THE BOYS OF PROJECT 2
“As a child, I used to sleep with all my stuffed animals so none of them would be jealous.”
I was born in 1954 at Sampaloc, Manila (St. Jude Hospital) but I was raised in Naranhita Street, Project 2, then referred to as Homesite, Quirino District. It was a neighbourhood for government workers and my playmates were all scion of government officers. I had as my buddy, Elmer Moreno (now an artist and USA resident married to a Korean) and his brother, Butch (a designer/ artist too in USA). Across our house was another older playmate, Lando Gatela (presently a good mechanic and car merchandiser in CA, USA). Adjacent Lando’s place was Bert Velasco (a security officer in USA) and Fidel Monasterial (both are in USA). I was virtually left by my childhood playmates to fend on my own in the country.
Our house is third from the main road Anonas, Zone B , left side. The first house is where Bobot and Olitog (I forgot their surname already) resided. Bobot now the chief accountant of an Ayala firm and is a resident of Ayala, Alabang. I think Olitog, the younger brother is in their province. They were my favourite basketball buddies until their father whacked them to study and abhor the streets. Near their house was a store of Intsik, the youngest child was Jun Dee, another trying hard basketball player. (He died of heart attack 10 years ago). There was Ador Jaballas,(son of Atty Jaballas) the fellow who would teach me the art of laughter, a professional drummer in a band and an architect. He spent a lot of years in Uganda but returned back to the country almost traumatized by the poverty of Africa. And then, there were the Andaya brothers, Sergio and Elpidio. And there was the irrepressible Rene “Ite” Cambal. He was the torch bearer. The most rugged and the most active. His presence can illuminate a gathering. There was also a stand out neighbour, Boy Santos and Henry who were boys of substance. Boy was a good designer (based in USA) and taught by his father to play the violin while Henry was an intrepid listener. Boy Santos had a smaller frame than me but boy oh boy! he can really punch. And there were the Escobar brothers (all of them are in USA too.)
I have never braved moving to the farther side of Naranhita at that time (60s) because there was stand-out fellow at the middle of the street who virtually stood above everyone else. He was Boy Gulla. He was fondly called “Gely.” For me, he represented guts, leadership and strength. Whatever seasons there was, be it violent or gamesmanship, Gely was the name. Whenever he would grab the ball to play three-some in our half-court basketball yard, no body would get into the groove. He jumped higher than anyone and his musculature body could push any pretending cager around. He was a complete story by himself. (Years later when I saw him in the agency (NAPOLCOM) where he works, I thought that I have seen a celebrity already. At that time, I was requested by his boss as consultant in police and corrections affair. Despite my rank, despite the superiority I have as prison official, I still have that impression and feeling of awe whenever I would be with a childhood icon, and Boy Gulla was such a personality.)
Of course, there were boys from the farther side of Naranhita who would play ball with us. There was the Sarmiento brothers, all mestizos and good looking hunks. Also, the Berses brothers, very rough but kind, children of an elementary teacher. There were also the Maglalangs, Diazes, Cerdenias,etc.
But I am more familiar with my peers in the elementary. There was Alfredo “Boy” Tabayoyong from Pajo (now based in USA). Boy can be mean and he can challenge anyone, armed or not. On the other side of Pajo, we have Edmundo Rabagay (based in USA). In Marang street, where I always would frequent, there were Sonny Miranda (deceased), Dan Hernandez (retired already) and Boy Jacob (disabled by accident). On the other side of Marang, there was Elmo Abad (practising lawyer). Over at Lanzones street were the Samonte brothers. (Jose Samonte, the elder, very conservative went ahead everyone else after passing CPA to be the chief accountant of a brokerage firm. We fledging playmates of Jose were lost in the running game for recognition. However, we could not ascertain his whereabouts today.) Further on, along Chico street, there was Elmer Gloria, Nestor Concepcion . Nestor was the fellow who taught me to play the guitar while giving me an earful of praises and would tire me out with his love intent on his secret crush, our classmate Belen Maglalang.
Most of my peers in Project 2 left for abroad in the 80s. Just like the Beatle song, In My Life, “some are dead and some are living.” Most of them believed probably that our country will never take off and sustain their ambition. For most Filipinos, life abroad means a greener pasture. Accordingly, there is future in another country especially USA. Never mind if discrimination is the order of the day in those places. It was at its height during the time they all travelled but since Asians are known for their work ethic, they easily assimilated in a different culture. Filipinos are like bamboos, they can be flexible and accommodating to a fault.
There are those who remained in the country. And there are those who contemplate in remaining afar. For those from a distance, there is technology, like internet that could easily connect them anywhere. For those who intend to come back, it would surely be a homecoming. But for those who remained steadfast in the country, it is an accomplishment worth every second.