Pepeng S. Romero – Tribute to a Baguio patriot-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Monday, March 4, 2013
HE UNDERWENT a triple heart bypass operation sometime in 2003 and was then made aware that such procedure can guarantee him another ten years to enjoy life. At exactly 10 years after, Apache Brave Felipe Romero whom we refer to as “Pepeng” or “Uncle” bade farewell to dear life leaving a legacy worth remembering. I attended the necrological service at the Romero residence in Scout Barrio and my wife admired the uniqueness of how the Baguio Apaches pay tribute to a great man. Retired Judge Fernando Cabato, our Apache Elder read his revealing eulogy that seemed to have been corroborated with the late Peping. I couldn’t help but ask the judge’s printed memoriam entitled “Peping and his Jewels” and I got his nod to have it shared here.
“We saw the smoke signal at about 4:45 in the afternoon of Thursday, February 21st. We understood the message. We stood still with saddened hearts. An Apache Brave had reached the end of the trail, tired and weary. He fell into a deep sleep, and his night will be long. Tonight, we the Apache nation, in one soulful voice, express our condolences to Peping’s bereaved family and relatives. We share with your anguish and pain.
We are here in his teepee to honor and pay our last respects to a distinguished Apache Brave – Felipe S. Romero – abiding by the cherished tradition handed down by the demised Apache Elders many sunsets past. Indeed, a big bonfire has just been lit, and the Apache Elders gathered and welcomed Peping to enjoy the dawn of a new life in a new pavilion. From our lights, Peping was kind and gentle in his ways. He was calm and composed when faced with tension-packed situation. He was unassuming, and talked sparingly. He was witty. He had ears for soothing music: he was a self-taught chef.
His fidelity to his wife and children was beyond reproach. Palpable was his love and care for Letty. Infectious was his affection for his children. To us, his Apache brothers, he was fiercely loyal to a fault. Indeed, the Apache Spirit had been an inseparable ingredient to his persona. In his exuberant years, Peping was one of the few Apache Braves whose taste for sartorial elegance stood out. More than that, he was favored with tantalizing eyes and a winsome smile. He may have been short in stature but he stood tall among his peers.
Yes, Peping was not perfect. Like all of us, he was truly human, badgered by human faults and frailties. Admittedly, he had his best and worst times. Yet, he was humane in many ways that his weaknesses were overshadowed by his compassion, care and concern for others. If a year has its seasons, Peping had his autumn, spring, fall and winter and lived his life to the fullest. In his golden years, he exuded an aura of serenity. He lives a life that was well secured, comfortable and tranquil.
Peping left this world a rich man. He became rich when he found his gemstone – a diamond in Letty, his incomparable, faithful and ever loving squaw. Together, they were gifted with seven priceless jewels, with different hues and dazzling brilliance. These jewels are Ditas, Marissa, Joseph (Jodes), Felicia, James, Julie Ann and Arnie. Once, he remarked: that his diamond and jewels made him well-to-do. In modesty he said that his wealth is his family. No one will dispute him for that is true.
Peping addressed each of us “Uncle.” He said that was his gesture of kinship. Each letter of the word “uncle”, he said has its significance. He articulated that U stood for Uniqueness; N for Nobility; C for Charity; L for loyalty and E for Excellence. He laid bare his thoughts on his theme as I listened in awe and admiration. At the end of his discourse, sheepishly, I said Peping, touché, I owe you a cup of newly brewed coffee. That was Peping’s wisdom.
Few months ago, Peping requested me to deliver some sealed letters and envelopes to the addressees upon his demise. At that point, allow me to comply with his request. (Apache Elder Cabato handed out the letters to the recipients) Collecting back my thoughts, I can only surmise what is in each of those envelopes. Perhaps a nugget of wisdom, shared memories, token of appreciation, penultimate expression of love, a request, a wish, a prayer. Peping, with some famous Apache Braves, was a World War II veteran, a member of that famous 66th infantry Regiment of the USAFIP-NL and a decorated soldier. After the war, he worked with the US Air Force at Camp John Hay Rest and recreation Facility. As an employee, he received recognitions of merit. Before he retired as Federal Employee, he was cited as a model employee. Later, he became the Baguio Branch Manager of the Pantranco Inc. His managerial and personnel skills were recognized and lavishly appreciated. He received citations of merit and appreciation.
After the EDSA people power revolution, he was chosen as Confidential Assistant to the then City Mayor of Baguio, the late Apache Brave Francisco A. Paraan. Then, he retired for good and became a home buddy. For reasons only known to him, he desired that he be dressed with his army field jacket with his ribbons and citations as a war veteran. His last wish was honored. Peping was authentic patriot. We are reminded of that old ballad “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Peping just faded away, but his Apache Spirit lives on. Uncle Peping, be assured that we shall treasure in our hearts your wealth, your profound wisdom and your indomitable spirit.
For your remarkable memories you shared with us, thank you Uncle Peping, Adios dear friend. Farewell esteemed brother. Farewell!” At the end of his eulogy, Apache Elder Nanding Cabato signaled the Apache Nation to do a gesture of respect and we all did the hand salute to dear brother Peping who now joins the Almighty Chief in the great hunting grounds in the sky.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 05, 2013.