Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Tale Twice, or Thrice Told


If time were not a moving thing and we could make it all stay, then I would wish that the blissful memories lovingly stored in my mind would stay the same and constant.

But it is not to be for time inexorably moves on, and most typically its harsh elements bring the unwanted ravages many of us are unwilling to accept.

And so it is while intently revisiting the place where an over-sized family once stayed and grew up.  A small place in the heart of the city just beginning to flex its young muscles in the decade of the 50’s. The old timber house built in 1948 on a hundred square meter lot has now been gone decades, but somehow its immediate vicinity has managed to stem the tides of time, keeping its looks much like they were in the 50’s.

What remains then are the microcosmic haunts that I as a kid used to spend interminable time , whether at play, in study, or just in idle moments which as kids in the idyllic 50’s we had plenty of.

One such favored place was the covered walkway separating the two houses of my father and that of her elder sister on the Victoria St. side. It may have been no more than 3 meters wide and 10 meters long.  The underside of my aunt’s staircase limiting our movements at one end, and our outdoor bath and laundry room on the other end.  This place was perpetually dark, dank, and dirty, making the soil loamy and rancid.  But while there we were sheltered from the sun and rain.  So there we played our geolens game, pock-marking the place with the shallow holes we needed for the play.  Many idle moments witnessed our noisy presence in that small cramped space, none the worse for its limitations in size.  In times past as I got older, I would find myself smirking as I pass that area, being reminded of even earlier times.  The images attached are now those of the current day, and a lifetime apart from my childhood.  Still the memories linger and haunt.

 On the Del Mar St. side, another lot owned by a younger sister of my father, stayed vacant for a good part of the 50’s.  And so that became our playground, sunny and expansive, all of 200 square meters and where once stood a very proud tambis tree.   At some point, a crude timber garage structure under GI roofing was built at the back to accommodate a couple of vehicles.  Still farther back was the laundry-drying area where strung laundry lines swayed in the wind.  Thus most days one could find my hardworking mom mechanically going through the self-same routines of drying laundry for a household with nine kids.

And so this multi-purpose space was the scene of many of our youthful mishaps, like learning to ride a bike, carefully climbing the tree for its delicious fruits, clambering on the trusses and joists of the garage structure, deep in our pretend games of being vine-swinging Tarzan and the other Hollywood heroes we had accumulated in our youth.  I even played knife-throwing Errol Flynn, using the poor tree as target. And so forth. 

And yes, we even had some left-over space to maintain a little vegetable garden where sibuyas and kamatis, and pechay were planted.  At times chasing after the pesky talisik or the bigger talapan which were bountiful then.

I particularly as a kid spent much time in my escapist thoughts in this area, mindlessly engrossed in my own pretend world oblivious of all the distractions around.

 All this ended when my aunt decided to build a house in that vacant lot.  So we got restricted and hemmed in to our side of our house, with very little access to the back where the laundry was dried.  Reliving those days you would still witness my mom inching her way through a narrowed path to hang her laundry.

And to this day, laundry still hangs on that area where slivers of sunshine could still penetrate during certain hours of the day.

Yes, time moves on.  At times slow and painstaking, at times completely obliterating the past.   Regardless, my memories are my own and only I can discard them.


Friday, August 11, 2017



Over these many years, I have on my own undertaken the unwanted task of tracing our family’s lineage, which is part and parcel of the Neri Genealogy of Mindanao.

This I did for a couple of reasons.  Growing up, parents and most grown-ups were quite cavalier about blood relationships.  Most everybody you met was declared as your relative, with typically nary an explanation or reason why.  So I grew up confused who my true relatives were, apart from those I closely interacted with.  So learning this part of the past would not only be exhilarating but satisfying in unraveling one’s confusion about relations.

Secondly, if I was confused I can only imagine how much more confused my children would be, especially because they have essentially very little contact with even very close relatives.  So again, tracing lineage would be to their benefit.

With the formidable task undertaken, one has then become privy to and in possession of certain facts, not known then and especially those that run counter to what local myths have in the meantime been allowed to propagate and prosper.

Sensing that to this day some myths, unproved legends, or even untruths are allowed to be made public without challenges, the following is undertaken to dispel them and enlighten members about what we can claim with some certainty about our genealogy and heritage.

