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Wingman To The Angels

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Wingman

To The

Angels

By Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I can die a happy man !

I don’t have a son.

I don’t have a grandson.

I had the honor of any father or grandfather, as I stood and walk alongside my nephew in his commencement exercise.

“What Mothers Do” – Lanail Saldana holds a graduation gown, while Marife Saldana Roa, the mother of Glen Roa, checks the precise alignment of the flower on her son, Glen’s graduation gown before commencement exercises. Canon 40 D Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I walked alongside my nephew, Glen Roa, on the day that he underwent a monumental turning point in his life.

March 29, 2012, I strolled alongside my nephew, Glen Roa, in his formal graduation procession of the Juan Villablanca National High School, in Pastrana, in the Republic of the Philippines.

The joy inside my heart, mind and soul, I describe as, being promoted to the rank of “Seraphim” and given the opportunity to fly Combat Air Patrol off of the left wing of Saint Michael, the Archangel.

As a writer, monumental moments in my life, I always put on paper or place in my electronic journals, the “Sam I Am Blog” and my “Samuel Warren The Writer” blog.

A writer feels emotions like his fellow man and fellow woman, but, a writer has the passion to translate that emotion into words and to commit it to print for future generations.

For me, walking alongside Glen in his commencement exercise gave me a supreme sensation of pride that could only be explained as being assigned to the military ranks of the Heavenly Host.

What greater tribute could there be in the Afterlife for a military man or woman than to be designated a “Seraphim” and authorized to fly alongside the Archangels ?

I am not a religious man. I try to be a spiritual man.

This event, gave me, the Pride, to feel like I had the honor to serve: as “Wingman To The Angels.”

“The Walk” — Samuel E. Warren Jr., strolls alongside, Glen Roa, his nephew, in the formal procession on Glen’s Graduation Day. Canon EOS 40 D Photo by Christy Warren.

The nature of the ceremony, obviously, made the day a monumental moment in Glen’s life.

The day was obviously – “Glen’s Day.”

Glen Roa accepts Communion at the church, before joining his fellow students in the formal graduation procession to the auditorium. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

However, Glen’s American uncle felt the tremendous positive energy flowing from the universe into the graduates, their parents and relatives.

A magnificent, positive energy that reminds people, you can change the world, you can move mountains. You simply need the faith in yourself and your convictions to move you along the path to greatness.

I stood next to Glen and felt like one of God’s Seraphim standing on a majestic mountain peak bathed in golden sunlight. The rays of the sun, moved along my angelic breastplate and tunic. My wings opened to the sunlight. I stood ready to serve in the immortal ranks of The Heavenly Host.”

My feet stood in the Real World on the soil of the Republic of the Philippines, but, my imagination takes flight. I draw my sword and spread my wings. At altitude, I bank in the sunlight and fly through the ranks of the seraphim. I soar and sail among the formation of the archangels and move into position to fly off the left wing of Saint Michael, the Archangel.

Today, I am Saint Michael’s Wingman.

Back in the Real World, I stand alongside Glen. The sweltering heat and sunlight reaches the point that it is uncomfortable to just be standing outside. Yet, Glen stands in the long white line of students selected to graduate.

“The Long White Line ” — boys and girls in caps and gowns move along the route of the commencement exercise procession toward the goal of graduate. Photo by Christy Warren.

I have always been a persistent, passionate writer. When I pick up my camera for a news or important photography situation, I enter my Michelangelo mindset and try to figure out how I will be able to capture a photo that will remain a moving work of art to stand the test of time. The photography mindset is never a conscious act as much as a mental urge to be in the right place, at the right time, to capture a moment of history to stand the test of time.

My calling in life had always been to be the best reporter and photographer that it is humanly possible for me to be.

My writer’s mind, tells me God and Saint Michael, took the necessary actions to move me to this point in time.

In November 1988, I reported to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines. I was a single American G.I., in pursuit of the dream of earning a Pulitzer Prize for writing or photography. Born a Texan and raised an Ozarks country boy, my ambition in life was to be a world-renowned photojournalist.

Life is an assignment that takes a serious of missions to put you in the right position to attain success and contentment. On duty, in the Real World, the United States Air Force would issue orders that would take Christy and I to Japan, Alabama and finally to retirement in Missouri.

Mount Pinatubo’s noxious sulfur fumes had changed the blanket of air over Clark Air Base into the pungent, persistent, almost choking stench of “rotten eggs.”

The slight shudder of the earth beneath your feet in February had grown to an intensity that seemed Mother Earth was being racked with strong contractions like a woman in labor by the month of May.

Before the rebirth of Mount Pinatubo into a volcano, Christy and I had taken the military orders and landed in Japan.

