While surfing the Internet the other day, I came upon a book that suddenly evoked memories, beginning with where I first encountered it. It is a book I never owned, I have long lost track of and, in fact, I have long forgotten. But there it was and memories commenced to cascade.
As young impressionable teeners, we tend to be impressed and perhaps be captivated by some books or even just a book introduced to us by a teacher, by an older friend, by a parent or a relative. Some may even have come upon a favorite reading, all by oneself. (“Classics Illustrated” in Comics form is a pretty common introduction to the realm of literature proper.) Now, there is this particular book that transported me through flights of memory, grasping at when, and how I came upon and read it, and wanting to know once more why I was so indelibly impressed by it. All streaming quite naturally.
The book is “Peace of Mind” authored by an American Rabbi, Joshua Liebman, published in 1946 by Simon and Schuster, New York. I was barely 14 when I was encouraged to read it by my aunt Elizabeth, tia Betty. I estimate it to be sometime in 1949. I recall it was some sort of a self-help, how-to cope with man’s adversities, needs and hopes. I was to learn recently that “Peace of Mind” stayed #1 in the NY Times’ Best Seller List for over a year! It is actually an easy-read of 9 Chapters within a 200-page book. Maybe that encapsulates its impact upon my youthful psyche, without my realizing it then.
And here is my recollection of how my memories were trending. It began in a military camp along España Extension in Quezon City, which has ceased to exist many decades ago. That was where my grandparents lived with the rest of my mother’s unmarried siblings, tia Betty among them. That was where I encountered “Peace of Mind,” the book.
That stretch of a thoroughfare we now call E. Rodriguez, Sr. Avenue (not to be confused with E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave.) used to be called España Extension. That is because it connects with Calle España in Sampaloc, where the University of Santo Tomas is located. And so, from the “Welcome” rotunda all the way to Cubao, España Extension wends and merges towards, and becomes, Aurora Boulevard.
In the late 1940s, that span was of very sparse habitation. There were very few buildings, the prominent structures already in place being, as I am able to remember, the Christ the King Seminary, the St. Joseph College and I believe a Reynoso multi-storey mansion, the ground floor of which might have been an ice plant and/or offices of a painting contractor. The general vicinity was mostly open space from the Quezon Institute all the way to Cubao, all along España Extension.
Across the site which is now occupied by the Trinity University of Asia (used to be Trinity College), an affiliate of the Episcopalian/Philippine Independent Church, is the compound which was to become the headquarters, manufacturing plant and offices of Ysmael Steel. I am not certain if it still there, not having passed by the area in quite a while. This entire expanse of raw
unoccupied land belonged to the Magdalena Estate, owned by the legendary Doña Magdalena Ysmael Hemady. Many might still remember that on its open spaced foregrounds, there stood a giant figure of a robot. This was the mascot of the Admiral electric appliances being manufactured by Ysmael Steel during its heyday.
Across the avenue from this Ysmael mega-compound and long before that space was developed into the campus of the Trinity College, it was occupied by the Philippine Army’s “1st Quartermaster Truck Company.” Until the very early 1950s, it was a military camp occupying about half a kilometer deep and stretched from the creek or river that separated the Camp from the Quezon Institute (a hospital facility specializing in the cure for tuberculosis.) Maybe the España Ext. frontage may have been a half kilometer long as well.
My grandfather, Maj. Wenceslao D. Bayhon, a Bataan Death March survivor, was the Commanding Officer of this military facility. The camp had family quarters for some of the officers plus amenities that the Army could afford. Weekends was always a treat for me being able to visit with them, me being the first grandson being doted upon. It was on one such occasion that I was introduced to “Peace of Mind,” the book.
As I muse about that camp, I recall names like Lt. Edralin and Lt. Gazmin as part of my Lolo Oben’s staff. That Lt. Gazmin, I think, was the father of General Voltaire Gazmin, chief of President Cory Aquino’s security when I served in her Cabinet. Later on, he served Secretary of National Defense under President Benigno Aquino III.
I also recall that the camp had several fruiting Chesa or Tiesa trees. (Some among you might not even know what fruits I am speaking of.) That was the first time I ever tasted such a tropical fruit which has now virtually disappeared, just like the Mabolo fruit. By association, I am tempted to speak of the other fruits children used to delight in, those days. But that would be too much of a digression from this “Peace of Mind” trending.
But having spoken of the Ysmael Steel compound, I also recall that that was where I purchased my very first brand new car. A Fiat 1500. Ysmael was then (mid 1960s) the local dealer of the Italian Fiat automobiles. Mel Mathay, who was to become mayor of Quezon City in later years,) was a hired manager in the Ysmael organization and being a fellow SanBedista, he gave me a token discount. I had to replace the very first automobile I ever owned. It was a rundown ‘segunda mano’ (second hand) which among friends was referred to as a Mercedes Benz “Ecstacy!” a car make which was really never been heard of, heretofore. Actually it was a 1959 190 Diesel engine that was an “ex-taxi!”
The mental exercise of intentionally remembering ‘stuff’ is a helpful antidote to threats of forgetfulness. Just like solving crossword puzzles, it can also be practised solo.Remembering as much details and elements as the memory can muster and by association, connecting from topic to topic. In conversations dealing with ‘rememberings,’ the chat can be animating!
About the author:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
His e-mail is: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.