My not-so-funny Valen­tine

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

I WAS a young teacher, then 21 years old, at St.

Joseph Academy in E.B. Ma­ga­lona. One day the sis­ter prin­ci­pal (Do­mini­can Or­der) called for me at her of­fice, “Sir, our school highly rec­om­mends you to give a bi­nalay­bay and to pro­claim Miss Valen­tine in the evening of Feb­ru­ary 14.

You will go to an up­land purok. Some­one will pro­vide you a ve­hi­cle.”

Be­ing a new teacher it was an honor for me to fol­low the prin­ci­pal. I found out later on that I am just a re­place­ment speaker. My place was in­tended for Mayor Nene Ma­ga­lona. The mayor could not make it… also his vice mayor, the coun­cilors, and even the prin­ci­pal in the pub­lic school. The purok pres­i­dent went to the parish priest. The parish priest en­dorsed the sis­ter prin­ci­pal, and the sis­ter prin­ci­pal called for me.

Feb­ru­ary 14 was a Satur­day. I was rest­ing in our bam­boo bed at the kitchen to re­lax af­ter lunch when my mother in­formed me, “Noy, there is a trac­tor driver wait­ing for you out­side. To make the long story short, the trac­tor was my ser­vice ve­hi­cle. There is a trailer at­tached to it with a bench made of wood to make my travel com­fort­able. I have my bag ready and my new barong Ta­ga­log is in­side the plas­tic suit bag.

From the town proper of E.B. Ma­ga­lona, we tra­versed more than 10 kilo­me­ters of rough road fol­low­ing the east di­rec­tion go­ing to the up­land area near the bound­ary of E.B. Ma­ga­lona and Vic­to­rias. We reached a dead end.

My es­cort told me, “Sir, the trac­tor is up to here only. We have to walk three kilo­me­ters more.” It was uphill but I did not com­plain. I was ex­cited to be the Hon­ored Guest. When we reached the purok, it was al­most five o’clock. The crick­ets were al­ready mak­ing noise.

The peo­ple in the purok were ex­cited to see me. I was wel­comed by the purok pres­i­dent with young coco juice and boiled cas­sava. I was told that the coronation will start at seven o’clock. I was dou­bly ex­cited think­ing that the girls were beau­ti­ful. (I was still sin­gle then.) Din­ner was good... chicken tinola, chicken adobo, and chicken inasal. Af­ter din­ner, I thought I could fly like chicken.

Be­fore the start of the pro­gram, heavy rain poured for al­most two hours. The ground (base­ball court) was muddy. The sound sys­tem was no longer func­tion­ing. It was re­paired for one hour but noth­ing hap­pened. The purok pres­i­dent de­cided to start the pro­gram. It was past 10 o’clock. Some­thing wrong hap­pened again. The em­cee did not ar­rive. No one could take his place. The purok pres­i­dent re­quested me to be the em­cee. I was pro­vided with a mega­phone.

I was the em­cee, the manug-bi­nalay­bay, and the procla­ma­tion speaker. There is no turn­ing back al­though I would want to fly home like a chicken. I thought that the muses were young ladies. No, they were lit­tle Valen­tines… three to five years old. Dur­ing the pin­ning of the sash and the coronation, they were all sleep­ing and car­ried by their moth­ers. I pinned the sashes and crowned the sleep­ing beauty on be­half of the mayor of E.B. Ma­ga­lona.

The next morn­ing, I dis­cov­ered that my new barong Ta­ga­log was col­ored dark brown be­cause of the mud. I went home fol­low­ing the same trail. The trailer of the trac­tor is loaded with ba­nanas and root crops. For the vil­lagers, that was the best coronation night ever. Up to now, I can­not for­get that Valen­tine’s night.*

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