Mount Pinatubo had been nature’s “bunker buster bomb blast” that severed all Real World communications between Christy and her family in the Republic of the Philippines.

The status of all Christy’s relatives were “Unknown” – Missing In Action.

In a matter of days, Mount Pinatubo had devastated a section of a nation with a force usually displayed by nations at war.

And, the aftermath of Mount Pinatubo’s action, took 21 years for Christy to finally locate and determine the fate of her family in the Philippines. Marife and Ramon had had their own families.

With communications reestablished the Warrens in the United States and the Saldanas in the Philippines were becoming a family separated by a body of water called the Pacific Ocean.

Like United States Army General Douglas MacArthur, Christy Warren was determined to “Return To The Philippines.” General MacArthur had a mission. Christy Warren had family in the Philippines.

Glen adjusts his robe and straightens his mortarboard graduation cap, I smile and realize that at last Life had brought us to this point.

Glen, the young man, had grown up hearing stories about his “Tita Christy and Tito Sam.” Since our return to the Philippines, he had seen we were not fictional characters, but real people.

My grandfather, Joseph Samuel Warren, had been an East Texas farmer. My father, Samuel E. Warren, had served in the European Theater of Operations and the Pacific Theater of Operations, during World War II. Dad had earned two Silver Stars and assigned to the United States Army Signal Corps had installed some of the first telephone lines through the jungles of the Republic of the Philippines, during the war.

Glen had told his mom, he wanted to join the military. I hope the stories of my dad’s military service had inspired Glen to understand that military service is a calling of patriotism and compassionate devotion to one’s fellow citizens.

Glen’s confident smile reminded me of my exciting days at Clark Air Base back in the late 1980s. I looked at Glen and was reminded of General Fidel V. Ramos. I had been fortunate enough to take a photo of General Ramos on one of his visits to Clark.

When I arrived at Clark in the 1980s, I landed in the Philippines in the aftermath of the EDSA People Power Revolution and it was an exciting time.

The Global News Media had labeled former President Ferdinand Marcos an “evil dictatorial strongman.” Since President Marcos had always been a reliable and devoted ally to the United States Government in the Pacific and Asia, people in the Philippines were suspicious of the United States Government and most all Americans.

Life in the Philippines had became a constant topic for the global news media. Since the revolution in 1986, the world watched to see what would happen in the Philippines.

Corazon Aquino, a housewife and widow, had become the President of the Republic of the Philippines. While President Aquino had been educated for a few years in the United States, Americans as a rule, really knew nothing about the new president.

At Clark, we performed out military duties and wondered if we would get orders to pack up and head for “home” – the United States. In 1988 and 1989, I went to work each day in a country that was in transition as a new government established itself. It seemed everyday the international news media had stories of political intrigue originating from the Philippines.  Americans back home in the United States were confused about the news coming out of the Philippines. 

Every couple of weeks I would call my mother back in the United States, who would usually be upset because she had seen television coverage about the actions of the New People’s Army and had seen on television and in newspapers the coverage of protests demanding “Get US troops out of the Philippines” and, of course, the television footage was always shot outside of Clark or Subic on the days that protestors showed up, a few minutes before the global news media arrived with their television cameras and radio microphones.

I remember seeing a photo of General Juan Ponce Enrile, in uniform, on the cover of “Time” magazine. Despite the news going on around us at Clark, the names of two prominent Filipino generals always seemed to emerge in a positive light: General Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos.

I looked at my nephew, Glen and wondered if he would rise in life to have the admiration and respect of his comrades in arms like General Fidel Ramos. Then, we began walking in the procession toward the auditorium.

In my writer’s mind I had been elevated to the position of “Wingman To The Angels.” In the Real World, my nephew, Glen walked the symbolic pathway that led him through the doorway to decide which path he would take in life.

Glen Roa, steps to center stage, during his commencement exercises to accept his diploma. Samuel E. Warren Jr., his uncle. crosses behind him to stand beside him on the stage. Canon EOS 40 D Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

He stepped on to the stage and bowed to the audience.

I stood at his side and bowed.

As we stepped off the stage, I was confident, that Glen would be a young man, who would make a name for himself, and serve his fellow citizens.

To the reporters of “USA Today,” the “New York Times,” the “Washington Post,” “Time,” “Newsweek,” the “Manila Bulletin,” the “Philippine Daily Inquirer” the “Philippine Star,” Reuters and the Associated Press, I would suggest, “Get your cameras ready,” my nephew, Glen Roa, is a young man, who will make headlines and history.

Congratulation, Glen !

