Monday, April 21, 2014

Disaster and Six Pioneers

 Dr Abe V Rotor

It is not really difficult to know your neighbors – and get well together - how far apart they are, when a disaster strikes. It was a typhoon - a howler, Typhoon Yoling - which started it all forty years ago.  

Rampage in acrylic by the author

Jorge de Jesus who owned the first grocery on the main road was the first to gather his immediate neighbors - Fred Daco and Boy Causon. In my area, Leo Tanquintic, Colonel Sergio Jamila and I joined later.  As we looked around, the houses of Mr. Vicente Roque, Mr. Gregorio Manlaguit and Colonel Jamila were the worst hit.  It was as if a tornado struck.

Then we remembered the old man, Tata Juan Aquino, who was living the farthest. The whole roof of his house was blown off.  We found the old couple in disbelief of what happened. Whole roofs and walls were strewn over a wide area.  Trees are either decapitated or uprooted.

There was no time to waste. Luckily no one was hurt and apparently panic was out of the picture. Rehabilitation was the order of the days that followed. Consultations and visitations were part of boosting morale. There was little consolation heard.   The six of us sat down and for the first time thought of an association small as it was then.  There was no plan to form an association as what DAHHA is today. 

Ours was a unique kind of organization.  It was informal, in fact highly personal, short of a fraternity. The ambiance of neighborhood is very important. Immediately we worked on collective security considering the remoteness of the place and the frequent incidence of crime around the subdivision which was then hedged by squatter communities living on scavenging.  At that time outside of DA was a little “Payatas.” 

I remember when we were constructing our house in 1967 we lost the electric motor of our water pump to burglars.  At another an impostor who appeared badly hurt begged to be let in for help.  Caution stopped us.  That same night we discovered that the “victim” was a  part of a modus operandi.     

In the weeks that followed the group of six thought of projects that would  make life in this remote subdivision brighter, specially for the children.  Basketball court - and that was how the open space began as a playground.

Colonel Jamila who owned the Veteran Scouts Security Agency arranged the security of the subdivision on an easy contribution scheme.  Eng. Daco planned and coordinated the construction of the waiting shed. He was later helped by Dr. Mel Ordillas, a new member then.  The waiting shed stood along Commonwealth for some time until it was demolished to give way to road expansion. 

The first guard house (not the present guardhouse) was later erected at the very entrance of the subdivision with the help of subsequent homeowners. I handled the tree planting project. Many of the trees in the subdivision which are around forty years old were planted at this time.  Jorge took care of the ways and means and was treasurer at the same time, while Boy who is a cousin of Tony Zuzuaregui, the owner of the subdivision, did the liaisoning and coordination, as well as public relations. The other members took charged of the construction of the basketball court. 

We realized that the association was born out of felt needs exacerbated by force majeure. No one can truly live alone when disaster strikes. It brings in awakening, a kind of Robinson Crusoe or Castaway in the life of a survivor. Even Henry David Thoreau who tried to live alone at Walden Pond had to finally rejoin society later. Indeed he emerged a wiser man.

It is some kind of evolutionary and primitive desire to be closer with others when we find them in need of help.  It could be the other way around – if we find ourselves at the receiving end.  High walls fall apart not by the disaster, but by its consequence later.

Organizational structures emerge from the nature of need.  Formality gives way to functionality; interim grows with immediacy rather than transience. Leadership style develops from the way problems are solved and how the desired result is attained.  Books simply provide models for us to follow or choose.  Such was the way the six pioneers worked in the two years or so that followed the Yoling disaster. 

A year passed and a formal organization took over. New officers joined in.  Meetings were held to discuss not only present needs but plans.  Future was more in the agenda. Projects like a chapel and park began to take shape as these are typical in an affluent community. Residents of Don Antonio belong to the  middle and upper middle class. 

In a decade, Ever Gotesco rose from a former dumpsite, the narrow Commonwealth Avenue has expanded into eight lanes, Don Antonio Avenue became a main thoroughfare and now boosts of fine commercial establishments.  Subdivisions sprouted in the vicinity.  Schools, banks,  churches, automobile centers, service stations, have truly given an urban touch to the once remote village.

The “mission” of the six pioneers was long considered finished.  Is it not that sometimes there is assignment given us that is co-terminus, although we do not call it that way?  Why there are times we feel we are no longer relevant, however efficient we may have been before. But that is the very essence of leadership – it opens new doors. This is rule of succession.  It is part of change.  And change itself.

I got a permanent field assignment and I left the subdivision in 1975. Jorge left the subdivision soon after. I do not remember where he took his family. Col. Jamila spent his last years in the subdivision. So with Leo Tanquintic.  I learned of their demise when I was in the province. Boy Causon and Fred Daco, I heard, have been living abroad.  

One time when I was sorting out my things a piece of paper browned by time fell.  I picked it up and to my surprise it is a poem I wrote about    Yoling  – the typhoon and the sentinel of man’s yearning for oneness. It reads.
Born in Tempest

Ask not, ask not if I’m friend or neighbor or passerby,
When the North wind’s fury breaks the ceiling of the sky;
Yet one sees Heaven in prayers he did never bother,
To kneel, to cry, to call the first man he sees his brother.  

When the tempest’s finally gone, and Thor is heard no more,
And whispers come from the lips of the bold, within in store;
Heralds the calm, a throbbing of hearts not in ire or fear,
Hands clasping a fraternity’s born, save a drop of tear.

Now and then I take my family to Don Antonio to our family house at Don Gregorio. “Look at those trees,” I would tell my wife, Cecille and children – Marlo, Chris  Ann and Leo - pointing at the rows of spreading narra trees. “Forty years ago and there was a very strong typhoon … and there were six pioneers… …”
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