Sunday, February 28, 2016


PAMPANGA HIGH SCHOOL CLASS 1933 ALUMNI AND THEIR FAMILIES. Reunion. Brookside Swimming Pool, owned by Renato Tayag and family.  Dated April 13, 1952

Pampanga’s premiere high school was just a little over a decade old when it graduated its classes of over 240 senior students in 1933. Some two decades down the road, members of this batch gathered in a resort in Angeles to hold their grand reunion. By then, many had established careers that for some, would flourish even more in the near future.

 From this large 1933 class, we can single out a few distinguished alumni who are certainly worthy of a place in the school’s historic roll of honor.

 Leading the list is Renato "Katoks" Dayrit Tayag (b. 9 Oct. 1915/d.1985) who graduated as the class valedictorian (Rosalina Catap was the salutatorian). “Katoks” went to the University of the Philippines and earned a Law degree in 1939, where future president Ferdinand E. Marcos was a classmate. Tayag later joined his law firm as a partner. During World War II, he saw action in Bataan as a field artillery officer. He was sent off to the 1945 to study at the Judge’s Advocate School in Michigan. Tayag is well-known for his writings and journalistic feats. His most daring accomplishment was going on a forbidden journey to Red China in 1964. Tayag's books include The Angeles Story, Sinners of Angeles, Farewell to Irian, Odyssey in Southeast Asia, At Home and Abroad and Recollections and Digression, published in 1985 while a director of the Philippine National Bank. Angeles City, his birthplace, celebrated his birthday centennial in 2015.

 A batchmate who also embarked on a career in law was, Moises Sevilla Ocampo (b.27 Feb. 1916/d.1997) who gained national fame as a brilliant trial lawyer.Not only did he enjoy a long legal practice but he was also found success in politics, having been elected as a member of the Provincial Board of Pampanga. He spent the rest of his life in California.

 Choosing a different path was Diosdado F. Garcia. He pursued a career in the military, and as war clouds gather in the Pacific in 1941, Garcia worked as an instructor in the Infantry School at Camp Murphy under Gen. Mateo Capinpin, tasked with training new military graduates. Garcia rose to the rank of a Brigadier General Commanding General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 1962-1963, during the term of fellow PHS alumni, Pres. Diosdado P. Macapagal.

 Two classmates from the same batch became respected figures in Philippine media arts. The first, Jose Luna Castro (4 Mar. 1915/d.?), finished his English degree at the Union Theological Seminary before going to Syracuse University in New York for his Master in Journalism and Political Science. At one time, he was the press officer of the Philippine Embassy in Peking. Castro rose to become the Executive Editor of the Manila Times Publishing Company, which put out Taliba, Daily Mirror, Sunday Time Magazine. In 1966, he authored the Manila Times Handbook of Journalism, which has become an indispensable style guide for mass communication and journalism students today.

 On the other hand, Liborio “Gat” Gatbonton made a mark in the field of cartooning during the 1940s and 1950s. he did not proceed to college after graduating from PHS at age 17. Adept with drawing, the imaginative Candaba teen submitted his first cartoons which saw print on the newspaper, Tribune. Before long, he created the popular series "Jappy Days," a comic book that satirized the Japanese rule in the Philippines. “Gat” became the chief cartoonist and art director of the Manila Chronicle owned by the Lopezes. He illustrated covers, did editorial/political cartoons and was the first Filipino to win in international cartooning competitions, winning the Stanvac Journalism award for 7 times!

 On the distaff side, Dr. Evangelina Hilario-Lacson, who counts nationalists, patriots , writers and poets among her family, became the leading light of the province in the promotion of Kapampangan writing and language. She taught English and Literature at the Far Eastern University for over twenty year before joining the government as a regional manager for the SSS. After her retirement, she returned to the academe, and held  key positions at the Pampanga Agricultural College and Angeles University. Her book, “Kapampangan Writing; A Selected Compendium and Critique”, published by the National Historical Institute in 1984, has become a major reference of scholars of Kapampangan Literature. 

