CULTURAL POTPOURRI| My La Salle Homecoming 2017

MY OLD hometown of Silay City, Negros Occidental, looks the same as I stepped down from my Cebu Pacific direct flight from Davao City to the Silay-Bacolod Domestic Airport last November 27. I could never be happier in this sentimental journey of mine as my cousin, the former Silay City Mayor Edwin Dakudao Velez, and his artistic wife, Ruby Cordova-Velez, fetched me themselves at the airport. I was back in my hometown to join my La Salle Elementary batch which celebrates its 44th year; and my La Salle High School batch which is this year’s Ruby Jubilarians. The La Salle University Alumni Reunion is scheduled this December 29, 2017.

LA Salle High School (Bacolod) Batch of 1977

LA Salle High School (Bacolod) Batch of 1977

     The La Salle High School batch to which I belong entered high school with the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos proclaiming Martial Law. When we graduated from high school, we were only about 72 students as some of our classmates transferred to other schools earlier owing to controversial remarks issued by some of the La Salle Brothers against the sugar hacienderos. Take note that the La Salle University-Bacolod City property was donated by one of the most prominent sugar hacienderos of Bacolod City—the Montelibano family. Mind you, but there was no ordinary student of La Salle High School in my batch. Everybody was special.

MASS at the La Salle Chapel designed by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin

MASS at the La Salle Chapel designed by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin

     The first thing I did, thanks to my cousins who drove me, was to visit Central Hawaiian, a sugar central in Silay City, where we lived for almost two decades. My dad, Dr. Santiago Lacson Dakudao, Jr., was a resident physician of the Silay-Saravia Medical Center who conscientiously treated patients who were mostly farm laborers in the sugar haciendas and of course, their “amos.” I was shocked and brokenhearted to see the physicians’ houses, including ours, now demolished. It felt like this sentimental journey was a closure to my happy Negrense life of the past. I was also brought around Silay City to see the majestic houses of the wealthy hacienderos of yesteryears who, somehow, were related to one another through the power of intermarriages. It’s my grandmother, Carmen Lacson-Dakudao, who strengthened our ties that bind with the residents of Silay City, formerly known as the “Paris of Negros,” for obvious reasons.

A VISIT to my childhood friend Bob V. Medalla’s family

A VISIT to my childhood friend Bob V. Medalla’s family

     Thanks to Nicholas Puey Ledesma and his minions, they were able to gather our former classmates despite and in spite of our diminishing hairline, ever expanding girth, uncontrollable high blood pressure, failing memories, and more. The gathering at the Doña Corazon Locsin Montelibano Chapel designed by no less than the National Artist Leandro Valencia Locsin (a most honored son of Silay City) was such a sheer joy for everyone to be alive, well and happy as one big La Sallian family. I could hardly recognize some of my former classmates whom I haven’t seen for four decades. And so with some of my teachers who came to attend. Of course my classmates from Silay City led by Federico Alemany Locsin and Tony Lacson Jalandoni I don’t forget as we are relatives. Then there was my super achiever of a group, the top of my class, like Roberto V. Medalla of PNB (studied at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business), Luis Maria T. Bo-ot of UP Diliman (graduated from a Russian Institute with a degree in Nuclear Physics), Cris Millado of CCP, among others, who shine as is expected of them. In my batch as well are the politicians namely Dr. Patrick Escalante (Mayor of Cadiz City), Oscar Montilla (Mayor of Sipalay), Nicholas Yulo (Mayor of Bago City), Alfonso F. Gamboa (former Mayor of EB Magalona), and Gerry Rojas (Vice Mayor of Murcia). Other notables include Ramon Locsin Jocson (former IBM Prez and presently BPI Executive); Dwight Gaston (visual artist cum actor), Federico A. Locsin (head of the Confederation of Sugar Planters in the Philippines, and Tonette Lacson (a national martial arts champ), just to mention some.

MY LA Salle batch’s top three reunited at Apollo Restaurant (l-r): Roberto V. Medalla, Luis Ma. T. Bo-ot and Michael E. Dakudao

MY LA Salle batch’s top three reunited at Apollo Restaurant (l-r): Roberto V. Medalla, Luis Ma. T. Bo-ot and Michael E. Dakudao

     After the Holy Mass and a tour of the La Salle University-Bacolod campus grounds, we headed straight to Architects Felix and Cathy Hagad’s Bob’s Court where we dined on such delicious Ilonggo cuisine. We took the time to express our gratitude to our former teachers headed by Ms. Nilda Jumangit-Revil for their devotion, wisdom and tender loving care which nurtured us as we grew into what we have become today. As we reminisced about our old friendships, we were mindful of our classmates who are no longer with us. We thanked them for touching our lives in the past; and we prayed for peace and comfort to those who grieve still for their loss. I felt fortunate that Bob V. Medalla and I were finally able to visit the tomb of our close friend, Olric V. Yanson, whose family owns the Ceres Bus Liner. Olric died at the age of 24 due to a horrible motorcycle accident. He was my only classmate who gave me a gold necklace for a graduation gift which I treasure to this day. For me, that gift was more precious than the St Jean Baptiste de La Salle Award (the highest award given by La Salle), the Gerry Roxas Leadership Award, and the La Salle Loyalty Award I received from my alma mater.

LUNCHEON at Luigie de la Rama’s Hilltop Resort in Murcia

LUNCHEON at Luigie de la Rama’s Hilltop Resort in Murcia

Being in the top three of my batch, I thank my late father for allowing me to graduate in La Salle before the family moved back to Davao City at the time of the terrible downfall of Negros Occidental’s sugar industry in the 1970s. After graduating from La Salle High School, I moved to Manila to study at UP Diliman; then continued at the University of Tokyo, Japan, for my Masters and Doctorate degrees in Architecture.

DINNER hosted by Ramon L. Jocson in Bacolod’s popular pala-pala resto

DINNER hosted by Ramon L. Jocson in Bacolod’s popular pala-pala resto

Thank you, God, for the wonderful opportunity to nostalgically reminisce about my alma mater; and the encounter with my former classmates and teachers. It was a most gratifying human connection I’ve had in years. Reunions, indeed, encourage people to share feelings. Despite the years, we are still reminded of that triumphant spirit to conquer the world. As Bob Medalla reminded us, “St. La Salle believed in the power of education not only to give hope of a better life but, ultimately, to enable the educated person to realize that better and enlightened life.”

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