First off, and I may be touching delicate grounds here, the Neri-Chaves Genealogy is not the Neri Genealogy, the former being only a branch, a branch typical in size, of the whole tree.  The whole tree as known and confirmed to this day is composed of other branches, some identified only informally while others more formally.  If Neri-Chaves is one, others would be the Neri-San Jose, the Neris of Bohol, Neri-Velez which has split into smaller branches, Neri-Fernandez, and maybe even the Neris of Tagoloan.   We even have the case of a Chinese national who was naturalized and took on the last name of one of his patrons who was a Neri.  That branch if we can call it that produced Pedro “Oloy” Neri Roa who is known far and large for his great wealth and selfless government service.

The hyphenated names of the branches came about because in their instances a set of siblings married another set of siblings to form a truly much closer and special relationships with the offspring.  This was true with the Neri-Chaves, true also with Neri-San Jose, and so forth

As to our likely beginnings, the jury is still out on this.

Our earliest claim had been that we descended from some Moslem tribe (Samporna) who came to our place in Northern Mindanao, intermarried with a local and converted to Christianity.  A certain parish priest named Rev. Pedro de Santa Barbara officiated and assigned the name Neri to those so given the sacrament.  And this happened in 1779 and Church record does show that during that time the parish priest was indeed one Fr. De Santa Barbara.  Still we cannot point to any historical record whether written or oral confirming all this.

But of recent times, we had been reliably informed that there is historical record written as an eye-witness account by a Jesuit historian named Pablo Pastells.  He narrated that sometime in July of 1879, a Datu Samporna and companions formalized their admission to the Spanish crown in Cagayan, via conversion by christening.

The two accounts are separated a 100 years apart!  But we do show that in 1879, we already had Neris living in Cagayan de Oro, as ancestors of current-day descendants.  One of them was Juan Neri (1807-1857) who was married to Anastacia Chaves.  He started the Neri-Chaves line.  

It is wise to note also that with regard to our Moslem roots, we in the same vein also have to accept our lumad or native roots, since the alleged Moslem who intermarried did so with a lumad or native since their kind were then inhabiting our place.   No mention or reference is found that the Moslem married any daughter of the Spanish conquerors.

There is no known crest, coat of arms, or logo for the Neri Clan. The coat of arms one may spot in some postings was created during the 1985 gathering that I believe was for lack of a better term officially called the Neri-Chaves First Grand Reunion. It was created for that reunion and is similarly identified as that of the Neri-Chaves Clan.

One can easily glean from that reunion that the intent of the organizing group was for the entire Neri Clan to organize and for the first time, commit to writing their particular ancestors.  Thus, we had entries from all the Neri branches then known, and not only from the Neri-Chaves branch.  Why the name was not then change to reflect the greater scope, one can only surmise.

But through the little study I had done, we are discovering the revealing facts about the Neri Genealogy.

Interested members of the entire clan ought to continue the task of uncovering more facts of the genealogy, so that our claims to heritage and lineage can be gradually moved from the heights of legend or myth, to the solid ground of facts and historical record.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

My Story

Numismatics, or Coin Collecting

July 31, 2017

 Coins are the footprints of history….

Picked up my first coin collectible in high school in the 50’s, when I literally picked up a shiny US silver quarter which I found lying on the ground close to the cashier’s office of the school.

That initiated a nascent interest and devotion for the activity of collecting not only metal coins but also paper currencies of any and all countries in the world.  And in my personal case, the infectious drive to collect extended to most anything that caught my fancy, like ball pens, baseball caps, pencils, even assorted wrenches. BTW, that orphaned coin is still in my possession.

I cannot be described as having the kind of driven or addictive interests many collectors exhibit, but simply as being egged on by the kind of random and unplanned spark of interest one could generate going about one’s everyday living of life, by simply allowing oneself to get taken in by serendipitous opportunities that enrich the hobby.

And as fate would have it, I got employed in the local banking system, which provided fertile grounds for me to pursue my avocation.  And when the family migrated to the US, the wife for her turn got employed by a bank and spent almost a quarter of a century under its tutelage.  Opening more productive opportunities to broaden and make richer the collection that was slowly approaching critical mass.

Now, many years later, I can take stock of what I have gathered as accounted by the least efforts expended, and even with scant resources set aside for its purposes.

I may now own over a thousand pieces of coins from different parts of the globe filling in about two dozen folders, and with some loose special ones lying around.  All of them mounted and inserted into folders. And another separate folder for the paper currencies that are part of the hoard. Heavy and substantial enough, that one would be hard-put to carry all of them singly if they were all loaded into one big suitcase.

