ARE today’s so-called millennials interested to know what happened during the three years of Japanese occupation of our country? Their parents who must be in their fifties and sixties now hadn’t suffered the deprivation during wartime. And there’s no story they can share about the war. There must be an understanding of our history aside from just erecting memorials like the Dambana ng Kagitingan and the monument in Capas, Tarlac. But let’s look back.
I am not trying to be melodramatic but I don’t like to hear the song “Oh my papa”. That song makes me cry. “Oh my papa, to me he is wonderful,” says the first line of the song. It provokes a lot of memories, that unknowingly my eyes are swelling and tears slowly will flow from both cheeks as the song is playing. For my father was my hero. He was there in Bataan with fellow soldiers, holding fort. He was captured and was one of the thousands who endured the now infamous death march. He has long been gone, and am 1000 percent sure he is in heaven with my mother, my brothers Gregorio, Benjamin and Alfredo and my beautiful sister Zeny.
My father, Pedro De Mesa Sangil lived not an easy life. His father Gregorio was from Macabebe and his mother Matilde was from Guagua. He met my mother, Beatriz Tadeo Lumanlan in Porac town. They got married in Binondo church in Manila and settled in Porac. And they raised us all, nine kids. I am sixth in the family. My father worked as a quartermaster in one of those barracks of American GIs in Clark Air Force Base, and my mother tended a carinderia in the public market.
When war broke out, my father was recruited in the USAFFE and was assigned in Bataan. Like many other Filipino soldiers they fought side by side with the American GIs. Their ranks decimated and were no match against the invading forces. General Douglas MacArthur together with President Manuel L. Quezon left via submarine and when he reached Australia he declared: “I shall return”. He returned as he promised but only after three years when the country was already in shambles and our fighting forces were captured and many killed. Luckily enough, despite malaria, my father survived but was captured and was one of those thousands who endured the death march. He was able to escape in Lubao.
After the war he was recruited by his nephew, Porac Mayor Higinio Gopez and appointed him as the town police chief. Years after serving as the town's top cop, he was requested by Gopez to be his municipal secretary. He retired from government service and was recruited by another relative, Pampanga Governor Francisco G. Nepomuceno for him to handle a public affairs program on a local radio station.
We all lived a modest life. We always had our meals together. Every Sunday we all go to church, and every evening before going to bed, my sister Zenaida recited the rosary, that sometimes made me doze off and put me to sleep. Half awake I remember my father carrying me to bed and placing the linen to protect me from evening breeze that somehow forced its way through the half closed windows.
My father was always telling us to be respectful to other people, to be generous, kind and gentle. He was good in telling stories. He all wanted us to finish schooling. One thing I remember most was when we made a trip to Manila. He was carrying the laundry of my brother Benjamin who was then taking medicine in University of East medical school and my sister Zeny taking up education in the University of Sto. Tomas and we both stood up on the packed Philippine Rabbit bus all the way.
That night he took me the Rizal Memorial Coliseum to watch a basketball game, and was so ecstatic to see in person Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga playing against another great, Lauro “The Fox” Mumar. I never tasted that good a siopao my father and I shared after the game.
During our town fiesta he would carry me on his shoulder to get a good view of the procession. He never refused my asking for money for a movie on a weekend. I missed his cooking, particularly his “bulalo” preparation during Christmas. So many things I miss so much about my father. Oh! I wish he is still here today so that I can be profuse and overwhelm him the things I know he will be glad to have. If you are reading this, and your father is there give him a tight hug. You have a prized possession!