Written by samwarren55

May 26, 2012 at 10:52 PM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Current Events, Editorial, Family, Leyte, Observances, Philippines, Photos, Tourism, Tropics, Vacation

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She Males Pass In Review

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She Males

Pass In Review

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Life is always full of surprises, especially in Leyte, Republic of the Philippines.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Eyes right !”

Eyes front !”

Yes, I see an exotic, woman, in an island headdress, slender bra, short grass skirt, and translucent high heels strut flamboyantly down the rural barangay road.

Saturday, May 12, 2012, the Barangay Cameri Festival is underway. Family and friends have found their way to One Warren Way. Everyone gets them a plate of food and something to drink.

The adults crowd around the long coconut wood dining table and settle on one of the two matching benches. The kids take their plates of food and drinks and head outside to find a log or rock to sit on and eat. Everyone gets comfortable to eat, drink and talk.

Mano Bito, Junbean and I are sitting at a small wood table talking and smoking Philip Morris cigarettes. Junbean and I are drinking our San Miguel Pale Pilsen beers. The nieces, nephews and their cousins rush past us laughing and giggling into the dense jungle vegetation of the front yard. My wife, Christy, tells me the kids are excited about the “bakla” parade. I smile and take a swig of my cold San Miguel.

A few minutes later, I glance out at the road. I turn back and raise my San Miguel bottle. It is beer number two and three-quarters of the cold brew sloshes in the bottle. I look at the coconut trees and they are not blurred.

My mind and eyes are fine.

A tall island woman appears to have stepped out of an Aztec island culture and sashays along the road.

The tall, slender, exotic woman is no hallucination.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The tall, slender, exotic woman is not a figment of my imagination.

Each footstep wobbles the monolithic peacock feather headdress. A long statuesque leg rises and rustles the grass skirt out of the way. Sunshine glistens into a star burst off the toe of the clear, plastic, acrylic high heel. And, the thick platform sole shoe steps on to the asphalt barangay road.

My mind reminds me : Plastic and acrylics weren’t around in island cultures at the time of Ferdinand Magellan.

My mind suggests: “There is a story here.”

Hermaphrodite, Cross-dresser,Transvestite, Transgender, Transsexual,Trannie, Tranny, Tgirl, Ladyboy, SheMan, and She Males are all American English words used to describe a person, who does not fit into the traditional category of either – a man or a woman.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr,

In the Republic of the Philippines, in Tagalog, the word, “Bakla,” (pronounced: Bach – la) means a person, who does not fit in the category of man or woman. In Waray, in the Eastern Visayas, the word, “Bayot”, (pronounced –Bye –you—T) means a person, who is outside the category of man or woman.

In Life, things are not always what they seem.

Thus, the woman in the Polynesian island costume and high heels, who at first glance, looks like a future “Playboy” centerfold – is not a biological woman at all.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

None of the women, who appeared to be fashion models strolling the runway – were biological women.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In a few moments, other baklas in a variety of costumes worthy of a Hollywood movie studio stroll along the rural barangay road. Adults and children wander out to the road to watch the she male parade pass in review.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I pick up my Nikon D 100 camera, which had been taking pictures of family, friends, food and kids. I walk up to the road and watch the parade sashay along the winding road.

Like American politicians campaigning for office, during an election year, the she males, stop, smile, wave, speak to the spectators and children. And like skilled American politicians on the campaign trail, they pause long enough to strike a pose for pictures.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Then, the She Males continue on to the Barangay Cameri stone heart-shaped boundary marker.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Despite the sweltering heat, the parade participants took their time to smile and wave at the onlookers.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Even children make their way to the roadside to watch the parade intently.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some people stare at the she males. Some snicker and laugh. Other people simply watch.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Then, the well-disciplined she males, wave, an execute a relaxed, casual, about face maneuver and begin back down the road.

The flamboyant she male in an Aztec style costume, flourishes his purple train, turns and with the confident demeanor of a Paris fashion model breezes down the road like it is a fashion runway.

Heads high, shoulders back, the she males soldier on back down the road to the Barangay Baras Basketball Court.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In single file formation, they walk with an air of dedication past the spectators, who watch the she males pass in review.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

This is the first time I have ever had a news story or photo opportunity literally stroll past my front door.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

My reporter’s curiosity has the best of me.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Camera in hand, I step into the back of the ranks of the passing parade. My squad of curious nieces and nephews fall in step on my right and left flanks.

People stand along the roadside of Barangay Baras and watch the she males pass in review back to the Barangay Baras Basketball Court. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

It requires “Courage” to be able to take a stand and do something out of the ordinary that is a different view of the status quo of society at large. And, yet, these people in costume are strolling past the public with confidence in their steps. I admire the conviction and strength of character of these she males.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I and my troops pick up the pace.

