EARLY YEARS - in DBYC
I remember way back when I was in grade six (school year 1976 to 1977). I was first brought to join a club of altar boys in Don Bosco Youth Center by my friends. They were Ronnie, the brothers “Boy” and Richard and Ricky. The club was called the “Altar Boys.” I also remember Bro. Ritchie Santos. He’s the seminarian who manages the club and after a few years he eventually was ordained a priest. He goes to Don Bosco Pampangga where he took his education to become a priest.
When my friends and I arrived in Don Bosco, I did not realized back then that there were so many kids playing basketball, ping pong, football, table football, etc, there. I have no knowledge of what DBYC (Don Bosco Youth Center) was before that day. Every Saturday afternoon, we can also go swimming there. That’s a relief especially during summer.
My friends took me to DBYC so I can join the Altar Boys club. There I learned more about the Catholic faith and learn to understand my religious beliefs. We regularly attend catechism and we learned more about God. I like to "serve" in mass and at some point for a while, I would be in every mass every Sunday starting at 5:30 am. There were 7 masses every Sunday and I'm in all of them.
FIRST MEETING - the skinny kid
On my very first day in DBYC, I can still remember clearly it was Lando who first welcomed me in the club. He was a very skinny kid and was already in his 1st year high school (grade 7 in Canada) at that time. I was just in grade six and like most of my friends who took me there, we are nearing our elementary graduation that year (in 1977). Lando, from the first time I met him, him and I became very good friends and he’s a very easy person to get along with up until we became adults.
Back then, our group of friends all love to play football (soccer). It was a fact that our club of “altar boys” later renamed as “Akolitos,” became “the team to beat.” Because of the club’s many members, we ended up having 2 teams (division A and B). Division A team known as the “Hardvards” and in division B known as “Kiling-metrikos.”
“Kiling-metriko” was from the new brand of pen that just came out that time called Kilometrico. The reason it became “Kiling-metriko” because Lando is nicknamed as “kiling.” Lando walks with an odd “tilt” (kiling) and both heals of his feet never touches the ground most especially when he is running or in a hurry. Lando was our captain ball of the team and we always win the championship. Our only toughest opponent was the Choir club. In later years, we became one team.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS
DBYC was found by an Italian priest/saint known as St. John Bosco whose main goal is to help “poor” boys. The school itself is an all boys school and that’s the reason there are only boys club in DBYC (at that time). The clubs are the Akolitos (altar boys), Choir, Rondalla, YMC (Youth Marian Crusade), FMC (Future Missionary Club), etc. Later on a new club was introduced called “KERYGMA.” It is a club of catechists we later joined to teach catechism to other kids. Most of us in the Akolito club are also members of the KERYGMA club.
New members of the group arrived sometime in 1979. They are Jeffrey (a.k.a. Tikboy), Ohgie and Landong Batang. In our group of friends, Lando is always with us. We are always together.
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
Like any regular teens, even though we are altar boys (supposedly known as someone who will be nice, good boys who will not try anything bad), we also have our own group of friends outside DBYC. Some of us tried smoking, or drinking beer, etc. But we are not known to be involved in any “gang-related” issues which were very common back then. Our group of friends was known in the neighborhood as decent young men. We grew up fearing God.
In later years when we started working, even though we have other group of friends making us go in separate ways, in the end, we still see each other back in the neighborhood in A.Luna St. We outgrew the altar boys club and no longer active in it. Imagine, it does not really look good anymore to see “us” with the priest up in the altar all grown men. We leave it to the new generation of teens to handle that.
All of us still see each other and most especially if one of us is celebrating his birthday. We would go out as a group and everyone will watch a movie or go to the park and just hang out there. One time, we went to Fort Santiago (a park in Manila) and I remember that so well that we had such a great time.
I remember Jeffrey (Tikboy) that every time we will be around a group of Chinese and/or Japanese tourist, he will start “speaking” and try to sound like either Chinese or Japanese. Loud enough that you can tell he was making fun of them. I remember Lando was so embarrassed about it and will try to stay away from us and pretend he was not with us. It was always worst whenever we have Nanding (another friend of ours) is around because he is also a moron (in a good way). And Nanding, was always the one who gets into Lando’s nerves because of his stupid antics and or just basically his stupid ways. Lando, when he had enough of Nanding, will just go home.
LANDO - still single after all this time
Other than Lando and Nanding, our group are mostly married now and with families of our own. For some reasons, I never saw or found out if Lando ever dated someone. We will always tease him because that’s our only way to push him to go find someone and not end up single forever. We prefer teasing Lando than Nanding. Nanding is no fun to tease anyway... I don't think you can win against Nanding. With Lando, you’ll get a good laugh from him everytime.
When Lando started working in a publicly-run hospital in Mandaluyong city, he started to gain weight and no longer that skinny little kid when I first met him. During these times he started drinking heavily a lot and I later thought that if only he had a girlfriend and/or even married, he would not probably have been so involved in drinking too much. If he had a family of his own and had kids, he would probably have taken better care of himself and would still be alive today.
By the way, Lando is one of my “best man” in my wedding. He almost did not make it because the night before the wedding, he still had nothing to wear. I remember Tikboy (Jeffrey) was so worried about him not being ready yet and actually helped him find a "barong Tagalog" that night. Tikboy took Lando out and with Ohgie, they tried to find a “barong Tagalog” for Lando to borrow. Eventually they did find one for Lando and he stood out during the wedding. He looked like a politician with the barong he was wearing. I would love to go with them that night before the wedding day but Tikboy warned me not to go because it is going to be my wedding the following day and he told me it’s best that I stay at home. Good ole Tikboy, he acts like our “dad” in our group of friends.
THE PASSING OF A FRIEND - a very sad news
On February 9, 2009, Monday in the Philippines, Tikboy informed me that Lando passed away at 12:40 pm because of complications with Lando’s diabetes. It was actually the inability for Lando to undergo regular dialysis treatment that caused his death. Diabetes was the result of Lando’s too much drinking and a few years before he lost one of his legs because of it. The news made me so sad that day. Lando is not just a good friend of mine… he is like a brother to me. All of us are so close to each other, we treat each other as brothers. We grew up together and always together and remained in contact with each other. Our group is now missing one. I thought that I will still all my friends when I go back for a vacation again. I was looking forward to seeing all my friends in my next return to the Philippines but it will no longer be the case. I will never see my friend Lando anymore.
What can we do? That’s life and we cannot avoid that. Our group of friends is now at that age we will never know who will be next. Let us look forward that even if we leave this life, we will see each other again in the hereafter.
Goodbye Rolando “Lando” dela Cruz from your friends in Mandaluyong. You will always be in our memories. You will always be remembered by Jeffrey (Tikboy), Ohgie, Louie, Ronnie, Danny, Josie, Anna, Cynthia, Lisa, Aida and all of your friends.
Rest in Peace, my friend.