Not my Achievers’ Night. It rained on my parade!

It was Achievers’ Night, and all the souls were stirring, though I didn’t hear a mouse. It was a night to remember. My town was going to teach the world a newly revised biblical lesson, version April 2009:
A prophet is not without honor in his own country. Sometimes, a genius.

In my sleepy hometown of Asingan, Pangasinan in Central Luzon, Philippines, it was Achievers’ Night on Saturday, 18 April 2009 Manila time. Carlos Lopez Sr was Mayor, and Queen of Asingan was Sheryl Alambat-Domingo. (I remember my sister Brillita Hilario-Sindayen was 1st Princess in 1965 and I was the consort.) AMMRA-Balikbayan King and Queen were Mr & Mrs Roger & Priscilla Ocampo (nee Castro). Distinguished guests were here, like Sec Hermogenes Cendaña Esperon of the PMS, Presidential Management Staff, who happens to have been born in this town. They were going to give away the plaques, and I was going to receive mine. Sometimes people recognize you.
I have been away from my hometown for almost 50 years. I was here for the fiesta, scheduled 13-21 April. In the afternoon of that Day of the Awards, in my brother Emilio’s house in the sleepy village of Sanchez, I had a bum stomach, so how was I going to attend and receive my Achiever’s plaque and acknowledge the applause of my relatives and friends? I was under the weather.
My brother was telling everyone in the house I was really suffering from anxiety, and he wasn’t joking. I knew he had no way of knowing this was going to be my first award ever, and I also knew I was 69 years old. Was he right? I didn’t usually agree with him.
It was gas pains. My brother isn’t a doctor, and neither am I, but I know from many years of experience palpating each of the little stomachs of my children, all 13 of them. Little children will teach you if you pay attention. In my case, it was a lesson repeated 13 times.
It wasn’t an anxiety attack. I wasn’t breathless as if before buying my very first laptop. My heart wasn’t pounding as if before delivering a speech. There were no butterflies in my stomach as if before I was going on a blind date. I wasn’t worried and fretful as if over family matters (home was 250 km away), and I wasn’t jittery as if before asking for a raise (I’m freelance). I wasn’t looking pale. I simply had caught the hot air rising from the concrete road after a light rain (alimuom). I was relaxed but with all that gas, I couldn’t pump myself to get up and rush to the auditorium and march proudly before many envious spectators, many of them my peers. I could pass the opportunity if I could not pass the gas.
So I was not there when just past midnight they began announcing the names of the town’s Achievers. They repeated my name and of course I wasn’t responding. Someone else responded – it was Nimbus, the Rain Bearer. It rained on my parade! No, we didn’t have a covered court. What did that rain signify: All the 21 Achievers were all wet? (Anyway, I got up at past midnight and got my plaque and my photo; I was wet.)
Here is the list of 21 Asingan Achievers with their watered-down accomplishments:
Maria Victoria Esperon Botuyan-Mir (Scientist, Mayo Medical Clinic)
Mary Jean Esperon Botuyan (Department Manager, Intel Philippines)
El Cid Butuyan (World Bank lawyer)
Jesus Guzon Cardinez (outstanding town councilor)
Melchor Juliano Cardinez (outstanding barangay captain)
Heidee Laroya Ganigan-Chua (Vice Mayor)
Artemio Romero Gonzalez (outstanding barangay captain)
Frank Agapito Hilario (international writer)
Priscilla Signey Laconsay-Agsalud (Campus Dean, Pangasinan State University)
Carlos Franada Lopez Jr (multi-awarded mechanical engineer)
Gregorio M Manipon Jr (Project Manager, City of San Diego, California)
Aida Fernandez Nano (Scientist III, LBMMC, Long Beach, California)
Eugenio Castillo Pico (outstanding public school principal)
Judy Pang Salazar (internationally successful civil engineer)
Edmundo Laforteza Samilin (outstanding barangay captain)
Susana Delmendo Santos (school directress)
Salvador Diomela Sapigao (outstanding SK and barangay leader)
Porferio Rafanan Tendero (multi-awarded town councilor)
Jefferdon J Valdez (multi-awarded athlete)
Benefrida Cabanayan Vidal (outstanding principal and teacher)
Eleanor Villanueva Viray (outstanding town councilor).
These 21 were rated as Achievers in their lines of endeavor, succeeding sometimes without money. Sometimes, it takes a genius.
My daughter Jennifer ‘Jinny’ Claire, son July ‘Dinggoy’ Salvador and girlfriend Joy had traveled from Manila to witness my receiving that award. Dinggoy had the most apt remark about it all: ‘That proves that a prophet is not without honor in his own country.’ Sometimes, a genius.