I move briskly through the ranks and take photos of the spectators along the roadside watching.

My young troops try to hasten their steps to catch up.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Since I do not know the organization at the basketball court, I need to try to rush ahead to try and discover the event structure that is in place. Then, I will know, where I need to be to get photographs of the events as they happen.

I arrive in a crowd of people on the basketball court.

The basketball court is a temporary in-the-field command post of chaos and confusion – with no one apparently in charge. There is no entry control point, no admission gate and no way to determine, who needs to be at a certain point at a certain time.

The returning she males drift to the concrete bleachers on the sidelines to take refuge from the heat and adjust their costumes.

Nikon D 199 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some of the returning she males wander out on to the basketball court to await further instructions. They hover around the half-court line like children waiting for church to begin.

Suddenly, a man, obviously, with a plan, and, no doubt, an organizer, emerges from the fray of spectators and begins to shout instructions in Tagalog to the she male models.

Meanwhile, a cheerful man, exhibiting the exuberance of a Las Vegas casino winner, appears on a sideline at the back of the court and chats with two of the tall she males.

Then, the man’s friend raises a small compact digital camera. The two tall she males step beside the man. They stand straight and tall to strike a pose. His arms lash out around their backs to draw the models closer. His friend clicks the shutter.

The two tall she males in their elaborate costumes remind me of the movies of Las Vegas showgirls waiting to go on stage.

I watch with camera in hand. I glimpse my nieces and nephews at my side, wearing confused looks. I do not need to be a mind reader to see the question uppermost in their minds: “What is Tito Sam up to now ?”

I grin, I raise the Nikon D 100 slightly. They smile and nod. Message received.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some people drift on to the basketball court to watch.

Nikon D 199 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some of the models stroll out on to the basketball court ready to poses for photographs.Some of the local kids bring a basketball on the court to shoot hoops in the background.

Soon, the organizer, has the she males line up on the half-court line for a group photo.

Some of the local people watch and some of the curiosity seekers with compact digital cameras and cell phone cameras take photos and video.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Years of reporting and photography experience has taught me that whenever a group of people have to stand together for a photo, there is always the “human nature” programming that kicks in.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Whether it is a child standing next to it’s mother, a husband standing next to his wife, or people who work side-by-side everyday of their lives – “Hesitation” kicks in. Perhaps, it is a “personal space” issue, but, it is always up to the “Official Photographer” to encourage the people to move closer together.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Film and digital cameras do not understand or care about “personal space.” The camera viewfinder is only a certain compact size, regardless of the omnipotent lens that may be on the body of the camera.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The she male group, like any group of people, would only move so close together for a group photo. There was no “Official Photographer” to smile or bark orders, so everyone moved to a certain comfort point and stood their ground.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Like a bird in flight, I fluttered about, swooping around and trying to get a complete group photo. Human nature trumped my efforts and I could only get so many of the group within the viewfinder at a given time.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I tried different angles. The only alternative would have been to walk up and keep encouraging each person to move closer together with their toes positioned on the white basketball half-court line.

I was one of many photographers at the event.

I was not the official photographer.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I represented no newspaper or wire service, so I was not getting a paycheck, which meant, it was not my call. “Time,” “Newsweek,” “USA Today,” “The New York Times,” or “The Washington Post” had not call to say, “Sam, we want you on a photo assignment in the Philippines” – so, my personal photographic pursuit did not justify my interference.

As a working news photographer, I learned you are always suppose to get the story and the shot, but you are not suppose to be so dominant that the photographer becomes more of a memory than the actual news event, which means news photographers are suppose to be like Bob Kane’s “Batman,” you swoop in and out and then disappear into the shadows.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I got all of my photo shots. The organizer was still giving instructions and hand gestures to try to get the group to move closer together, when I looked at my bewildered nieces and nephews standing behind me.

I nod and gesture the camera at the entrance to the basketball court. They fall in step behind me.

While the parade had been one of the fiesta activities, it also served to promote “The Barangay Cameri Miss Gay 2012 Beauty Pageant, which would be held on the Barangay Cameri Basketball Court, Sunday, May 13, 2012, which proved to be an interesting event – but, that is another Samuel E. Warren Jr., News Story.

The “Warren Wander Warriors” stay in step, on both flanks for the ready “beat feet” deployment back to the house. I hand my Nikon D 100, to my niece, Vanissa Saldana, my photography assistant. I smile, “It is San Miguel time !”

I step off the road and stroll through the thick fern foliage back to the house.

Life is always full of surprises. Still, I never would of imagined a news and photo opportunity would have sashayed past my front door.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Sam

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