Sunday, 22 January 2012

Slow backward … by AP Hernandez

1)  PAF invasion … In the late 50s, a contingent of ground personnel from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) invaded Mambulao. The mission: to build a radar tracking station atop a mountain overlooking the Philippine Sea as well as the Mambulao Bay and Paracale Bay. To be later known as Paranial Radar Station, the facility was carved out of thick ancient jungles to give way to a radar dome, a mini-community for the families of PAF personnel and a runway for its jet fighters. With hundreds of giant trees felled and cleared for a new community, an item – a novelty at that – evolved: driftwoods. These were cut from the roots of felled trees by enterprising Mambulaoans and fashioned into various items – from the so-called driftwood ashtrays, driftwood chairs, driftwood lampshades, and so on and so forth. Overtime, almost every home in Mambulao had one or more of these items which were sold at the local market.

2) Economic boost … The invasion of the PAF people had benefited the economy of Mambulao. The PAF transport service consumed lots of fuel – gasoline and diesel – and the families themselves bought their provisions at the local market and stores every week. Whenever they came down from their mountain lair, they somewhat intrigued and amused the locals. Parked along the roadside next to the public market were some 10 canvas-covered trucks fitted with benches and five-step stairs that hung behind the truck. Just imagine the peso value of their marketing every weekend – which were all welcomed by our market vendors and stores.

3) PAF school project. And of course, a number of their children attended the local elementary school – the JP Elementary Schools. Two of the kids were my classmates in Grade 4 – one was Flordeliza Trapal and the other was Antonio Antonio – whose fathers had ranks. Our school also benefited. The equipment division of the PAF helped in building classrooms and demolishing a hillside to reclaim several square meters where a new classroom building was built. This building, which was a donation from the PAF, is the one that sits near the main road next to the present-day basketball court. I knew about this very well because my mom was then a good friend of one of the officers – Capt Manglicmot – who managed the building project. My mom and the captain both came from Iloilo province.

4) No aircraft … Of course on weekends, the single men from the radar facility would also come down to Mambulao to have a few rounds of beer. They were usually packed in one to three AFP trucks which would be seen in front of a restaurant where liquor was served. At times they could be rowdy – maybe the way they used to back at the PAF HQ in Pasay City, pissing off some local guys, especially the “tambays”. The local boys would refer to the AFP men as “99% Air, 1% Force”. They would comment: “Bakit Air Force, eh wala naman silang eroplano?”

4). Friday night gig … One Friday afternoon, three or four PAF guys came to town in their PAF truck picked and up five young women from an appointed place at the poblacion near the ALATCO bus terminal. The PAF truck drove off back to the radar facility. The next day, sometime in the afternoon, the same truck was seen dropping off the five women near the bus terminal. One of the “tambays” had observed: “Sina Kulasa … hindi na makalakad ng derecho …”

5) 'Casa Kurbada/biglang liko' … During the 50s, there was a notorious place on the outskirts of Mambulao along the rough road that led to Larap. It was known as the “Kurbada, or Biglang-liko”. It was so-called that as it was located in a big bushy compound right at the bend of the road. The Mambulaoans called the spot Kurbada. It would have not been that notorious, or say popular, were it not for the activities taking place there. It was some sort of a “casa” where men would be seen coming in and coming out of the compound. But the “casa” were just nipa huts that dotted the place and were hidden by tall bush and trees. It was operated by a woman known only as “Tating”. It was big business because some 300 to 400 meters away at the junction of the poblacion’s main street and the road going to Larap was an equally notorious night spot – a saloon, as it was called then and popularized by Americans who once came to Mambulao after the WW II – patronized by many men for its women and booze. Those who came out drunk from the saloon went straight to Tating’s place for a night cap. This beer house, as it is known today, was fueled by wages from the Larap mines. The PAF men would source their women here for their Friday night gigs.

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