There have been others from this batch who may have taken different career paths, whose lives today may not be as high-profile as others. But regardless, all are bound by a common experience of being educated at Pampanga’s foremost institution of learning, proud graduates all of the Class of 1933.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

*397. LYDIA MONTAÑEZ: A Russian-Kapampangan Actress from Arayat

CALL HER TATIANA. Tatiana Simbulan Korionoff (aka Lydia Montañez) of Arayat was one of the most exotic faces of Philippine cinema in the 1950s, owing to her Russian-Kapampangan lineage.

 The bloody Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 led many thousands of Russians to flee their beleaguered country and seek refuge in other lands. One who escaped just in time was Victor Pavlov Korionoff (b. 28 April 1902) of the city of Perm, Russia. To escape the cruelty of the Red Russians, the 17 year-old decided to flee to Shanghai, via Manchuria, along with 2,000 czarists.

Victor was supposed to proceed to Australia by sea, but some ships sunk, leaving him stranded in Palawan. He had no recourse but to go back to Shanghai, where he established a cigar business whose success was short-lived.

 Back to square one,Victor decided to apply as a policeman but failed meet the height requirement. His next stop was a factory where he saved enough travel funds to seek his fortune in the Philippines.

He finally found work in Negros, at the Kabangkalan Sugar Central, where he got along very well with Tabacalera officials because of his ability to speak Spanish. With him was fellow Russian, Simeon Kibanoff, whom he met on a ship in Hong Kong and who would become his lifelong friend.

 Victor was assigned as a plant engineer at the Arayat Sugar Central in Pampanga in 1926. Simeon, who had by this time gotten married to Negrense Angela Parcon, tagged along with him and relocated his family to this mountain town.

 The next year, Victor  married a local 18 year-old lass named Marcelina Lising Simbulan, who gave him a firstborn son, Victor Jr. The rest of the brood would come in quick succession—Tatiana, Dimitri (Jim), Lydia, Jacob, Mary and Joseph (twins). Victor, a licensed electrical and mechanical engineer, built a large 2-storey house on the Lising ancestral land for his growing family, complete with a porch, a swimming pool and a bathroom with a flush toilet—a first in Arayat . At home, the family spoke in Kapampangan, a language also quickly learned by the patriarch.

 Of the Korionoff children, the natural artistic bent of eldest daughter Tatiana (“Tanya or Tani”), born in 28 April 1933, was apparent at an early age. Like her homegrown siblings, she attended Arayat Elementary School and Anderson Intermediate School. There, she learned how to sing and play the guitar. It was off to Arayat Institute for her college years, and although she admitted that she was not exactly a diligent student, she finished her studies and bagged a teaching stint at her elementary alma mater.

 The exotic mixed-race Tatiana never considered herself beautiful; in fact, when she joined a local beauty search—the Cinderella Contest—she placed a dismal 26th. But this paved the way for her entry into showbiz, with Royal Pictures (owned by Fernando Poe Sr.) signing her up, renaming her Lydia Montemayor and giving her small roles in “Tatlong Limbas” (1950), “Lihim ni Bathala “,“Mag-Inang Ulila” and “Maria Bonita” (1951).

 Thereafter, Benito Brothers Productions offered her a contract and turn her into a full-fledged star. She was rechristened Lydia Montañez—Lydia, in honor of her foster aunt, and Montañez, from the mountain town of her birth. Her launch film--“Irog, Paalam” (1951) directed by Jose Villafranca and with no less than the established matinee idol Leopoldo Salcedo as her leading man—proved to be a success at the box office tills. Their team-up would be repeated in “La Roca Trinidad”, produced by Salcedo himself.

 Her follow-up movie,”Isinanlang Pag-ibig”, in which she portrayed a woman wrongly accused of killing her loved one, was an even bigger hit and it was not long before Lydia Montañez became a byword among Filipino movie fans.

