Before I totally leave Bangued from the “Story of My Life”, I would like to share some personal experiences that I can’t forget.
One of them is my conversation with my brother, Elix, while walking to buy “lomo-lomo” in Pagpartian. I was about seven and he was about five years of age more or less. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He also asked me what I wanted to be. We mentioned various professions as Teacher, Doctor, Priest, Lawyer, Engineer, or Officer. We didn’t mention our father’s profession. Finally, we decided that we will become Pensionados! I guess we were impressed by our neighbor, Mr. Gerson, a pensionado. Whenever he passed by our house to get his pension we heard our father say: “Naimbagka pay giemta agaoawatca ti pensionada Binolan.” When we were eating our father explained that a pensionado gets money without working.
Elix became a “pensionado”, but his pension was given to our stepmother as his survivor following his death as a Prisoner of War during World War II. I became a “pensionado” in 1965 after my 30 years service in the Army. Then I also became a “pensionado” in 1981 when I retired at age 63 from the Social Security System of U.S.A. I was then a Senior Paralegal of the Bay Area Legal Services. Now I am getting two pensions! Praise the Lord
Mix Your Soup and Your Rice – Captains and Generals
Every day during mealtime, mother always said to me: “Aglabayka nakkong tapno agcapitan kanto.” (Mix your soup and your rice so that you’ll become a Captain.) “Captain” at that time was the highest officer in town.
Mother’s advice or wish for me was fulfilled in 1950 when I became a Captain, Quartermaster Service Group, Philippine Constabulary in Camp Crame. As a matter of fact, I became a Captain 1st Lieutenant (Reserve) to Captain (Reserve) for being the Adm. O., Supply O., Disbursing O., and C.O. QMSG Company in Camp Crame, HQ., P.C. Not long thereafter my Captaincy, which was a temporary promotion because I occupied a position calling for a Captain’s rank, I became a permanent Captain in another order when my time came to be promoted based on the Lineal Roster in the Reserve Force. Then in 1951 I passed the qualifying exam to become a Regular Officer with a rank of 1st Lieut., P.C. after undergoing the Infantry Course. I was assigned in the field as Chief, Personnel O., First Military Area, Camp Olivas, Pampanga. The Table of Organization called for a Captain’s rank for my position and so I was given a temporary rank of Captain, Regular Army Force in 1951.
Later on when my turn to become promoted according to the Lineal Roster of Regular Officers in 1952, orders were issued promoting me from 1st Lt. to Captain, Regular Force. I doubt if anybody ever got promoted to Captain FOUR TIMES in a row.
Maybe I got stuck to a Captain’s rank because of my mother’s wish. And so when our first son was born, Tony, I told him every time we eat: “Aglabayka nakkong tapno aggeneral kanto.” (Mix your soup and your rice so that you’ll become a General.) God willing, Tony’s rank will be Commodore or “General” as he is now a Captain, P.N.
(This was fulfilled in 1993 when Tony got promoted and I met President Ramos who pinned his star personally in Malacanan. When I showed him our picture in Vietnam, he autographed it. PTL!)
Father told me that the only way we can restore the boundaries or fences of our property on the West and North sides and to prevent our neighbor’s rainwater from falling from their roof onto our property on the East side is for me to become a Lawyer. But he could not send me to College after my graduation from H.S. in 1935.
That year I worked as a laborer in the Bureau of Public Works of Mt. Province earning P0.45 or less than $0.25 (a quarter) a day because I was below 18 years old. When I became 18 in May 1936 I enlisted as a Private in the 39th P.C. Company in Kiangan, Ifugao. That same year I was transferred to the Headquarters, P.C. in Manila as orderly of Gen. Paulino Santos. I went to a night school taking up stenography, typewriting, and bookkeeping the next day after my arrival in Manila. Then I enrolled in the Far Eastern University in 1937, taking a course in Pre-Law.
