In Memory of a Mentor - VW Ignacio V. Illenberger

Epilogue:  Last week members of Central Philippine University High School Class of 1967 in Iloilo City welcomed home a classmate who returned from the U.S. It was the first time in 43 years since we last saw Itik Miro, who has retired from the U.S. Navy.  During the dinner, somebody suddenly reminded the group that it was the first death anniversary of Mr. Porfirio Mayordomo, a beloved teacher in industrial arts and algebra. Tio Peryong was a WW2 veteran with the USAFFE and was a US government pensioner for a long time.  He died in San Francisco, California at age 93 and as reported in the websites of CPU alumni, he was buried in a veterans’ cemetery in the Bay Area, with military honors and was even given the “21 Gun Salute”. The lively atmosphere of the class reunion turned somber for a while.  Classmates took turns recounting memories of our unforgettable mentor. When our own <Klazmits67@Yahoogroups.com> posted Tio Peryong’s obit on May 11, 2009,  I was one of the several classmates who took pains to revisit memories of  him.  With the gaiety  of  Flores de Mayo coming soon, maybe it would serve us some good looking back at the lovable characters of our youth. So, here goes that remembrance:

 

Mga Pinalangga:

 

Some 23 years ago about this time of the year, I went on terminal leave from the Pinoy Marine Corps.  I was a major then and was caught up with the crazy aftermath of the 1986 EDSA affair.  The Marcos “Loyalists” in the Corps (who marched back to the barracks from Malacanang after the intonation “The Chief is gone, Long live the Chief’) were in the  #@&%  list of the Yellow Ribbons (Cory/JPE/FVR cheerleaders) as a bunch of degenerate Marines. The “Loyalists” sneered at the Yellow Ribbons as crybabies who did not have the guts to stand by a constitutional position however unpopular.  The leaders of both factions were known to the Corps as career men with towering ambitions not to mention egos. What about us wide-eyed middle level grunts who swore to remain within the confines of vocation till “our ashes are scattered to the four winds of heaven”? Hell, after 13 years of fighting to keep the country from dismemberment, the Marine Corps suddenly seemed irrelevant to my existence.  I filed for terminal leave and waived all my claims to separation benefits. I’d rather become a bootleg runner of Philippine beer to teetotaler Sabah with all her thirsty oil rig expat workers from the U.K.

 

Earlier, with two grizzled shipwrights (one from Kabalagnan, Guimaras and the other from Balabac, Palawan) I had rebuilt a very sturdy ex-Vietnamese refugee boat.  The M/L BUNDULAN was of such seaworthiness that we once braved North Sulu Sea to evacuate our appendicitis stricken engineman from Cuyo Island for surgery in San Jose, Antique. For nine hours we chugged against a Signal No.1 typhoon. The BUNDULAN performed like a dream.  I was scared like the Dickens but my two partners were whistling in the wind. 

 

We lost all our cash reserves to finance the hospitalization of the now deceased Paterno Tayhupon Catindoy of Batan, Aklan, engineman and seafarer par excellent. Pat burst his appendix while at sea and was fighting for his life against peritonitis at the Iloilo Provincial Hospital. Maas Jabiri Sali (the Palawan partner) instructed me (at the pain of his most potent curse if I disobeyed) that I was to give Pat a dose of his forefathers’ concoction every early morning twilight before the patient goes on his daily ablutions.

 

To save on transportation money, I would walk across CPU to Dungon onto good old Provincial to perform my task.  On the way back home, I’d walk again but through a longer way via Jaro Tienda Mayor where I’d have my daily dose of nila-ga pata (but half bowl only).  Those days I was never in the mood to link up with the old chums.  It was my duty to see that Pat survives and this weighed on me. Meanwhile Mass Jabiri and Agurang Abing  (Abelardo Ganancial, the Guimaras partner) worked their butt off raising new capitalization by repairing the OLYMPIA (a copra and sugar carrier to Sabah and a regular route companion of the BUNDULAN). The Olympia was moored at the Gi-Gi bridge in Leganes near Francis Grino’s salt bodega. Tied alongside was the BUNDULAN which served as the pair’s workshop and quarters. At that time, memories of my old life seemed insignificant.  The only relevant note during that crisis was Tio Peryong Mayordomo.

