They started out as aspiring COCCs or SROs in third year…..if you’ll ask me what COCC and SRO stood for, I have no answer. All I know is that they were that specie of Juniors batch mates who endured a year of being subservient to Senior Citizens Military Training officers from the fourth year class, who were erstwhile COCCs and SROs themselves, and so on and so forth. Just as we, their fellow classmates were going home after class hours, they had to remain in school in a military formation, wearing their red bordered SRO IDs and carrying their wooden rifles. They braved the heat of the sun at times, especially for the crew cut – sporting boys who wore a thicker type of khaki pants that was pressed very stiff care of “ Amirol “, forcing them to walk like robots. In class, they had to sit with their feet sticking out very straight because they cannot bend their knees for comfort, that always caught the ire of a very irritated Pilipino III teacher Miss Consuelo Remolona.
Acting out their docile lot, they were subject to the whims and caprices of their mentors, aside from the rigid and disciplined training as was mandatory. Among the ala fraternity-sorority “Amuyong” chores they had to do for their “ Masters “ were to give slam books to fill up with or bunches of flowers to their crushes in school and to buy their snacks! I even remember one SRO batch mate who was made to dance to a popular Commodores tune in front of the Main Building where the sound system for the Monday Morning program was.
The willing victim resembled a robot doing crazy motions under the heat of the sun to the amusement of passing teachers and students! As to why they allowed themselves to be subjected to such is a source of wonder way back, but perhaps, they just believed then that the holding of rank of an officer in the CAT hierarchy during their Senior year was worth dying for! Belonging to that distinguished stripe were Teresita Anate, Sonia Tabalno, Emily Marquez, Filipina Manalo, Susan Alzaga, Chona Laureles , Aristeo Hernandez, Freedom Dellosa Jr., Romeo Sy, Renato Dizon, Roberto Tabernilla, Fernando Lacson, Bobby Baruelo, Francasio Bay and Jaime Pureza among others, if I’m not mistaken. Any corrections?
School year 1976-1977 came and it was pay back time for all of them! After a year of being the underdogs, the hour of redemption, assertion and having a sense of duty and importance had come at last! The erstwhile “ Amuyongs “ had become the Masters…….poor new batch of SROs, and woe to us, their grudging cadet and cadette inferiors, Saturday-wise that is!
I remember hating the thought of Saturdays every Friday afternoon on the jeepney ride home to Sariaya . Just as the rest of the QPHS student population settled in for a cool week end, waking up later than usual and lazing at home, we had to wake up even earlier to begin that tedious ritual of dressing up for the day…..putting on that green fatigue pair of trousers and tying up those combat boots on both feet already being strangled sweaty by thick long black socks! Previous to that was the customary cleaning and shining not only of those heavy boots, but also of that big metal belt buckle the night before, which
should shine like fool’s gold care of a commercial cleaning fluid , that made your hands black as soot!
It was goodbye to that mopped top 70s hairstyle that you cared for since freshman year and hello to crew cut or white - sided uniformity, topped by that green CAT-1 cap. Remember having to insert that little spring notebook they call “ tickler “ and a ball pen in one of the leg pockets for the lectures, if ever? After tucking up that CAT – 1 printed shirt and buckling up, the long-sleeved fatigue coat was the final touch, buttoning it up for a really sweaty feel, long before the hot Saturday morning started under the hot sun at the then Marcos Sports Complex. And of course, the ensemble was never complete without that trusted wooden rifle which I inherited from my two paternal cousins, brothers Arturo Jr. ( Class 1974) and Angelito (Class 1976), Thereafter, I was off to catch an early morning jeepney ride to Quezon High for the 7 AM formation…or face demerits and sit ups punishment if I came in late!
Upon entering the gate, I remember heading towards the Marcos Sports Complex right away just as fellow cadets and cadettes arrived in trickles from all directions, initially gathering in noisy groups, bonding by the “barkada” while waiting for the CAT drills to start. By then, the Cadet officers had been there earlier than the rest, wearing their uniforms, berets as headgears and with swords at their sides, to distinguish their ranks….. leading by example that is. CAT Commandant Remigio Parafina, husband of fourth year and Math Club adviser Mrs. Teresita Parafina of IV-TP fame was likewise up and about, just arrived with his owner-type jeep, if my memory serves me right.
