THE NORCAL PASSAGE
by EB Fernandez'71
the cavaliers of Southern California (SoCal), would
like to extend our gratitude to the cavaliers of Northern
California (NorCal) for inviting us to join their annual
dinner and dance. The invite was responded with gusto
and with much anticipation. After all, we had not seen
each other for a couple of years now. In addition, we
could hold a mini reunion of the Matatags with Archie
and Rolly M up north. So, without too much hesitation,
we brushed up our rubber shoes and gassed up our vehicles
to brave the snowy summit of the Grapevine and the cold
crosswinds of Livermore. The distance was over 400 miles,
but, our fearless leader, Jun P, the Philippine Consul
General of Los Angeles, dreaded nothing.
and I left Chino Hills Friday, Dec. 26, 2003, at 5 p.m.,
almost unprepared, to join with the rest of the gang
in NorCal. Ariel’s van had already left 3 hours
ago. With him were Rochee, Eva, Menchu, Ave Cruz, Bob
Sacs and EdMar. Our original plan was to pass the night
at home; wake up early and drive up north at 4 a.m.,
then, join with them for lunch. It sounded like a good
plan, right? Well, on the contrary, we thought it would
be more fitting if we joined them for dinner tonight.
Besides, whom do you suppose would classmates be talking
about when one is not around? Brilliant, Watson, brilliant!
We threw in our things into the van and off we went.
elevation at the town of Gorman was 4000 feet and the
outside temperature was cold. This place was at the
end of a long, but, painless climb of the I-5 North
from the San Fernando Valley. The drive was easy especially
if you had 200 horses packed in the hood in front of
you. I had always marveled at the engineering of this
interstate freeway. Four lanes complete with left and
right hand shoulders going north and the same breadth
coming down south, winding through mountain passes,
steep gorges, the Pyramid Lake and the San Andreas.
At some point, you would see the opposite traffic way
up on the other side of the mountain and on your right
hand side. A few minutes later, voila, they’re
back on your left. Did you guys notice the switch? We
stopped at Gorman for a snack at Carl’s Jr. Ching’s
cell rang and it was Tess P on the other line. Tess
and Jun P, Lolit and Stan were just joining 210 West
in San Marino. I figured they were more than a hundred
miles behind us. We left Carl’s Jr. and started
a short and steep decent towards the San Joaquin Valley.
This part of the freeway would be most beautiful driven
on a sunny day in springtime. The mountains would be
adorned with golden daffodils and speckled with wild
flowers of violet and blue. Well, it was now winter
and dark, and today, we saw nothing but a dazzle of
red tail lights rushing downhill. On the uphill was
a stream of yellow and those blinding xenon lights.
It was like L.A. on a rush hour. I couldn’t wait
was flying at 80 mph, maximum was 70, but, that was
only a suggestion. I learned of a parley between CHiPs
and motorists, and this was widely known, that 10 miles
over the speed limit was tolerated. I tried that in
Texas and I was stopped by a cop whose parents happened
to be Filipinos. It was my lucky day. I glanced at my
rear view mirror and noticed a head light quickly gaining
on me on the fast lane. I slowed down and turned on
my right signal to let the car pass me. Rule of thumb,
if there was a car traveling that fast, it had to be
exempt by the state or federal, or, it was driven by
someone who was playing smart. I asked Ching to give
Tess a call and check our positions. Dang it, Jun P
was only 30 miles behind us. Per Newton’s third
law of motion, I estimated his speed to be at 110 mph.
However, they had not stopped for gas yet. Smile, I
still had a good head start. Maybe, I could play smart
this time. I went 90. Again, it was my lucky day.
I missed the 880 South. I joined the 238 from the 580
West and was pondering which freeway to join next. There
wasn’t very much choice, 238 south was a short
stretch from the 580. Before I could make my next move,
I found myself at the end of the freeway on the rightmost
lane, which connected with the 880 North. It was too
late, I could no longer do the left-handed California
slide. I decided to drop my speed to 55 and followed
the connecting lane to the right. I ended up on the
wrong direction, this time I was going north instead
of south. The next off-ramp was 3 miles down, double
that would be 6 miles lost. Not too bad, I said, at
least I knew where I am. Just a couple of hours ago,
I heard of some people who were in my same situation
and drove up 30 miles north to Berkeley before realizing
they were lost.
I kept on calling Ariel’s cell and nobody was
answering. I needed to get in touch with Archie for
directions to his place. Double darn!! Archie is Navy
and he might give me all this weird naval instructions.
I hurriedly cranked my wits to do instant recall on
my OJT experience. Aha! “Port” was “Left”,
it had the same 4 letters. “Starboard” was,
of course, the right side. Nah, I didn’t think
he was that weird, he only had two left feet. Other
than that, the guy’s okay. I had been on the road
for more than 6 hours, I wondered how far away down
six, seven and eight. I started with my left foot forward.
