaloc, many a times you would be tapping the “tabo” on the faucet or screaming “tubig” to tell the guy downstairs to turn off the faucet so that the water can reach the second floor to enable you to rinse off the suds that got into your eyes or to avoid catching a cold because of the long exposure in the wet to finish your bath.
My parents joined the neighborhood association. They had regular meetings and social activities that sometimes included the village youth. This allowed us to meet the kids in the neighborhood for the first time. Soon enough we developed friendships and hanged out regularly with a group of guys whose houses were near ours.
During a basketball tournament, the village was divided according to geographical location and our part was referred to as the Northwest area. Our basketball team was comprised of the de Santos brothers, Chid, Tito and Junie, Junie was my classmate in FEU High School; Jun Batenga; the Julian brothers, Tony, Joe, Bong, Eddie and Enteng; the Lising brothers Andy and Eddie; Peter Sabido and Rudolph de la Rosa who were scions of political families. We decided to bring in Max, our family driver, to add heft to the team. My brothers Pete and Dado were not regulars in the team. Pete was preoccupied with the less athletic aspects of village life and was making progress as a “sociologist” developing a more intimate and in depth knowledge of the social habits of early female Loyolans. Dado was already a popular DJ and hardly spent time in Loyola Heights. We did not emerge as champions in the tournament but we did not do badly either as we came in second in the competition (or was it third?).
A social highlight was the block rosary. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was enthroned in a house for a week and then was transferred to another until all designated houses in the village had their turn in playing host. We were not so prayerful at that time but we almost had perfect attendance especially during the summer months. The block rosary allowed us to meet with the rest of the village youth. Light refreshments were served and we had about an hour of fellowship and even longer depending on whose house it was at. This was an activity that our parents readily approved our attendance of and at times we used it as an excuse for going somewhere else.
There were a lot musically inclined kids in the village. The association elders thought it a good idea to provide the youth with musical instruments. Primarily, they thought that this was a good vent for the creative musical energies of kids and secondly, this will provide them with things to do and keep them out of mischief. Happily, their investments paid off and as a bonus the association now had a band that played for them during village events and association parties.
The instruments that were donated were those for a Latin conjunto. There were timbales complete with cowbells, a “bajo de arco”(bass), snare drums, conga and bonggo drums, wooden ticktocks, tambourine, notched gourd and a pair of maracas. The main performer was Joe Julian, a gifted pianist who would turn professional in later years. Cary Kintanar was on bass, Bong Julian on drums and timbales, Rudolph de la Rosa did the conga and the bonggo drums while a few of us less gifted ones would go from tambourine to ticktock to gourd to maracas. My brother Pete who did a creditable Sinatralike croon was our vocalist. I was among those who provided vocal backups and sometimes for the lack of others, do a solo. Through frequent practice we were able to ape Cal Tjader, George Shearing, Enoch Light near enough or so we thought. The highlight of the playing days of the combo was a television appearance in an obscure program in a dog time slot.
Rudolph de la Rosa played a mean conga drum. He spent long hours practicing with Tito Puente, Enoch Light records and other good Latin percussionists. His conga playing was good enough to have the regular combo at the Embers nightclub invite him to do impromptu jamming with them whenever we were in the club.
Rudolph was little bit off track and had a rebellious streak. He was the one who led us to a caper of cutting down all the street signs and stealing portable traffic and pedestrian signs in the village to keep as souvenirs. It became a big concern among the village elders. They mounted an investigation that came up fruitless for a time. It was only by accident that my mom rummaged our garage to look for some old furniture that she saw the stockpile of street signs, my share of the loot. Very much embarrassed my mom surrendered the clandestine trove to the association with profuse apologies. As expected by my gang mates I observed “omerta” in order not to implicate the other evildoers of this dastardly deed, thus the association recovered only less than a fourth of the stolen street signs.
During summer we would organize jam sessions in our turf, the northwest sector of the village. The boys would be in charge of designing the invitations and distributing them by bicycle route. The girls would take charge of the food which most of the time would consist of wienies, cheese pimiento sandwiches, spaghetti and Coke. Funding would come from various sources. The association elders are sometimes tapped, individual contributions and on occasion a birthday celebrant would foot most of the bill with us augmenting it with volunteered extra food or refreshments. A jam session was the occasion to meet or know better the girls from the village. We would have our crushes and we saw to it that the boys who were competing for the attention of our special ladies were excluded in the invitation list.
Danny Alibudbud and Eddie Farrrales who belonged to the Central sector of the village were almost always excluded because of their interest in the Varona sisters. Chito Puno was excluded because he was good looking and would easily distract the attention of our special girls. We would have excluded the Pavon brothers for the same reason we excluded Chito, but, if we did, the Pavon sisters will surely not come.
As it was the custom at that time all the girls were lined up on one side of the sala while the boys milled around on the opposite side waiting for the music to start. The boys did not cluster to form fences around choice dance partners. It was our rule that before you can zero in on girls that are of interest, you must have danced at least once with all the girls to ensure that there will be no wallflowers. The girls had a grand time in our jam sessions. The party was mostly for the kids in the village who knew each other very well so that “bakuran” was considered bad form.
The Loyola of that time could be said to be upper middle class and the families residing there were conservative and conventional. Even if our group tended to be a bit raucous our activities limited itself to the confines of our houses. Combo practice was quite frequent and these, more often than not, end up as drinking binges.