Legends Rise and Fall

  1. My Roots: The Legend of Moraga
  • What Runs in the Family
  • The Lumbrera Heirloom
  • The Medalist
  1. Jose P. Leviste: The Rural Doctor
  2. Kapitan Kulas: The Outlaw Hood
  3. BOSS: The Battle of Sibuyan Seas
  4. Ma. Consuelo Almonte: Icon of the Aging Fil-Am
  5. Prashant Shah: Awakening the Soul
  6. Gonzalo Velez: A Soldier’s Historical Novel
  7. Ben Beltran: Rising from Smokey Mountain
  8. Yoga Nurse: The Legend of a Healing Star
  9. Nurses: To the Frontlines 

1 My Roots: The Legend of Moraga 

My grandfather ‘Inkong’ Igmidio Moraga was a jeweler who owned vast of lands in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. He loved me and my younger brother very much. At sunset, we will wait for him as he comes from the farm bringing fruits from his trees. He lived to be in his 90’s. Before he died, he asked me to wash his body and put on his barong. He is one of three sons to a Spanish friar and businessman named Francisco Moraga, after whom the Plaza Moraga in Manila China Town was named because of his bravery and heroism in the early 19th century. It was written in books that our history would have been different if it were not for him. This stature left us respected families in Bulacan. This is the legend of my great grandfather. It is from him that I got my genes of being tough, strong, and fearless as they once called me the woman with a beard (“babaeng may balbas). Similarly, my oldest brother Pedro, the veteran, followed those footsteps during the Vietnam War when the bravery and heroism of a Moraga showed once more!

Inkong Igmidio has a brother with three daughters, first cousins to my mother’s mother. I remember them as my 3 beautiful Impo’s who were very rich. They were in the business and were very successful as they consulted each other. They have a big beautiful corner house made of marbles and colored stained glass like a church. We lived in the compound with them. They called them “Donyas”, who never got married and remained “matandang dalaga” and are very “masungit”. The Japanese used their house as a headquarters during the war. I grew up there that the Japanese officers became fond of me. One time, they saw a lot of men’s shoes, when they asked me, whose shoes are those, I told them, they were my father’s, but they were my brothers’, too!

One of them, my Impong Trudis (Gertrudis Faustino) has lot of rental apartments in Quiapo. She was very fond of me; she tagged me along to give her company, from the church every morning, to places in Manila in her Berlina, with her own driver, especially to collect rentals at the end of the month. She carried her money in big cans. She will surprise me with her hands closed, she will say, “Can you throw this in the garbage?” and when she opens it to me, I say, “This is money!” as I give it back to her, she will tell me, “Keep it and save it. At the end of the year, you will have a lot already”. She gave me a small box to keep and save them as my piggy bank. I grew up with her, but my father wanted me to sleep at home every night. My brothers hated it when I am with her as they fear that I may get influenced to become “sungit”, too. But despite of that, they were very generous. They are always helping people. They sent bright students to college to take Medicine and Pharmacy. I also remember her sister, Martina, but the other one, I can no longer remember. They lived to be over a hundred years old and I witnessed how they turned into their second childhood, (“bumalik sa pagkabata”). She grew up baby teeth that look like irregular, sawtooth, and I saw it, indeed!

 

My Impong “Polin”, Apolinaria Faustino Pilares, is a very rich grandmother, aunt of my mother. She liked me and remembers me  as a daughter of Antonina. She has a very big house, with stained glass windows and marble floors. She has a butler and a bunch of maids. She was fond of me, as I was fond of her. One day, I told her that I would like to eat lunch in her house, but I am not alone. I brought the whole class of fifteen and we ate in their long table served by the maids. My classmates were awed by the experience, we had several days of lunch there. I refused to take off my slippers, same as my friends. And the servants did not like that, they need to wipe the floors as fast as they could as soon as we leave.  How can they complain, as my Impo cuddles me in her lap!

