The APARADOR-A A +A
Monday, June 18, 2012
“QUERIDO Juling… tu papa,” begins a note written in pencil dated November 1, 1945 asking for P60 as partial payment of the P300 salary of an overseer in Hacienda Tabon, Negros Oriental.
The note was just one letter in the potpourri of documents I accidentally found in the hidden drawer of an aparador that my wife, Amai, bought 25 years ago in one of her buying sprees of antique furniture.
My wife and I got married in l975, and we were lucky to receive as a gift from my parents a complete set of Chinese camphor furniture. To complete her collection of cabinets, as the Philippines is a bastion of Spanish and Chinese cultures, she bought this Spanish inspired cabinet.
The aparador was bought from a certain Villanueva, a fledging artist in Dawis, a squatter area in San Juan St, Bacolod City. It was his bamboo sofa which initially caught my wife’s eye, with its native Filipino design, unique and classical. Behind the sofa was the aparador crafted by Oriental Furniture Inc., in No. 342 T Pinpin St., Manila. Since the aparador was unkempt and dirty, my wife had it cleaned and re-lacquered. The hidden drawers were not noticed then.
With time, termites, despite all the precautions taken to prevent them from damaging our house were noticed to have infested this cabinet. Cleaning it and applying solignum to prevent and delay future advances, we noticed two hidden drawers on the right and left side of the usual drawers that open in front. Upon opening them, we found the roughly 59 letters, notes, and money.
Among this potpourri of documents were letters, receipts and some bills of “Mickey Mouse” money, the Japanese-issued currency circulated during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
I found a one-year subscription, also dated 1945, to The People, Dumaguete City’s weekly newspaper “the mouthpiece of public opinion.” The subscription indicates that “Juling,” the addressee in the note which I earlier mentioned, was highly educated and desired to know the current events of the times.
“Nalipay aco sa imong candidatora sa pag ca mayor (I am very happy that you decided to run for mayor),” another letter of Juling stated. He was addressing the letter to a certain Claudio Bacaoco of Bagawines, Vallehermoso. Apparently, Juling had political leanings.
No wonder since “Juling,” as other documents later revealed, was none other than former Negros Oriental Governor Julian “Nene” Villegas of Brgy. Tabon, Vallehermoso.
An envelope which contained some of the money bears his letterhead as a member of the Negros Oriental provincial board. By November 5, 1949 Julian was already governor of Negros Oriental.
A certain Capt. Nicolas Magno of the Philippine Constabulary, 44th PC Co wrote Gov. Villegas urging him not to go to Bacolod, Negros Occidental and instead to visit him in Canlaon to “clarify certain important matters concerning peace and order conditions there and for Negros Oriental.”
Another letter addressed to a cousin Lt. Fernando Alfon and Capt. Bareba talked about a delivery of 100 drums of gasoline, oil and kerosene.
Julian Villegas was married to Lucia; a receipt signified her donation to the construction of the Catholic Church in La Libertad, Negros Oriental.
His duties as a governor brought him to Dumanjug, Cebu where an Atty. Valeriano Lozada was happy to know that they will see each other in Guihulngan at the house of Mr. Meneleo Quirante. From February 1-15, 1956, he stayed in Sambag Inn at P. del Rosario St., Cebu City.
His business dealings with Chinese Jose Yong and Signor Tionga of La Independencia in San Carlos, Chua Hua & Co and Signor Benjamin of Nanking Bazaar in La Libertad of selling and buying corn, coconuts, gasoline and even the sale of a sugar mill for only P210 in Tambakan, Vallehermoso to Kiat Hua reflected his open mindedness to other races. The goods which he traded were shipped to Manila thru Compania Maritima.
Villegas was apparently very friendly. As his letters revealed, he was friends with Faustino Zoilo of Tagumtagum, Hibaiyo, Guihulngan; Jesus Abay Abor; Antionio Ruiz; Mauro P. Lumilay; Bartolome Lera; Sergia G. Doumen of Binatangan; Aniceta Javier of Sta. Teresita Pharmacy; and Leonardo Casag of Malangsa.
Among his friends is a certain Antonio Ha who was connected with Dumaguete’s Office of the Fiscal, as shown in a letter October 16, 1950. His friendships must have catapulted him from board member to governor
With these in my possession, I planned to return these letters to the family of Julian Villegas. I contacted Alex Pal in Dumaguete City who referred me to Penn Tulabing Larena, a historian and a professor at Dumaguete’s St. Paul’s University. Larena is a relative of Lucia, the wife of Julian.
Penn replied in his email that the descendants of Julian Villegas all migrated to the United States. Penn added that his great-grandmother is the first cousin of Lucia.
I would have liked to trace the travels and the story of this aparador, but it seems that I reached a dead end. If only the aparador could speak…
As they say, stories live forever but you have to tell the stories first. (Benjamin Dacles Lopue Jr.)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 18, 2012.