At seven sharp, the call to formation was sounded (was it a whistle over a megaphone?) and everyone broke away from peers running to the open field at once. In an instant, buddy-buddy classmates like Aristeo Hernandez and Freedom Dellosa Jr. who greeted me with cheerful pleasantries and knowing banter earlier became the distant, stern-looking and poker-faced CAT Colonel and 101 Company Captain that they ought to be, respectively. The open field with its sea of fatigue green sounded off wave after wave of barked commands and militarily-aped responses.,
Just as we were busy doing these formation routines, the late comers in their obviously ill-ironed fatigue uniforms were rushing towards their respective companies, sleep still written in their faces, with disheveled hair sticking out from the caps of others who “forgot” to have their customary haircuts. Amused troop mates yelled mocking remarks just as their respective officers in command snapped at them for being noisy………….. ”Gardemet! Stop laugh, all of you!”
Private so-and-so! Here in front! Why are you late?”: “Sir, ano ho eh, tinanghali ng gising!” “Gardemet ! You have lousy uniform, un shined buckle and combat boots ! You don’t have hair cut! Where is your tickler?” “Naku, nabasa ho Sir! Nalimutan kong alisin sa bulsa ng fatigue noong maglaba ang Nanay ko.” “Gardemet! You don’t have respect! What is the first and last word?” “Sir, Sir, Sir!” “Okay, Cadet Private so-and-so, give me thirty push ups!” “Sir?” “Gardemet! What is the first and last word again?” “Sir, Sir, Sir!” “Okay, are you ready?” “Sir, yes Sir!” “Salute me and louder! Again, are you ready?” “Sir, yes Sir!” “Okay, fall like a log and I will count! “One, two, three, four, five …..thirty!” Okay, go back to formation!” Patrol mates (clapping and hooting!) “Gardemet! Stop that, all of you! What is the first and last word?” “Sir, Sir, Sir!” “Again! Louder!” “Sir, Sir, Sir!” Okay, you behave! Commandant Parafina will inspect today, understand?” “Sir, yer Sir!” Cadet Private so-and: ”Patay!” This may be a bit exaggerated but of course you can identify with these recollections as such batch mate! Who wouldn’t?
CAT-1 was mandatory whether we like it or not, so we took it hook, line and sinker as any other Saturday meal, right? Those who have physical disabilities among us we considered lucky because they just sat all morning at the grandstand and did record-keeping works or served as paramedics on the look-out for those who cannot stand the stress of being under the hot sun, whether genuine or feigned as the case might be. That’s why when we had Glee Club practice on Saturdays (likewise with Dance Troupe, Coconut, Arnis Club, etcetera), we were in heaven…..one less Saturday under the cruel hot sun that is! Just wondering whether QPHS Band members like majorette Aurea Antenor and Joseph Paunil were exempted from CAT ….. anyone who can answer this?
Whatever, we learned discipline with a capital “D” from CAT more effectively than all of that cranky “Katarayan” that our super strict spinster mentors combined can muster in the four years that we were in Quezon High. For sure you will agree and spin a win with that! We were so mentally-conditioned with a constant bombardment of those barked commands……”Tanghaaal na! Agaaaaap na! Pugaaaay na! Harap sa kanaaaan na! Harap sa kaliwaaaa na! Pasuloooong na! Pabaliiiik na!...every Saturday of our eventful Senior high lives!
We were indeed a very structured lot and deep down, there was pride and enjoyment especially when our troop or company did those well rehearsed drills better than the rest …”Unang tilap pabalik na! Ikalawang tilap pabalik na! Ikatlong tilap pabalik na!”…and the like. Yet, enjoyable as it had become to us, we still aren’t as Greek Spartan as our CAT officer batch mates were and so when we heard the command “Paluwag”, it was so automatic. Everything was really “lu-ag na lu-ag” down to our very “turnilyos” as the Gyro Gearlooses among us reveled in that semi-relaxed state! That was especially true for the ultra exhausting “Passing Reviews” or “Pasang Masid” in the afternoons when we were required to bring “maluto” so we could stretch the morning drills to a whole day, because a dignitary so-and-so happened to be in town. Way back, I preferred those rare occasions when we participated in parades in Lucena bayan proper rather than endure the unbearable heat of the sun in such a stationary state. But just the same, the prolonged sun exposure resulted in heat exhaustion and “balisawsaw”, both very, very uncomfortable and hateful experiences!
Among the physically exhausting yet enjoyable CAT activities that I considered novel and rewarding was those out of town sorties, particularly that twelve or so kilometer hike,wherein the whole CAT Corps assembled at the Perez Park that early Saturday morning and went to Tayabas! Leaving at about 7:30, everybody jogged and walked carrying those wooden rifles along the then still less busy and sloping north-bound asphalt road. It was a more scenic and picturesque travel than the Sariaya-Lucena highway especially on the outskirts of the old provincial capital town in between ricefields with Mount Banahaw looming on the horizon. Arriving there, tired and sweat-soaked by ten thirty, the centuries-old structures as well as the historic town church, not to mention the cooler climate really more than made up for the effort, on my part that is!
