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A Morsel of History

Last night, I attended a despedida dinner tendered by my former boss, Sonny Lozano, for the former school President Brother Manuel Pajarillo FSC, the latter to depart next week for a new assignment in Rome. The dinner was hosted by Lozano and his eternally beauteous wife Beth in their lovely home uptown in Lipa City.

It was a small, cozy party of colleagues who worked closely with both Lozano and the departing Brother. There were good food and lively banter, as was bound to happen when people who know each other well from years of working together gather in a purely social setting.

Wine also flowed liberally; and indeed, as the sultry night wore itself through, a colleague felt impelled to remark that my cheeks were turning rosy. That, I joked, was from the football…

Talk was just about everything: shop, politics, dogs, travel… After dinner, as we all gathered around a long table with wine still flowing, our hostess Beth started talking about how her Mom used to be such good friends with a Brother Gabriel when she used to live with her family as a small girl close to the Brothers’ Taft campus.

“Connon?” I instantly interrupted her story. She nodded and went on that the Brothers would visit their homestead in Lipa at a time when the city was still known for its citrus plantations. The Brothers – and Brother Gabriel, in particular – were so enamored with the city that they asked her Mom to help them look for a property that could be purchased.

Wow! This morsel of history residing inside a person’s head just tied together a few historical loose ends that had been languishing inside my head for almost 25 years! But allow me to digress for a moment…

In 1987, I was tasked for the first time with publishing the yearbook at the end of the school year. Although DOS-based desktop publishing software was already available in the market, these were primitive tools in comparison to the sort of publishing suites available these days. The pre-publication process, therefore, was still the literal cut-and-paste version.

Among the features my first yearbook should have – I thought – was a short history of the school, since I did not remember having come across one as yet. To write the school’s history, I asked my boss, Brother Jaime Dalumpines FSC, if I could gain access to whatever documents the Brothers had kept that pertained to how the school came to be.

There were not an awful lot of these documents, if I am being honest. Most were just dusty typewritten journals that had become yellow with age. There was one, though, that said something about Brother Gabriel Connon – then top honcho of the Brothers, and anyone who knows anything to the contrary will please make the correction at the comments section below – having asked a Mrs. Katigbak to help the Brothers look for a property in Lipa.

The very same Mrs. Katigbak, the document related, then brought to the Brothers’ attention a 10-hectare property just outside the city that was owned by the Silvas which had become available for purchase. The rest – so goes the old cliché – is history.

Yet, the Mrs. Katigbak – ditto the Silvas who sold their property to the Brothers – continued to be no more than a name.

For the last year of the Presidency of Brother Rafael Donato FSC – the Brother Lolo of this blog – Sonny Lozano was asked to come in from the Board of Trustees to join operations as Vice-President. That was school year 2002-2003.

Lozano retired from the school last May 2010, which meant that I worked closely with him for eight years. If, at any point in the last eight years, he ever – if at all – mentioned anything about his wife’s mother being God’s instrument in my beloved school coming to be, I must have missed it! I just never made the connection!

I knew his wife was Beth Lozano nee Katigbak; but this is Lipa. Katigbaks are a dime a dozen.

For the record, Sonny Lozano is very much instrumental as well in why this blog exists. In a conversation in his office, he encouraged me to write down my experiences because – he rightly pointed out – one day these would be morsels of history that would be forgotten if not lost forever.

Last night, as Beth Lozano talked about her Mom’s affinity with the late Brother Gabriel, my face must have lit up like a light bulb turned on. She was probably not even aware of the significance of the trivia she was relating to those around the long table; but to me, a student of History and somebody who has spent most of my waking hours in the school, that bit of information was pure gold!

I laughingly told her I would visit her one day to unearth whatever other morsels she might have inside her head. You never know; I may just do it!

Oh by the way… Godspeed Brother Mawel! Now here’s a gentleman who leaves behind more than just a morsel of history!

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