Shuffle Baby, Ben Timbol

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

TWO popular Angelenos -- both much talked about "characters" in their heyday -- are now resting in peace.

The first to go was Ben Timbol, 76; he died of a lingering illness last June, according to his estranged wife Celia. Her husband when already languishing in bed refused to take food. His nourishment came from his perpetual bottle of beer or shots of whiskey, the romanticist’s methodical exit to the other life.

Buried last Thursday at the Holy Mary Memorial park after a ritual attended largely by cockfighting aficionados and workers in the gaming industry was Ely Angeles, 76, former derby promoter and operator of the Mabuhay arena. Angeles, also called “Shuffle Baby” in the cockfight circuit, died of cardiac arrest in his Villa Gloria residence. Recently, he was operated for a fractured hip, which he sustained when he fell from his bed while reaching for a cigarette in a night stand nearby.


The legend was that every time Ely’s prized rooster was felled by a high leaping cock, he would dance around his badly wounded warrior, clapped his hands, and urged the cock, “Shuffle, baby! Shuffle baby!” Miraculously enough, the rooster summoned its last strength and leaped to a fatal kill on its opponent for the P50,000 bet or so.

His close buddy in their Clark days, Ed Quiambao, recalled being visited by his friend’s ghost while the former Airmen’s Club waiter-bartender was hooked up to a dialysis machine last Monday. The usually efficient machine suddenly malfunctioned leaving Ed in a state of anxiety. “I knew he was pulling a joke on me,” Ed said.

Ely used to be a popcorn peddler at the Kelly theatre where he got promoted to be chief movie machine operator. From there, he engaged in private business where he made money, Quiambao recalled. Angeles was a popular leader of the Jaycee movement in the ‘70s and a star player of the Lourdian basketball team. He managed the Caltex Quick Service station on Sto. Rosario street, the city’s No. l gas station up to the ‘90s. Ely, who was trusted by high stake gamblers, handled big time wagers from any and all parties who wanted to place a bet on a PBA team or a boxer during championship bouts. If you want to bet money on a political candidate, he would place your wager in promised time. He got his commission from both winner and loser.

If no one wants to accept your bet, he would take it himself. That was his way of winning or losing his money in the local betting game. But he was into big time cockfighting before his ailment.

When Angeles-led Lourdians champion team was invited to a town fiesta exhibition game in Mexico town, their opponent was Philippine Constabulary contingent from Arayat and Cabiao. Ely did not care if his opponents were rough, trigger happy foot soldiers who fought a rugged and bruising game. Soon the players from both sides started throwing fists, followed by a melee with guns being cocked. The Constables pointed at Angeles as the first elbow thrower. Even after fiesta officials cooled off and reconciled the protagonists, a jeep of PC soldiers went to Angeles city a week later for a terror mission. Mayor Francisco Nepomuceno mediated a peaceful settlement.

In the late ‘70s, Angeles City boxer Arnel Arrozal made the headlines in sports pages. The sensational and good looking local boy clobbered all opponents in the flyweight division. Then he was matched to fight former champion Bernabe Villacampo for the official flyweight crown. Pampangos hoped for a national champion.

Ely Angeles took me and another friend to the Rizal Memorial stadium. He was carrying a wad of cash, presumably to bet on the favored Arrozal. He was well known by the stadium bet makers (kristos). They transacted business through cryptic hand and finger signals which meant thousands of pesos.

The Pampanga group accompanying Arrozal also wagered big on the the good looking Far Eastern U engineering student. He led the first few rounds but did not want to have his face disfigured in an ugly brawl. He lost. Ely won a hefty sum. He treated us to an expensive dinner plus the customary balato.

In his younger days, Ben Timbol had a resemblance to the ‘60s action star Russ Tamblyn, according to lensman Lino Sanchez. Ben’s father was the famous Gregorio Timbol who, with another brother, carried out the infamous Pasudeco massacre in 1939.

Until the ‘90s, “Aming” Timbol held the distinction of having the highest IQ among Pampangos, reportedly at l60. His friend, the late Chito Bacani, a street smart, would argue all day not agreeing on the issues. The man with the high IQ always lost to his friend who predicted the consecutive victories of Tarzan Lazatin.

Ben and another handsome swain, Nelson Manankil married the winsome siblings of Mrs. Iniang Flores, famous owner of “Iniang’s Place” the ‘60s iconic dining place at the San Nicholas market. Aling Iniang was a strong-willed, industrious and penny-wise entrepreneur who made a fortune from “jambalaya” and fast food novelties.

Angelenos often recalled that Aming and Nelson -- both with movie actor’s fine looks and with similar sharp business acumen -- did not get along well. Each one outdid the other in any business venture they fancied. If Nelson succeeded in food production and real estate, Aming Timbol shone in the restaurant business and in night life.

I have doubts on Lino’s anecdotal account of the Ben-Nelson fierce but quiet rivalry to impress and please Aling Iniang, their feisty mother-in-law on who between them was the worthier son-in-law. But I did notice the hidden battle of pride between the two who had their houses built in adjacent lots in Villa Teresa.

In front of the Manankil house on Aurora drive was parked an American car which, while still serviceable and roadworthy, appeared forgotten and deliberately left to rot by its owner. Across the street fronting the Timbol mansion was an old Mercedez Benz which was likewise put there as if it was not worth anything.

Villa Teresa residents wondered why the owners of the vehicles on road storage did not care less if the expensive cars, which were not for sale, deteriorated by rain or sunlight. “Nelson was trying to prove his economic superiority over Timbol who was proving his higher social standing,” according to their common neighbor, the late city mayor Tony Abad Santos, a former used-car merchant.

Timbol, my columnist in the magazine I once edited, turned down my offer to buy the old rusting unused car by his house front, “Eke pisasali, pag-psywar kiyamo.”

While the two “mag-bilas” have passed away, observers would remember their secret competition over the other in their personal achievements. The two also shared similar passion for the bottle and the bliss of having alternative love during their troubled domestic life.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 25, 2014.


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