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Musings on MUSA
by Arfeo C. Sescon
(from MUSA's first souvenir program, December 2000)
Mrs. Arnulfa Arradaza, or Ma'am Pepang, as she is fondly called by every young and old in Malitbog, called me one day in 1992 with the idea to gather all the Malitboganons in the USA to a reunion. At that time, she was touring the U.S., and had contacted old acquaintances, including her former students from Santo Nino Academy. How she got all those names, address and phone numbers, I don't know. Only a Ma'am Pepang could have done it. Just like when she was Principal at Santo Nino, she always got the job done. Expanded the school, improved standards, and educated hundreds and hundreds of students who are now successful in their own lives. Those who passed by the portals of this hollowed institution would bear the fear of strict disciplinarian and the appreciation of a dedicated educator. I know this because she was my teacher in freshman Economics.
She suggested that I host the reunion in Bakersfield. I obliged, but I was skeptical at how such an enormous task can be done. And in a short time. But Ma'am Pepang still could pull the rabbit out a hat. She proved to be a lightning rod. Response was tremendous. And so it happened in Bakersfield, the first reunion of Malitboganons in the U.S. Some 60 came from all over California, people of all ages. Some I have not met before in my life. But Ma'am Pepang knows them all. She sounded the call "Follow Me" and they eagerly did.
Her brother, Noni Tidalgo, former mayor of Malitbog, and her sister Nene accompanied her. My dad was glad to see Noni again because they were old buddies. In the political scene everyone knows Noni, who, as mayor, gave our own town a lot of good things, including a new "mercado'. I was also glad he came, so he could help make something out of this gathering.
From the L.A. area, the Escanos came. Loren and Tonini were just kids the last time I saw them in Malitbog. Loren's older brother, Leo, was our occasional guest in Panorama City while he was at USC. Tonini's sis, Joy, and wife, Jerelyn, and kids also came. Charito and Marison, are still the same stunning beauties from Inmaculada whom I had proudly escorted around Seminario Mayor in Mabolo, with Loren's sister, Irene, as my guests to one of our benefit bingo events. Mini-skirts were the fashion then, so, I'll let your imagination work. Philip, Marison's other half, is a lucky guy, and is a very likeable person. Loren and Philip will prove later to be the best advisers, movers, and motivators of the group. We owe them a lot. The Escanos were the largest group and have always been in all our reunions.
From L.A. also came Tony and Pat Canon. The last time I saw Tony was in a basketball tournament in our town fiesta, playing with Malitbog's greats - the late Tingting Tangke, Dodong Moralde, and Aniel Matondo. They were a formidable team and it was the pride of our town. They were the Michael Jordan's for every kid in town. Every one imitated their style. Oh, the golden days of basketball.
The Catigans, the Hercos, and the Dullas also came from the South. Too bad the patriarch, Tingting Dulla (rest in peace), another big political figure at one time in Malitbog, could not come.
Eleanor Lopez, did I miss to mention you? I should not because you never missed any of our events.
From Fresno came Dr. Crucie Bantugan and his brother and sister. Brent and Conchita Clapp came with their motor home. Luckily, our house was in a corner, so they did not have difficulty parking and getting the electric power they needed.
From the north came Joel Caharian and wife Mennie, Tino, Astring and Mildred Mabitad, Jimmy and Myrna Sala, Evelyn Sala--Yniguez, and Belen Cadayona, Sim (rest in peace) and Estet Orais.
It was a historical event. The only hitch: nahilaw ang lechon.
The group agreed to organize and call itself "Malitbog,USA" or "MUSA." The first set of officers were elected. It was also agreed that Mildred at Sacramento would host the next meeting.
