09 May 2011

The Torch Parade

Things are understandably hazy now inside my head; and the images do not quite fall as coherently together as I would like them to. But I still somehow remember this fun event that we all looked forward to for weeks prior to its actual happening back in 1969 when I was still a Grade 5 student in this school.

The event was called the Torch and Lantern Parade. Many in school simply referred to it as the Torch Parade.

This was during the First Coming of the Brother Lolo, back when he was still a goodlooking, flatbellied debonair of a young man on whom all the mothers had a crush. I ought to know! My own mother was a fervent admirer.



If there was anyone who fully understood the need to strike a balance between academic work and fun, it was the Brother Lolo. He liked to have these little social events for the whole academic community to enjoy so that school life would not be monotonous. While I cannot be absolutely certain that the Torch Parade was his brainchild, I know for a fact this one I attended was held when he was the Principal.

The concept for the parade was simple: everyone brought these kerosene-fueled bamboo torches and walked around the streets of the city from the Cathedral of St. Sebastian – the starting point, if my memory serves me right – and then back to school as though we were revolucionarios hunting down some despicable fraile during the time of the Katipunan.

Of course, that was as far as the analogy went. Because Christmas was just around the corner – the Torch Parade was held in December – participants to the parade held aloft colorful and imaginative parols that competed against each other in a pagandahan contest that was judged once everyone had gathered back at the gym after the long hike from uptown.

At least, that is how I remember things...

And before I forget, let me state that the real excitement came from figuring out weeks before what one would wear during the parade. We were told to come as people other than our real selves by wearing costumes!

Younger readers will probably be wondering what fun there could have been from wearing costumes. But this was the sixties; and it was a far more simple and naïve era compared to the present... Fun did not have to mean something downloaded or played online.

Well, my Mom being what she was, an expensive costume was always going to be out of the question! It was remarkable in itself that I was allowed to join, this being an evening affair. Although, “magagalit si Ms. Rivera” always worked as an excuse...

Arriving at the assembly place, there were vampires and sorcerers and soldiers and what-have-you... Just as well! People lined the streets curious to see what was going on. Might as well give them a show!

Even as a young kid, I was inventive and able to work with what I had. So, I thought I would wear this French cap over my head; cover my polo shirt with a dark leather jacket; put on my tight-fitting black pants; and then don my canvass high-cut Converse shoes. Completely without having to ask Mom for anything, I had transformed myself into a pint-sized incarnation of Bernard Bonnin’s famous character Palos.

Of course, you have got to be at least in your forties to have an inkling about who Bernard Bonnin was; ditto his character Palos. So that I do not have to digress from the story, here is a link I conveniently include for younger readers who wish – as NGC puts it – to live curious: http://video48.blogspot.com/2007/10/alyas-palos.html. But read on through to the end, first...

As I said, memory is somewhat hazy now; but I seem to remember that coeds from Our Lady of the Rosary Academy – a school where the girls were, because ours was still an all boys’ school – were invited to join the parade. Else, how does one explain the ladies in the yearbook pictures?

At any rate, I think the parade was held for a few more times after this one. And I have no idea why this fancy costume event eventually was done away with...

I find myself smirking just pondering if something like this parade – which involved the entire school – is still do-able in the present. Probably not! For starters, we were a few hundred students in those days; and about ten thousand in the present.

There was so much less traffic on the roads then; if ten thousand people held up traffic for something like a costume parade these days, irate motorists will probably stone the marchers!

While there are perks to being a large institution known locally and internationally, I guess one also cannot deny that there are also perks to being a small school in a small town. One just has to learn to live in the present without forgetting what has been. Because the entirety of this long ride – almost 50 years – is what makes us what we are.

That is why I tell this story here. So that even the young ones will know and hopefully never forget.

[Those of you who are my contemporaries and had the fortune to attend one of these torch parades, please do not hesitate to add to or clarify any part of the story using the Comments Box below. You will need a Facebook user’s account to add your comment.]








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