Foreword: The early years of Larry Henares
By Kim Jacinto-Henares, daughter-in-law
He was conceived in the Los Banos, Laguna, where his parents were professors in the UP College of Agriculture. An instructor called Eligio Tavanlar, later a UNESCO agricultural engineer, knew of the pregnancy before his mother even did because he was experimenting on her urine with a new-fangled rabbit test. He was born after the usual incubation period in the Philippine General Hospital on Taft Avenue, Manila, the only modern hospital at the time, where Ninoy Aquino, Raul Manglapus and his contemporaries also saw the first light of day. He was born the first of the three children of Hilarion Gensole Henares, and Concepcion Garcia Maramba, on April 10, 1924, under the sign of Aries in the Year of the Rat.
He was baptized Hilarion Daniel Mateo Francisco Maramba Henares Jr., Hilarion after his father who was born on the feast of St. Hilarion, Daniel after his maternal grandfather who influenced his life in the early years, Mateo after his paternal grandfather who died long before he was born, Francisco after someone we do not know, Maramba his mother’s family name, Henares his father’s family name, and Junior a translation of the Spanish word Hijo. Actually in his baptismal certificate, in the way Spanish names were written, his name was written Hilarion Daniel Mateo Francisco Henares y Maramba, Hijo. Many of his enemies, and many of his friends, not realizing that his name is already much too long, keep adding something else after Hijo, like hijo de cabron, or something even worse. He was nicknamed Larie, but for a long time, people outside the family spelled it Larry. Thus it became so.
As the eldest grandchild, Larry had the privilege of renaming all his uncles. Uncle Tomasin (Tomas Maramba) became Unca Pasin. Uncle Turong (Arturo) became Unca Tong. Uncle Canoy (Nicanor) became Unca Anoy. His eldest uncle with whom he lived in the early years became Ama or alternatively Unca Feling (Felix). His aunties had pronounceable names: Auntie Meling (Emilia), Auntie Pacing (Paz), Auntie Loleng (Lolita). He had a knack to inventing names for things, like conding-candang for condensed milk, a name that persists to this day. Also his toy, autotackodak for a set that included a auto, truck, and kodak.
Being the eldest grandchild and the favorite, he was obliged to live in many homes. First there was the ancestral home of his maternal grandfather Laki Daniel in barrio Minien, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. Here Larry was stunned to see his uncle Feling dragging a screaming Auntie Pacing around the sala of the house, in what was later explained as a family horseplay.
Then there is the Bureau of Agriculture station near the La Carlota Sugar Central of the Elizaldes, La Castellana, in Occidental Negros where he lived with his uncle Feling and his family during his Grade One. Here in the 3-foot clearance under the house, he ate what he thought were Grape Nuts which turned out to be rat poison. He survived. Then he and his cousin Fedi Maramba transferred to Barrio Tinongan, Isabela, Occidental Negros, where he studied Second Grade, and where his father was Chief Engineer of the Montilla-owned Isabela Sugar Company. There was a company movie house showing silent movies at a huge back lot behind the company houses. And there he saw Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore and especially Douglas Fairbanks (Thief of Bagdad, The Sheik, Three Musketeers). One memorable evening the movie house burned down, and Larry watched fascinated from the back stairs of the kitchen.
By the Third Grade. Larry and his cousin Fedi transferred to his Laki Daniel’s farm in Manaoag, Pagasinan. This was called Hacienda Nuning (800 hectares), and was once owned by Margarita “Nuning” Cuyugan y Lichauco de Oppen, the richest auntie of Larry’s future wife Cecilia. Her father Don Carlos Cuyugan got it from a Frenchman named Rous in payment of debt. Rous accused him of usury, and Don Carlos was so incensed, he collapsed and spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. He won his case, took the land and sold to Larry’s grandfather on easy terms (no cash, no collateral) upon assurance of his nephew Ramon Arevalo that Maramba was an uncommon gentleman who word is his bond. Ramon Arevalo built the provincial capitol of Lingayen and owned the Sta. Clara Lumber Co. Later the farm was entrusted to his youngest uncle Unca Anoy who sold it to pay off the debt. To whom we do not know.
Larry remembers being brought to town by car every morning and there on a promontory in front of church was his school. His favorite merienda food was papaya pickles served in banana leaves for one centavo a portion. Two events happened during that year in Manaoag. First, the Department of Public Instruction ( as the Department of Education was known then) suddenly discovered the IQ test to determine the native intelligence of the individual regardless of education or environment or culture, and enthusiastically, the public school authorities applied the IQ test to everyone, to teachers, officials and the students alike. Later a delegation from Manila showed up in Laki Daniel’s farm. Daniel Maramba was then the Assemblyman from the 3rd District of Pangasinan. He was informed that his 8-year-old grandchild. Hilarion M. Henares Jr., was the brightest in the whole province of Pangasinan, besting all teachers and school officials. He had an IQ of 170, genius level. That was the proudest moment in the lives of grandfather and grandson. From there on. Larry was to have any book he wanted as a prize for getting good grades. The first books he asked for was the complete 20 volumes of the Book Of Knowledge. This was followed in rapid succession by an entire set of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan hard cover books. He ordered other books, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, eventually the books of Chesterton, HG Wells, even Ernest Hemingway. Larry read all of them, one book a day for most of his life. Later, he was called by the American manager of Philippine Education Co., to be given a certificate of appreciation for buying the greatest number of books, with the exception of libraries.