The Constitution and By-Laws were approved in Sacramento. There were annual membership dues to pay. We also established the emergency fund, which has been very useful many times, because we lost many members since 1992. It was agreed that the group meet twice a year. One in the summer, the other, in a Christmas Party. We have never failed this. Variably in the summer, we went to Las Vegas or went camping. We camped at Bakersfield, Lake Tahoe, Castaic Lake, and Avila Beach. Twice we met at Mildred's place. In our Christmas Parties, we kept going back and forth between the north (San Jose & San Francisco), the south (L.A.), and the center (Bakersfiled) of California. Unfortunately, some of the original members fell on the wayside. But there has always been that hard core group that never misses any reunion anywhere, anytime. One consistent thing - the southern folks (Escanos, Tidalgos, Miels, Catigans, Lopez, Canons, Sescons) always go solid wherever the party is. They just love to party. But from the north, only Joel's family and Belen Cadayona-Chacon manage to be there. But in every Christmas Party, Charito, Marison, Joy, and Joel, work hard with gift exchange, prizes, and decorations. Nenette uses the power of green to supplement our short funds.
Special mention should be made of our veterans from Malitbog who are always eager to attend our renions - Valer and Tanciong Capilitan, Ani Montajos, and others I cannot remember anymore. Unfortunately, they always depend on other members to give them a ride. Even though Noni and Jonas sometimes try to accommodate them, they would miss some events.
Another group we have to give credit to, is Paquito & Meren Aberasturi's family and the American in-laws from Arizona. They love to join our Christmas parties and campings as much as they can. Mind you, they drive for about a day just to joins us. That's the spirit we need from our members.
The most memorable camping we had was in Bakersfield in 1994. There probably was about a hundred of us, occupying 3 campsites, total size of an acre. It was the largest group we ever had. It was also sort of international. Msgr. Lito Perez, my classmate, dropped by on his way back to Maasin after years of theological graduate studies in Rome. He came with his sister, Aning, and in-law, Fez. Angel and Inday Veloso (rest in peace) were also vacatiioning from Cebu and came camping with us. Gabe Escano, Loren's brod, was vacationing with his German wife and daughter. Tommy and Jing Escano came from Antelope Valley. Nenette Aberasturi came with her daughter, Kimberly, but slept in a nearby hotel. Marla Sala-Winters came from Las Vegas. Giovanna Dejacto brought not only her jokes but also her gang. Msgr. Lito celebrated Mass before dinner. After a big dinner, we sat on the grass in a circle and led by Gabe Escano (remember him with the singing group, Odds & Ends, back in the Philippines?), we had a sing along. In the meantime, Joy Escano and Loren started their normal chores - passing around the Tequila with the lemon slices. It was really something to relish on for a long time.
Some groups have official mascots. MUSA has an unofficial drink. TEQUILA! Straight and no ice. Fine with or without the lemon slice. This 40% proof Mexican drink has always played center court in all our gatherings. It has made our conversations lighter, the barriers lower, the jokes funnier, and our laughter louder. Especially when Jonas Miel and Giovanna start cranking their endless jokes. One often wonders if they have ghostwriters, or if they research before the party, because their jokes are never recycled. You always hear them the first time.
MUSA went high tech last year when Jay Aberasturi gave Malitbog, Southern Leyte its own site in the Internet. In just a short time it garnered more than a thousand hits. Long lost acquaintances, friends, and relatives found a way to communicate, and found each other again. Or meet new ones. I would never have communicated again with Sr. Bebe Lumakang after many years had it not been for this medium. Good job, Jay.
Under Joel's new leadership, we are embarking into new projects and direction. We are going to publish this first ever souvenir book. Raz & Nadine Husany (Charito's daughter), are working hard to put this together against all odds and a shortening deadline. Do not worry guys, we are all behind you and we appreciate it very much. A very able Treasurer, Ramon Aberasturi, who was the only one elected to that position twice in a row, assists Joel. Nadine, our Secretary, is equally efficient with her communications. We just sent money to the Southern Leyte Association in Chicago to pay for a balikbayan box full of medicines to be sent to our rural health center in Malitbog. Joel also has sent a box of books and magazines for our library.
Our group will go on. We still enjoy each other's company. Will our children take over when we are gone? Interesting question.
officers (year 2002 - 2004)
President : Mr. Jimmy Sala
Vice-President : Mr. Florentino Mabitad
Secretary : Mrs. Evelyn Sala Yniguez
Treasurer : Mrs. Pura Orais Sy
Committee Chairman: Mrs. Jessica Capilitan Cabadu