I graduated from UP Los Baños in 1965 with a BSA major in Ag Ed, meaning I was taught to be a high school teacher. I was #2 (90.5%) in the Pangasinan provincial exam for teachers in 1965; #1 was 90.6%. I did teach for a few years at Asingan High School, then at UP College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna, and then Xavier U College of Agriculture in Cagayan De Oro City in Mindanao. But writing was my first love, not a girl, and you know first love never dies.
So, I taught myself to write, edit, publish in science. So I have been writer, editor, publisher for the last 34 years, starting in 1975 when I worked as Information Officer (writer) for FORI, Forest Research Institute in Los Baños, eventually working my way up to Chief Information Officer within 3 years. If I could teach myself to write, I could teach myself forestry and write about it.
And so in my first 7 years as government writer, I founded and was Editor in Chief of 3 FORI publications: Canopy (monthly newsletter), Sylvatrop (quarterly technical journal in theory and practice of tropical forestry in the Philippines), and Habitat (quarterly color magazine that I patterned after the US National Geographic). I have always been original, but I also copied – with honor; in this case, I kept repeating that I owed Geographic for photographic intent, magazine design, page layout, and style of writing. Sometimes it doesn’t take a genius to recognize a genius.
And so I began teaching myself writing, editing, publishing using the PC, personal computer in January 1986, a few days after a lady showed me how to boot up and shut down the PC, and how to use WordStar as my word processor. In 1987, I switched to Microsoft Word and never left; I have since mastered Word 2003. If you don’t master the software, the software will continue to be your master.
I’m freelance today, after some years teaching as I have already mentioned, and after years of job-based private and public works in the field of communications, mostly print. Once a writer, always a writer.
In 2005, I became a blogger; I have at least 20 blogs right now. For those blogs, I have written hundreds of essays, many of them 1500 words each, quite a few more than 3000 words each – with 1 essay of 6,767 words. (This one is 3,524 words.)
In 2006, I began writing for the American Chronicle based in California. With this one, I now have 190 essays published in that online newspaper in the last 156 weeks, writing sometimes 3 long essays in 1 week.
Why do I write so much? Good question. In Asingan, earlier, on 15 April, Wednesday, during the Rizalians’ Night – ‘I am a Rizalian!’ – the evening of reunion of alumni of what was in our time called Rizal Junior College, I met Dante Fernandez and he said, ‘I have been reading your blogs. They are very well written.’ Pleased and embarrassed, I laughed softly. ‘Please continue writing.’ My God, I had just received an Achiever’s Award that rains couldn’t wash away!
And that an earlier disappointment couldn’t take away from me. You see, I had been nominated by Pids Rosario, when he was President of the UP Los Baños Alumni Association, to receive a Most Creative Alumnus Award or something from the College of Agriculture of UP Los Baños. I got the acknowledgement, not the award. Their decision was final. I had to accept the fact that they didn’t see a genius from Asingan where I said there was one: me. It takes one to know one.
That reminds me of one conversation I had with 2 good friends, husband and wife. I was being proud of my hometown:
I have always believed Asingan is an intellectual capital. Look, Asingan gave the Filipinos a President (Fidel Valdez Ramos), a lady Senator (Leticia Ramos Shahani), several Congressmen, one Governor, one Chief of Staff, one CPA topnotcher.
And one genius, the lady said.
If the lady is correct – and I’m inclined to believe she is – it must mean that the modern people of UP Los Baños can’t recognize modern genius when they see one.
Genius is a coat of many colors. My hometown has contributed a Philippine President, a Senator, and these 5 Congressmen for the 5th (currently 6th) District of Pangasinan: Juan Millan, Narciso Ramos (Secretary of Foreign Affairs, pioneer in the field of law and in defense of the poor and oppressed), Justino Benito (brilliant lawyer, outstanding congressman), Ranjit Ramos Shahani (son of Leticia); and worthy of special mention: Luciano Millan – only a handful know he was elected as the very first President of the National Press Club of the Philippines.
And one governor: Rafael Colet. And one Chief of Staff: Hermogenes Cendaña Esperon. And the very first male CPA board topnotcher: Pascasio Banaria. And current Chairman of the AIM, Asian Institute of Management Alumni Association: Alex F Tanwangco ( And UK Managing Director of Maharlika Singing Ambassadors: Nieves Pascua-Bates ( And Wilhelmina Manzano, Senior VP & Chief Nursing Officer of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; John Repique says of her: ‘a forward-thinking leader, a great innovator’ (
What can I say about the people of Asingan? They have genius. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed.
