Mano Panyong Balidio was that year’s Hermano Mayor–and his celebration was one of the most memorable for us. It was one year after the so called EDSA Revolution, and the Philippines was in a political funk, which was carried out to our work place. We were in a funk as well, because our boss, who was a Marcosista, was deported by the new government.
Feeling funky or not, we just had to carry ourselves to Guinarona for the 1987 fiesta. As was the wont of most Guinaronanhons in Metro Manila, we arrived on ante vesperas, the 15th of May. For you would feel useless, if you came on fiesta eve, May 16, especially if you belonged to the choir, which would perform during the fiesta high mass. That way you could still catch up with the rehearsals.
Mano Panyong was special in the sense that he was a mainstay of the Guinarona Association in Metro Manila, which also celebrates a fiesta for San Pascual every first Sunday of May. Our way of honoring his celebration was to haul tons of fresh jasmine from Manila, iced and contained in styropor boxes. And was it cumbersome to make the floral arrangements for the San Pascual carro and the church altar –skewering the jasmines in coconut midribs–but we had to do it, no question.
Farther west of Paraiso, under the coconut groves–that’s where Mano Panyong hosted his fiesta visitors. His chef, Kuya Ruben, a Kapangpangan, was special too–his kare-kare was the best tasting in the world, and you could burst from overindulgence.
As the fiesta choir, we did extremely well, having all sorts of instrumentation, plus harmonies galore. Naturally, we felt special too. And the euphoria we brought to our abodes, although most choir members would tag along to our house in Paraiso–and, for all intents and purposes, stayed AWOL from their fiesta guests. Then we would celebrate further, having our fill of lechon, cooked taro and Bahalina, and sing our lungs out, the heat and humidity notwithstanding.
And who was at our house–being entertained by Mother–awaiting us? A good old friend from high school, Atty. Estefano De la Cruz, who was also the corporate lawyer of the firm we worked in. With him was his driver and a young nephew. He was a special guest–and after meals, we transported ourselves to Ibugue creek, with loads of food and drink plus a guitar. Swimming in the crystal clear waters, eating, drinking, singing out to the engkantos. We had a blast of a fiesta at Ibugue! And we had no inkling of the fiesta happenings elsewhere in Guinarona.
On the way home, we dropped by Mano Panyong’s, under the lush coconut groves–and we had another helping, nay gorging, of fiesta food–and the obligatory Bahalina. Of course, Kuya Ruben’s heavenly kare-kare was there too.
And it was one Guinarona fiesta to die for. Buying a new SPB Image.