 With her father growing old and needing hospital attention, the dutiful Lydia helped in financing the education of her siblings though her showbiz earnings, enabling them to earn college degrees. She also took under her wing, Dolores Kibanoff, a niece of her father’s bosom friend, Simeon Kibanoff, who had been like family to them.

 On 2 April 1952, Lydia married Medardo Aquino, and gave birth to her first child, Nanette Ma. Socorro. She was followed by Medardo Jr., Agapito, Anatole, Maria Yasmine, Remegio, Katrina Grace and Gerardo. Even as a young mother, she would continue to make more movies in the first half of the 1950s, until she decided to leave showbiz behind in favor of family. Her family now lives in different parts of the U.S., and Lydia, who has reverted back to her original name Tanya, is settled with her husband in California.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Graduation photo of  Mateo Castro, youngest son of my grandfather, Gerardo. 1957
(Last year, a cousin of mine, knowing my interest in our family history, turned over some documents from my aunt’s possession. Among these were my grandfather’s 1968 medical records from San Juan de Dios Hospital, which revealed a dreadful illness—colon cancer. Also included was this letter from my Ingkung’s  son, Mateo Castro, then 31 years old,  married wth 2 kids and settled in Baguio. 

 “Tatang Matt” was my Ingkung Dando’s youngest of 4 living children, 10 years younger than his next coya. Frail and sickly as a child, he was doted on, favoured if you will, and always had his own way--"panusignan yu ne rugu", my Aou was wont to say when Tatang Matt had his tantrums. After graduation, he left Pampanga and hied off to Baguio to pursue a career as a university professor, and never left. Tatang Matt may have been far away from the crisis happening in our Pampanga home, but far removed—he was not, as this letter to his seriously-sick father shows. 

Learning that his father was scheduled for a critical operation, Tatang Matt sent him this letter, mostly in Kapampangan, expressing his urgent request that he make a confession and receive communion before surgery. His deep concern for his father could be sensed from his firm insistence and implorings to heed his wish. It was to be the last—and most important favour that my Ingkung granted his bunso, for just a month after, he succumbed to complications from his illness.)


62 Bokawkan Road
Baguio City
November 14, 1968

 Dearest Father:

Mig long-distance cami cang atching Elsie uling angga ngeni e cami pa tinanggap call; emi balu nung capilan ca ma-opera ania minaus na cami. Queng ma-opera ca, carin na cami muling maca auto. Queng Lunes, mibuclat na ing clasi mi; pero maniauad cung leave of absence cabang ma-opera ca. 

Pagawa cune ing deed of sale na nitang lote Mabiga; pepacana queng P3,000.00, ban canita ditac mu ing bayaran cu quing registration. Paqui-firma mu niamo ban canita adala nalang Auring ding papeles at apa-register que.

 Bayu ca sana pa-opera buri cu mangumpisal ca at mag-comunion. Sinabi cu cang atching Elsie queng long distance quing panintun nacang pari a buri mung pipagcumpisalan. Masanting ing macasadia ca; talagang macanian at cailangan itamu ngan macasadia tamu nung nanu man ing maliari.

Panusignan mucu sana; iyan mu ing aduan cu queca. Enapa canu sinabing Atching Elsie queca pota eca bisa; ania acu na ing sasabi quening sulat cu. Cabud manaquit lang pari a capad mu, ilabas muna iyan at nung maliari, magcomunion ca aldo-aldo anggang datang ing aldo mung operacion. Siguradung atin lang capilia queng hospital; o caya atdanan dacang communion queng cuarto mu. 

Masalese cami queni. Cabud asigurado yu ing aldo ning quecang operacion, canita nacami datang maca auto.

Yanamu, magpacasican ca bang canita milabas na ing operacion mu.


(POSTSCRIPT: Mateo "Tatang Matt" Castro y Razon passed away on 13 May 1997)