 

Kakang “Tacquio” Eustaquio Bordador, my rich uncle, dresses up like a poor man who carries a “bag of cash” riding in a Berlina, the only one in town. One day, he went to a jewelry store, the salesgirl refused to entertain him because he was wearing his “corto” while his Berlina is parked in the front. He is married to a mean lady, Tandang Ariang, the grandparents of my sister Juana’s children. She used to send me for errands in the market that one day, I asked her to do an errand for me, too. I asked her to drop off some stuff to my house. I told her, I do errands for her, so she should do errands for me, too. She did not like that and got mad. This has taught me, to be aloof from rich people. On the other hand, as a culture, we really do not ask “utos” to our elders, Juana taught me. (525)~MDS

 

What runs in the family: The way we were

 

One note to remember, the women in our earliest generation were short lived. Of course, they had borne many children. My mother had ten children. Juana, my eldest sister had fifteen after she married ....Evangelista at a very young age. Carmen is the first, I took care of her. She saw how Juana treated me like any of her own children, so she got the notion that she can treat me like that as well. As she got older, she got stronger and meaner. I have kept my distance farther. I refused to go back to her house, but Juana begs my father, so Carmen will have a playmate, I was over four years older than her.

 

Our families are bright and intelligent like my father. Juana, graduated Valedictorian in high school. She married young at seventeen as her older husband-to-be was waiting for her as well. She did not go to college, but she is a very good housekeeper. She took good care of all her children and her younger siblings, too. All her children finished college and are now all living in the United States. Juanita, her sixth child, became a scholar here in the US as an exchange student and became a nurse. She met her husband Dr. Antonio “Tony” Toledo of Cavite, while he was an intern at St. Luke’s Hospital. They got married and came to US, Tony practiced Medicine as a surgeon, while Nita, took care of their 4 children.   They live in Connecticut. She was inviting me I hope I could, one day visit them. Iluminada graduated from accounting also and landed a good job at the Land Bank. I was surprised to meet her again when I was working to finance my growing textile business. It is not uncommon that cousins mary one another, that husbands are older than their wives, because they must wait for the girls to mature and be ready for marriage. Girls marry young, before they reach the age of twenty, older men have already got them. That is a very tender and productive years, they bear a dozen or more children. That was our way of life then, we must live according to our times. My father learned to be more protective of her daughters, but still.

 

Business runs in the family, from jewelry to gasoline, to fishing and poultry, there is always money to rake in. Emerenciana, my eldest half-sister was married to….a businessman and became a millionaire from gasoline and auto supplies. I remember, how they were making/counting monies. They hid the money in the attic. When they remembered, to check, termites have already attacked the bills. My father helped them save what they can, and the rest got surrendered to the bank, totally useless.

 

My niece, Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Pedro has moved to Taiwan. She remained single and has a business there. She brought all her siblings to Taiwan and are now working there. She built rental apartments and a grocery, too. She is inviting me to visit them, hopefully in good days, still in my bucket list, then I can see everyone. I want to see traces of my brother Pedro in them.~MDS

The Lumbrera Heirloom

One of the greatest blood relative, worth mentioning is Claro M. Recto, a first cousin of my father, Francisco M. Lumbrera. They have M for Mayo in their middle names. That makes Claro, my uncle. They grew up together. Claro and Isko went to school together, they use to study by the National Library in the evening under the bright light post. Claro became a famous lawyer “Abogado de Campanilla” and subsequently, a great statesman. He was married to a socialite and had children, including Chona Claro, a beautiful socialite like her mother. Isko became an engineer and built roads and bridges in Tayabas before he was appointed Chief of Police by Manuel L. Quezon??

 

It is from my father that I got my talents, like him, I built a road in my farm and my state-of-the-art house in Lipa without any architect. I designed a native looking house from outside, with a modern contemporary style interior. The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden, tended by my poultry workers in their spare time. ~MDS

The Medalist

My eldest brother Pedro who is close to me and stood for my father when I got married entered the US Army and served in the Vietnam War. He saved one officer, a US Major, unfortunately, he got hit by a war tank sharpener and severely disfigured his face beyond plastic surgery. He got blinded and was given an eye transplant. They did so many surgeries to reconstruct his face. The US Army called my father to say he is critically ill. My father came to US to bring him home. When we saw him, with all the bandages in his face, we all cried, we cannot recognize him. For his bravery and courage, he received several medals of honor. He separated from service and received remunerations and pension. It helped Juana to send all her children to college. He offered to send me back to college and finish a degree, but Juana said, “There is no need. She’s already married!”. Pedro remained single for a while, until he went to the Vizayas where he met his wifefrom a rich family and had ten children, nine girls and one boy. All these daughters kept their father’s Lumbrera family name, as well as their children. They wanted to perpetuate their Lumbrera legacy and heirloom. I only know 2 of these children, Elizabeth and Ligaya.

