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Fond Memories Of Pamboy

Fond Memories Of Pamboy
Beauty connoisseur Antonio ‘Pamboy’ Pastor

Antonio Pastor was a funny, lovable, goofy genius whom we fondly called Pamboy.

I can still hear his trademark boisterous laughter shattering my ears, which was a sign that he truly lived life to the fullest pursuing his passions and collecting friendships literally of the most beautiful kind. You see, Pamboy is known as the Philippines’ foremost beauty queen guru.

I first met Pamboy hanging around in the lanai of our home after school. In elementary at Colegio de San Agustin, he was my sister Christine’s academic rival. In high school, they were best friends who helped each other through thick and thin. In college, they were each other’s anchor and sounding board. Some days, when Pamboy felt lost and alone, our family would adopt him. He brought so much joy and laughter into our home.

In graduate school, he became family. He would visit my younger siblings Mark and Christine in Boston where he offered to help in their schoolwork. He went to the Boston Library to get them library cards. When they had dates, Pamboy would end up checking their assignments.

One time, while they were preparing to watch an NBA game, Mark said, “Hurry, hurry Pamboy! We can’t be late.” Pamboy rushed into the powder room to use water from the little sink to wash up. Later Mark asked Christine, “ How did he take a bath? Wala naman shower or bath tub dyan.” What a character he was. They laughed their hearts out all the way to the game with Pamboy in tow.

When Pamboy flew in from New York, the eyeglasses he was wearing were broken, the shattered glass inside the frame of his spectacles were held together by scotch tape! Christine was horrified and asked him why he didn’t buy a new pair. In his very Pamboy way he replied, “Eh mahal kasi dito, sa Manila ko na lang ipaayos.” Christine scolded him. “ Are you crazy? Do you want to get blind? Halika na ako na bibili ng glasses mo.” That’s Pamboy. He scrimped on himself but was generous to others.

Towards Christine’s last semester in Boston, her apartment became messy and she would hide her clothes inside an old futon bed which she kept folded up like a taco. One morning, she had a visitor, who while in a state of shock, directed Christine’s attention towards the folded up futon and pointed towards a pair of feet dangling out of it, “Do you know that there is someone sleeping inside your folded bed?” Nonchalantly she said, “ Oh, it’s just Pamboy. He probably arrived late and didn’t want to bother me so he just slipped himself quietly inside the bed.”

And the memories go on and on like a comedy play.

We were in Hong Kong and Pamboy met us at the Conrad Hotel from Malaysia. He was so sweet in saying, “ I have pasalubong for you.” In the hotel room he opened his suitcase and said, “ Here’s my pasalubong!” The whole floor smelled like dried fish that he kept in his luggage. His sister Cork had to have all his smelly clothes laundered in the hotel.

Speaking of hotels, our friend Mike Mina was working in Brunei in 2004 as duty manager at the luxurious Empire Hotel when suddenly he was informed by the security head that a Filipino was sleeping in the lobby. This was a humongous lobby and he was there overnight. Mike walked to the sofa where the Filipino was fast asleep, woke him, offered him breakfast and a room to shower in. The stranger was grateful. But when Mike went back, he was gone. Four years later Mike was in a function at the Shangri-La Makati when Christine walked in with Pamboy. She politely introduced them. Pamboy beamed and said, “ I met you na before!” Mike quietly said, “ I don’t think so.” In a loud voice Pamboy declared, “ I was the Filipino you fed at the Empire Hotel, the one who slept in the lobby!” Mike dropped down with his hands on his head laughing like a hyena on the floor.

My own vivid memory of Pamboy was this colorful night when I said yes to a client’s request to be one of the judges in a beauty contest in her restaurant. I donned a white organza dress and called Pamboy to be my chaperone, knowing how he loved beauty events. I gave him the invitation card which I never even read. We entered the venue and found ourselves in a gay bar. Surprise, surprise! The beauty contestants were all buffed up males in skimpy white bikinis accompanied by their gay designers and sponsors. This was not what we expected but Pamboy was game for an adventure. We settled in the judges’ seats entertained by the sing and dance talent portion, fashion show and the naughty question and answer portion with questions like, “Kung ikaw ay nagtatrabaho sa massage parlor at pagpasok ng kliyente mo ay tatay mo , ano ang gagawin mo?” I was completely distracted by Pamboy’s laughter. When it was time to turn over the scoring sheet, I realized I had forgotten to score. Hence Pamboy ended up filling in all my blanks. Before they could even tally the 10 judges’ scores, their computer conked out and the coordinator was frantic. Like the unassuming genius he was, Pamboy came to the rescue by tallying the scores in his head. He saved the contest and all the winners were ecstatic!