If there was one undertaking that summed up the ultimate in CAT-1 experience for the Class of 1977 however, it would be the Bivouac! What transpired during those rainy days in Barrio Talipan, Pagbilao, Quezon more than thrity years ago today would definitely fit today’s fixation with Reality Television, ala GMA 7’s erstwhile Extra Challenge , and to a limited extent, smelled of AXN’s Amazing race and Survivor series.
It was either one late afternoon or dawn, I’m not so certain about the time anymore, when the CAT cadets and cadettes gathered in Quezon High that week-end, bringing clothing and provisions for the activity. As mandatory, parents’ permits were required before one joined and took part in the Bivouac and as I remember it, only a handful if ever were not able to do so. The assembly area was buzzing with activity and excitement since accordingly, it had been years since it was last included as part of the Citizens Army Training. The scene resembled a big cook-out camping complete with tents, beddings, “calderos”, frying pans, personal belongings in knapsacks and traveling bags, canned goods, etcetera, etcetera, scattered about. We were herded into formation by our superiors first, given last minute pointers and then the “abubots” were loaded into the waiting jeepneys and mini buses, lots of them! Everybody was lumped according to company groups, with the monitors rendered very busy checking the attendance so all the participants were accounted for.
The camp grounds was an area near the school and upon arrival, we cadets had to clear the location of excess foliage and growth, not to mention stones that would have marred the pitching of the tents. I had already forgotten who and how many we were, cramped inside that claustrophobic shelter of ours, though I remember Ramon Beloso and Jerry Santos as tent mates. To make matters worse, it rained hard and the area quickly turned muddy, and we tried to keep ourselves dry but to no avail! Indeed, it was back to the basics……no electricity, cooking stoves, even bathrooms and toilets, and the situation turned chaotic……which definitely, must have been depressing to the more sheltered ones among us.
Everyone had to rely on the given passwords and each other, since it was so easy to get lost and be alone as a consequence……walking, crouching on grasses and low lying vegetation, and slipping into mud puddles, just to either capture or be captured by the “enemy” in the process. On top of that, it was the great outdoors, and unprotected as we were from the elements, in those murky surroundings, one can’t help but likewise think about insects, lizards and snakes that lurked in the midst. OKATOKAT! In reality, I had no interest on how our team fared in that night’s war patrol games, and all I had concerned myself with then was to be back to the camp with everyone else, safe and sound! Wet, dirty, tired and hungry, we ate hurriedly cooked supper of ill-cooked rice, canned goods and “tuyo”, with hot chicken noodle soup to ward off the cold! Sleep was even a luxury because of a pre assigned sentry duty by the hour……walking and guarding the camp with a lighted torch in hand, in pitter-pattering rain. It was a very novel experience, and a very cinematic one at that!
The following morning, after a light breakfast of bread and spread (Reno Potted Meat, Liver Spread, Chiz Whiz, etcetera), everybody was called into formation, and a long hike along the highway to Pagbilao began with us boys ahead of the girls. At one point, the very long line of hikers left the road and into a muddy trail that led into the thick bushes under the coconut trees. The activity was called “Survival” if I was not mistaken and we weren’t allowed to bring any food, just a little water in canteens, for it was still those pre-bottled water days, right?
The winding trail, pre arranged as always, led through alternating flat and sloping terrain, brook crossings and the like, with CAT officers manning different stations to guide the hikers through the necessary routines. A top favorite among the stations was this area wherein you had to hold on to a vine (or was it a rope?) hanging from a tree, and gamely swing over ala Tarzan to get to the other side! (A-a-a-Aaaah – A- aaah – A – aaaaah!). Instructions were also given that upon hearing shots fired, everybody had to instantly drop like a log and creep their way until the shots stopped, a very messy affair considering the heavy brains of the previous night!
The intensity of the routines resulted in hunger and the cadets looked for things to eat along the way…..coconuts, mangoes, bananas, anything! As the day wore on, the ordeal took its toll and the once boisterous lot became a sorry mass of exhausted, panting and hungry young people. Some were even too weak to go on, that they just sat or lay there waiting for the medics to help them.
Finally, it was that eventful afternoon of March 28, 1977……our more than eight hundred strong, fully uniformed CAT Corps was in formation and at the then Marcos Grandstand, a Philippine Army officer from the Regional Unified Command IV at Campo said…..” By the power vested upon me, you graduate! ” It was so curt and unceremoniously said and yet, it was a cause that made us joyfully throw all those already faded green caps up, up and away into the air! Truly, for once in our carefree adolescent lives, we were given a taste and feel of discipline like no other, and that was appreciable and redeeming. All of us made it with flying colors! “ Gardemet! ”