BY PERCY A OSTONAL
Mr and Mrs Ernesto Pena
THERE ARE many ways to recognize someone's effort to make this world a beautiful place to live in.
This little story is one of such, and its focus is on Ernesto "Ernie" Peña – a little known Kababayan in Mambulao.
A member of JPHS class of 1964, Ernie, with full support of his wife, Maria "Mary" P Bacuño (fellow alumni), had sent no less than 4,000 plus free textbooks, office equipment, laboratory materials for physics, chemistry, biology, Apllied Sciences and many others to their Alma Mater during the last 30 years.
Long before what he called "lifetime commitment” serving the place that molded their future, Ernie and Mary meticulously sorted out mostly informative/reference books in engineering and technology, sciences, education, mathematics, economics, English, astronomy, business and marketing, energy, vocational, medicine, sociology, enviroment, history, arts, geography … and YES, the latest edition of Webster’s Dictionary.
Through donations from friends and relatives, neighbors and buying from neighborhood garage sales and book outlets closing, the couple sent fairly large volumes of textbooks to JPNHS thru the office of the principal.
"Noong nasa high school pa ako, hirap na hirap ako at gayon din ang lahat na estudyante na maka-"access" sa iisang dictionary sa library.
“Nag-aagawan sila lalo na kung may assignment sa English subject … natanim ito sa kaisipan ko na seguro ang mabuti, mas maraming dictionary at mga reference books para lahat … with this, pantay-pantay sila sa pagtugis ng mayamang adhikain at kaalaman.
“Ganoon din ang situation sa physics, chemistry at biology subjects … kulang ang mga instrumento o di kaya ay sira-sira ang mga ito" (During our high school days, I and everyone had difficulty accessing/using the school's one and only available dictionary in the library. Everyone with all their might wanted to take hold of it for use specially when there's an English subject assignment and with that scenario, vividly I remembered that the best thing to do then was to have more than enough dictionary and reference books for everyone to share with in their search for bountiful knowledge … the same thing were happening with physics, chemistry and biology subjects … instruments were not enough for everybody’s use or that they’re broken).
Peña, a former resident of Pantalan (now baranggay Osmena and subsequently sub- divided with the creation of Baranggay Gawad Kalinga), is a self-made man despite his being a son from poor family.
I remembered when he said to me at the 2007 JP fiesta commemoration at the residence of fellow Mambulaoan Edgar "Egay " Aler in Los Angeles, California, that he had lots of school batches that he can attend to.
He said: I stopped going to school for so many times because my family could not afford my PHP85/year matriculation fees.
“I graduated in 1964 much older than the rest. But that's okey, I had so many experiences too from my classmates.”
He was a member of the "fearless four" JPHS baseball team sent to the CamNorte Public High School Provincial Athletic meet (CNPHSPAM) IN 1963-64.
His team colleagues were batch mates Francisco Osorio Jr (catcher), Rolando Agravante (1st base), Wilfredo Del Castillo (outfielder).
He was the pitcher.
Here's what came next after leaving Mambulao to find his place under the sun.
He applied with the US Navy at Sangley Point, Cavity City in October of 1964.
There were 200 applicants; 85% or 170, passed the written examination; 15 reached the interview process with only three passed the rigorous physical examination.
A kababayan from barrio Parang by the name of Oliver Molina, one Ernesto Peña from the province of Bataan and him ... Ernesto Peña from Pantalan, Mambulao, CamNorte, made it to the final selection.
The three were told to wait for the training while the recruitment in the Philippines was being completed. The Navy wanted another 27 Pinoys for its Philippine recruitment.
On December of 1964, from Sangley Point, Cavity City, the 30 recruits were transported to San Diego, California and went straight to San Diego Naval Training Center (SDNTC) and spent six weeks for an extensive military training.
December, 1964-71 - First military assignment at Lemoore, California, 1st Squadron USS BON-HOMME RICHARD (Aircraft carrier) Attack #196
Line of duty: At food service group - serving ship officers only
Military naval route: Vietnam to the US and back
1971-73 - Subic Bay Naval Base, Zambales, Philippines
Line of duty : Food Service - serving ship officers only
1974-77 Submarine base port, Groton, Connecticut
Line of duty: Food service
1978-81 - Military police, Philadelphia US Naval Base
Line of duty: Regular patrol and investigative jobs
1982-85 USS Dwight D Eisenhower (Aircraft Carrier)
Line of duty: Chief Investigator, sailors concerns/problems
June of 1986 - Retired in the service at the age of 44
1987-2001 Federal officer, US Naval Base, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
The last time I spoke with Ennie some three weeks ago, he said that he and his wife have some 35 boxes of reading and reference books for shipment anytime to the elementary and high schools at Baranggay Gawad-Kalinga.
His direct contact-person is Elmer Mago, the high school principal, whom he coordinates with through his sister-in-law, a resident of Osmena, as the initial recipient.
Currently, the 200 high school students share the school building with the elementary pupils on schedule basis.
When I asked Peña for his message to his kababayans worldwide with regards to this community project he has been passionately involved in for quite sometimes, he simply said:
“Kung nakakaluwag sila sa buhay, sana maalala naman nila ang ating BAYANG INIWAN na ngayo’s nasa gitna pa rin ng kahirapan … Una sa lahat, ang EDUKASYON ang makapagbabago nito”.
Together with their three children (two girls and one boy), the Pena couple has long settled in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
Recently, they lost their only son Ernie Jr.
People and Kababayans from Mambulao who knows them though it might be late, can send their condolences through his email address at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (mobile) 1-717433-4946.
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