I was born in Bangued, Abra, Philippines, on May 8, 1918. My parents were FLORENCIO SIBAYAN (nicknamed INSIONG) and VICTORIANA BRAVO SIBAYAN (TOYANG OR IDOT). Father is from Vigan, Ilocos Sur (Barrio Kapangpañgan). Mother is from Bangued, Abra, Philippines.
My grandfather on father’s side was a tanner. His wife was a laundrywoman. They were “Lolo Terio” and “Lola Inga” to me and my younger brother Felix (Elix – an Ilocano nick name).
Father had three brothers: Pedro, Magno, and Juan. He had two sisters: Maria and Magdalena. They were born in Barrio Kapangpañgan, a place where hides of animals were tanned and slippers made as an industry of the people there.
I learned that Father left this place to avoid getting married to a woman with whom he had a baby girl. He relocated to Bangued with the Navarro family, Torrijos family, Ramos family, Tuazon family, and Viado family to Bangued in the early twenties when Abra was still a sub-province of Ilocos Sur or a non-Christian province populated by Tinguians and Itnegs who were then uncivilized and non-Christians wearing G-strings.
Father and Mother put up a slipper-making shop, with Mother sewing the uppers and Father doing the lowers. The Sibayan family was the first slipper makers of Abra. My brother and I learned how to sew slippers when we were small kids about ten years old.
My grandparents on my mother’s side are Gavino Bravo and Lucrecia Bandayrel Bravo. Lolo Gavino was a farmer-fisherman. Lola Isia was a weaver of blankets, clothing materials, and towels with her wooden loom. Lolo produced the cotton from his farm which Lola wove with her loom.
Mother had four brothers: Remigio, Basilio, Antonio, and Indong. She was the youngest of the children. All her brothers left Bangued and she was left to take care of her old parents until they died. So she inherited their properties, consisting of a lot, rice lands, and corn and vegetable fields.
I was baptized as PATROCINIO in the Aglipayan Church (now called Philippine Independent Catholic Church) when I was born and later on baptized as JOSÉ in the Roman Catholic Church of Bangued when my brother, Felix, was baptized after he was born on May 18, 1920.
All my town mates called me SINIONG until I left Bangued after Mother died and enrolled as “JOSE” in the Nueva Vizcaya Vocational H.S. in Bayombong as 3rd year student in 1933.
The priest who baptized me later on became the founder of the Christ the King Seminary, from which Toots (Ernesto) graduated later on in 1977.
The house where I was born was a typical Nipa Hut made of bamboo and nipa roofing. It had four steps in its stairs, a bedroom, a shop for my father, a kitchen and dining room, without toilet or bathroom.
While squatting on our bamboo floor, we ate from plates made of coconut shells, without spoons or forks. Later on we had a small table and small stools, Japanese style, with wooden plates for rice and coconut shell for soup. Our drinking glass was coconut shell, too. The ladle for cooking was made of coconut shell with a bamboo handle.
As we ate we dropped the bones of chicken, pork, or fish down through the bamboo slats of our floor to the ground to the waiting pigs and chickens.
We washed our hands before and after eating after licking all the morsels of food from our fingers. Our napkin was a small piece of cloth like a towel, which all of us used for wiping our mouth and hands.
We always had rice every meal with a piece of meat or fish cooked as a soup with vegetables. Sometimes we had bananas or papaya for dessert.
But the most delicious food I tasted as a kid was rice mixed with honey and later on rice mixed with condensed milk.
We stored our drinking water in a big earthen jar called “caramba” while our other water for washing was stored in a big kerosene can, which we used for hauling water from a well that was quite a distance from our house, near a brook or stream.
At the well we washed our clothes, a “camisota” (shirt) and a “cansonullo” (drawers), and also took a bath there. We went further in the bushes to relieve our bowel before or after bathing. We had no toilet and bathroom at home.
Because we had to bring home some water from the well, we used bamboo (bayengyeng) containers which we carried on our shoulders.
We then had to wait for our clothes to be dried up before going home. Along the way were bamboo thorns or camachile thorns that pricked our bare feet, causing infection. Sometimes we walked on our heels or on our toe or side of our feet to avoid the infected area of our feet from touching the ground. (We had no Band-Aids).
Although father was a slipper maker, we, as kids, did as the other kids by walking barefooted.
Once I wore slippers to school and what happened is a very traumatic experience I’ll never forget. When we lined up to enter our classroom, one boy intentionally stepped on my slippers. Another boy picked one up and threw it far away. Another boy picked up my other slipper and threw it away. All I did was cry while chasing my flying slippers. Since then I no longer wore my slippers to school. I hid them under our ladder and then put them on going upstairs.