The Gacuras of Looc, Tablas (Romblon)
…my family away from home
By Apolinario Villalobos
To connect on the same day with my HS-711 flight to my first PAL assignment in Tablas after my training, I took an earlier flight from Davao, which I took upon arrival from my town. I left our place at dawn to ensure that I would be in Davao much earlier than my flight departure to Manila. As my habit when traveling over dusty road, I wore “tubaw”, a Muslim head kerchief to protect my hair from the dust. I failed to take it off when I arrived in Davao, so I took the flight for Manila still wearing it and still forgot to remove it when I was waiting for my flight for Tablas. A lady at the pre-departure area took notice of it – nervously.
She got more nervous as I took my place behind her when we were boarding the flight at the tarmac, and she got more nervous when I sat beside her on the plane. Upon disembarking, she went straight to the office of the station Supervisor, Bien Alvaro to report about a “Moro passenger” and in her excitement failed to notice that I was trailing behind her. When I handed my letter of introduction to Mr. Alvaro, she was so pale which made me pity her. That evening, the whole staff was gathered for a meeting at the house of Mr. Alvaro over rounds of cheap rum, purportedly to “welcome” me, but I found out that it was the first that he did it as the rest did not experience similar “welcome”. He used the occasion as an alibi to kid me not to wear the “tubao” while in Tablas.
In Tablas, I took the place of a colleague who was hurt by the local mayor. The airline pulled him out of Tablas but I was not told about it. Fortunately, the mayor and his son became my friends. In time, I have developed friendship with the local retirees – a judge, a police captain, a physician, uncle of an actress, and a former businessman. I became a member of their group that took pleasure in whiling time away over glasses of tuba (coconut sap wine) at Barusbos. And, in time, the lady who got frightened at the sight of my “tubaw” realized that I was a good guy.
The lady was Mrs. Nena Gacura, whom we (PAL staff) called “Mommy”. Her husband (Genaro/Aro), we called “Daddy”. One time, at the airport, she invited me to visit them for dinner. I was introduced to their children, Bel, Toto (Job/Bogs), Mari (Marissa), and Nonoy. Bel was later married to another PALer, the late Boy Loquias, Toto Job is happy with his family abroad, Mari with her own, but unfortunately, the youngest, lost his life in Iloilo….he used to perform in Boracay restaurants as a folk singer.
The Gacuras became my family in Tablas…our family, as the rest of the PAL employees in Tablas were treated as members of their close knit and religious family.
Several years after I was taken in by the Tours and Promotions Division of Marketing and Sales-Philippines in Manila, I went back to Romblon to make an extensive survey of the whole province that consists of three main islands- Tablas, Sibuyan, and Romblon for TOPIC Magazine, the airline’s tool in promoting local tourism. Two years afterward, I went back to make a circumventing attempt on foot of Tablas Island during which I surprised my adoptive family with a quick visit. That was the last time that I had a talk with Mommy and Daddy.
When my path crossed again with the Gacuras, it was during a lunch hosted by Celso Dapo who was also assigned in Tablas, but the family was represented only by Bel, her son, and Mari. Boy, Bel’s husband has been long gone, followed by Mommy. And, lately, I was surprised to know from a short message from Bel about Daddy Aro’s demise. My terrible regrets is that I failed to retrace my steps to Looc and their home while Daddy was still happily alive as shown by his photos posted on facebook and despite the reminder of Toto Job to do it soonest. I failed to decipher his message. I underestimated the happiness on the face of Daddy in the photos that I viewed. I took my time….which was a big mistake.
The Gacuras as a family is one of a kind, as I may say. They were so accommodating whose hospitality had no tint of any pretense. They shared whatever fare they had on their dining table. They never failed to invite us PALers to even a simple occasion in their home to make us happy while we were away from our families. Every Sunday, they would walk the several kilometers of distance to their Church as one whole family, and which later included Boy, a former Catholic, the husband of Bel.
I admit that they had been among my inspirations, every time I was wanting of humility and tolerance due to my undesirable shortness of temper. They personify sincere friendship, real happiness and heartfelt satisfaction that many fail to do. They are real people….Christians to the core!