Pamboy was very pious. During the pandemic, he lived in our ancestral home for nine months with my sisters Jaqui and Christine. His stay there was filled with fun and prayers. Fr. Gerard Deveza, a healing priest also lived with them during the lockdown. There were around 10 people in the house. Pamboy was the devoted reader and sakristan of Fr. Gerard during regular masses in the lanai. Fr. Gerard mentored him about the bible which he read daily. He loved God and the saints. He also loved his family and enjoyed sharing stories of how they were growing up.

The best times were his corona conversations with Catholic Mass Media awardee Bum Tenorio which thankfully were taped live on location in the lanai of our home. Not just my family but many others received comfort during the pandemic from listening to these lighthearted yet hilarious talks over and over as laughter was so healing – a welcome balm to hearts that were frightened and weary.

 My son Vincent said, “Everyone knows Pamboy Pastor as the beauty queen historian able to rattle off beauty pageant winners complete with competitions won, Q and A answers and lineages . I wanted to know why.” So during their walk around the village he asked Pamboy, “ Why do you love beauty pageants so much?” He was surprised by his deep reply. It is because he learned about life through beauty pageants. They were the lens through which he saw and learned about the world. These opened doors for him in social situations and allowed him to meet and interact with beautiful people.

 I recall how he would attend parties and immediately break the ice when I introduced him to my classmates. When he met the pretty Barrera twins Karin and Aissa, he gushed, “ Wow! I know your Tita Bessie Ocampo who was Miss Philippines 1954. I know you both modeled for Pitoy Moreno,” and he continued to charm them with his knowledge of their beauteous clan.

How did his fascination evolve? His only sister Corky shared that Pamboy was the youngest, raised by a single mom in a brood of seven, who stood out for his brilliance, academic achievements, larger than life personality, phenomenal memory, amazing grasp of family histories, genealogies, lifelong passion for beauty queens and pageants. Corky shared and supported his interest. 

When the Miss Universe Pageant was held in Manila in 1974, they read up on everything about it, gathered clippings and pasted them in scrapbooks. Pamboy would reenact the pageant, complete with improvised costumes, scepter, cape and sashes complete with waves, smiles and victory speech so well delivered, recalled Corky with pride.

Later, Pamboy took it a step further and began seeking out beauty queens for interview and photo opportunities. Yes, he got really up close and personal with them. He enjoyed every moment. So did the queens he visited in their homes as he got to know the members of their households from their grandfathers and grandfathers, papas and mamas, boyfriends, husbands, sons and daughters, grandchildren, drivers, baby sitters and assistants. Thus began his career as the Philippines foremost beauty queen guru at the age of eight.

He endeared himself to many pre-war carnival queens like former First lady Trinidad de Leon Roxas to Miss Philippines 1954 Bessie Ocampo Buencamino to Binibining Pilipinas 1964 Myrna Panlilio Borromeo, Miss International 1964 Gemma Cruz Araneta, Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz, Simonette delos Reyes Ferraren, Cita Avecilla Roman, Evelyn Camus Alcantara, Pilar Pilapil and their mother hen Miss Lingling Cervantes who loved him very dearly since his Ten Outstanding Students of Makati Days in the 1970s. Pamboy was also an outstanding member of the worldwide beauty pageant community, many of whom are mourning his sudden passing. “Maraming pinasaya si Pamboy from all the stories I have been hearing,” shared his loving sister Corky.

In the very same room where I first met Pamboy, laughed at his jokes, listened to his beauty queen stories, watched him reenact the Q and A’s for hours until our sides ached with laughter, was the same room where we gathered together to celebrate his life over a mass by Fr. Gerard. We each shared our favorite memories through our eulogies. Most of them are really funny. He may have passed on but his spirit will always be in this room, filled with his reverberating laughter and unstoppable humor. We thank God for the gift of his vibrant life, his painless peaceful passing, his spiritual preparedness and all the joy he brought to our family.

We miss you Pamboy! But we find consolation in the certainty that you are entertaining the saints with all the beautiful people you love in heaven, and will save us the best seats when our time comes.