Monday, July 26, 2010


Make My Day – Hilarion Henares, Jr.

The Philippine Post – August 9, 1999

We had a lot of fun, Raul Manglapus and the rest of us, pursuing the objectives of Fiestas for Progress. We descended into town fiestas determined to do some good. We were welcomed into homes, into churches, even into cockpits where we found ourselves watching this barbaric sport, and comparing it with the bullfighting of Spain. We were given permission to speak in the cockpit. They did not even bother to boo us, they just ignored our presence amidst the babble of betting. We came out with the conviction that cockfighting is ingrained in the Filipino soul, its gambling practices etched in his character, and nothing short of an atom bomb can put them asunder.

Our most amusing experience concerned John Esterline of the USIS propaganda agency, about whom so many unkind things were written and said. He wanted to maneuver the Philippine American Cultural Foundation into an outright American propaganda agency. The Americans contributed $1 million, while asking for a Philippine contribution of P14 million in cash and land plus continuing tax exemption. At the same time the Americans made it clear that they will run the whole show. Ridiculous.

Esterline was also pilloried for perpetrating the "bomb hoax" that accused Filipinos of trying to bomb an American school house full of children – an incident that triggered a series of demonstrations against the US Embassy. Editorial writer Adrian Cristobal wrote a series of editorials on the bomb hoax that won him the year’s prestigious Esso Award (later abolished).

After receiving the award, Adrian was promptly fired from the Evening News at the instigation of Esterline, whom they accused of being a CIA agent spying on a friendly people.

If Esterline was a spy, he was not a successful one, and maybe that was shy was so likeable. The only time he was able to advance the interest of America was during the Pateros fiesta when he tagged along with Raul Manglapus and my self in one of our Fiestas for Progress sorties.

"Hey, Esterline, know what is the greatest riddle of all time? It is this: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Well, you know you see before you answer to that riddle, a balut. My friend, you eat a balut and you acquire the wisdom of the ages, for the balut is both and chicken and the egg. Care to try?"

This is the acid test Filipinos should apply to their American friends. Only one out of a thousand Americans would try. And 99 out of a hundred who try would get sidelined for a week, absolutely sick.

But our friend Esterline nonchalantly ate five baluts – soup, chick, yolk, white hard core, and all – smacker his lips and asked for more! In shocked desperation, we handed him a pack of cheap, smelly, black, bittersweet Pagkakaisa cigarillos. He did not smoke them, he ate them too!

Later Esterline turned the table on us. He picked out a US marine, trained him for the balut-eating contest in Pateros, and watched with a toothy grin as the marine won the contest hands down, swallowing 18 baluts in 5 minutes, face smeared, mouth drolling – while the Filipinos in the audience turned pale-green absolutely sick with nausea.

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