Thus at this more relaxed stage and at a time when one feels the time ripe, I am setting aside more time to sort, assess, and do research on the assorted items in my possession.

It would be safe to assume that the collection has over the years accumulated substantial values in dollar amounts.

At a rather leisurely pace and time, I am slowly getting ideas of the probable and possible values these coins may have on the markets, from the low ends to the highest possible.

In US Numismatics, the silver Morgan dollar is the darling of many, the Holy Grail for some, idolized and desired for its beauty, design, size and silver content.  Similarly then, the over two dozen pieces I have enjoy a special place and regard.

But so do the many others from different parts of the globe, and spanning many mintage years of their existence. And for many due to their age, demonetization has caught up with them.  And thus those who continue to hold on to them, consider their numismatic values instead, or the melt value of the metals they are made up

In many European countries especially those who have since joined with EU, their old currencies have been all replaced with the EU coinage and currency making the former all demonetized and out of circulation.  





Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Gaping Disconnect I See

                                                                 Trump Papal Visit 
Each morning I ease myself in front of my little computer desk, reflexively picking out 2 of 3 small books on the attached little shelf, to be read as the central core of my daily devotional rote.  The dog-eared Imitation Christ by T. a’ Kempis and Jesus Christ Son of God by Fr. A. Goodier, SJ, both holdovers from my ancient days in high school, surviving all these years in spite of daily use. Two aged books which unrelentingly and without tamed excuses depict the extreme vicissitudes and the coarse simplicities, which characterized the entire life of Christ, and His equally difficult admonitions and demands for those who dare to follow him.  I tell you reading and perpetually re-reading  these on a daily basis has brought me deeply-furrowed wrinkles and troubled soul way beyond anything that could be considered normal, albeit that I now have already advanced terribly in years.

On the other hand, the linked article and a covey of similar stories, which pseudo-politely tries to explain why the Trump ladies are dressed in black in a visit to the Pope, who we Catholics reverently declare as the Vicar of our Jesus Christ, Son of God.  And by the way, they detail further that there are certain ladies from European royalty who are allowed to wear white.  Blest with special privileges for being devoted followers of Christ. Bless their benign souls, birthright has its privileges.  And another item thinly disguised as impartial takes a snipe sidewise at the somber look that the Pope had during the pictorial commemorating the Trump visit.  Implying a look of sadness and displeasure, having to deal with a head of state with coarse manners and one who made bad martial decisions, and of course, a current wife who had such a less than stellar prior life  as scantily-clad model.

Given the labored respectful tone that several articles postured in narrating this particular visit and the details provided, one, or maybe just me, may be disposed to think that the Pope may have been “enslaved” by archaic  pomp and heraldry.  Chokingly bound not just with cumbersome niceties, but with a whole host of nuanced protocols he has to religiously follow as Vicar of Christ.  Indeed, the papal office especially for this kind of visitors must weigh heavy on him.  And what about all those pompous ceremonies he has to observe with other important heads of state and global dignitaries, etc.?

Observe the disconnect?

Jesus Christ, the overarching potentate, albeit mystical, in the midst of all this, could not have been more diametrically different, and a way out of place stranger in all these circumstances and retelling.  One could not find anyone more unconcerned and uncaring about such silly protocols and such petty or maybe hypocritical observances.

His lifelong association was with the poor, the sinners, the disenfranchised, the simple and the pure of heart. He sincerely and truly felt more at home and at ease with them, rather than with those who presumably hold temporal powers and influence in the world. Shying away from the more cultured and supposedly refined and sensitized ones. He avoided like the plague practices and beliefs steeped in petty ceremonies.  Stayed away from those who represented temporal power and wealth and instead proudly walked with the simple and fish-smelly folks.

Thus, some are wont say that if Christ were to come back and relive his mission, he would not recognize those who carry and supposedly honor his name and represent his kingdom.

And neither would they also recognize him, much less accept him.  A stranger in his very own country.

Ironic shades of his original visit?  A gentle leader despised and finally butchered and sacrificed in the altar of misplaced correctness, and dogma.

 So be it.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Down Memory Hole: Spending 3 Years in Old Manila


The 60’s ushered in a number of propitious events that electrified the world’s collective attention.  But for a wide-eyed probinsiano like me, the ensuing decade marked only unwanted changes that on the surface would be quite alien to the idyllic existence lived in a sleepy town.

