Circle of Friends

Ben and Marilyn Sagaoinit Alar

Ben and Marilyn Sagaoinit Alar

By Bert Eljera

Part 2

LAS VEGAS –  From elementary and high school, the next natural step is college, of course – and the venue to building another Circle of Friends.

Even though I had the opportunity of attending more prestigious schools in the Philippines and here in the United States (Letran, UCLA, University of San Francisco), the years I spent at St. Joseph’s College in Borongan were the best ever.

My parents didn’t have the money to send me to Manila, Cebu, or Tacloban even, so I had to stay behind while my classmates went to “classier” and therefore, more expensive colleges.

But my resentment turned into gratitude (although it was in later years that I realized that), as the years at St. Joseph’s were actually the calm before the storm, the prelude to the tumult of the 70s, student activism and the First Quarter Storm.

From 1969 to mid-1971, I studied to become a teacher under the RVM sisters, and surprisingly, I enjoyed every minute of it, forging friendships that lasted till these days.

Not surprisingly, those friends have remained loyal and true, providing a resource that now is a big help as I embark on this audacious quest to create a fund for my kidney transplant.

Ben Alar and his beauteous wife Marilyn were two of my closest friends at St. Joseph’s. Ben ran for president and I was his running mate for the student council. We both won, with some effective campaigning by Lynlyn and her group of friends.

With more or less similar political beliefs and persuasions, Ben and I have been in contact through the years. Lynlyn have been friends with Christie the past few years.

Ben and Lynlyn contributed $500 to the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund, one of the largest so far.

I met Fr. Nilo Apura formally for the first time when I went to one of his religion classes at St. Joseph’s. Our lively classroom discussions were a delight, and I learned a lot, not only on Catholic doctrine, but more so in presenting ideas and arguments in a coherent manner.

Fr. Nilo Apura

Fr. Nilo Apura

Now a pastor in one of the parishes in New Jersey, Padre Nilo donated $200 for the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.

Bless you Father!

Other donors from my St. Joseph’s Circle of Friends were Chit Yap, a relative, who we used to call Lubay; Elsie Gerna Lucien of New York, and the Australia-based buddies Elsa Casillano and Nieva Cenera.

Thank you to you all!

And here’s a what if. What if St. Joseph’s College did not close on the year I was supposed to graduate, and I got my teacher’s degree, what would my life have been?

Nieva Cenera (left) and Elsa Casillano

Nieva Cenera (left) and Elsa Casillano


4 thoughts on “Circle of Friends

  1. is there a continuation of this story? . I hardly know you except that you are from Balud. i know your younger brother and sister. they were in my mother’s class in the elementary grade school. i heard great stories about you and yet you remained humble. the last time i saw you was during a town fiesta in tacloban in the late 70’s where Bong-Bong Marcos was the Hermano Mayor. You came to Tacloban to cover a sport event. Me and my cousins were having a gig in a folkhouse when you came in. you sat down with us and we, Byron, Ed, Marivic and I were eager to hear stories you told and in my madness, from the smoke coming from cigarettes filling around the room, the loud voices from the customers, loud music from another singing group and the few drinks i had, unfortunately didn’t get to hear a thing or was it my turn to sing that i didn’t get to join them, what were the stories you have told, i wondered because by the time i finished singing, you were already gone. i see you post something at fb from time to time but i scroll them down very often until you posted about the state you are in. I pray that you will be successful in your fund-drive and most of all that you will recover your health. Have faith! God bless!

    • Perla,
      Is it just me, or we both are getting old? I don’t remember this episode in Tacloban, although I did cover a Palarong Pambansa there. I just remember I met Norma Buenafe, Thelma Ambida and Amy Abenis.

      What I remember seeing you was at the apartment of Dayday and Nonon Bocar. We had a few drinks (I don’t remember if you joined the drinking) but I do remember you singing a couple of songs, accompanying yourself with your guitar.

      So you don’t remember that while you were in high school, you joined us in some pre-student activist seminar at the seminary? Fr. Dodong and Fr. Oscar (this guy from Guiuan who is no longer a priest) and myself conducted the seminar, which became my initiation to student activism.

      So much water has flowed under the bridge since, so to speak. But I’m glad I’ve found way to reach you and sought your help. The folks based in Europe have responded tremendously.

      Hopefully we meet again in better and more joyful situation. Thanks again for your help.


      • Ha-ha-ha! Were you drunk too? I’ll never forget that episode in tacloban, june 1979 was the year when we were asked by a folk house owner if we would like to work as musician entertainers in his place which we of course accepted. Marivic was with another group of musicians and i was with byron and ed solidon. I think marivic mentioned to me what you told her that night that we should have contacted you when she represented Eastern Samar for the Miss PPP contest some years earlier, she might have won a prize with your help as member of the press. Anyway, i don’t remember that episode either at dayday’s place. I was often there but i belonged to dayday’s group and maybe rannie’s. If friends of her elder brothers were there, we were only in the background. Maybe that’s why i didn’t notice you. Neither was i a member of Father Oscar’s group. That was Dayday and a couple of others. Wow! That was a long time. Get well soon. We might visit las vegas again. The last time i went there was a long long time ago courtesy of mana Nellie and the late Mano Pabling.

  2. I may have to crawl to see you when you visit Vegas, but I will. Tita has to push me in a wheelchair to get around, although I’m working on getting a motorized scooter. That’s how bad it has become.

    We often meet Mayo and Mila here, so it would be great when you come. You perhaps bring some luck in the slots, although I don’t win because hindi ko tumataya. Hahaha.

    I thought you were with the group of Dayday and Mashvilla and the other SJC high school girls when we were meeting with Fr. Dodong and Fr. Oscar’s group. I was pretty sure you were at Dayday’s apartment that night I was there, with Padi Nonon, Noel and Blas. We were inseparable in Manila then, perhaps from 1977 to 1979.

    Anyway, at least we will remember some of these things and not have totally Alzheimer’s disease. Keep reading my series. The next installment will be about you and the European group.

    C ya.

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