Mercado: Toy Soto and other newsmen

NOT every Pampango newsman would reach 85 as Hector “Toy” Soto did. He was buried yesterday in Mabalacat City where he was once the town’s Officer in Charge after Edsa I.

Soto, the real veteran in local journalism, belonged to the famous Bacolor cultural-literati clan of the same name. If he did not have the genius of his forebear, the great Crissot, he carried the fierce pride of being a Bacoloreño, with lofty aspirations in writing and the performing arts.

I remember him as my partner at the PC-INP Region 3 based in Camp Olivas, being editorial consultants during a large part of the martial law regime.

One of his bitter experiences was when his son was abducted, a victim of suspect “salvaging.” He felt bad that the organization (PC-INP) he was working for has not succeeded in getting the son’s killers.

Hector’s passing brings back memories of our departed colleagues. I do not have their dates of departure but only the places where they came from.

Preceding Soto in writing ‘30’ were Emerito de Jesus, Remberto “Boots” Maglaqui, Ulpiano Quizon, Armando Baluyut, and Art San Pedro, all of Bacolor town.

From Guagua came great newsmen in the late Silvestre Songco, Antonio Torres, and Alejandrino “Toto” Songco.

Apalit is the hometown of Macario “Mac” Fabian; Marcelino “Mar” Pangilinan was from Minalin. Fabian’s sons “Ody” and Dante resided in the Mabalacat-Angeles area.

Broadcaster Pedro M. Sangil came from Porac, the poet-commentator Jose M. Gallardo from Candaba. Rolando Lingat, radio man-columnist was an Angeleño, like most popular duo in their time, Lino Sanchez, Jr. and Tomas San Pedro who were raised in Bamban, Tarlac. Lito Suarez was an Angeleño, too.

Lawyer Renato “Katoks” Tayag hailed from Angeles, a sui generis in intellect and status. He was looked up to by local newspaperman as their patron.

--oo0oo--

The late Angelito D. “Lito” Pangilinan lived the most troubled and tumultuous life. When he was not busy doing newspaper work, he was the operating officer of the family-owned Funeraria Pangilinan on Sto Cristo, Angeles City. Lito was the only Pampango student who became editor of the Advocate, FEU’s student organ.

I used to live in Sto. Cristo, Angeles where the city public cemetery was located. Funeraria Pangilinan was the authorized city undertaker for pauper burials -- the homeless sick and aged who just dropped dead in alleys, or some murder victims thrown in city streets.

Residents in Sto. Cristo knew when Lito Pangilinan was taking an unknown dead to the Patirik-tirik. He played the sound track of “Django” movies on the old limousine that he drove the unknown dead to their pauper’s burial.

Lito’s best friend was the famous Rizal Policarpio who, like me today, is still hobbling around and alive. Some decades back, the two had a good time at the Café Fernandino in San Fernando. It was Lito’s day off from burial duty. Earlier in the week he was seen in a leisure walk along Burgos Street wearing a woman’s skirt. He used to go public in his palda after a spat with his old man.

Because it was Lent and the two newsmen were abstaining from meat, they ordered the most expensive seafood dishes, including lobster thermidor and lapu-lapu con salsa. When he got drunk, Lito fancied the “Abalone Ala Vizcaina” which cost an arm. Rizal went along with the idea thinking Lito had plenty of money earned from his job as burial detail.

When it was time to pay, they could not pay the bill. They tried to pawn Lito’s Seiko. The sanglaan at Ocampo’s and Dayrit’s by the church would not accept the cheap watch.

The owners called the police who put them to jail. How they came out of jail is another story as Lito’s old man, Councilor Magno would not ransom his favorite son. To spite the old man, he had increased his public appearances in his palda outfit.

--oo0oo--

When I paid my last respects to Toy Soto last Thursday (with Max, No.1 Councilor to be) the two worldly possessions that defined Toy’s life were there: a vintage rundown Volks car with its patented 3-decade old “masilya” coat and his fighting cocks. The roosters were tethered beside his small house in Brgy. Talimundok where the deceased lied in state.

His neighbor-caretaker Ben said since Toy’s death two days earlier his prized roosters have not crowed even at dawn when the cocks would regularly welcome the break of day.
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