Thirty-five (35) years ago today, September 27, 2015, the APO-Philippines national executive board met in Naga City. One of the results of that meeting was the awarding of the charter to the Divine Word College of San Jose as APO-Epsilon Lambda chapter.
In the late 1970s, many Occidental Mindoro local men and women were already members of APO, mostly from chapters in Metropolitan Manila. APO-Gamma Lambda was chartered in 1976 at Roxas College in Oriental Mindoro, APO-Beta Lambda in 1971 at DWC of Laoag City, and APO-Delta Lambda in 1978 at DWC of Legazpi City. At DWC-SJ, no APO yet.
As luck would have it, of the many APO members, seven (7) of us were in town and decided it was time to form a local APO chapter. Also, it so happened on January 30, 1980, scheduled were the first provincial and municipal elections since President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law in September 1972. We were able to secure permission to conduct “Operation: Quick Count,” and, of course, we could use help. There was a humongous central tabulation board to put up across that little open space at the corner of Rizal and Gaudiel streets just across the old Hap Seng store; materials were donated by candidates, but we needed free muscles. On canvassing day, we needed adding machine operators and runners (this was before computers and cellular telephones). We also had the “hard” task of updating the votes on the board by chalk. Plus we had a crazy idea of launching BaliTamaraw, a community newsletter. The work force we had in mind? Pledges.
The seven of us -– Brods Dr. Philip Z. Aguirre of APO-Nu at Manila Central University, Ray M. Almario of APO-Theta at University of the Philippines Los Banos, Abe Cajayon of APO-Lambda at Araneta University, Bong F. de las Alas of APO-Alpha Eta at the Philippine School of Business Administration, Rey F. Escalada also of Theta, Mel S Gonzales Jr of APO-Eta at UP Diliman, and Celso Marcelino also of Lambda -– started recruiting: Tamaraw (pioneer fraternity batch), four (4) members; 8 Sistema 21, eight (8); Two or Die, two (2); and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, three (3), for a total of seventeen (17) members.
The elections came and went, and the OQC and following service projects such as blood typing and blood drive were successful. Two (2) issues of BaliTamaraw came out. We were able to convince DWC-SJ to hold a symposium on fraternities and sororities where a short version of Kapatiran? as a play was staged with petitioning brods and sis (Five Fingers, the pioneer sorority batch) as actors.
When the NEB meeting rolled around, the group was ready to petition APO-Philippines. I was then national media relations director, an appointed member of the board, and represented DWC-SJ. All along, I was eyeing the name Epsilon Lambda based on the facts outlined above: DWC-Laoag is Beta Lambda, Roxas College Gamma Lambda, and DWC-Legazpi Delta Lambda. The fact two (2) of the organizers (Abe and Celso) were from Lambda was purely coincidental.
Was an inside job going on by virtue of my being a national officer? Hardly. Actually, certain board members gave our petition a hard time, because they could not understand why we were in such a hurry to be recognized as a collegiate chapter. They and I didn’t know, but, as fate had it, I would leave for the United States a few months later as head delegate from the Philippines to the Los Angeles convention held on December 26-30, 1980. And, so, I was highly motivated to get the charter out of the way without knowing why.
The dissenting opinion relented, and DWC-SJ was granted recognition. There were land lines already in 1980, but I decided to send a telegram by RCPI to the brods and sis back home. It said, simply: “NAGA MTNG OVER CHARTER EWAN LANG.”
It was a play on EL, of course, as no one was in on my targeting Epsilon Lambda for DWC-SJ. Just the same, Rey E. (not Ray A.) said he understood we got the charter, as I would have wired: “BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME” or something to that effect if we didn’t. Well, Rey wasn’t dean (as I understood later) of the criminology department of the Occident Mindoro State College for nothing.
On Saturday, December 20, 1980, we held Epsilon Lambda’s first ritual ceremony at the home of Brod Mon Floresca, also of Lambda. Sis Marlyn A. Pimentel (not married yet to Brod Efren Neri) was the installation officer. We invited the DWC-SJ SVD priests, and they attended. It was a big to-do. Without asking for permission, I had a cow pulled from my father’s fattening farm to serve the guests with Brod Boy Timbol Jr., APO-Alpha, as master chef. In a way, that event served as my despedida, and I write about 1980 or 35 years hence when fortune smiled at us and now fate allows us to look back and be thankful for the memories and for still having this time to laugh until tears are in our eyes.
I dedicate this article to Bong, Boy, and Rey as well as to Brods Popoy Pendon of APO-Mu and Dante Ting of APO-Upsilon and to Brods Boyet Bonilla, Jun Camandang, Dax Diwa, and Melex Silva (8 Sistema 21) and Jun Paguia (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) -– Epsilon Lambda charter members -– who all have gone ahead to claim their place in our memorial roster and history.