Romeo Rose Zabal

                                                                            December 26, 1940 – August 6, 2015

             Romy Zabal, 74, passed away on August 6, 2015 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was born to Marcelino, Sr and Dorotea Zabal in Polo, Banga, Aklan, Philippines. He enlisted in the Philippine Air Force and attained the grade of Staff Sergeant. He went on to graduate from Guagua National College with a BS in Business Administration and accepted the role of Finance Officer in the Philippine Constabulary (now the Integrated National Police). Romy married Lydia Yeban of Malinao on November 8, 1972 in Kalibo, Aklan. After moving to the United States in 1973, he worked in the Finance departments of Signetics and Philips, where he retired in 2002. Romy had a list of hobbies including playing volleyball, dancing, gardening, traveling, babysitting his grandchildren, karaoke, and playing games like mahjong and Hold ‘Em poker. His most passionate project was preserving his family heritage by creating the Zabal family tree where he was able to trace his family roots back to the 1700s. He found many long-lost and distant relatives by interviewing elders and reviewing public records. He was also an active member of the Malinao Brotherhood Improvement Society (MBIS), where he was twice elected President, as well as Treasurer, auditor and a member of the Board of Directors. Romy is survived by his mother Dorotea, his loving wife of 42 years, Lydia, his daughter and son-in-law, Althea & Giancarlo of Los Angeles, CA, and son and daughter-in-law, Glenn and Juliet of Hayward, CA, and two granddaughters, Olivia, Thalia, Aurelia, Sophia and Catalina  . He is also survived by his siblings Servillano, Edgardo, Marcelino Jr, Franklin, Lorna, Dante, and Diosdado. He is preceded in death by his father Marcelino, Sr. and brother Eduardo. 





 I was born and  raised  in Polo, Banga, Aklan.   At a young age, I  was almost denied the privilege to grow up with my natural parents and siblings when a  childless couple tried to adopt me. I was later returned to my parents... thanks to my tantrums as a result of separation from my family.

 When  WW2 started and the  Japanese were marching towards  the vicinity of Banga,  our  family left Polo and evacuated to Bulabod, Malinao located  around ten kilometers across the Aklan  river. It was  a safe distance from the Japanese invaders, according to my parents.

At the end  of  the war, we returned to Polo and my parents built a house on a lot in "takas" (uphill) owned by our grandparents near the houses of our Aunt's  (Columba Zabal Ibabao and  Perfecta Zabal Merano).  Later we abandoned the house later to stay with our grandfather Lolo Kikoy (Francisco Zabal) so that I can start my elementary education.  Lolo Kikoy's house was  near the back of current location of Polo Church. The house frontage  served as the  "pandayan" (barn)  where Lolo  worked  all day to make  bolos and knives  from  ironed chassis of old buses and cars.


 After the liberation, we relocated  to "minoro" from takas (minoro is the lowland)  to be near the school.  My classmates in first grade  were  mostly matured, who were delayed in their schooling due to the Japanese occupation. Other aunts also relocated; Nay Pecta  and Omba.  The entire property where the current  school is located was donated by our grandmother,  Pomposa Rabanes Zabal.


 The process of making  bolos was hard and laborious. Hence,  none of the grandfathers descendant dared to follow his footsteps.  Charcoal was used to heat up these irons. It started by producing the charcoal from dried firewood gathered in the  river.  These  firewoods are coming from the south of the river in Libacao where "caingin", (a method of preparing the land to plant rice)  virgin trees were cut and burned to clear the land. Cut branches of these trees were  abundant along the river banks when the flood subsides. Caingin is now prohibited.




 One day, Lolo Kikoy asked  me to accompany him to go to  "tabok", (other side of the river) so he can make charcoal out of the firewood.  The water in the river was knee deep. It was summer and hot. While waiting for the wood to burned, he asked  me to  harvest corn  near  the  bank so that we could  cook it in the fire.  We did not ask permission, so I assume the corn plantation  was owned by our relative.


 Lolo owned a male carabao  that used to plow the rice field near  the side of po-eo. "Po-eo" is a round  piece of land in the middle of a rice field. Po-eo has a legend. According to the old folks,  there was a big  bell (the one used in the church) when rung, the sound can reached the "camorosan". "Camorosan" is a barrio  across the  river now named  Rosario.  The " moros" (inhabitants of Camorosan) were upset and wanted to get hold of the bell. Afraid of the consequences,  the  inhabitants  hid the bell by burying it in  the middle of the rice  field. This was  where  barrio Polo got its  name .



