IT’S not every day when you get to celebrate someone’s 105th birthday, but I did recently, with very good friend Tata Martinez and her big family.
At 105, Ang Lin Bee’s relatives from all over filled the Marco Polo Hotel ballroom and the Café Marco for one whole night last August 10.
“All gifts and greeting ads are respectfully declined. Your presence is the best gift for us,” the invitation card reads.
Most touching during the celebration was businessman’s Johnny Loyola, his son-in-law who is married to Elma, testimony to the old man’s innate goodness.
All he asked from his sons-in-law, Loyola said, were for them to take care of her daughters. He didn’t choose whom his daughters would marry and did not frown that they were not from wealthy families. But they all turned out well, apparently nurtured by Ang Lin Bee’s love.
Kongkong has outlived his contemporaries, such that his brood and kin are having difficulties piecing together the years and the names of those who left before him.
Born on August 22, 1909 in Fujian in China, Ang Lin Bee was the fifth child of Ang Ka Lian and wife Tan Qui. He had four other brothers and a sister.
In 1918, Ang Ka Lian sought fresh opportunities in Manila, bringing along his whole brood. Those were difficult times, but all children were able to get their education.
Ang Lin Bee graduated from the Anglo-Chinese College and soon after in 1927, he started his own dry goods trading.
He returned to China in 1931 where he met Ko So Eng, an Amoy lady working as a telephone operator. A year after marrying Ko So Eng, the eldest daughter Han Lei was born.
In 1935, he and his male cousins and siblings decided to try it out in Davao. He left his wife and daughter with relatives in China, with a promise to return for them after he has established himself in this new frontier.
World War 2
He made true this promise two years later in 1937. They first settled in Manila before finally moving to Davao where they had three more daughters Le Theng, Le Ling and Le Wan or Shirly. Just a month after Le Wan was born, World War 2 broke out.
Ko So Eng escaped with her four daughters, taking a small boat to Magugpo and then to Maniki where they hid with other relatives in what the elders could only recall as “Abyud”.
Ang Lin Bee and two other relatives stood their ground, and continued tending to their store until a bomb hit the building and they escaped with barely their lives and nothing else.
They walked for days, begging for rice to survive, until they reached their families in Abyud. The war was spent hiding in the mountains of Kapalong, the menfolk actively working against the Japanese.
They returned to Davao to pick up the pieces of their business after the war.
Seven more children were born, and unlike the first four who had Chinese names, these seven were given English names as well.
Shirley and the fifth daughter Le-Kwan or Nancy were named because of America’s first attempt to govern the Philippines. Since he was not fond of the Japanese so he skipped that era.
The sixth daughter was named Le-Hon or Trinidad, the seventh daughter Le-Ki or Clarita, and the eighth and first son Eduardo in memory of the Spanish days when Chavacano was the spoken dialect in Davao.
Their ninth child was named A-Ti or Samuel, the tenth was A-Pao or Roberto, and the eleventh child was A-Dan or Danny. These were the children born after the American’s return.
Ang Lin Bee fanned his business back to life from the ruins of the war and later met Jose Catolico from Dadiangas, which is now General Santos City.
In 1948, he went to Dadiangas to partner with Jose and also set up a dry goods business with his siblings and relatives.
In 1951, they started a rice mill business, which thrives till now: the Rubi Enterprises.
He retired in 1977 and spent his twilight years in Davao with his family.
He is well respected in the Chinese community and has served as school board member of the Davao Chinese High School in 1937 and was chairman of the school board in 1945-46. He is also an active member of the Chinese Lioc Kui Tong Fraternity.
His wife passed on in 1992, leaving him with his grown-up children who has given him six sons-in-law, four daughters-in-law, 31 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
Han Lei married Johnny Martinez, Sr. (+) and had six children: Johnny Jr., Sweni (+), George (+), Amay, Tata, and Sandy, from whom Ang Lin Bee has six great grandchildren, Marie, Carlo, TJ, Bianca, Marigold, and Christopher.
Le Theng or Elma married Johnny Loyola and begot Christine, Atoy, Jem, Joy, and Gingging, from whom were born four great grandchildren, Ashley, Andrea, Alyana, and Abbie.
Le Ling or Deling never married and passed on last year.
Le Wan or Shirly married Dean Lao and begot Shirlyn, Jun, and Lester, who has given Ang Lin Bee six great grandchildren, Carl, Hansen, Evan, Janelle, Tiffany, and Anton.
Nancy married John Tan and has an only daughter, Ivy.
Trinidad married James Tan and they have two children, Tong and Lianne, with Lorienne as their grandchild.
Clarita married Tan Chiao Hiong. They children are Sharon, Ahan, and Dandan, and their grandchild is John-john.
Eduardo married Estrella and begot Jean, Irene, Michael, and Jun-jun, who has given them three grandchildren.
Samuel married Edna and has five children, Jun, Sheryl, Sheila, Sherry, and Sherlene, and three grandchildren.
Roberto Anglinbee married Eleanor, while Danny married Brenda and begot Lyn-Lyn and Brian who has gifted them with two grandchildren Caleb and Dana.
A century is a long time, but Ang Lin Bee seems to be enjoying this long life still as, even though he had to be assisted in walking, he spent the night smiling for photos with friends and family and enjoyed the show put up by the children and great grandchildren.
The whole brood were in attendance, all excited to greet their Kongkong a very happy birthday, both in English and Chinese, as befits a man who made a mark not just in their lives but in the education of the Filipino-Chinese in Davao.