Sunday, August 27, 2017

When Man’s Dignity and Respectability Play Second Fiddle to an Accoutrement



Once read a flippant study in the US about how everyday motorists show certain attitudes in public.  The study was executed quite simply, watching and recording behavior of motorists while idling in front of an intersection waiting for the lights to turn.

And the expected results came out quite cut and dried.  When an expensive car like a Mercedes (that was then the example given) tarries a bit after the lights turn, there was a marked though muted hesitance of those in the back to start honking their horns.  Not in the case of a more common and less-expensive car because almost immediately angry horns would start blaring at the first sign of delay.

The obvious inference was that those in the back associate expensive cars with important and influential people and thus the hesitance, and maybe, the fear to enrage the mighty and powerful.  Not so with regular folks driving the typical sedans you see toiling around.

Nothing new here.  Especially in this age when perception is king. A local Hizzoner who initially portrayed himself as the spokesperson of the masa was noted upon his election to have selected the most expensive SUV to be found locally, instead of taking possession of the former mayor’s still-looking-new and expensive service car. One to commemorate and to measure up to a newly-minted exalted position?

Anyway, this behavior is true in the US, and true everywhere else I dare say.  And I cull from my own personal experiences to drive home this well-worn point

Here in the old homeland, I typically have 3 options of vehicles to drive.  There was a 4th one, a two-wheeler, but because of real imminent dangers to life and limb decided to consign it to the mountains for some other use.

Lucky me?  Not really, since all 3 of them are quite old – the latest one having come out in 2007, the oldest a remnant of 1995, and the 3rd, a pretender of a vehicle bought over 10 years ago.  Anyway, they all have one general purpose, to get me from Point A to Point B said idiomatically, with the least amount of accompanying problems like ease of parking, and maneuverability in narrowed streets and traffic jams.  Thus, for certain specific purposes and occasions, each fills the bill which the 2 others would not be able to do as well.  Thus my choices as to which vehicle to use would be predicated by the purpose or purposes of the trip. 

In Cagayan de Oro, with all the attendant traffic problems plaguing the city, the ideal would have been the motorbike.  It could go most anywhere, even on sidewalks and parking would pose no problem. But the lurking trade-off is the risk to one’s health, both physical and mental. So on to the next best options.

Since we are dealing with behavior of motorists, one can say outright that the vehicle that gets the least respect and courtesy is the smallish and cheap Multicab van, and the one that is better deferred to would be the DMax, I guess partly because of its very robust engine and size.  And thus, its overall price. And the oldest one the L200 pick-up is in the middle, at times getting some respect but in most other times treated like the aged senior citizen that it is.

So how do all of this translate or play out into the reality that driving around the  streets of the city on any given day is?

For sure, driving the Multicab literally means getting no respect or quarter at all.  From all and sundry.  Not from the huge and shiny SUVs with their deeply-tinted windows.  Certainly not from the gargantuan trucks oozing out of the city’s narrow streets.  Not from the devil-may-care jeepneys/taxis and other public utilities.   Not from the relas who live in a world all to their own.  Not from the pesky pedicabs sprouting all over the place.  And yes, not even from the wayward pedestrians and the traffic enforcers when they are around.  Why, last Friday one RTA personnel manning a busy intersection could not help himself mutter within earshot how slow my Multicab was in clearing the intersection he was trying to keep from tangling.

This means none of them would give you an inch of right of way even if you waited till kingdom come.  Unless one forces the issue on them, playing a dangerous game of chicken.  And worse, all of them including the noisy motorbikes, will literally steal into your lane or where you find yourself driving, solely at their own pleasure and discretion and no amount of honking could even get the attention of those deaf and dumb motorists.  Though one knows they hear all right.

Yes, the multicab hereabouts could be deemed the perennial concept vehicle of the masa.  They are just so utilitarian and so darn cheap vehicles they can be used for anything and everything – as service car, as family van, as public utility, as whatever.  No wonder not only the masa but including polite society can only show derision and loathing for such low class.  And if you drive one, consider yourself as having been dumped into the same dire category. Getting no respect or courtesy at all, or any quarter given.

But when not driving the multicab, the gray L200 comes in very handy.  Old enough as to not worry about dings and dents, but quite reliable enough because of its older model diesel engine.  Has good loading capacity for short hauls.  Except driving it leads to a bit of confusion, because somehow one is not sure how the rest of the traffic denizens would regard it.  Like I said at times they show it some respect, and because of it one is not left languishing behind in busy intersections.  And one has clout enough to play the game of chicken when the need arises.  Still the classier guys those driving such new and nice SUVS with deeply-tinted windows will dismiss you because you are old and thus not worth much and definitely out of their league. They will most likely not give you the time of day in terms of right of way and exclusivity of driving lanes, preferring to ease you to a corner where you can only wait for them to pass you by to breathe in their noxious exhaust.  This they can do because they are newer and with more muscles, and because they can.

But driving the DMax is a totally different experience.  Why you could even play devil-may-care road hog if you had the mind and bent to do so. You feel you are on top of the world, cruising gallantly and victoriously through the rubble and trash called the rest of traffic.   Why you make people feel that you are the king of the road, having your way with traffic rules and regulations as strictures to be observed only by those who are less gifted and blessed.   Thus parking regulations cannot claim you as part of their domain, but for you to lord over them, at times with a simple flick of the hazard light button even in the middle of the street with traffic crawling all over. In the world of the lawless, you are on 7th heaven.

Then one wakes up and realizes one cannot be happy or at ease entertaining such lofty presumptions.   Rather one wants to play the role of civic-minded motorist trying to obey traffic regulations in the hope of improving the chaotic situation. Like the proverbial candle lighted in that stormy sea of lawlessness

Still, it is nice to think that when I drive that DMax one could actually explore an upside-down world. A world where individuality reigns, rather than the common good.  Or where selfish personal whims pre-empt social goals.





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 changed 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.