Asingan is a second-class town of Pangasinan, as are Bani and Bugallon, annual income of P45 million ( That’s about a million dollars only in financial resources, but I can assure you the intellectual resource is worth million dollars more.
Like, I can write so fast it will leave you breathless. During my 1 week fiesta stay, I published 3 issues of a 1-page full-color newsletter for which I had a long name: Live well, laugh often, love much. The phrase is from Bessie Anderson Stanley (I have written about it; see ‘My Cheshire Cat,’
Like, noon Friday, Sec Esperon met with the Eastern Pangasinan Media Practitioners led by Ed Ferrer at the MJV Countryside Resort in Baro, the village next to the town proper. The expected questions were asked, such as: Was he running for Congressman of the 6th District of Pangasinan? I will run. What did he think of his chances of winning the nomination? I will win. Will he change party if he didn’t win the nomination? I will not.
Question: ‘Ano ang mahihintay ng mga taga-Asingan sa kanya?’ Answer: ‘Huwag na silang maghintay!’ Everybody laughed. (Literal translation – Q: ‘What can we from Asingan wait for from you?’ A: ‘Don’t wait!’ Liberal translation – ‘Here I am, send me!’
And he spoke of things I liked to hear: We need many more scholars in public schools. We need more computers in public schools. We need more people who train to be teachers and do not leave their country. ‘My father was a teacher,’ he said. ‘He did not leave for the US.’ (In case you were interested, this writer from Asingan trained to be a teacher himself at UP Los Baños; he didn’t leave for abroad either.)
I asked him, ‘Sir, what about the ROTC?’ ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Good question. I have strong feelings about the National Service Law.’ In so many words, he explained that Community Service and ROTC are options, and that we needed them both. We need more community volunteers; we should be serious about Community Service, not just street cleaning. ‘But we have to make ROTC more attractive as an option.’ He spoke of granting scholarships to ROTC cadets who will then enjoy full benefits. We need more soldier leaders who love their country. (The shibboleth of ROTC is: Love of country, Honor untarnished, Country above self.)
On Saturday, at about 7 AM, I caught Sec Esperon in a morning walk in our village of Sanchez during the ‘Taray ti Asingan’ – The Asingan Race is really 5K, 10K, 15K, with 5K as the Fun Run – which he has been sponsoring since last year to help celebrate the town fiesta. About 3 hours later, I was done with my writing, editing, and publishing. ‘Ang bilis mo, a!’ That was fast! Sec Esperon blurted out when I gave him a copy of #3, which I devoted on his vision and mission for his hometown (my hometown) and his country (my country).
He had impressed me not only with his flawless Ilocano but more so he made me believe he had the heart to help and he knew where he could. I myself will say your heart is in the right place if your achievement is for the good of many others, including your enemies.  
You will note that in my Live-Laugh-Love newsletter, I was writer, editor, desktop publisher all rolled into one. If you want it done right and fast, you have to do it all by yourself. For publishing, I used my HP Compaq Presario C737TU notebook running on Intel Dual Core processors both at 1.6 GHz with 1 GB RAM in Vista Home Basic. No sweat. For copies, I used Roger & Lita Daranciang’s new HP Deskjet 1400 color printer and their paper. They are neighbors to my brother Emilio. Thank God for neighbors.
Currently, I am maintaining 20 blogs (websites) under Blogger / Blogspot alone. I’m not in a hurry but, yes I research fast (using the Internet through SmartBro); I think fast (using virtual thinking); I write fast (using Word 2003 from Microsoft). Already there are millions of bloggers out there, not to mention thousands of reporters, columnists and journalists in mass media other than the Internet: radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, video presentations. The question therefore is:
Why do I write?
In case you didn’t know, the Internet is the inexhaustible library of the minds of people all over the world. I know SmartBro is fast enough for me. And Virtual thinking is my own invention – (If you want more details on virtual thinking, click here to visit my blog, I having mastered quite a number of shortcuts in its Outline as well as Styles & Formatting features, Word 2003 helps me do many things: collect data & information without wasting time, organize notes as fast as I annotate them (if mentally), come up with a draft in no time at all, and check spelling & grammar quicker than the eye can see. Sometimes, there’s a great software.
The theme of the Asingan town fiesta this year was ‘Meeting the Challenges of the Global Crisis Through Self-Reliance, Determination and Productivity.’ The members of the working committee for the Trade Fair were Nestor U Salvador, Roger C Daranciang, Samson C Atanacio, Frank A Hilario (part-time PRO), Carmelita R Daranciang, Eleanor V Viray, Leonardo V Guerrero and all Barangay Captains. It was the first-ever Asingan Trade Fair and I must say it was very successful.
