IF THERE'S one person who can make it in the Ten Top List of Luckiest Persons in the world, Manuel "Lito" Lapid of Porac, Pampanga, will be in it. For one who never had college schooling and became vice governor, three-term governor of a premier province and 12 years as a senator having Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Nene Pimentel as colleagues in the upper chamber, OMG that's really something. And now he is back at the Senate and rejoined Dick Gordon, Tito Sotto and Pia Cayetano. He is now on a first name basis with Bato De La Rosa, Bong Go and Manny Pacquiao. All these started when his older brother then cinematographer of some movie outfits Rey, now a councilor of Porac town, made the young Lito to be his lightman.
Let me start my story about the senator/ gentleman from Pampanga on his early life in his hometown of Porac. His father was the late Jose Songco Lapid, older brother of the late action star Jess Lapid. (Jess Lapid was at the height of his movie career when he was shot dead inside a night Club in Quezon City). Jose married a beautiful lass from Porac, Eleuteria "Teria" Mercado and their marriage was blessed with five children, all boys, with Rey as the eldest and Lito as the bunso, youngest. The Lapids originally were from Guagua and their families were known to be carrameteros, meaning their main occupation was horse rig driving. Because of their love of horses, both Jose and Jess became good horsemen. That skill landed them jobs at the Santiago owned Premiere Production as stuntmen.
Jose didn't make much wave in his movie career, unlike his younger brother Jess who was to become an action star sharing billing with Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Jun Aristorenas and other known action stars in those years. Jose settled in Porac and built a small house for his growing family at the back of the town's municipal building. It was a closely knit neighborhood, where most families were somehow related to one another. Jose died early and failed to see his youngest son achieved fame and fortune. Lito was orphaned at age two. It was the eldest, Rey who carried on his shoulders the many responsibilities in putting food on the table because Aling Teria's petty incomes weren't enough to support a growing family.
My mother Beatriz, known to many as Apung Batik, run a carinderia in the town's public market. It has only few wooden tables and a long bench but was by patronized by customers waiting for their rides. There were no running water in the market and what used was the hand pump and which at times went kaput. Lito was in his early teens and in few instances fetched water for the carinderia's use.
The young Lito did a lot of odd jobs to help the family. He was a truck helper to their neighbor Mr. Adonis Sunglao. He sold pan de sal and whose voice was heard at the crack of dawn in several neighborhoods shouting his items, TINAPE. Other than being a patinante, he washed dishes in the lone panciteria of the town. And when odd jobs became the scarce he was the youngest laborer digging ditches hired by the town mayor for low budgeted municipal projects. (To be continued)