That same year an incident that led to my uninterrupted night studies without being detailed on guard duty happened in a most unusual way. Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, Staff Officer of Gen. Douglas MacArthur came to HQ. Phil. Army for copies of a staff meeting from my boss, Major Elias Dioquino, Sec. Gen. Staff, P.A. I was the only enlisted man in the S.G.S. office charged with filing all top secret, secret, confidential, and restricted files of the Phil. Army. I was the only one holding the keys to the filing cabinets.
That day I went to sleep in my Boarding House immediately after I was relieved from Guard Duty at 6 AM. I did not wake up until noon time to take my meal, put on my uniform and I walked to the HPA near the Manila City Hall.
Right away I was placed under arrest and brought to Major Dioquino who gave me a bawling out for being on AWOL. He said that Major Eisenhower was there to get copies of the General Staff Meeting for Gen. MacArthur and I was not there to open our classified files cabinet. I told him that I went to sleep after my night guard duty.
He called for my C.O. and told him: “From now on remove the name of Sibayan from your guard roster. He is my only enlisted man in this office and I need him every day!”
My C.O. said “Yes sir!” saluted then left.
From 1937 to 1941 when the war broke out, I was free to go to school after office hours. I got a free scholarship in the Arellano Law College for having an average of over 85% in my report card. Hence, I finished my law course on scholarship because after the War I got a Veteran’s Educational Benefit including my Review Course for the Bar Examination in 1949. The results of the exam were released in 1950. And so my father’s wish, like that of my mother’s, was fulfilled in that year when I became a full-fledged Lawyer and a Captain at the same time. Thanks be to God!
Our first theme writing in 1st Yr. H.S. was entitled: “My Ambition.” How I admired and envied our H.S. teachers who were immaculately dressed with coat and tie and shoes, all white from head to foot. And so my ambition was to become a teacher! Mr. Silverio Gutierrez was my English teacher. He gave me a good grade. I might have flattered his ego.
In 1952 I was assigned as Law Instructor in the Philippine Constabulary School in Camp Crame by Gen. Florencio Salga. Then in 1957 I was transferred to the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City to teach Law and other Social Science subjects. At night time I also taught Biology, Economics, and Phil. History in the AFPSEM (Armed Forces School for Enlisted Men) in Fort Gregorio del Pilar. It was there where I retired in 1965 with the rank of Major.
Our teacher in 2nd year H.S., Miss Lea Bringas, for Science subject, told us to submit a project of any kind that is useful. I saw a MISAL (bookstand) for placing a book like the one used for the Bible in church and I asked my mother who owned it as it was lying idle under our house in our store room. She said that it belonged to my cousin, Loreto Bravo, who left for America and she said that when he saw a shooting star at night he pointed at it and shouted AMERICA!
Since then I watched for a shooting star because I wanted very much to see America. At that time the influence of the movies and magazines to young people in Abra was very great. Miss Bringas gave me a good grade for my project of a hand-made MISAL or bookstand, saying that I did it myself unlike those of others which were made by carpenters.
I was about to be sent to the M.P. School in U.S.A. as a military “pensionado” or student-officer in 1951 by my alternate, who was a finance officer, was sent instead of me. I was very much disappointed because I saw my dream burst like an air bubble! After my alternate returned to Manila from the M.P. School in U.S.A. he went on AWOL. It was found out that he had mismanaged so much money and he was suspected of malversation. Then I made my own conclusions why I, the Principal, did not get it.
After my retirement my only remaining unfulfilled ambition before I die was to see America. Then came my chance in 1971 when I came to America as a tourist to see my American-born grandson, Chris, the first child of Jojo.
When my visa expired I filed my application for American citizenship in 1972 after hiring a lawyer in New York who raised his fees to $3,000 from $400 after I showed him a newspaper clipping that a Filipino, an ex-USAFFE like me, was granted citizenship in California. Because I can’t afford his fees, I said: “Lord you are the best lawyer up there. Nothing is impossible with you. With your help I can be an American citizen.”
I got my papers from the New York lawyer and filed my application with the Immigration and Naturalization Office in Philadelphia where I lived with my daughters Betty and Jojo. To make the story short, my petition was granted and I became an American citizen in 1973. Aside from the $25 filing fee, I only spent a $1 fine for over-parking in front of the courthouse in Tampa where I took my oath before a judge. PTL! And so with the help of God I realized my ambition to see America and also became an American citizen. Had I seen America in 1951 I could have lost my desire to see it again, but God has a plan for everyone.