 ~MDS

2 Dr. Jose P. Leviste: The Rural Doctor

If you are from Batangas, you will never miss the Levistes. While Dr. Jose “Peping” Panganiban Leviste of Bauan, Batangas was known as a rural doctor, his legend and legacy is kept dear among the Batanguenos. As the owner of vast farmlands, he distributed agricultural lands to five hundred of their “kasamas”, 3 hectares a piece as a family. While this is a big help to the livelihood and industry of the rural folks, this made it difficult for New People’s Army to steal, as each one oversees their own ward of lands. I was among one of them as a recipient of his generosity, kindness and mentorship for my business, Irene Lumbrera Farms. He helped me secure a loan to borrow from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and encouraged my livestock industry. I met him through “Donya Trining”, Trinidad Leviste Endaya, his sister in the bus one day and became friends since then. He is also married to a doctor,Endaya and have a house in Queens.

 

As a doctor, he graduated from the University of Santo Tomas. He practiced Medicine and Surgery while being an entrepreneur and chairman of DBP. He was all, a great family man, educated and has God in him. He taught how to love as he has received his countless blessings. He was born with a silver spoon because his mother, Rufina Panganiban Leviste was landed and owned sugar and citrus plantations in Batangas. He made it possible to raise responsible social entrepreneurs, businessmen and educators as he was.

 

To all his children and family, his legacy and services as the people’s doctor has impacted the most. He did not treat his being a doctor as an income, but service. His integrity, honesty and sense of fairness has without boundaries. He loved everything in life, culture, arts, theater, sports, and chess. His thirst for learning and science is insatiable. He is a strong advocate of integrating sciences in everything in life. He is always humble, compassionate, and generous person. He is a big man, with big voice and big heart and a legendary sense of humor. To his wife, lawyer Dolores Padua Paredes from Abra and la Union, he will always be the gentle giant.

 

To this legacy, his children wanted to pay forward, as he already paved the way for them. In all their successes, their father has a part and influence. They are not just grateful for being a part of the legend, they want to live on that legacy, that someday, their own legends will rise. ~MDS

3 Kapitan Kulas: The Outlaw Hood

 

There was a man by the name of Kapitan Kulas who owned a vast area of farmlands in Tayabas. As there was drought, his taxes piled up and cannot pay, the government took and repossessed his lands. He got so mad and hid himself in the vast mountain range of Sierra Madre Mountains, from the north of Cagayan to the south of Quezon. He is the king of this jungle. He knows the ins and outs, every nook and cranny of the mountains. It is a beautiful place along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The place is noted for its caves, where no ordinary man dared to go, or a sure death, as no one finds the way out. Alone and armed, he knows his ways in the caves and the forests. Anybody looking to arrest him was killed, as he put justice in his hands until he became a fugitive. He is an outlaw, but somewhat a Robin Hood to the natives. He is a friend of my father, who is the chief of police at that time. He was instrumental in negotiating between Kapitan Kulas and President Manuel L. Quezon. He eventually surrendered and was forgiven. Tayabas became peaceful since and was later named as Quezon province, after Manuel L. Quezon, the Philippines second president of the republic.  My father has told me more about Kapitan Kulas and his legend. Everybody in Quezon knew him. Later, there was a movie starring Ramon Revilla as Kapitan Kulas. Could it be the same legend?

~MDS

4 B.O.S.S.: The Battle of Sibuyan Sea

 

October 24, 1944 is a significant day in the world’s Naval History and may even be the day of the Greatest Naval War in WWII because it was then where Japan’s biggest battleship, the MUSASHI, one of the two biggest war vessels in the world then,  along with the USS Princeton and the USS Indianapolis, were sunk.  However, the mighty USS Intrepid was able to survive, thus paving the way for the successful landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Leyte Gulf, on October 20, 1944, four (4) days earlier before the Battle of Sibuyan Sea happened.

