I WAS a young teacher, then 21 years old, at St. Joseph Academy in E.B. Magalona. One day the sister principal (Dominican Order) called for me at her office, “Sir, our school highly recommends you to give a binalaybay and to proclaim Miss Valentine in the evening of February 14. You will go to an upland purok. Someone will provide you a vehicle.”
Being a new teacher it was an honor for me to follow the principal. I found out later on that I am just a replacement speaker. My place was intended for Mayor Nene Magalona. The mayor could not make it... also his vice mayor, the councilors, and even the principal in the public school. The purok president went to the parish priest. The parish priest endorsed the sister principal, and the sister principal called for me.
February 14 was a Saturday. I was resting in our bamboo bed at the kitchen to relax after lunch when my mother informed me, “Noy, there is a tractor driver waiting for you outside. To make the long story short, the tractor was my service vehicle. There is a trailer attached to it with a bench made of wood to make my travel comfortable. I have my bag ready and my new barong Tagalog is inside the plastic suit bag.
From the town proper of E.B. Magalona, we traversed more than 10 kilometers of rough road following the east direction going to the upland area near the boundary of E.B. Magalona and Victorias. We reached a dead end.
My escort told me, “Sir, the tractor is up to here only. We have to walk three kilometers more.” It was uphill but I did not complain. I was excited to be the honored guest. When we reached the purok, it was almost five o’clock. The crickets were already making noise.
The people in the purok were excited to see me. I was welcomed by the purok president with young coco juice and boiled cassava. I was told that the coronation will start at seven o’clock. I was doubly excited thinking that the girls were beautiful. (I was still single then.) Dinner was good... chicken tinola, chicken adobo, and chicken inasal. After dinner, I thought I could fly like chicken.
Before the start of the program, heavy rain poured for almost two hours. The ground (baseball court) was muddy. The sound system was no longer functioning. It was repaired for one hour but nothing happened. The purok president decided to start the program. It was past 10 o’clock. Something wrong happened again. The emcee did not arrive. No one could take his place. The purok president requested me to be the emcee. I was provided with a megaphone.
I was the emcee, the manug-binalaybay, and the proclamation speaker. There is no turning back although I would want to fly home like a chicken. I thought that the muses were young ladies. No, they were little Valentines... three to five years old. During the pinning of the sash and the coronation, they were all sleeping and carried by their mothers. I pinned the sashes and crowned the sleeping beauty on behalf of the mayor of E.B. Magalona.
The next morning, I discovered that my new barong Tagalog was colored dark brown because of the mud. I went home following the same trail. The trailer of the tractor is loaded with bananas and root crops. For the villagers, that was the best coronation night ever. Up to now, I cannot forget that Valentine’s night.