A long time ago, they were Boy Scouts.

A troop of Boy Scouts who loved basketball.

And so nations rose.

There were the Trail Blazers.

There were almost every Indian nation to speak off.

And there were the Apaches who play basketball against the 'nations".

While the other nations vanished after a long time, the Apaches lived on and prospered.

Now apparently, they are the only nation left.

IT WAS 1939. It was the height of American presence here. This highland paradise that they created with help from locals and to become the country's "Summer Capital."

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Some nights were filled with songs, around a camp fire, near tents that serve as teepees. These are songs that will be remembered during the city's bleakest hours, when the nation was under the boot of a country wanting dominion of this part of the world. It was the songs that carried a young lieutenant back here. A promise that he will do his best "to serve god, country and his fellow" fearing no guns, surviving the Death March that killed thousands of Filipino soldiers and American GIs. Then join the guerilla that helped liberate not only Baguio but also Benguet along the way.

Seventy-one years later, their sons carried on. Their son's sons. And friends they found along the way and whose hearts have been set on the stones of this mountain city. And so on.

Conrado Bueno has been an Apache elder for almost 20 years. He is the son of a pioneer family who produced among others a general and a former mayor of this city, also an Apache.

He has no baton, but he leads a few braves as they honor one of their comrades who has gone to the great beyond, where the "buffalos roam with the Grand Chief." He was the maestro that every gesture would indicate a change of note, raising both hands would mean that the tone must be higher, or that he would gesture down, down and the others obey. He would say the lyrics before a stanza and the younger braves will sing along, seemingly like the lead man of a quartet.

And he crooned: "The big black bull came down from the mountain, a long time ago." And his juniors, some of them councilors, respected members of Baguio society followed. It was Apache night, delivering their necrological service to an old member, Philip Carino, at the Baguio Memorial Chapel recently.

"We remember him as part of the Apache, our manong and this night is for him to remember the fun we had with him, but sad, that he has no son to carry on. But his family will always be welcome to join us during our big bonfire," said past chief Rudy Paraan, whose father was one of the first to join the group. His father, Francisco or Ping, was the young lieutenant in 1945 who would become chief of police and later, mayor of the city.

"We have songs that old members used to sing to uplift their spirits because it was war," said Jarvey de Leon, a new brave, during an orientation recently of new peons (applying Apaches) nearly 20 years his senior or even more.

"But we should know the songs by heart," he added.

ormer college hooper Rocky Runez spent three years as a peon, then as a young college graduate and wanting to be a second generation Apache. His father, Rudy, was, like him, a former college cager who joined the ranks of the Apaches.

"Those songs I heard my father sing as a kid and which later I have to know by heart as peon and then as a brave," he added.

On a late rainy Sunday afternoon, Apache members inside the teepee of past chief Rey Bautista in Tuding, Itogon, Bueno led members to sing some of the songs they sang as kids. Songs that Runez, de Leon and the numerous Bautista boys, like Derek who was present, will hopefully pass on to their kids - songs that the Apache sang "a long time ago..."