Friday, September 08, 2006
AND THEN THERE WERE EIGHT
It is one of the largest bus companies in the Philippines, servicing the provinces of Northern Luzon. Victory Liner was founded by a man who barely finished grade school; a pre-war mechanic who collected bits and pieces of machinery, metals and spare parts from abandoned U.S. military vehicles. His original intention was to build from scratch a delivery truck for his family’s trading business, but what he ended up building was a bus.
In 1945, this man’s first bus began plying the Manila-to-Olongapo, Zambales-to-Manila route. He was the driver and his brother-in-law his conductor. They named their enterprise Victory Liner to exploit the catchy phrase of that period, “Victory Joe!”
I must have taken hundreds of trips riding Victory Liner buses since I was a kid, and have many fond memories from which. But the most interesting was of late when I came home for vacation after living in New York City for many years. I took a Victory Liner bus to spend a day with my unmarried three aunts (my father’s sisters; one was to die shortly afterward) who live in the ancestral home that still stands in Subic, Zambales.
It was early in the morning when I got there so by the late afternoon, everyone had exhausted even leftover family-related updates. While the two aunts enjoyed their siesta, the youngest kept me occupied with accounts of her church-related activities.
Amongst my father’s siblings, this aunt was the most religious. She was denied her dream to become a nun when they discovered a spot on her lung. Nonetheless, she pursued an English major at the University of Sto. Tomas and would dedicate her life teaching religion at public schools in Zambales. She has always been high-strung, moody, and highly-opinionated. Through the years, she had managed to irritate almost everyone in the family, except my father whom she was fearful of. She was the youngest and a spoiled brat at that.
On that late afternoon, out of the blue she asked me flat out if I had already been told of a dark secret about me, which no one dared discuss while I was growing up; afraid to provoke my father’s ire. Her eagerness to be the first one to tell me about it was quite apparent. Before I could even utter a word in response, she just blurted it right out. She probably assumed I could handle it now that I’m much older. So as not to disappoint her, I didn’t divulge that my mother had already told me about it.
When my mother became pregnant with me, thinking that having eight children was more than enough, my father talked her into getting an abortion. My father was simply being practical. And since my father was the eldest amongst his siblings, no one, even my devout Catholic aunts, would even think of trying to talk him out of it. However, at the very last minute, sensing that my mother wasn’t all for it, my father changed his mind and told her, “Ah, let’s have the baby anyway,” much to my mother’s delight.
Notwithstanding, I turned out to be the most difficult pregnancy for my mother, which at times made my father regret having changed his mind. I was so big at the final month that whenever I kicked, it would jolt my mother and make her unable to breathe for a couple of seconds. My mother was a tad taller than five feet with a tiny frame yet she endured the agony and tried to hide it from my father. It scared him; he was afraid something terribly wrong might happen during my birth.
Everyone was relieved when I was born one fine morning without posing any threat on my mother’s overall welfare. To this day, she remembered how my aunts marveled at how big I was — eight pounds. Everyone talked about my long fingers which they claimed look like candle sticks.
Despite my mother’s difficult pregnancy, in the end, my father was glad he had decided not to have me aborted. It wasn’t because of some moral or religious reasons. It was something else. Deep down he knew he was dying. The many years he had indulged in alcohol began taking a serious toll on his health.
And for whatever years he had left, he wanted to experience what being a father was truly like. I was the child who could provide him with that opportunity. To my older siblings, he was more a patriarch; the great provider. And in projecting that image, the children became more fearful and obedient. He had to do it; he didn’t want my mother to be over-burdened with incorrigible kids.
But to the newly-born, the bunso, a boy, he could be the father he never was.
My grandfather raised his boys (my father and his younger brothers) to harbor distrust for the Catholic Church while the girls were not; in fact, they were even encouraged to become devout Catholics.
Supposedly, my great-grandfather’s vast farm lands were seized by the Spanish friars, and such loss probably attributed to his death immediately afterwards. My grandfather and his two brothers were then ordered by the friars to leave — my grandfather headed for Zambales while one chose Bicol; the other, Batangas. It was done for self-preservation. Being living witnesses to such tyranny, they were afraid the friars would only persecute them further if they remained together.
