Sangil: The family surviving the war

IT WAS my luck that my mother gave birth to her sixth baby while fighting was raging. The war was a witness in my coming to this world. I was far from being the bouncing baby boy that you want his picture to be taken. I was less than the normal weight of a newborn baby. It must be the fighting, the distant roaring of airplanes in a dogfight between Americans and Japanese pilots that stressed me even as a fetus in my mother’s womb. And the constant danger and the fear that lurks around the evacuation site where my family temporarily stayed during the war. And throughout my life I have faced danger and constantly struggled in looking the right place in the sun for me.

My family was lucky to survive the war. My father, who was in the Death March was lucky to pull out from captivity. He escaped through the help of some people in Lubao town. To the day he died he wouldn’t forget his war-time experience and the ordeals he suffered in Bataan. He rejoined his family temporarily sheltered in Sitio Sabanilla in Hacienda Dolores, Porac town. In the early years, my maternal grandfather owned lands there and my mother got an inheritance of 28 hectares. How it was transferred to another owner is a sure mystery to me. Beside it now is the large Alviera Subdivison of Ayala Land Inc. It unlocked the value of that area when the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway was constructed.

After liberation in 1945, my father decided to take the family back to town. My father soon engaged in the trading of surplus war materials left in abundance by the US armed services which encamped in various areas in the province during the war. That small enterprise supported the family until in the mid-fifties when he was appointed as the town’s chief of police. It was those years of living dangerously.

I was in the primary grade when the school principal would terminate classes and send the children home because of reports that the dreaded Nenita unit locally known as Markang Bungo led by Colonel Napoleon Valeriano were to launch search and destroy operations in Porac. (He was the same Colonel Napoleon Valeriano who was recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and trained American soldiers in guerrilla warfare for the invasion of Cuba during the incumbency of President John F. Kennedy). It was on those years when skirmishes and ambushes by both sides were reported on radio, but still have no understanding what’s all these. Me and my playmates were always thrilled to watch Valeriano’s escorted by several Jeepload of troopers when riding to town with some armored jeeps sporting a black flag with a skull emblem in white. That’s why they were called by townspeople MARKANG BUNGO.

Despite a big family to feed, my parents had their sleeves rolled to provide education and food in the table. I remember how our family experienced difficult times. My eldest brother Gregorio was already a reporter for the then Manila Chronicle of the Lopezes when I was a first grader in the town’s public elementary school. I took high school studies at the newly opened St. Catherine Academy, an institution run by nuns from St. Rita College when the town prominent families led by the Dizons with the help of Father Santiago Blanco, the town parish priest. Meanwhile, my other brother Benjamin and sister Zenaida were taking up medicine and education courses respectively at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila. The family budget thinly spread for education and for the food in the table. It was this difficulty that I learned how to look to other sources like going to the upper portion of the town and picked some fruits and vegetables that grew freely then in the lush vegetation.

I remember my mother and the native delicacies which she cooked and helped her in peddling the dainties in gaming houses in the afternoon. She kept her daily savings which went for the upkeep of my brother and sister who were studying in Manila. And me in my high school days, like those of growing boys anywhere I think, were filled with adventures, lofty dreams. The circumstances in my life strengthened my resolve to make a name for myself. Now with extensive experience as a media person, I wanted to think that somehow a sizable number of people know my name by now. If my mother is alive today, she will definitely be proud of me.
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