The second event was the fact that his cousin Fedi Maramba who was a year younger, and who was his classmate in Manaoag, failed to pass Third Grade and stayed behind, while Larry was promoted to Fourth Grade.
The next school year, Larry and Fedi and Fedi’s sister Soly were transferred to Lingayen Elementary School in the capital town of Pangasinan, there to live in the Ladies Hall dormitory owned by two old maids, their aunt Emilia Maramba, sister of Larry’s mother and her close friend, Auntie Mejiang Mejia. Here they were inveigled to take piano lessons under Professor Bañez. Here they crossed the street to go to school by the seaside, near the provincial capitol building built by Laki Daniel when he was governor of the province of Pangasinan. Pangasinan was then the rice bowl of the country, the richest province, and his capitol building was copied by almost every province in the country – so that architectural atrocity based on Greek design proliferated all over. Laki Daniel also built the first province-wide asphalt roads in the country and lined them with mango trees for the benefit of his provincemates.
The next school year when he was fifth grade, Larry went back with his Uncle Feling’s family to Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. He wondered why he has been transferred from one town to another every school year, and his grandfather confided that someday he may run for national office (for the presidency, no less) and he might need as many classmates as possible to help in his campaign. Unfortunately no one has kept track of his classmates who certainly must have forgotten their one year’s association with Larry. When he needed them for his senatorial campaign in 1967, no classmates surfaced except those from Ateneo.
It was during his fifth grade in Sta. Barbara Elementary School that (1) he was accelerated to sixth grade (double promotion, it was termed), and (2) he fell in love with a girl named Josefa Biason, daughter of the town’s soap-maker and store-owner. It was then that he wrote his poetic masterpiece, a one liner in Shakespearean iambic pentamenter and in the Pangalatok dialect:
Biason sabon/ Igor the paltak of/ Hilarion, roughly translated, “Biason soap scrubs the testicles of Hilarion.” It was a sensation, quoted everywhere. To escape the notoriety of the poem, the girl in the years that followed got herself another boyfriend, married a stranger from out of town, moved to Manila under her married name, worked at the Central Bank seeking the anonymity of a large organization, and finally migrated to Canada. And the poem lives on, eclipsing anything that Larry ever wrote afterwards. Larry continued to order books from Philippine Education Co., and eventually got the reading habit.
The next year Fedi, Soly and Larry were entrusted to the care of their grandfather, Don Daniel Maramba, an assemblyman who held office and residence in Manila. Soly was placed in Sta. Scholastica in Singalong street. Fedi and Larry were enrolled in the Ateneo de Manila, located in Padre Faura, Larry in the seventh grade, 7-B section under teacher Mr. Bejar, the grade school principal being Father Henry Irwin who was once a Broadway actor, and who directed the school play Joan of Arc, played by Lamberto Avellana, and Cyrano de Bergerac starring Narciso Pimentel and Arsenio Lacson. In Ateneo Larry was an outsider, a sickly boy that always got elbowed and tripped in a basketball game. He had one moment of glory in the soccer field when in a game with the rival 7-B section, as the guard he kicked the ball into the wrong goal. He found a friend in the person of Edgardo Jalandoni, a classmate, who went out of his way to befriend him and kept the other boys from bullying him. His notes kept being commandeered by bullies, and he was actually considered too shy or too dumb to shine in class. The most siga of the classmates was a boy called Jose Felix, a very naughty boy who flicked his kulangot at Larry. And when Larry reported this to the teacher, he started to nickname Larry Kulangot. Joe Felix was a good boxer too, and he was bigger than most, so he got away with his bad jokes. In later years he stopped growing, and was the smallest in the class. It was finally his turn to be bullied.
During this 7th grade year at the Ateneo, Larry contracted a bad case of chicken pox and mumps, and was absent for three months. When he came back to school, everybody was surprised because they assumed he was kicked out or transferred to another school. He was way behind in his school work, and was told that he was failing with an average of 60 percent, and that he had to get a grade of 90 percent in the final exams to get a passing grade of 75 percent. For the first time in his life he lost confidence in himself and despaired of ever passing. He studied hard, and during exams he was caught passing notes to classmate Fermin Miyasaki who was begging his help. Bejar accused him of cheating, and gave him a hard pinch in the inner thigh. Larry thought that he was going to be expelled for this one act of cheating in the finals. But he was not. Perhaps Bejar, who was a Pangasinense took pity on him. But most probably Bejar found that Larry had a much higher grade than Miyasaki or others in almost all the subjects, enough to bring his average to passing grade. He did much better than everyone expected, because his average was actually 80 percent. Still he was among the average students in the class, and was considered a bit dumb.
