One Ordinary Day in the Life of Pontoy

The forest of Cantipla 1 along the Trans-Central Highway

San Miguel waiting shed as seen from a distance. I took this picture while standing on the path that leads to the crime scene.

San Miguel waiting shed in Cantipla 1

San Miguel waiting shed in Cantipla 1
The Trans-Central Highway as seen from the San Miguel waiting shed. The forest on the right is the spot where the body of the Judith Jastiva was found by Pontoy Diacoma on February 18, 2009.

The Trans-Central Highway as seen from the San Miguel waiting shed. The forest on the right is the spot where the body of Judith Jastiva was found by Pontoy Diacoma on February 18, 2009.

February 18 was just one ordinary day in the life of one ordinary man named Alfonso Diacoma—Pontoy to friends. That morning  he had risen early: too many things to do, he would say, the garden patch he needed to till, to water or to spray for pests, and the Anglo-Nubian goats he had to bring to pasture. (These days when times are hard, goats provide the ready cash to spend until the season of corn harvest. Pontoy’s goats are the envy of neighbors).

The picture above shows that portion of Cebu Trans-Central Highway, Cantipla 1, near the waiting shed built from the donations of San Miguel Corporation. Just mention the name “San Miguel waiting shed” and people know what you are referring to. That stretch of the highway cuts across the province, connecting Cebu City to Balamban. The Trans-Central Highway is one good thing that happened to Cebu. Go touring here in your SUV or a hired van. My best suggestion is on a motorcycle. The sights are superb. You could treat yourselves to Japanese sweet corn sold by the kilo, its scent permeating the air with the aroma of newly harvested Brassica vegetables (broccoli, pechay, cabbages, mustard, spinach, and the like). Shoot the scenes digitally. My past remembrance here is seeing a crew making a clip of one bikini-clad calendar girl lying spread-eagled on top of quarry stones. Ah, these mountains with its innocence and reverent fun also has its share of human exploitation…

Pontoy was one of those men, heads of families in Cantipla 1 whom I had taught.

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Longings of an Adult Childhood

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My youngest child Abby and my eldest grandson Jacob.

That’s my youngest child Abby asking. My former students at the Manila School of Evangelism would remember that little girl five years old in 1989 who kept telling them she missed her mother and that she wanted to go home, but she would not without her daddy. Her way to defy parental separation was to leave her mom for a while and live with me as I kept transferring from one job to another. Yes, she was that close to me when she was young. But the long night time in that school room that became our sleeping quarters after school hours would often pester her heart like a virus. She would cry out for Dioly’s motherly presence and her way to connect with her was to pour tears over Mr. Felipe Cariaga’s junk phone, and I would grant her that wish—in my newfound skill of mastering the art of make believe— and she would cry on that phone the whole night, stopping only when sleep invited her to rest, and then she would blurt out in her gentlest way, teary-eyed and tired, “Pauli na ta” (”Let’s go home,” meaning to Bacolod, meaning leave this job). This rite repeated itself from day to day, from night to night.

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Lessons from Twins

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Two sets of twins, one Spanish, the other Chinese, have kind of sorted their own lives, rectified human errors that caused their separation at birth, and sued their hospitals for damages.

The Chinese twins are suing a Beijing hospital because an alleged mix-up (hospital’s fault, so they say) had led to their separation for two decades, with one of them believing he was someone else’s identical sibling.

On the other hand, the Spanish twins (no names given, but they are women) who got separated at birth by nurses’ error and reunited by chance 35 years later are also suing the state-run Canary Island hospital for damages.

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“Manhid”

img_0570“Manhid” is one Tagalog word I learned when I first read illustrated classics written by the likes of Mars Ravelo, Pablo S. Gomez, and Mike Relon Makiling. It is the word you would hear when someone vies for your attention but your life’s dreams and acts are focused on something else.  “Manhid” means insensitive. You are “manhid” if you shut your ears to the cries of the poor and the needy, when you leave the scene of the crime, when you bump someone on the trail of life and don’t apologize.

The case is the same when the prosecutors suggest technicalities, when the judges turn a blind eye, and the guilty go scot-free. In which case criminal lawyering would be a lucrative option, since pockets are lined. The victims? They can only howl: “Mga manhid kayo! Wala kayong puso”  (You are all insensitive! You are heartless!).

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“Pasi-aw ni Pastor Ed”

img_0457To this young man named Julie, I am always “Pastor Ed,” and he would not listen to corrections. With him and his wife, I had much time to study the Word. They had scant time to sit down with me in their home but they were good listeners, observing and absorbing everything they heard from me. Both spent much time in the pechay patch that Julie had carved out of a mountainside. Sometimes he would drive a motorcycle-for-hire, taking passengers on pleasure trips to Mount Manunggal, but always you would find Julie and his wife in their garden patch. It was there too that I would conduct my Bible class.

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“Tata”

img_0201Tata.  That was how he was introduced to me. In Ilocano, he would be “Balong.”  In Cebuano, he would be “Dodong.”  He is an Ilonggo from South Cotabato. “Tata” literally means “little child.”  When I first met him, he was 27 years old, married, and had a baby of his own named “Toto,” “little boy.” Tata and I speak the same dialect. His parents were from Negros Occidental, the province whose name to me often evokes nostalgia.

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