Ironically, many years later, after having done well in his farming and logging endeavors, my grandfather donated a piece of prime lot and money for a church and plaza to be built in his adopted hometown.
On the other hand, my mother’s lineage (her grandfather a Spanish civil servant), has been quite prolific in producing priests and nuns to date.
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
posted by Señor Enrique at 7:40 AM
- niceheart said...
Well, aren't we lucky that your parents decided to have you anyway. Otherwise we wouldn't be reading you wonderful posts here. :)
This post reminds me of that time when an aunt also revealed to me and my cousins some of our family's deep dark secrets. My cousins and I were only teen-agers then and we felt so important having been told "adult matters."
- jase said...
Thanks for sharing this very personal story!
Just like the baby Moses, who was saved by his parents from being killed by the Egyptians, you must have some sort of a mission in life to fulfill!
And I agree with Niceheart!
- Rey said...
I had a few Trips with the Victory Liner back in the 90's. These was when we always go there for conventions like CEGP(College Editor's Guild of the phils) and KAPARIZ(Kabataan para kay Rizal). These events are frequently held in places like Baguio, Pangasinan or La Union.
You did came from a long line of Haciendero, Eric. That's why the term Señor(aside from the real spanish meaning) fits you really well.
- Senor Enrique said...
This particular aunt, Niceheart, not sure if it was because she was afraid of my father, or it may be on account that we shared a common ground -- both being the youngest in a big family -- was always easy with me. She always would have fond anecdotes to share about me as a young boy. My siblings on the other hand, would avoid her like a plague ... hahaha!
Yes I do have a mission, Jase, being the youngest, I was appointed my parents' in-house caregiver ... hahaha!
But seriously, yes ... I, too, believe, we all have a special purpose in life :)
- Senor Enrique said...
I really enjoy taking these buses, Rey. Except for the loud volume whenever they played movies onboard, these buses are very comfortable with reclining seats :)
Hacienderos? More like farmers, Rey. The "senor" title I sometimes regret having used because it iturns off some fellow bloggers. I meant for it to denote an older persona, nothing else. But some emailed me to say they thought I was being elitist, a pretentious "ilustrado."
When I started blogging, Parokya ni Edgar had a hit song which I was inspired to use Senor.
In retrospect, I should have just used "Tito Ric." Oh well :(
- kyels said...
Thanks for sharing this beautiful story Eric.
Well, we all have secrets within our own family. And I've experienced a few of them too.
Just wondering, are you going back to the States?
- Sidney said...
Again a wonderful story.
And probably backing up my previous comment telling you that I am pro-life... ;-)
- Iskoo said...
i enjoy taking victory liner when i go to the north, efficient at parang laging bago mga bus nila.
yes, your parents have made the right decision. you are the living testimony to that!
- ladybug said...
Wow! I'm glad your parents did not push through with the planned abortion. Thank you for the stories and the friendship. :-)
- Rey said...
Nah, I don't think "Tito Ric" will have the same impact as "Señor Enrique". It wold have sounded like another "Kuya Eddie".
I guess because it's always the affluent ones of the past who used the word to connote "Mr"(since they were the ones educated in spanish),so others have this "elitist" picture of anyone using it. I don't. I came from a long line of peasants and servants of the spanish era, yet my ancestors speak spanish very well and they call each other señors and señoras, even if they walk barefoot and has huts for houses. I remembered always being called by my grandfather as "Bonito" and "Rey niño"(small king).
ultimately, it's just a connotation for respect and gender. and it should only be interpreted that way.
- vina said...
and then there was YOU!
have a great weekend señor!
- Analyse said...
i thought it was just a 'historic' post about victory liner. this bus company just reminds me of my childhood up to adulthood days - im from zambales too! way up north from subic.
thanks for sharing your story. everybody got this 'dark' side of the story i guess. my sister was almost at the same situation as you, but she took it badly when she knew it, she even had psychological problems because of that, she thought she's not wanted and loved... but she's ok now.
- Senor Enrique said...
