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Always Brother Bong

From the off, and for the benefit of those who are contemporarily associated with the school, I wish to make it clear that this is another Brother Bong that this story will be about. I feel almost obligated to add LOL because the young will have absolutely no idea who this other Brother Bong was. In fact, more than a generation separates this story from the one you were probably expecting.

There used to be two members of the Narciso family of Fernando Air Base once associated with the school. Both, curiously, played no small part in my formative years.

One was Vic, the Physical Education teacher who – perhaps – unwittingly introduced me to the wonderful world of football. He was also later – during my sophomore year in high school – also my teacher in the Practical Arts class of engineering drawing.

The other was Antonio, nicknamed Bong, who had joined the Brothers and had been reassigned back to the school where he finished secondary education in the seventies when I myself was in high school.

I am trying to recall – but am ultimately failing – if Brother Bong was ever my teacher in any of my high school subjects. Perhaps, some of my classmates who may happen to read this can help me out by leaving a comment below this story.

Be that as it may, I used to know Brother Bong very well. It was a small school; and the Brothers always had time to chat with anyone who cared to talk to them. It was that sort of community.

Perhaps, it was because we were both from the Base; but I really enjoyed quite a friendship with Brother Bong. He was such a gentleman: articulate, soft-spoken and very kind. He was a great role model for all of us youngsters.

I used to look up to him when I was in high school. I guess my classmates and I all did. We all remember him, however, for one particular episode in our lives that none of us will probably ever forget.

Officially, our High School Principal from our sophomore to our senior year was a Brother Emiliano Hudtohan. When we were juniors, however, Brother Emil – as we used to call the Principal – was sent to Rome for some studies. In his absence, Brother Bong was appointed as the Acting Principal.

It was during our junior year when we had to endure that unfortunate Puerto Galera incident whilst on a Biology field trip. I will not go through the details because I told that story in another article.

At any rate, I still carry inside my head images of having been shepherded with my classmates inside this small chapel close to the wharf to be told by Brother Bong that three of our companions – including his Secretary; albeit, no students were harmed – had been killed in that regrettable accident at the lagoon earlier.

Later, amongst ourselves, word was that Brother Bong had desperately tried to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to one of the drowning victims; and that he was later seen vomiting outside the clinic because food had started to dribble out of the victim’s mouth.

Even as teenagers, we all saw the gravity of the situation and had nothing but empathy for Brother Bong. We all saw through the veneer of calm that he tried to project to all of us that he was, underneath his pale skin, really overwhelmed by the stressfulness of the situation.

If I remember correctly, he was reassigned to another school the following year. Whether he asked to be reassigned or not, this I do not know.

I eventually learned that he soon left the Brothers, got married and raised his own family. I suppose this never really surprised me. He was too goodlooking for his own good.

I continued to see him sporadically down the years.

When Brother Rolly Dizon became President of DLSU-Manila, he brought in Brother Bong to work with him as part of the President’s Office staff. I cannot recall what business I had in Taft, but it was while I was in there one day that I ran into him along one corridor.

It felt good to know that, after all the years that passed since I last saw him, he still remembered me! Of course, despite the fact that I knew that he was no longer a brother, I still kept calling him ‘Brother Bong.’

“Bong na lang,” he admonished me, probably uncomfortable with my use of the title ‘Brother.’

“Naku, Brother,” I replied, “I can’t think of you as anything but...”

Ask anyone who has ever worked with the Brothers. Even long after a Brother has left the order, they still will not be able to bring themselves to call that Brother by his given name. That is just the way it goes.

And that is what he will always be to me in my recollections... Brother Bong.

[I heard from somebody who lived in the same subdivision as he did that he had already passed on. Other than this, I have no definitive information that indeed he has. I discreetly passed on this snippet of information to the Brothers. I think they also discreetly tried to investigate; although I don’t really know what became of the investigation. If anyone can confirm this, please do using the Comments Box below.]