I was abruptly moved to Manila from Cagayan de Oro to live with my father’s family on the latter months of 1959.  Just out of high school and having earned a year of college, I was set to continue my interrupted studies in fabled Manila.

For the trip, I was tasked not only to take care of myself but also of a younger sister who needed medical attention in Manila.

Since it was my first trip to Manila, there was obvious unease and discomfiture during the trip.  The 3-day boat trip did provide sufficient idle time to mull over the coming new existence.  On arrival, only a few moments of apprehension were expended since my older brother did arrive on time to fetch us.  After a  confusing jeepney drive through unfamiliar streets, I found myself at my father’s rented flat nestled in old Malate, a quiet bedroom-community, which formed part of old Manila.

That would be home for me for the next 3 years in which time I would earn my first bachelor’s degree.  This labored recollection then is about this inauspicious place of existence which grudgingly does have lasting impressions on me, not so much for its grandiosity and grand experiences, but as testament to how humanity can live, or survive, which is the more apt term, with so little of the usual amenities many families take for granted.

For a start, here are three coarse sketches to enable one to zero in on where exactly is this place.  Looking at any map of old Manila, one easily finds the district of Malate, being only several kilometers from downtown Manila going south.  Its street names were mostly those of US states, and this we learned that that was because during the American occupation, mercenary troops from different states encamped in the same areas.  Many of the street names have been changed in the interim.

My father’s rented flat was inside a fenced compound, which was bounded on two sides by two streets.  One side faced or opened into noted Remedios St. which to this day I hear continues to be a popular avenue to visit. Based on today’s standards, its rows of about ten two-storey timber houses would be considered as decrepit and low class.  Aged in looks and short on maintenance.

Our flat was on the ground floor of the elevated building, which stood on exposed timber posts atop concrete piers.

It was partitioned in a typical fashion, 3 bedrooms with one closet that could double up as ironing room, or even sleeping room.  And only one toilet and bath and whatever leftover space as living/dining room.

I recall to add needed space, my father had spent a little sum to add an outside open terrace on the side, where chairs could be located.  And we could hang out during warm nights

The entire place as described would be at any given time home to at least 12 people, and at times as many as 18 people.  While the number may surprise people, those who lived on it know exactly how we all fitted in doing everything needed, like a place to sleep, to eat, to converse, to watch tv, and yes, even to attend to bathroom needs including taking a bath or shower.

Whether because there was just too many of us, or maybe because the place was just too old and in neglectful disrepair, we had always experienced clogs in the sole toilet and bath that needed assistance coming from the compound’s office.   No doubt, we had become friends with the people sent to our place, given the number we had had to deal with them.  This prompted one of our intermittent residents to name the flat, the MV Barado.  And we all had a hearty chuckle when we heard this.

The room assigned to us was Room 3, and we were all boys in there.  Two double-decks were flushed to the sides, and a foldable cot would still have enough space in the middle.  For a study desk, another older brother had assembled together parts of an old wooden “baol” nailed to the window jamb.  So a total of 5 occupants to our room, all of us still schooling.  How we managed to study under such trying conditions is still a wonder.  We all did accomplish what we had willed to, that older brother even finishing difficult medical school some time later in the future.

Seven other children called that home, too. And they were all crammed in another room, Room 2, a bit bigger but not much bigger, or big enough. And most if not all of them went to school, too.

Under this mish-mash of conditions, this microscopic place was always a frenzied beehive of activity, noise, and interaction.  Not a moment of serene quiet or inactivity.  Somehow, like a colony of ants, rarely were the incidents of conflicts, crashes, and even incidents of sorrow and/or despair.   We just all dropped our heads, did what was needed to be done, and plodded on to the next day.  Until years had been accumulated and crossed out.

By the way, all this put together and made possible by the financial inputs of one man, my father, who was the only member of the extended household who had a permanent job.  He was an attorney for the biggest government commercial bank in the country.  One attorney in a Legal Department that had a slew of lawyers working there.   Since I had on one occasion peeped at his paycheck, I could testify to the miraculous way that he had been able to keep us all together.  The amount involved even in my youthful estimation barely sufficient to cover rent and food.

After those 3 eventful years, my father decided to uproot lock, stock, and barrel, and move back to Cagayan de Oro.  And this we all did, riding in one slow boat back to the old hometown.

Everything ended, but for the stubborn memories of those trying years eking out an existence in some strange land.