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jun sibug
paterno 'jun' c. sibug jr THE FIRST thing I learned in my 1st grade religion class was that I had a humongous inheritance from my ancestors. I was surprised because I came from a poor family. It could be the answer to my dreams. My father had just lost his job. All seven children were in school except for the eldest, who had just been hired as a schoolteacher earning a quarter of what my father used to earn. Forget the bike, forget the toy soldiers, and forget about new clothes. Everything will be hand me downs, including shoes and socks. Gee whiz, my brother had athlete's foot. Years of recess with pandesal with peanut butter and fountain water passed by.

Later, I learned that it was not so. My ancestors really owed somebody big time. Alas! I did not need to despair, somebody magnanimous was to come and redeem us all and pay for what we owed. Well, indeed, people say He has come and I believe so too. What we really inherited, as I was told by those white-robed and black-veiled pious women of Holy Family Academy, was what was called then Original Sin by some remote ancestor named Adam. He dated his female clone named Eve. They did some finger-pointing after they broke the ground rules of the beautiful park. This Eve had a pet snake that she blamed for her being gullible. Exotic choice. I would have preferred a cat or a dog. I do not doubt it, though. My co-worker, who has a morbid fear of spiders, has a pet Burmese python that he lovingly called Monty. Did anyone among you hold spider-fight matches when you were young? I did. There were babaguang bale, babaguang corriente, babaguang santol, babaguang cainito, babaguang lanzones, babaguang pisamban, babaguang marangle, and so on. One professor calls these toponyms or place names, I think. There was one person in our neighborhood we called "Babaguang Area." He was the original Spider Man. Commiting sin every night was always in his dinner menu.

People here in Chicago are so afraid of roaches, spiders, mosquitoes, and flies but have pets such as snakes, geckos, alligators, and pythons. They buy four-legged creatures that are commonly found in the sewers. They feed them to their pets. Almighty dollar! That should be enough for pythons and spiders.

A block away from our house was a place called Brookside. Nice western name for a swimming pool. In this day and age of cultural awareness of the so called Amanung Sisuan, it is no more than Lele Sapa. Walk about a hundred feet from our nipa house and you are there. People used to call some of my playmates as "anac lele sapa." I miss them all. Brookside's owner, my father told me was that big, heavyset man called Renato. He was a lawyer by profession and a writer by diversion. He also had a penchant for watching and hitting those cainito-size luminescent fuzzy balls. My boyhood friend Roy del Rosario told me it was called the game of tennis. His brother won tournaments. Excuse me, their grandma had a backyard tennis court.

Lucky me, one of Tatang Katoks's twelve children, Claudio, was my classmate all through elementary and high school. I got to swim for free in their swimming pool when it was emptied and filled with fresh clean water daily in the afternoon. The place has since been donated to the city of Angeles and houses the now city library and, for some time, the treasurer's office and the courtrooms. Tatang Katoks gave my father copies of most of the books he wrote. I read all of them in high school. Nothing stuck in my little cranium. All I remembered then was it was all about history, politics, church scandals, and family feuds. They were really meant for the old man. I was more into songs of the Bread, Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, Victor Wood, bedtime stories (BTS) and fighting fishes (but not of the aquarium kind). This really was my first sin, as far as I can remember.

What a twist of fate! After college, when I began collecting materials that for me had cultural value, I came upon a photo of his grandfather, Dr. Jose Tayag. He was that man of means in Angeles who sent all of his children to public schools up to the University of the Philippines. All of his sons would answer the call of duty in WWII and, to borrow ex-president Clinton's phrase, they all literally answered, "Send me." Many from the city answered the same call, including my mother's two brothers. Too bad, and luckily there would not be a Filipino version of "Saving Private Ryan." All Tayag brothers came back alive from the war. They also missed the first step to sainthood. No one was martyred in Bataan or Capas. One tied a lasting friendship with a Philippine president. Who was the sinner and who was the saint? Can saints and sinners be friends?

Let me go back to Dr. Tayag's photo. I immediately called my friend Claudio to tell him of my find. He was so interested that he gifted me a set of his late father's books in exchange for a copy of the photo. Again, I got the same set of books that bored me to death in high school, but now I treasure them like jewels in my collection. Claudio gave me all four with a presentation cover, and here are the titles:Tayag: at Home and Abroad, Odyssey in Southeast Asia, The Angeles Story, and the most controversial of all, The Sinners of Angeles. And like most jewels, gemologists of history inspect them occasionally. But it really does not take a historian with a gemologist's loop, called scholarship, to look at these books and profess their accuracy, frankness, and relevance. Others have peered into them but only to serve their own agenda. The sins and sinners he talked about were not limited to Angeles. Sinners included personalities even in the border towns. Today's historians of my town never mention these books. It is not a wonder why more writers with ties to Macabebe quote Renato Tayag. The most maligned group among us Pampangos are the ones vindicated in one of Tatang Katoks's book, Recollections and Digressions, which a lot of Angeles historians would rather scrutinize for accuracy instead. Curiously, all the other books are passed up like they were never written.They are listed at best only as part of an Angeles school library catalogue. Who should we canonize? Is not denial a sin? Denial of the proper perspective of history is no more than telling a lie daily. How many times should the roosters of Angeles crow? Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, said it plainly that each day is a chance of redemption, a chance to do good. Tatang Katoks told the truth. He did good.

[About the author. Even in college, Paterno C. Sibug Jr., was known as Jun Sibug. He took his elementary education at Holy Family Academy, his high schooling at the former Sacred Heart Seminary, and spent college at the University of the Philippines. Mr. Sibug now lives in Chicago, Illinois and is presently working as a Pension Benefit Administrator. His main references are mostly books from the Newberry Library Filipiniana Collections and University of Illinois in Chicago. He cares about history, and is always proud to have been born a Pampango.]

-Posted: 10:08 AM 8/7/08 | More of this author on eK!