 

I won’t go into the details, but Tio Peryong was then undergoing a late life crisis of his own.  Every morning even before sunrise, I would see him sitting by Majaque’s store steps drinking coffee. Soon, I made it a point to join him on my way back home.  Our talks were far ranging.  He was genuinely concerned about Pat’s predicament but declined to accompany me to visit.  Tio Peryong said that being an old man himself, Pat (aged 61 at that time) would be very embarrassed to be visited by a total stranger and see him in that condition.  I was only 38 at that time and I did not understand it, but now I do. Along the way, Tio Peryong confided that he must have made a very good impression as a high school teacher that in retirement many work offers came his way. But he always declined, saying that he was not qualified for the jobs offered, however lofty the offerors may have thought about him.  That stayed at the back of my mind until I saw Toto Pio’s obituary of the old man.

 

Pat eventually recovered. I’m not sure which deserves the greater credit, Pfizer or the ancient medicine men of Mangsee Island.  We raised enough capitalization for another starting load of San Migs and Asia Brewery’s Max.  Back to sea and what a life it was! Haaay, if I win at Lotto, I’ll give that life another stab. 

 

Four months later, while docking at Dumaguete, I found a Marine Corps sergeant major in office uniform waiting for me by the bollards.  Without any document showed, just the mutual trust of comradeship (we both once survived a particularly hellish operation in Jolo), he tells me that all of us “trade schoolers” (a Corps slang for combatants whose mind sets were that of clerics – to the mainstream we were “weirdos”) are being recalled from our leave. OMG there were about 20 of us!

 

FVR (who was never a fan of the Corps) was AFP Chief of Staff then. He told the Corps leadership to return to the way we were, no questions asked and that the “weirdos” are to be part of the package. When I demurred, the Top Sergeant innocently asks me, didn’t I receive the official letter informing me that my terminal leave application was disapproved? “Why Sir, that was six months ago”. Shoot, now I’m classified as deserter (yes, a prison sentence goes with it). Hell, I never got word of that supposed letter anywhere from anyone. Before I could indignate protest, the Top again tells me that he could not understand  FVR’s motive by insisting that Colonel Kumag be appointed Corps Provost Marshall (the military top policeman). Why that SOB hated us weirdos. “So, Sir” the Top smoothly continues “I spent my last representation allowance buying you a ticket back to Manila this evening, the Provost Marshall planes in tomorrow to fetch you and two others in Siquijor”. HaHaHa, I laughed so hard I remembered Pat’s appendectomy.

 

End of the good life. Back to the ever loving folds of the Corps. All my sailing buddies have since crossed the horizon. I never saw Tio Peryong again.  Wow, long story, but hey – I’m inspired and again find writing relevant.

 

Oh by the way, there’s something I almost forgot to tell you guys who are bombarded daily with media hype about military burials. There is a world of difference between a “21 Gun Salute” and “Three Volleys” firing detail during a military funeral, both in intent and practice. But don’t take my word for it, look them up in that all knowing cyberspace institution – Wikipedia Dictionary.  Maybe there is a clue there about what Tio Peryong meant about late life crisis.  BOTSOY TAGARILES

 

P.S.When I started going to school, I was a fat, sunburnt kid with curly black hair, so I was called BOTSOY. I hated the nickname – mabaho.  The senior officers in the Corps called me SPRAKEN because of my surname – they thought it was cool but I hated it also, why I don’t even look tisoy. So somewhere along the way I insisted that my actual nickname since birth was ASIONG (after my IGNACIO, which I also hated). Now, who would argue that it is mabango? Ha! - ASIONG stuck, but I always found it a mystery why Col Kumag would call me a weirdo.

 

Fraternally,

 

ASIONG  ILLENBERGER

From the Land of the Ilonggas

 

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