Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scratch Pad II (Pete Roa)

I would like to have a break from the serializing of Look Back in Joy and do some reminiscing of the exploits of a young Pete Roa, my brother.

Senador Endong Roa
Pete is the sixth child in our family of eight. There is no special significance in the position of being the sixth child of eight children and yet he stood out as a self assured boy even at an early age. You would expect strong personalities developing from the eldest of families or a special caring for the youngest who in their development get used to having their way leaving all the other middle children disgruntled over the small but numerous advantages that the Kuya or Ate and the bunso usually get. As the seventh in the family I was next to Pete. An unenviable position I can assure you. There was hardly any sibling rivalry between the two of us for I was quick to concede his being better in so many ways. I, in fact idolized him in the same manner that I idolized Dado, another brother who was older than Pete.

I remember when we were small boys Pete would be the favorite of our vacationing tios and tias from Cagayan de Oro. They fondly called him Endong and would always have something special as pasalubong on their arrival from the province. On their departure they would give us a few pesos but Pete would always get a peso more than the rest of us kids.

Pete was the favorite of Tio Anton Cosin, a Chinese mestizo, who was married to Papa’s older sister, Tia Iling. He was the Mayor of Tagoloan, a town west of Cagayan de Oro. He had an adopted son, Dongkoy who later on would become a congressman in Misamis Oriental and at present is the Mayor of the much expanded city of Cagayan de Oro. Dongkoy Emano comes from a well to do family in Tagoloan. It was just the whim of the old man Tio Anton who took a liking to the young boy that persuaded Dongkoy’s mother, Tia Mamen, his close kin, to agree to the adoption. I am not sure if it was really a legal adoption. In the province a young child can easily be taken in by a close relative stay with the “adoptive” parents without the necessary documentation.

Whenever Tio Anton would be in Manila the first thing he would do was to look for “Endong” and talk to him about what he wanted to do during his stay. Pete was just about twelve years old at that time but you could see how much confidence Tio Anton had on him.He would ask for suggestions from Pete and somehow Pete always had the right thing to say and would invariably know what to do, where to go. The old man would sit back on the old sulihiya chair and would caress Pete’s head and say “Endong, you will become a senator someday.”

Being a photography buff he took a picture of Pete and typed a caption on the lower part of the picture “Senator Pedro Roa”. Whatever favors that Pete would get from the old man would really be deserved ones. Pete acted as overall guide and factotum. There were some things that Pete and Tio Anton did that was beyond the ken of Pete’s young and inexperienced mind which led to disastrous consequences …disastrous yet really funny in retrospect.

During one of his visits, Tio Anton requested Pete to accompany him to the Inday theater, a sleazy, smelly bedbug infested place for stage productions of girlie shows which at that time was referred to as “burlesk”. I don’t think they had these extravaganzas in Tagoloan. He must have heard of these forbidden delights from friends coming home from Manila. Being a photography buff he planned on taking pictures of the stage performance. It was a no-no to take pictures of “burlesk” performances. Even at that time the producers of these showx knew that photos of their shows could be used as evidence against them during a raid by the police.

I don’t know how Pete was able to get through the “takilyera”. Even in long pants he definitely looked like a preteener. But then again this was Pete. He always had a way of getting things done. So the dynamic duo went into the cinema hall, squeezing through a lot of sweaty and redolent male crowd to get to a photo vantage point. I think Tio Anton was already past sixty at that time but he had the agility and strength to haul himself up to an elevated portion on a wooden overhang about three rows of seats away from the stage. As soon as he gained a comfortable footing on his perch he took out his camera from his jacket and started making the necessary adjustments for aperture openings, shutter speed and fixing the flashbulb and was soon poised to record the anticipated spectacle. At that juncture one of the theater “bouncers” now euphemistically referred to as crowd control staff, saw the old man with a camera at ready. He was shouting at Tio Anton as he weaved through the throng of a restless and agitated crowd, getting nearer and nearer his perch. He was a dark and burly man who didn’t have to frown to look menacing. As he was nearing arms length to Tio Anton the stage curtains suddenly parted. It took everyone by surprise because there was no usual drums and trumpet fanfare to accompany the grand entrance of the show. Instead of skimpy clad dancers there was this big man at the center of stage wearing a bright red shirt with hands on his hips and in a booming voice roared, “this is a raid”!