It was in his next year, first year high, when in the first quarter grading period, the history teacher Pio Roa, announced that there is one genius who got a perfect grade in history, and that was Larry Henares. Everyone kidded Larry for probably cheating like he once did. In the next period, the algebra teacher, Rodolfo Sarenas, asked Larry to stand up and be recognized. He had a perfect grade too in Algebra. He became an instant celebrity. Of course the brightest in the class was Ricardo Vicente, whose father was a manufacturer of tombstones and marble statues, and who had better grades in the other subjects. He and Larry were consistent First Honors. Larry Henares began to shine, and he would remember his classmates: JV Cruz, later to be press secretary to President Magsaysay; Horacio Borromeo, a newsman to be; Gustavo Gonzalez, later an advertising executive; Oscar Liboro, komang, later to be a doctor of medicine; Ansberto Paredes, later to be judge of the Makati Regional Court; Rene Hontiveros who became a religious freak; Mike Magsaysay, later to be a shipping magnate. They were all in the A-section under Father Dennis Lynch, SJ. They were to continue in the A-section throughout high school under Father Huguendobler in the 2nd year, under Father Trubig in the 3rd year, and Father Dow in the 4th and final year. When they graduated as the HS Class of 1940, the valedictorian was found to be of the B-section, Juan C. Tan, later to be a pioneer labor leader, president of the Federation of Free Workers under the tutelage of Father Hogan.
Ateneo students loved their Jesuit professors, who in every sense of the term were in loco parentis, acting in place of parents. They played basketball and soccer with their wards, even boxed with them. Once while Larry was conversing with his grandfather, his grandpa regaled him with stories of the revolution which he led in Pangasinan. Laki Daniel was not only a Katipunero but like most Filipino leaders at the time was a 33rd Degree Freemason, an anti-cleric who hated the Spanish friars. Larry ventured an opinion, “Well, it is a good thing they are not men of the world selfishly motivated, but priests of God dedicated to the greater good.” Laki Daniel turned purple, “Is that what the Jesuits have been teaching you? Larry, there are no worse tyrants than those who are self-righteous, men of God who hear heavenly voices and would not hear the voices of their fellow men, who would burn your body to save your soul!!” Years later, Larry was to remember what his grandpa said as he read of the Holy Inquisition, Muslim Fundamentalists like Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, and the mass suicide of Jim Jones and his fanatic followers.
Forthright, Laki Daniel ordered that Fedi Maramba and Larry Henares be transferred to de La Salle College. But the cousins refused, they had too many friends in Ateneo, and did not want to be transferred to a rival school against which Ateneo played in the NCAA, National Collegiate Athletic Association. They would have been considered disloyal by their Ateneo friends and an abominable spy by La Salle students. So they were allowed to continue in Ateneo. In deference to Laki Daniel’s wishes, however, Larry’s brother Teddy was enrolled in de la Salle, and so were Fedi’s brothers, and the rest of the grandsons. Fedi and Larry were the only grandsons who studied under the Ateneo Jesuits. The granddaughters stayed in Sta. Scholastica under the Benedictine Sisters.
From the very beginning, since the first grade, Larry became a movie addict. In Barrio Tinongan, Isabela, Occidental Negros, he went almost daily to the silent films being shown in the theater of Isabela Sugar Co., and at least once a week, his parents brought him to the town proper, where he saw the “chapter plays,” a movie serial of twelve chapters, two chapters played every Thursday. Throughout his school days in Pangasinan, he couldn’t remember having ever seen a movie, except one called One Night of Love, starring Lili Pons, in Lingayen. He still remembers the music and lyrics. In Manaoag, he started to collect published song hits, the oldest being “Please” popularized by Bing Crosby. He also remembers the words and the tune. In Lingayen, he collected the Sunday comics of Tarzan, the ones written and drawn by Hal Foster, later in his life he was able to get a complete collection of color reprints.
It was in Manila where he continued his habit of going to movies, especially Tivoli Theater in Sta. Cruz, where movie serials were shown four hours in their entirety. Them were indeed the days. He saw Buster Crabbe both as Tarzan and as Flash Gordon, and oh yes, as Buck Rogers. He saw also Herman Brix as Tarzan, and Ralph Byrd as the perennial Dick Tracy. He saw the Undersea Kingdom, and a Filipino playing the role of a noble savage. But he also went to the theaters of Ernesto Rufino (State, Capitol, Lyric, Avenue) and Rafael Roces (Ideal Theater) where he was enamored of Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin, Nelson Eddy, Robert Donat and Errol Flynn. It was Hollywood’s golden age, the time of the magnificent movie Citizen Kane (by Orson Welles), Gone With The Wind, Spellbound, Rebecca. It was also the time when he started to collect records of Nelson Eddy and Frank Sinatra (with Tommy Dorsey).
Came the time for college. Like all good Ateneans, the class of 1940 were prevailed upon to enroll in Liberal Arts. It was the showcase course of Ateneo, designed to mold the students to the Jesuit’s idea of a “whole man.” This was to be the most memorable years of Larry Henares, for it was the time he began to notice girls, to witness the death of his beloved grandfather, and to encounter the traumatic experience of World War II.