Firstly, guys, I apologize for responding this late. I left the house early to do some errands then joined Carlos' CCP tour -- another great one by Carlos!
And since I was in the area, decided to hang around to take some sunset shots. However, a major downpour came in the evening; I got stuck in rain and flood traffic ... arrrgh! But I had a wonderful day and have some great shots to share with all of you.
Yes, Kyels, I will still be traveling back and forth to the States. And that's both :) and :( because I'm not too crazy about air travel.
I think secrets are what give a family its unique character.
As always, I appreciate and respect you for who and what you are. No one has to explain his/her self to me :)
Yes Iskoo, they really strive to provide a clean and efficient transport service to their passengers.
BTW, I had taken some south-bound provincial buses; not as comfortable as these Victory Liner buses!
And thank you, too, Ladybug!
Incidentally, what you experienced (was it last Tuesday night?) I experienced earlier tonight!
I have never prayed so hard lately. And thank God my car didn't stall in all that flood :) See what prayers can do? Nonetheless, I had a hundred peso bill ready in case I needed those boys to push my car ... hehehe!
You know what, Rey? You are right! Senor and Senora have been common titles to use for elders, and they needn't have to be rich to be addressed as such. Like you said, for respect and courtesy.
However, since the martial law when English and Spanish were put aside in favor of Tagalog, we have somehow forgotten to address our elders as Senor and Senora.
As always, Rey, your wisdom and gentlemanly ways, are always appreciated, especially by me :)
I was near your office this afternoon but didn't call you because I wasn't planing to stay around that long. I will when I drag you to join me down at your lobby to check out some live jazz music one of these Friday evenings, ok?
Wow! Another one from Subic! Did you know that the first Filipina I met on my own and dated in NYC was from Subic, too? Not only that, her uncle, a doctor in Subic, was the one who circumcised me ... hahaha! I have a feeling you either know or have heard of an uncle, Baloy?
Oh, jeeez ... sorry to hear that it hit your sister the wrong way in the beginning, Analyse. When my mother told me about it, I was already spiritually-matured enough to deal with it objectively.
I felt bad, though, that my mother went through a tough time with me.
- dave (",) said...
Wow, Señor E., your personal sharing made me consider what ran through my father's mind when my mother was pregnant with me. You see, I am also the youngest in a brood of six. Born a good ten years after the fifth child, they euphemistically labelled my coming to the world as an "accident." My father's violent tendencies was notorious in the neighborhood. But my siblings insist that, notwithstanding the corporal punishment I received from him, he had already mellowed down. Could it be that like you father, he thought of me as his last chance to be the father he never had been with my older siblings? Also, he was an OFW when they were little, but he had retired shortly before I was born thus with me he had the chance to be doting. Personally, I sometimes loathe the favoritism since it invites jealousy. Fortunately, with the ten-year gap, my siblings were almost into adulthood; thus, they were mature enough to be patient and understanding. Oh well, mabuhay ang mga bunso!
- dave (",) said...
Hmm.. remembering my family makes me remember my home region, Bicol. If ever any reader here is bitten by the travel bug, Bicol is the best place to be by next week. In Naga City, the Peñafrancia Fiesta started yesterday with a procession transferring the miraculous image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia to the downtown Cathedral. The surreal Bicolano expression of faith will climax nine days later, on the 16th, in a fluvial procession along the Naga River. Before then, you might want to proceed first to Legazpi City to view Mayon Volcano's longest eruption on record as well as new sightings of whale sharks by the city's waters.
- Senor Enrique said...
Very interesting points you raised, Dave. Actually, through these writing installments, I hope to discover more about my father, as well as with my siblings. Your father and mine may actually share same motivations/aspirations with their respective youngest child :)
Yes, being a bunso has its ups and downs; the downs being more of jealousy/rivalry. Oddly, in my case, the one who never got over it until now was practically already past ouberty when I was born :(
- Senor Enrique said...
My mother's from Albay, Bicol, Dave, and would hear often about the feast of Penafrancia. Unfortunately, haven't been there, but would love to. I still have aunts and uncle (mom's step-siblings) who live there. Now that you mentioned it, will make more of an effort even if just to check out Mayon volcano.