Eventually, Lolo Kikoy moved his pandayan  near the house of Nay Pecta  and a cockfit was contructed beside it. Weekend in Polo is alive. Nay Omba  cooked "combo" (sweet rice with ripe banana-deep fried)  to be sold during Sundays. Business of Lolo making bolo was prosperous.  Customers would visit his barn  to buy or  repair of their bolos.  One day he  got sick.  I did not remember if a medical doctor saw him.  Every night, most of  his grandchildren were gathered to comfort him.  He complained of severed  stomach pain  and feel relieved when someone rubbed his  abdomen.  He always  asked for Rosalio Zabal, his son who migrated  to United States before the great depression but never came back to visit. The old folks would  tell him  that Rosalio is coming home.  He died a few days later  and the carabao that he owned was butchered and served during his wake. We are  required to fall in line and kissed his hand inside a coffin to show our last respect.  (Udate for Rosalio Zabal; He died in San Jose, CA in 1971. My cousin  Gav Z. Reloj is   the only relative to see him alive. e comes  He was in New  York City  a few months prior to his death and was able to visit California and found him.  There was a big celebration  among relatives  when news reached them that he was alive).

  My father, Marcelino Sr, started a barter trade of  "talibong" a  sharpened bolo designed to be a side armed  protection  to most  residents of barrio folks in Libacao. (After my grandfather died , bolos were now made by the Merano brothers)  A sack of rice is trading for three bolos.  Our destination is barrio Alfonso XII, where my father knew a guy, Lilo,   who was  a sponsor during his baptism.  This place is very far and  remote, we have to walked for two days, the first night we slept at Barrio Pampango,  then proceeded  to Alfonso XII the following morning.  This trip coincide with the harvest time of the "caingin" rice plantation. We stayed there for a week and visited other barrios along  the boundary of  Capiz and Iloilo  Provinces.


When we  gather all the rice from the barter.  Lilo  helped my father built a raft made of bamboo woods.  We were able to accumulate around eight  sacks  during the trade,. We loaded all in the raft and follow the river  current  towards  Libacao town. The raft ride  would  reach the town early afternoon.



Our cargo was heavy,  the water current was so strong that we cannot control  the raft.  We  then hit a big stone protruding in the river. My swimming training in Polo proved helpful. We  lost some cargo, but  did not capsize completely. The raft just  tilted  a little bit for some cargo to go overboard. Nothing was left of the watermelons and ripe bananas,  but the  sacks of rice were soaked.  During the night, we deposited the rice in the house of a relative in Libacao town and decided  to go home to Polo the following morning.  That was the last time I accompanied my father to Alfonso XII.


The following months  I enrolled as a first year high school student in Banga.  My other  elementary classmates went to  Manila to look for jobs. Those who were left behind joined the sacada. The sacada workers (Sugar cane farmers in Negros) would  asked  advance money to be  spent for their family needs, others will gamble or  used to  buy  "basket" that contained cooked chicken with a gallon of tuba sold to the highest bidders and a privileged  to  dance  with the candidate of a beauty contest held during the weekend. To be a queen in the barrio,  a candidate must accumulate  the highest money count.  The highlight of the occasion is for  the "Queen" with her male escort marching inside the hall and be crowned and  adored  various speakers. Her reigned was one full year.


  During  a heavy down pour or typhoon,  the river overflows,  the clear water become brownish, a signal to prepare a hook and line  to catch shrimps. Our bait was  a live worm harvested beneath the soil. Our catch was  not much  but just enough. We had  fun doing it.

 One time  during a flood, a wild deer was seen catching his last breath floating in the river bank. Tay Moises Zabal  caught  it, cooked  and shared with neighbors and relatives.


One   January, Santo Nino was fast approaching.   A movie "To Hell and Back" is showing in Laurie Theatre in  Kalibo.  We need to get ready by 4:00 AM to get a ride and go home early too. The bus is full to capacity, overloaded yet the conductor will still accept additional passengers. Fare is ten centavos. New paper money currency was introduced in the denomination of five, ten, twenty and fifty centavos. The song "Via Con Dios" was  frequently played in the only radio phono owned by Nay Pecta.  New dance craze, Cha-cha was introduced, low waist pants was the new modern attire. The most popular president of the country "Ramon Magsaysay" died  in a plane crashed a year earlier.