 

The Battleship Musashi, owned by the Emperor of the Imperial Navy of Japan, was built in secrecy at the Nagasaki Naval shipyards, in violation of the Treaties of London and Washington. It is said that the workers who built the ship were killed thereafter in order to keep and maintain its very secret and vital mission. “While the actual physical battle was largely conducted between American and Japanese navy and air forces, a little-known but ultimately controlling fact was the crucial role played by Filipino World War II Guerillas in the final outcome. They were the ones responsible for the recovery and transmittal to the American military under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia of confidential Japanese documents containing the war plans of the Japanese Navy, which had been lost at sea when the aircraft carrying Admiral Koga crashed in Philippine waters” (near Carcar, Cebu).

– Jesus Terry Adevoso, Asst. Secretary for Veteran Affairs.

 

While the Yamato, the Musashi’s sister ship is now a museum in Japan, the USS Intrepid stands proud and mighty as a public museum in America for everyone to explore. Many, however, do not know its significance during WWII, particularly in the Philippine Seas. It is sad to note that even the Philippines does not have a display of this significant Battle of Sibuyan Sea at our National Archives and Museum. Hence, it will be through a yearly commemorative event that we, Filipino-Americans will become more visible in the history of New York by recognizing its great significance in the American War in the Pacific, thereby honoring those unsung heroes who have sacrificed their lives for freedom and love of country, not to be forgotten in the years to come by future generations.~Janette Andrada-Cruz

5 Ma. Consuelo Almonte: Icon of The Aging Fil-Am

Before she was dearly called “Tita Connie”, she has an exciting diplomatic career as Assistant to the Press Minister of the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations for forty three years. She met "almost every significant political figure that had been responsible for the rising (and sometimes falling), the shaping and the molding of the very people who made the history of Pakistan," according to Marium Soomro in an article entitled, "Consuelo: A Window of Pakistan." As she recalls, "It was my second home, the best part of my life." In gratitude, the Pakistani Government awarded her the Tamgha-e-Kidmat, the 7th highest honor given to military persons or civilians upon the invitation of then Prime Minister Motharma Benazir Bhutto.

As she returned to the Fil-Am community,  she felt that the best life path for her is to give back and make a difference in the lives of seniors and elderly persons by "Preparing and Enjoying the Golden Years ". Indeed, the best and most satisfying life is serving those who are truly in need. She continued her legacy as the “Face of the Aging Fil-Am.” she has become an icon in her own right, as acknowledged by former Consul Generals of New York, Mario de Leon, Theresa de Vega, and Claro Cristobal. For Connie, old age is a milestone she would like her fellow senior citizens to acknowledge with grace and without isolation and bitterness.

Her ultimate dream, as she founded the Philippine Community Center Services for the Aging, is for it to become an "enduring" institution to serve one of the most forgotten sectors of the Filipino American community and the world at large. She graduated with a major in the Humanities and Social Welfare from the University of the Philippines in the 1960’s.

She was married to Mark Shaffer, a well-decorated educator. She has a lone daughter, May Clites and 2 grandchildren, Cheyenne and Sebastien Clites who will carry her legacy forever. She led a vibrant New Yorker's life, with her roots in the Filipino-American community. ~MDS

 

6 Prashant Shah: Awakening the Soul

 

 While Irene found Ka Felix to learn about God, there was my guru who I have met while searching for God, Dr. Prashant Shah. I do not hesitate to mention his legacy as he influenced me to feel spiritual, even just a little while because of his untimely death.  As we search for God who is as wide as the universe, we narrow even our ways to find Him. How can we make God a reality in our lives? How can we find true answers to our deepest questions? What is the Way to God? Do we have God in us?

I have taken the gist of how to awaken my soul, I will keep Dr. Prashant’s legend by following his art, of putting God in our midst, while looking from the highest peak! I will speak of his teachings over and over but most of all to live goodness as a way of life by example.

