CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The former Biyaya A Luluguran At Sisikapan (Balas) boys reported Saturday that their quarry collections for the last seven days had hit a record breaking feat of P8.175 million.

The quarrymen, who were axed by former governor Eddie Panlilio, were reinstated by Governor Lilia Pineda under the "Kapampangan A Lulugud At Matapat" (Kalam, which means grace) to take over the quarry monitoring operations again.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The quarrymen reunited on Saturday at Herbs and Greens Restaurant here to observe and recall their second year anniversary of having protested at Arnedo Park, assailing then their dismissal from the Capitol flagship program after pumping in more than P200 million in collections for just one year.

The feat earned the Panlilio administration a Galing Pook award.

Kalam supervisor Edu de Leon said the breakdown of the seven-day quarry collection are as follows: P1.305 million on July 1 (the first day of Pineda at Capitol); P1.425 million on July 2; P900,000 on July 5; P975,000 on July 6; P1.050 million on July 7; P1.290 million on July 8; and P1.230 million on July 9.

De Leon told Sun.Star Pampanga that the increase in quarry collections is a result of stricter monitoring in checkpoints and enhanced operations and streamlining in collections. He said that in about two weeks, Kalam will focus on the continued overloading of quarry trucks: "But we will launch a massive information campaign on this first because we want to be fair, as usual, to truckers and quarry operators."

Kalam chief Fil Rodriguez and Chris Ocampo both said their aim for this year is to surpass, if not sustain, their collections during the first year of the Panlilio administration.

Archie Reyes, a supporter of the group, said the challenge for the reinstated quarrymen is bigger.

"They were determined then to prove to the entire province that their decision to leave and stand up against the last administration was right. Tinapakan ang kanilang karapatan at ginamit sila upang mapataas ang collection sa quarry pero in the end, kinuha nila [Panlilio administration] ang credit and achievements. Now they are back and they are proving there were anomalies then and the pressure now for them to prove that the trust of the new administration of Gov. Pineda would not go to naught is bigger," said Reyes.

Memories of picket days

Recalling how they ended up at a 256-day picket at Arnedo Park, the former Balas Boys simply smiled as they claimed being finally vindicated.

"No food, no resources. Most had nothing to feed their families. Many fell sick. But we stood our ground to fight for what we thought was right," De Leon said, adding he was thankful it was finally over.

The protesters then, on the night of July 10, were ordered dispersed by Panlilio. But the order just sparked a series of events that stirred the province. On the Balas picket line converged Kambilan's Panlilio Recall Movement and the infamous "trucker storm" where hundreds of quarry trucks from the equally irked Federation of Pampanga Truckers, Inc. barged into the Capitol in December 2008 to denounce the former governor's insistence to implement the repealed Ordinance 276.

The protest also saw Arnedo Park becoming a freedom park. It only took a typhoon to break the picket line and quell the controversial rally. (Jovi T. De Leon)