I suppose Tio Anton’s guardian angel although aged was still as vigilant as before in keeping his ward from harm’s way. He was about to be grabbed by the”bouncer” when the feisty mayor of Manila, “Arsenic” Arsenio Lacson made his appearance a’la deus ex machina emergence. As soon as that happened there was pandemonium as everyone in the hall made a mad dash for the exits, audience and theater staff alike. Many made good their escapes but the very young and the aged could not break through the police cordon.

I am sure my uncle was really disappointed with the way things turned out. He was not able to get a memento, in his mind or in print of the leggy performance of the famed Inday “Burlesk” dancers. But I guess we should be thankful that nothing untoward happened to him, a close call with the bouncer or a night in jail which was the usual penalty for the audience of these shows to discourage them from patronizing these shows. I don’t really know what happened to Pete while all this was going on. He brought Tio Anton home and that was all that really mattered.

Pete, the Melancholy Dane

Theater was one of Pete’s earlier passion. He was into a wide range of performing arts. Dramatics was his forte but he also excelled in the terpsichorean arts. As a high school student in Far Eastern University he choreographed a full length musical staged by the Girl’s High School of the university. It is not too well known that he once danced with a modern dance group and was a prodigy of the master Lucio Sandoval. Even before getting under the tutelage of Sarah K. Joaquin, one of the leading lights of Philippine theater in the sixties, Pete had already acted in stage plays in High School and had stints with the Barangay Theater Guild and the Tambuli Playhouse and other theater groups I cannot now recall.

Pete was never the ideal student. This was something I still cannot understand up to now. My mother was a stickler for discipline and expected good scholastic performance from her children. In the Ateneo Grade School I struggled from year to year and I know that Dado treaded the edge too. But Pete was something different. He was the one who made my mother proud. He had medals for outstanding scholastic performance and my mother walked proudly as she went up the stage to pin these on his precious one. But that is history, Pete never made good in his studies from High School onward. Pete had to leave the Ateneo in High School and like myself transferred to FEU. All throughout his post Ateneo schooling he hardly stepped into a classroom. His home was the auditorium and the Radio Room of the university. His drama skills were honed during this time but since his academic life was almost nonexistent even a lenient Far Eastern University could not condone this behavior and soon he had to leave the university. It was fortunate that my father was among the founding members of the National Teachers College in the Quiapo district. The National Teachers College was a venerable and respected institution of learning for education. It has a heritage of imparting to its students the nobility and the importance of the teaching profession. Pete enrolled in NTC and as before neglected his academic responsibilities and again busied himself with school dramatics and the school’s radio station. Despite the disregard for academics Pete was able to complete his High School in NTC and would soon move back to FEU as a Speech and Drama student.

Pete, as he was wont to do, would leave an indelible mark on the school. This little lark to my surprise was still being talked about by the board members of the school after the passing of decades. After several years I represented my father during board meetings and some of the older members still recall the memorable event and would ask about Pete.

Now what did Pete do that could be so memorable? I was not a first hand witness of this and may not be able to supply as much detail as I would want to. From stories coming from his friends and those related to me by Dado it seems that on that day Pete had too much to drink while manning the radio booth of the school's radio station. It may have coincided with some girl problems but knowing Pete, girl problems would be the least suspect to get him into a depressed mood. In his drunken state he mounted the NTC clock tower, as Hamlet would mount the Elsinore Castle ramparts all the while delivering the soliloquy of the melancholic Dane…”To be or not to be, that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrow of outrageous fortunes…the heartache and the thousand natural shocks…for in that sleep of death what dreams may come…” he went on to finish unerringly every word and spoken trippingly in the tongue as Shakespearian lines should be spoken.

A crowd of students began to gather in front of the tower and soon joined by the firemen of the Tanduay Fire Station whose handball game was interrupted by oratory of my brother. Since he was drunk and dangerously flirting a fall from the tower window the school security had to end the performance, even if it was a tour de force one. There was no applause, the students dispersed and merrily wended their way back to their classrooms and the firemen resumed their game of handball. Truly a waste of genius. It is, as the apostle Matthew said, casting pearls before swine.

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