PART 1: Kapag tinamaan ka ng swerte, abusuhin. (When luck strikes, abuse it.)

Ever heard of the line, “Wala ka sa Lolo ko!”? (My grandfather is better than you!) This rings true to the bone. When someone opens up the conversation with this route,you either shrug it off as a joke or just don’t listen. I will stand up and shout, YOU AIN’T GOT NOTHING COMPARED TO MY GRANDFATHER! I decided to sit down and chat with my 80-year old grandfather who grew up in Camarines Norte. I will jot down every single struggle and fun times he faced during World War II, how he and his father hid in an island to avoid cavalry fire, how they got lucky, his journey from being a janitor to finishing his Masteral in Advertising and retiring… Yes, this is going to be a long read but trust me, if you’re a Millennial you should read this. If you’re a Baby Boomer, this is going to be a ride back to the past.  I interviewed my grandfather in our balcony over coffee and kakanin (Rice Cakes) around 8:00pm.

I asked my grandfather to tell me something about his childhood. He looked up and started…

My grandfather was born in Parakale, Camarines Norte where his father worked as a Security Guard for a Gold Dredge. Life was way too simple, he said. If any of you don’t know what a Gold Dredge is or we Real Pinoys call it, Draga, it’s a machine set in the middle of a river digging for gold. Quite the responsibility to stand guard on top of literally, a gold mine. He and his brother used to bring food to their father by boat. They had to sail 30 minutes before their father’s lunch break to make it in time. In order to help out with the expenses and all, he and his brothers helped out by fishing for food. This begs the question, have you ever fished at all in your lifetime? Hmmm? No? Going back again. They did not use the classic fishing technique with a rod and a hook.  Instead, they used ‘Bintol’ (Fish Cage with baits) to catch them. Whenever they went to bring lunch to their father to the gold dredge, they dropped these bintols along their way and used coconut husks to mark where they dropped the cages. On their way back home, they pulled the bintols filled with fish (and sometimes crabs if they’re lucky) upon their small raft and brought them home. That was his every day routine and he enjoyed every bit of it.

But life in the province was not always like this. The infamous World War 2 came about and everything changed for my grandfather’s life. They had to abscond far from their simple lives to save themselves from the wrath of the Japanese. The conquerors did not let up and just made everything worse by running 24/7 sweeps of the land. With everything to lose, Lolo Ding’s family scrambled to nearby island and build themselves a make-shift home out of straws and logs.It does suck when your routine gets broken by some outside force that you don’t have any control of. But that did not stop Lolo Ding to have fun… and at a certain point, he went overboard. One time while they were scouting for food out of the island they’re at, a Japanese platoon was on patrol so their father had to rush to the rice fields and hide Lolo Ding and his brothers. “Akala ko matatawa ang mga kapatid ko kapag ginawa ko… so, nung nakita ko na nakalayo na ang mga hapon… Tumayo ako at sumigaw, ‘Hoy mga pindeho! Andito ang tatay ko nagtatago!’. Hindi naman kami nakita ng hapon pero di narin ako nasilayan ng liwanag. Binugbog ako ng tatay ko nung gabing yun.”

(Translation: I thought it would be funny. So when I saw the Japanese platoon got a little far from earshot, I stood up and shouted “Hey you Son of a bitches! My dad’s here! Hiding!”. The platoon did not see us and my father made sure I didn’t see daylight as well. My dad beat me up so bad.”

Talk about Jackass eh! After finishing high school, time went by and Lolo Ding’s father decided to go to the main land Manila to move forward after the war. There, he worked as a janitor in University of Santo Tomas and his father as a security guard on the same school. One day, he was taking a break and was sketching something on a piece of paper. Lolo Ding developed a knack in art and he can draw. A friend of his father noticed him while he was sketching. Astounded by Lolo Ding’s talent, the guy pitched an idea for him to study as a scholar on the same school. Luckily, he passed and made it to college.Since money was tight, he ended up working as a Librarian and a janitor during his vacant hours just to make ends meet. The struggle was real as real as it can get but Lolo Ding was able to graduate with flying colors.

Imagine a life without the internet and gadgets. Surviving World War II. Striking in the middle of the dark not knowing whether you’re going to hit or miss. Living in the moment. Managing to get up and go along with the tides. This story is far from over and Lolo Ding’s adventure during his days in teaching is definitely a tale worth telling.


That’s for another entry…