Once in a great while, a blogger receives unexpected rewards such as this -- a letter/commentary from amazing Mario Silva sent through his daughter, kindred blogger, exskindiver Chesca.
(Read it for the historical highlights and human-interest sidelights about old Manila)
This is an additional comment to Annamanila's blog. Very much delayed but I think she will still like to read it.
I did not know that Gagalangin is in Tondo. I learned this after going over her blog again. She wrote so many interesting things. The woman (Nena), whose story is so touching, a very admirable woman indeed. I am sure many of our dear women, wives and mothers, have gone through so much of this kind of suffering. She wrote about the native delicacies of our home land (chicharong bulaklak, balun-balunan, day-old chicks, penoy/balut, chicharong baboy, burong talangka.etc). She made me re-live again what is good and beautiful about the Philippines.
Her description of Gagalangin - I never realized how many illustrious sons and daughters Gagalangin had produced. Heroes, great men and women of our history, in our literary field, in the theater, in movies. Kaya pala Gagalangin ... it was the cradle of so many of our "talagang ginagalang" na mga mamayan. I recall mentioning long ago her blog to Ayo, and his remark was, "why did I never know about Gagalangin when I have known Manila for so long?" I think it is because during his time, Gagalangin was so out of the way for the youth like you and the rest of the children who grew up on Quezon City.
Going back to her blog again, I realize that I was mistaken. The street where I learned to drive was not Maypajo but Juan Luna Street, and the eatery that served bibingka beside the Pritil bridge was not Aling Nena, but Ferino's. Thanks to those who commented on her blog. But as you know, I must be given some leeway … it was many, many years ago … more than half a century ago. And going back again to Pritil Bridge, it reminds me of the book "Manila, My Manila" by our National Artist, the late Nick Joaquin. He said that Manila took a long time to make and that its ground used to be the sea and that surely explains the presence of so many esteros, one of them being where Pritil bridge is located. And speaking of esteros, the bridge on Escolta, near Sta. Cruz Church, along where Samanillo Building and Regina Building are located crosses an estero. And in Quiapo, there used to be a street called Estero Cegado (I wonder if that street still exists). Some historians, as I recall, also refer to the Estero de Reina Regente and Estero de Binondo.
One of her commentators also mentioned Bangkusay. Our history records a Battle of Bankusay of 1571. In the war of colonization the Spanish Forces had embarked on a search for native warriors who had resisted them. A fierce battle ensued in Bangkusay between the Spanish forces and the native Manilans. The Battle of Bankusay remains a significant event in our history.
More than 400 years later, on a night in May, 1954, another battle would occur in Bankusay. In this site, a gang war erupted between what was known as the Grease Gun Gang and another rival gang. The case (which I understand was made into a movie) resulted in prosecutions for four separate cases for murder and frustrated murder. The victims were in a calesa parked along Bangkusay street, between Kapulong and Inocencio. One of the survivors testified that he was there because his parents "needed pigs for the Gagalangin fiesta..." There were eleven originally accused, of which, one was killed before the trial, another was discharged and used as a state witness, but was killed after he testified, and nine stood trial. Three were acquitted and the rest who were sentenced to various sentences including life, appealed to the Supreme Court. The High Court in its decision modified the lower court's decision and sentenced four to the extreme penalty of death and the remaining two to life imprisonment. The Court also stated in its decision that it was error for the trial court to have acquitted the three but that as the law stands, it was powerless to effect the correction.
The reason why this is of interest to me is not only because of the element of Bangkusay and Gagalangin in the case, but also I was a young lawyer then and I was assigned by the court to defend one of the accused as "counsel de oficio." The judge who assigned me was my former professor at the Ateneo. The trial lasted several months. I recall that one of the trial dates was January 19, 1955, when your kuya Jimmy was born. I represented one of the three acquitted. My services were performed for free, gratis et amore.
Torres High School, which was discussed in her blog was named after Florentino Torres, one of the first four Filipino justices of the Supreme Court. The site of the school was originally a Constabulary barracks. As I said in my original comment to her blog, I and my brother and two sons of General Castaneda, Mariano Jr. and Juanito, walked all the way from St. Theresa's College in San Marcelino Sreet in Ermita to Juan Luna Street in Gagalangin, where the Constabulary Barracks was located. General Castaneda was the then commander of the military barracks. Our childhood escapade occurred sometime in 1937.
General Castaneda later figured in a famous incident. In 1947, he saved President Manuel A. Roxas from assassination when he kicked away a hand grenade hurled on the stage in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, immediately after President Roxas delivered a speech. The grenade rolled over and fell outside the stage, killing an innocent onlooker and wounding others. The would-be assassin, Julio C. Guillen, was arrested, tried, and convicted. He was executed in the electric chair of the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa in 1950.
Before that, General Castaneda, as younger officer, had been assigned to Cavite, where Mommy's dad, your lolo Gregorio, was then assigned as Provincial Treasurer. Your lolo and General Castaneda knew each other well. Mommy told me that she and your Auntie Norma, had always dressed up similarly then they were children and they were often mistaken as twins. In fact, long, long after, General Castaneda happened to meet your Auntie Dollie and had asked her how the twins were.
These are some musings which have come to me since the Gagalangin blog of Annamanila. I hope you can transmit this to her. She writes very well and all her stories are so very interesting.
Letterwriter/guest blogger Mario Silva, in his heydays, as trial lawyer in Manila