 Past time games we played are ; Bong; puti-puti; sato; touching; hole-in, bong (coconut shell)  and  palmo but we no longer played them. They were  replaced by tombo, lucky nine, dama  and volleyball.  We tried basketball with an improvised ring using small ball as a past time.  Life goes on in Polo.


 On June of 1961, I decided to go to Manila to pursue better opportunities. I bid goodbye to Lola, Pomposa Rabanes Zabal.   She  retrieved money  from her waistline and handed me two pesos. She must have  prepared  the money ready for me. That  was the last time I saw Lola alive.  I boarded a ship from New Washington, Aklan going to Manila. The fare was  sixteen pesos.    Four months later Lola Posay died. My cousins and I sent a telegram to Tay Moises, the eldest son of Lola extending our condolences.  We signed the telegram with our names as; Romeo, Rodulfo, Paquito, Maurito,  Melchor and Arnaldo

A farmers daily routine in the barrio! 

A banca  ride in Aklan river from Polo to Navitas, Malinao. Fastest means of transportation.

Background is Davao Insular Hotel in Davao City-1972

With  Pat Zabal; Lydia; Jury & Boots Reloj-Happier times at Manila Peninsula.

 Tour of Duty-Davao City

My Parents; Marcelino Rabanes Zabal & Dorotea Rose Zabal taken in Fremont, CA, 1986.

Wedding Picture-Nov 6, 1972; Kalibo Cathedral



                                                        BY ROMY R. ZABAL 



   Lolo Kikoy (Francisco Zabal) moved his "pandayan"  near the plaza where our house is located now.  Barrio life began to recover from the war, schools opened and commerce start booming. A cockpit near the "Pandayan was built, was abandoned later due to rain or typhoon  damaged.  A new one was built besides Tay Dolo Yecla's  house. It served a lot of purposes.  Daily "palmo" was  played inside the pit.  Palmo is a game where participating  players  strikes a coin, one centavo to a post so that it will roll away  but not over a designated line.  A player who rolls his coin the farthest but not outside the line, must  tag  other player's coin  to win.  Each player must agree the number of coins they can roll. Money changed hand in this game.


The cockpit was the venue every Sunday morning by teenagers for a boxing matched prior to the actual cockfight in the afternoon.


Another games under the gambling category is "paya'. Two centavo coins are spinned together  in a prepared flat form in the ground and  covered it by a hat before the two coins  made "santik" or contact. Players must stayed close to the ground on a crouching position motionlessly watching the two coins spinned  and make contact.  Players may call head or tail after the coin stop spinning and fully covered by a hat. A head call must showed both  heads to win and a tail call must showed both tail  to win.  Players bet money and the  hat must be opened  slowly sliding to the left or right  to see the coins. Once the first coin is shown, either head or tail, another proposition bet is offered to see the  second coin.

 Gamblers  can predict the outcome by his sense  of "hearing" once the two coins made contact.  In 1993 I met this guy who told me his story. He has the ability to predict the outcome  based on his hearing skill and probability.  He told us that it was  a  fair game.  He can predict the outcome by the sound of the "santik" or strike. Opposing  players cannot matched his skill, most of the  time he wins.  Players used paper money, a one half fold means fifty cents bet;  one forth fold means twenty five cents bet.  A small fold in either side is seventy five cents.

 Another games under the gambling category is called "Tombo". Three one centavo coins  are tossed together approximately two feet into the air above a  cement.  The tosser  is called "banka' or banker and the opposing player are called "mananaya" or bettor.

These coins must show all heads to win for the banker and three tails for the "bettor" to win.

If it shows a mixed head or tail, it is a draw. It is repeatedly tossed until someone win.



 On weekends,  we will play "Bong",  I do not know where the name originated but many participates and played  in front of the  house of  Epimaco  Ighut  now the location of the barrio hall.   The  game  start by  throwing a half coconut shell away from the players. The players will scramble and  hide while the designated  watchers  retrieved it,   put the shell in a predetermined  spot and start to look for the players. Once  a player is spotted, the watcher  will shout "Bong" and tag the coconut shell.  The first player spotted becomes the watcher unless saved by other players. Players can be saved  only if the other players emerged and touches the coconut shell ahead of the watcher.  There was  a trick to this game. If two or  more  players suddenly appear at the same time and  the watchers failed to say "Bong" or the foot is not on the coconut shell,  the watcher  stays. 