This one was easy. Didn’t we all start with our
left foot forward? Then, we had to make the ladies turn.
Wait a minute, this was not taught in our silent drill.
“Squads right”, maybe, or “To the
rear”, but, turn? We spent the night learning
the Salsa. We did not want to quit. The beat was infectious
to a point of contagion. We memorized moves one, two,
three and four. How about that number five move, ha?
Okay, give it to me. Ave and Eva were our DI’s.
Both husband and wife were exceptional dancers and very
good dancing instructors. Salsa was fun, but, not with
two left feet. Archie and Rose, a very graceful dancer,
prepared a sumptuous dinner for us. A few minutes later,
Jun P and company arrived. They were just a short distance
behind us. Wow, I love that “Consul” plate.
stopped at around 2:00 a.m. We headed for Marriott Courtyard
in Newark (California). Marriott was about a 5-minute
drive from Archie’s place, but, some people could
make that in 10 minutes, especially, if one was dyslexic.
Anyway, we were all billeted on the 5th floor. Our rooms
were either adjacent or opposite each other. It was
now Saturday, Dec. 27, 2004. In a few hours, we had
to wake up and make our trip to Stanford University
in Palo Alto. I turned the heater on; went to bed and
slept. Ching was already in la-la land. Five, six, seven
and eight. I danced myself to sleep and was dead to
the world one more time.
drove off in two vehicles. The first was a full sized
van and loaded with all mistahs. The second was a brand
new minivan filled with all misstahs. We maintained
a good separation from the other half, that way we men
could all say, “Yes, dear”, in unison. Smile!
The drive to Palo Alto was scenic. We were awed at the
picturesque landscape as we entered the University grounds
of Stanford. It was a good thing PMA did not have this
kind of wide spaces. Plebes would have been “enjoying”
running around the garden before every mess formations.
One round could have been a good mile. By the way, they
did not have a sundial to spit-shine.
edifices on Stanford grounds were of Greco-Roman design.
The columns were definitely Corinthian, although, the
arches were rested on an Ionic base instead of Doric.
Ariel was so amazed at my proficiency, he thought I
was just fooling around. Jun P, who stayed in Italy
for 2 years as Ambassador, validated my amplification.
Mistah, we could ask Jun P again. Smile! The University
chapel was adorned with mosaic tiles in gold. The painting
on the facade depicted “The Sermon On The Mount”,
with other religious figures posed at an angle as if
waiting for the cameraman to say “Say cheese”.
Fronting the chapel was a vast plaza the size of Boromeo
field. It was paved with 4x4 brick tiles, probably made
from a local quarry and grouted with moss. Very artistic
and original, indeed, imagine a moss grout?
who left these sunglasses here? The place was very touristy,
people from different race and origin came in. I guess
in Stanford white people are the immigrants. Back in
the chapel, a wedding ceremony was just concluded. While
the newlyweds were busy filling up their wedding album,
the ’71 ladies took advantage of the situation
by taking digital pictures in front of the limousine
before the bride and groom could take a ride. The limo
driver was at the center and flanked on the right by;
Menchu Sacramento, Ching Fernandez, Rose Almario and
Rochee Domingo. On the left were; Eva Cruz, Lolit David,
Cora Malinis and Tess Paynor. The gentlemen were in
front cheering the team to the delight of everyone.
The driver was smiling from ear to ear.
plan was to proceed to San Francisco to feast on Dungeness
crabs. Now, ladies, what happened to that proposal ha?
On our way to The Fisherman’s Wharf, Archie pointed
to us a portion of the San Andreas Fault that was filled
with water from the Sacramento River. Surely, there
was a body of water below us and the vista was awesome.
We were now at a site where the Pacific tectonic plate
grinds off with the American plate. Could the water
aided in cooling off the rocks below? My mind wandered
deep down into the earth’s crust. Then, I woke
up amidst a barrage of cell phones ringing simultaneously.
Apparently, the ladies decided to call all of us at
the same time. Their voices were clear and very suggestive.
“Oy, di na lang daw sa piserman’s warp.
Bibili na lang daw ng sipuds sa 99 market”. Oh
my God, there goes my Dungeness crab. My instincts told
me to argue, however, you did not want to argue with
a person who had your phone number, especially if that
person was your wife. In the end we had our final say,
“Yes dear, exit na tayo”, and we proudly
said that in unison. We ’71 gents were always
proud and coordinated.
mistah showed off his own culinary expertise. Jun P
diplomatically sliced the ginger. Archie was busy drinking
Heineken. EdMar was enthused in sampling the chicharon.