 

He spoke of God as a Mystic Being that we believe because of faith. Somebody we acclaim to be our God, as the same Being who has no name, but who is “I am who I am” in the context of whatever you conceive Him to be. To live as a human being, guided by a spirit. I do not remember him calling the Spirit as God by his name, is it because God is the Spirit that we can only feel within our souls? (191)

  1. Gonzalo Velez: A Soldier’s Historical Novel

I will never forget his words in a singsong way, “Soldier, Soldier, will you marry me?” While he is always delighted with his own kind, soldiers, and kings of and from great pasts, he is also delighted with beautiful women, queens and princesses from kingdoms and palaces of history, near and far. As a modern warrior and innovator, he introduced the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in colleges and universities in the Philippines. As an educator, he took a lot of interests and research on history, arts, and humanities. As a writer, he wrote numerous books, particularly on history in his signature style of writing, historical novels. He wrote Las Islas Filipinas, about the history of precolonial Philippines, putting drama in the life of Magellan, his wife, Beatrice, his son Rodrigo, Lapulapu, Rajah Humabon and his Forty Wives, Enrique and Princess Agana's love at first sight and each historical infamous figures.  Beside him and his soul mate is a beautiful woman herself, his wife from a young age, Dr. Josefina Velez. They were blessed with 2 children and 5 grandchildren. They are an inseparable duo, a balance and check for Dr. Zal, the Soldier, and Dr. Josie, as the beautiful, and gorgeous woman, his check mate!

Few may remember Cristo Rey Alunan, his pen name, but I hope someday, his legend will rise as the literary and entertainment worlds will embrace the beauty of his novels, as it happened behind the scene of each hero and villain’s lives of love and romance intertwined in  history. ~MDS  

8 Fr. Beltran: Rising from Smokey Mountain

They say that in priesthood, you must leave your family behind.  You will serve God better if you have no attachment. This is of the past. The priest cannot do his ministry alone, he needs help, from more than anybody than his family and friends. Fr. Ben lived in the slums of Smokey mountain, a dumpsite pile of garbage in Tondo, Manila. It took him thirty years living with/in this pitiful plight of Filipinos, to come up with a solution on how to get out and breath fresh air. He moved to relocate his parishioners to a better housing and living conditions beginning from a change of heart, thinking, and values. He advocated for mother earth through MAID, Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig. He advocated for literacy and leave nobody behind through the Sandiwaan Learning Center. He advocated for industry and sustainability. He advocated for health and nutrition, with his WOW for Women’s Health, Organic Farming, and organic vegetarian restaurant. His project on Bamboohay, planting a million bamboo, E-trading and much more. His initiatives on Solar Panel and Agriculture How can one man do it all? He is a priest first, close to his family and friends and belonging to a community that believes in him. How can the community forget about the Legend of Fr. Ben, a picture of spirituality in the most earthly, human way? He is the legend of the Unlikely Priest, the Revolutionary priest.~MDS

9 Yoga Nurse: Legend of A Healing Star

Annette Tersigni used to be a TV star before she became a nurse at age fifty-one. As a nurse, her spirituality became a focus in her practice. She specialized in Yoga, a higher form of prayer. Today, she has added Yoga Nursing among the special fields of the nursing science. While she uses Yoga to nurse body and mind, she trains nurses to become a healer of the Spirit. Watson, a nurse theorist believes in Yoga as a form of self-care and collaborates with the Yoga Nurse Academy which will soon become a legend, an institution of the highest learning.

To Annette, my friend and colleague, it is about a decade or two to move up and build a legacy. I saw her on the process of her pains, but a legend never gives up, spirituality is never lost, once found, it stays. The Nursing World will not close eyes on her, as the Yoga Nurse, the Legend of a Healing Star! (163)

 10 Nurses in the Frontlines

The year is 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse. Incidentally, an unprecedented year of Covid 19 Pandemic. Never is a time nurses are called to this mission, greater than wars but from an unseen enemy, a virus. Nurses are caught off-guard, same as the world. Chaos world-wide claiming lives is overwhelming. As the world stopped, nurses continued to respond to the challenge beyond their expectation that put their dedication to the test. Their extraordinary sacrifices as they take care of their patients, their families and themselves are commendable. In this Pandemic Era, the government leaders are called to protect its people, from the highest laws of the land, not to instill fear but convince the millions to comply and do their individual share of survival.  As the world keep on standstill and lockdown, people of all faith keep their Trust and Hope in God for Divine Intervention.

This is my opportunity to salute and hail my colleagues, the nurses for their dedication, courage, and service as they put themselves to the frontline without conditions. To those who cared and succumbed, and left their families and young ones. Let us pray that they will continue to respond to this global challenge we never had ever before. The legend of Florence Nightingale as the lady with a lamp rose again. I held that lamp before and I always will. ~MDS