My hometown Asingan used to be the vegetable capital of Pangasinan, but now no more. The farmers had abused modern agriculture: too much fertilizer and too much pesticides. The land now refused to grow healthy eggplants, tomatoes and such. Nature strikes back. The worms always win.
Mainly through the efforts of Nestor, the trade fair was the one that brought the team from Ecotech (Agusan Ecotech Foundation Inc) led by Fr Pio M Eugenio SVD, the Executive Director himself. Ecotech, from ecological technology, meaning environment-friendly. Fr Pio & Friends brought organic farming to Asingan 14 April and sowed the seeds of 52 Masipag rice varieties. I attended the 2-day seminar-workshop. They taught us how to prepare our own organic fertilizer from available materials, avoiding the manure from commercial poultry and piggery farms.
Here’s a summary. In Ecotech organic farming, you:
(1) Grow chemicals-free fruits, vegetables, grains; no residues of steroids, antibiotics, pesticides from commercial animal manures; you get organic foods that meet international standards.
(2) Cut down the overall cost of farming 5 times, that is, 5 units chemical agriculture versus only 1 unit Ecotech farming.
(3) Use native varieties of crops – they are sturdier, tastier, if not sweeter.
(4) Hedge your bets – grow many crops all at the same time on the same farm; if 1 crop fails, the other crops will not. (Livestock is a crop.)
(5) Contribute your share to alleviating global warming – for instance, when you apply inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, it releases carbon dioxide into the air (, which adds to global warming; and a pesticide for termite (surfuryl fluoride) is 4,800 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in holding atmospheric heat (
Why do I know so much about organic farming when I’m not a farmer myself? I’m a scholar; I school myself. More than 40 years ago, around 1967, at the UPCA, University of the Philippines College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna, where I was working as a substitute instructor, I was already advocating and writing about organic farming – you can check the old issues of Philippines Free Press. The experts were laughing. I wasn’t a farmer; I wasn’t working with the soil, but I had been working fields of knowledge – I had been ransacking the main library of UPCA, running my eyes along the open shelves and leafing through the pages of the books that caught my fancy – and that was how I surprised myself finding nuggets of experience every now and then. I was not exploring the library; I was exploring knowledge. (Even today, if you want to see how excited I can be, get me to a library – or get me to the nearest Internet cafe.)
Browsing the UPCA library was how I came to know about organic farming, which was quite different from the one being advocated by Jerome Irving ‘JI’ Rodale at that time. Rodale was talking about how to make compost at a corner of your garden; Faulkner was talking about how to make compost all over your farm without making a compost pile. The first book written by Faulkner that I read was Soil Development. Lousy title, great knowledge. While the book wasn’t full of beans, it was full of experience about what he called trash farming – you incorporate with the top soil (no plowing, please) the crop refuse, unwanted plants (weeds), green manure – to create an organic-mattered soil (my term) not unlike what we find in nature (see Faulkner’s first book, Plowman’s Folly, online via The trashed soil is your organic mulch already in place, not simply your organic compost to be spread later.
No, organic farming didn’t start with Faulkner, but I started with him. Some 20 years after I ‘discovered’ Faulkner and began advocating his kind of organic farming, visiting our village Sanchez, I had this surprising little information from my cousin Enso (free translation from Ilocano):
Manong, you remember what you were teaching Papang (my father) about farming? I followed your instructions and now my neighbor farmers are wondering why they are getting much less from their rice while they follow everything I do, fertilizing and spraying as often and as much as I.
I had forgotten. He had to remind me about my telling the Howard Rotavator man to simply pass the rotavator over the field, set to zero so that the blades simply cut and mixed up the top soil with the weeds and rice stalks left from the harvest. 2 passes and you’re done. I asked him if he told them what he was doing with his little rotavator (Kuliglig), and he said no. Don’t tell them, I said, laughing. They wouldn’t believe him anyway.
That’s why I know my modified Faulknerian method of organic farming works. But I like it more without the inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
That’s why I see genius in the Ecotech approach to organic farming. It employs the Ecotech organic fertilizer that works as well and as fast as the chemical fertilizer does, surprisingly. Mother Nature works for you if you work with her. And it employs natural pesticides to fight the bugs. With nature against them, those pests wouldn’t know what to do except die.
Now then, with Ecotech farming widespread in Asingan and nearby towns, we would be achieving much: healthier bodies, a healthier environment, a great many more rich farmers, as well as contributing our major share in alleviating global warming. That would be achievement worth all that glitters in the world.
And then when we all meet again a few years later, it will be a delightful All Achievers’ Night for all of us. Our hearts will be light even if it rains hard on the dark night of the awarding. 

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