Ariel and I took turns sampling the fins of the fried
fish. They had huge fishes here in NorCal. Rolly M,
Bob Sacs, Stan and Ave were like ravenous pirates eyeing
on the crispy pata. I was so hungry, I imagined the
raven quoting ‘liver more’. The ladies,
on the other hand, took their sweet time preparing the
food. Finally, we all had our fill of pritong isda,
pusit, crispy pata, itlog na maalat, kamatis, patis,
pinakbet, talaba, hipon, sau-sauan at marami pang iba.
We ate lunch at Archie and Rose’s place the natural
way, with our hands, of course. The best chow I had
in a long, long time. What more could you ask, steamed
stole their attention as we entered the dance hall.
Our group registered 9 Matatags with our ladies, minus
one. We had with us a Consul General. The guests could
not help, but, take notice of that. Also, we had with
us a devastatingly dashing bachelor. The ladies could
not help, but, take notice of that, as well. The rest
of us were simply cool and suave in our class uniform,
dark blue and double-breasted suits. Dinner was served
buffet style. I could not stand up and get to the food
line. Lunch was still up my throat. The NorCal hop was
held at the Marriott Courtyard in Newark, CA. You wondered
why we checked-in at this hotel, ha? Brilliant, Watson,
brilliant! I thought of an Alumni Hall in Loakan with
rooms upstairs and ballrooms downstairs. The emcees
welcomed us with respect and jubilation. Lito Hernandez
’70, enjoyed himself “tackling” all
of us. In the end, we, jokingly, made him squat with
one leg up and had our pictures taken.
was properly attired for the occasion. His black and
white crocodile shoes were enough to intimidate anyone
on the dance floor. Eva’s golden shoes matched
her golden smile. Their exhibition dance number was,
of course, worth a million golden awards. The next number
was a Salsa dance to be performed by the members of
the Matatag Class of 1971. We stood up, proud and coordinated
as always. We did not hesitate as we proceeded into
the dance floor. “Take Life”, so we said.
There was no reason for us to waver. Didn’t we
practice this last night? Five, six, seven and eight
and the rest were full of fun memories.
there were five ladies who entered the hall vying for
the Miss NorCal title. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who
would be the fairest of them all? The fairest would
be judged by an applause from the audience. But, first,
they needed to be introduced.
Philippines was cavalier Bill Iban ’60 who was
graceful in her beauty and style. She wore a traditional
Mary Claire ensemble and elegantly stumbled with her
heels while balancing a blonde wig over her crew cut.
Miss Philippines was a sharp contrast to the next contestant.
Miss Hawaii was cavalier Pol Aliac ’67, who came
with her hula skirts, coconut shell bras and full body
tan. “Tiny bubbles in the wine, make me feel happy,
make me feel fine”. The Hawaiian music and lyrics
were enticingly captivating as Miss Hawaii swayed her
hips into the dance of the pearly shells. Then, here
comes Miss India. Rudy “Irog” Ruelos ’67
was purely magan. Miss India was stoic in her style,
very majestic and remote, and exuded that atmosphere
of royalty never before seen in other entries from the
Taj Majal. Could she be a Brahma? Holy cow!!! Mutya
ng Pasig was introduced, wait a minute, and I knew this
guy. Archie Almario ’71 walked in, in her Plebian
smile. Whose heart would not go pump-a-pump-pump with
this tantalizing beauty presented before ones eyes.
The audience was salivating like a rabid cat. Mutya
ng Pasig was a clear call and she would not be denied.
This contest was in-the-fridge, the lights were out,
and the Jell-O was jiggling. Last but not least, Miss
Brazil, which was represented by cavalier Billy Enerio
’63 came in with a variety of fruits on her head.
She was inarguably the fairest, but hey, who said you
could make a statement? Didn’t we agree that the
winner would be decided by the loudest applause? Indeed
there was strength in numbers, the ‘71 spirit
prevailed. Seventeen hands clapped in unison plus a
rah-rah-rah, sis-boom-bah and a standing ovation brought
Mutya ng Pasig into center stage. She was crowned Miss
The rest of the evening was spent dancing, singing,
holding raffles and taking pictures. Amy and Ying Palmos
’67 were delicately executing their cha-cha, tango
and rhumba, international style. I gave Ying the “most
improved” award. There was an official photographer
who printed digital pictures in a superbly high resolution
printer. As a tribute to this joyous occasion, we, the
Matatags, had our pictures taken at the hotel lobby
in front of a huge Christmas tree. We ended up the night
planning the upcoming SoCal dinner and dance in April
2004. Hah! They ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
As we waited for a brand new day, we looked forward
for more passages in our lives, for more roads to take;
we hoped that they might be filled with wholesome fun
and wonderful memories, the same as we shared today.