Today's Punto
Today's Punto
By Bong Lacson

Jul 11, 2017

UNGIFTED OF fluency in the amanung sisuan, I held the supreme envy to Ed Aguilar.

His mastery of the meter and the rhyme in Kapampangan crosses effortlessly between poetry and prose, making his Que Sio Que Tal truly a reader’s delight, and now – with his demise last week – an irretrievable loss.

Sorely shall Ed, best known for his media moniker Macky Pangan, be missed too in press conferences which he always spiced up with his impromptu poesia on whatever was at issue. How he laughed when we prefaced his introduction to these events with the horrorific puñetang Kapampangan, punning the poeta in the aguman he belonged to.

My first meeting with Ed was in a rather hostile environment – at McDonald’s Dolores junction, would you believe? Over burgers and fries we had a rather spirited debate surrogating for our respective gubernatorial bets in the 1995 polls: he championing the Don Pepito Mercado, his Minalin townmate; I trying to intellectualize the uncolleged Lito Lapid.

Even as we wrote for the same paper – The Voice – for some time, we tended to end up on opposite sides, primarily on the presidents of the Clark Development Corp. and contending local politicians. But this did not detract us from cultivating a friendship that led to the formation of the Society of Pampanga Columnists, an informal aggrupation of opinion wielders that dies a little after every passing of its members, starting with Rolly Lingat of Balita, followed by Ody Fabian of The Voice, then “associate member” Rizal Policarpio of The Angeles Observer.

Come to think of it, as much an impact to the life of the SPC as the death of its members was the dissolution of Old Manila at SM City Pampanga, our group’s unofficial clubhouse. Of the storied coffeeshop, I rhapsodized in August 2011 thus:

IT TUGS at the heartstrings. And Bette Midler’s poignant take on the Beatles’ In My Life made it all the more heartrending –

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments

Moments memorialized, enshrined in one’s very core.

Of Old Manila – premium choice pre-Starbucks – where the brew was good, and the café crowd even better.

Where Pidiong Mendoza – political strategist par excellence – extended his stroke-impaired existence some more years, dispensing political wisdom he gained from the gilded age of Philippine politics – the Puyat era, to the Aber Canlas and Midying Bondoc years.

Misty-eyed Pidiong ruing he would not live long enough to see Puyat-Bondoc scion Rimpy realize his father’s Capitol dream. Only to raise his hand against the son, clasping the hand instead of rival gubernatorial bet Rep. Zeny Cruz-Ducut. (In the 2004 elections).

Yes, Madame Zeny flanked by Pidiong and newsman Ody Fabian in one flash of glory, arms outstretched in victory. That did not come. Ody and Pidiong now long dead. Zeny lives, and serves, as chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Old Manila did indeed brew politics more than Arabica and Robusta beans.

Almost daily habitué – from 2 p.m. onwards was Apalit Mayor Tirso G. Lacanilao – the G for guapo spelled g-a-g-o, as he was wont to say – made good copy for mediamen, his smallest anecdotes of little town governance enough to make the pages of the papers, his soundbytes getting substantial airtime, the next day.

Tirso’s soliloquy on his brand of politics perfunctorily cut with text messages on his mobile that signaled the coming of some comely lass, her going only after some wads of cash in her hands and a doble beso on the mayor’s cheeks. Always to the amusement of his audience.

When Tirso was not around, it was the man he dethroned, Oscar Tetangco, Sr. that held court, usually huddled in some serious talk with five friends.

One day in 2004, the coffee crowd got crowded out of Old Manila, human-fenced as it was, two-persons thick, the object of overprotection there was Mexico’s new Mayor Teddy Tumang. A first-and-last appearance there though for the nemesis of Alyas Tigas, as he preferred the blend of UCC coff ee.

Two other mayors that took their regular mugs at the Old Manila were Macabebe’s Bobong Flores and San Simon’s Digos Canlas, the latter later finding the way of Tumang at UCC too.

Making good copy and conversationalist too over cup-after-cup of Americano and espresso was Architect Normandy Canlas, best known for being the designer of the yet-to-be-realized Marcos mausoleum. Normandy has made his mark in the changing city landscape.

Then, how could we ever miss the agedefying Lotharios that regularly converged at Old Manila, as much for the sweet, sweet smell of brewed Arabica as for the even sweeter despatsadoras of Folded and Hung, Plains and Prints, Naf-Naf and Giordano. The guy’s runner, Coffeeboy Cris lugging McDo, Jollibee, Wendy’s, KFC and Tokyo! Tokyo! goodies was ever a welcome – and regular – sight to the ladies.

Of the lover boys at Old Manila, no one came even close to Daddy-O, fondly called Gokongwei, a US-based octogenarian whose credit card-fi lled wallet was triple the thickness of the blueberry pie Old Manila served.

Daddy-O, day-after-day, six months a year, motored from Sta. Ana, promptly took his seat at Old Manila at 10:15 a.m. and was fetched as promptly at 8:30 p.m.

In between, two ladies at a time – in varying degrees of pulchritude but fixed age bracket of 19-21 – came a-calling to Daddy-O and then, abresiete at his left and right, made a paseo around the mall, returning in two hours, lugging bags, bags, and more bags, of assorted colors and labels.

Soon as Daddy-O got his seat and ordered another cup of coffee, came the goodbye kisses from the girls. And Daddy-O waited for the next bilmoko set.

With his penchant for charity towards beauties-in-need, it did not take long for Daddy-O to fall victim to the budol-budol uglies. Yes, the crime was perpetrated over coffee.

Old Manila ambience vanished with La Nilad taking in retro-modern setting. Still, the old crowd – minus the assassinated Tirso – religiously trooped in.

Local papers even made an editorial spot out of La Nilad, copyreading, editing and layouting right there whenever there was power outage in the city.

How many ground-shaking exposes, hardhitting commentaries and bitter criticism found conception and expression at Old Manila and La Nilad, no mediaman can accurately count. Not even the precise and concise Macky Pangan, aka Dan U. Pan, aka Dan Monyus, the most regular of all coffee confederates at the place.

Sad, so sad. Indeed, for all of us that La Nilad is also no more. Thanks for the wonderful memories anyways.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love…them all.

OLD MANILA brews again up there. Macky joining Rolly, Ody and Rizal, Pidiong and Tirso. Ah, what stories they must be making!

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