It is said that the long wait before a prayer is answered is to make us prepared to receive, with a bigger basket, the greater blessings he has prepared for us. I did not only see America, I became an American citizen, organized the Pilipino-American Association of Tampa, of which I became its founder and first President. The Lord also used me to help build a chapel of the Philippine Independent Church in Tampa as its first President for two terms. When my wife, Pat of Bangued, died in 1982, the Lord gave me a beautiful, loving and faithful second wife who is of Italian-Spanish ancestry from Chile, S.A. In 1983 we went to South America where we stayed for two months with the relatives there.
What more can I ask for from God?
“This is my story, this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long,
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my savior all the day long.”
In this connection, I would like to add that it was when I was making my devotion to St. Joseph that he interceded for me to realize my ambition to see America, that I came to America. When I visited New York City I asked my nephew-in-law to buy me a Bible. He bought one from the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Catholic Bible, St. Joseph Edition.
It was in that church where I concluded my devotion to St. Joseph. Somebody in Manila told me that St. Joseph is a strong intercessor for the fulfillment of an ambition. It was in Stella Maris in Cubao, Quezon City where I started my devotion to St. Joseph.
Two unusual incidents happened there. One early morning on my way to the six o’clock mass I saw a UFO hovering over the Ateneo de Manila like a brightly-lighted football, then it shot up perpendicularly with a great burst of speed and disappeared. During the part of the mass wherein we extend our greeting of “Peace be with you” inside the church, I saw across the aisle my former girlfriend in H.S. whom I haven’t seen since the Japanese occupation of Manila. We had a short conversation before I left for U.S.A.
Across the Mountains
As a child I was full of imagination and ambitions or “dreams.” For lack of anything to do or play with because then we had no TV or radio set or even papers to read, I used to lie down under a tree, our Asimas tree, and watch the clouds. I imagined a lot of things formed by the clouds above. I used to see now and then a pair of KALI, or native hawks, gliding up and down or sometimes having a “dog-fight.” As they floated in the air across the mountains, I followed them, wondering what could be beyond those tall mountains. And so my wish was to go beyond those physical barriers and see other places.
These dreams were later on realized when my uncle, Lt. Antonio Bravo, was stationed in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. My mother visited him with us during our Christmas vacation. There, for the first time in my life, did I have the best Christmas experience. Before we went to sleep we were given big new stockings and hung them on nails on the wall. We were told that Santa Claus will give us gifts as we sleep.
My younger brother and our young cousins about our age were excited to find out the following morning our socks full of apples, oranges, raisins, cookies and candies! I also got an airplane that flies round and round as it hangs with a long string to the ceiling. My joy was beyond measure! Across those high forbidding mountains west of Bangued was a “pot of gold.”
It was also there in Laoag, Ilocos Norte that my brother and I learned how to use spoons and forks. I was around seven and my brother five years old. I can still remember our well-to-do cousins laughing at us awkwardly handling those glistening silvers, even quite scared to soil them.
From then on we always urged our mother to visit her rich brother in other provinces as Ilocos Sur and La Union. We always experienced new things like eating in a LURIAT party of a rich Chinese merchant where around ten different courses were served in Vigan, Ilocos Sur; going swimming in the beach of San Fernando, La Union and riding a Constabulary Jeepney. And we always got gifts like roller skates, wooden wagon and alphabet blocks too. Mother brought home lots of old newspapers which were very useful in wrapping new slippers for customers. I didn’t know how to read the La Vanguardia Spanish newspaper, but I liked looking at the pictures printed in them.
Caddy & Bike
In Vigan I learned how to hit the ball with golf clubs as I served as Caddy for my uncle. My auntie won a bike in a raffle, but nobody used it, as my girl cousins about my age are not supposed to ride a bicycle, only boys do! How I wished I had a bike of my own. I learned how to bike in Vigan.