 "Prisohan" or Prison Cell is mostly played by boys as  it requires a lot of running. Two opposing teams must have equal number of players, 4, 5 or more. Team players  must stay inside a  circle called "prisohan" or cell. Winner of the (Stone, scissor and paper) has the right to pursue first  a player of the other team trying to go out of the cell and running away  avoiding a tag,  if not tagged he returned to his cell and another player start the sequence.  If  tag he becomes a prisoner, the player who do the tagged becomes a target before he can go home to his cell.


Prisoner must  stay inside the imaginary cell  of the opposing team  guarded by the other team. He can be rescued only by his teammates by tagging his hand, but the rescuer  is also in danger of becoming a prisoner if tag first  by the guard.  The sequence is followed alternately until all the players get out of the cell. Teams wins if all players become  prisoners or surrender.


 "Sato"  is played by two players. They are called the hitter and the watcher. Both players must have a round dried bamboo stick around three  feet long and a small wood cut slightly in an angle, normally from a guava fruit tree around three inches long. The object is to strike the small wood so that it will rise above the ground and hit it away.  The hitter then will place the bamboo stick in front of him while the watcher retrieve the small wood and  throw toward the direction of the hitter. He must  hit the bamboo stick to end his  turn. Hitter repeat the same sequence many times  until stopped.  Sometimes we agreed to repeat  the same sequence equal number of  times and then the hitter becomes the watcher.  


Hole-in is round the size of a big button and mostly played  by two players. The object is to put  "hole in" in a prepared four holes called primera, segunda, tercera and cuarta separated by at least two meters. The winner is determined if he can put the hole-in into the prepared holes from primera to cuarta and vice versa. Any player who missed to hole in at any point is a signal for other to start at primera or with the option to aim the opposing player's hole in,  and when hit the game is over. The winner enjoy the chance to strike the back hand of the losing player called "bitug", could be 2, 3 or 4 strikes depending upon the agreement. A player  who  can put his hole in nearest the primera hole start first.


 "Touching" used  rubber band and a flat round stone or coin were  used to play the game. Play start by placing  rubber band inside a one foot square flat form in the ground or cement. The two players  start by throwing the flat round stone in the opposite direction mark by  a line. The player whose stone or coin  nearest  the line start first by throwing the stone on the rubber band platform. The object is to make sure that the rubber band get out of the square. The second player can start only if the active player missed. The second player has two option, (a) try to hit  the stone of the other player  to win all the rubber band inside the flat form, or (b) try to throw her stone at the rubber band for a chance to hit it outside. The game ends when all the rubber band are out of the square or an opposing player hit the stone of another player. A player can pass his chance  by hiding his stone in an object so  that other player has no chance of hitting it. Young teenagers were addicted to this game, prompting a warning  from parents that they will boil these rubber band and let them  drink the boiled water. Sometimes  coins are used in lieu of rubber band and stone.


Aklan river is one of the venue of our group games. We play this only when the water is clear during summer time.  White stones are thrown into the deepest section of the water  and  players will attempt to recover them. It  improved  our swimming skills and exercise too. A swimmer  must retrieve majority of the stone to win.  Just for fun.




 During rainy season, we played "pitik".  Pitik is played in a flat surface using rubber band. Only two players play this. A rubber band is placed in a flat surface at a distance of two feet or more. A player start by pushing the rubber band with his point finger toward the rubber band of the opposing player, once the rubber band touches the other , the game is over and the rubber band belong to the winner.


Another game played in Polo is called Puti-puti.

Puti-puti is  played during corn harvest time, we used the root stalk portion of the corn.  By throwing the corn stalk like a missile strike to the stalk of the other player with the purpose of  disabling or damaging it. The winner is declared when the other stalk is disabled. The base  of the hill called "naga" was  once  a corn plantation but now  is a river bank.


In the later years, we learned to play volleyball using improvise  ball made of  rattan. Leather volleyball was introduced to the barrio folks donated by a local politicians. It was a luxury to have this ball.  We visited  adjacent  barrios to challenge them during barrio fiesta.  Play was intense and very competitive. It was a sport  I played  in High School and College.

 The group and individual games suddenly disappear with the advent of modern times and so my teammates. A new era has began.