Clarita & Eligio Wamil, 1950’s
Eligio Wamil, Guam in the 50s
My Dad, an early OFW
15 November 2015
My first thought upon waking this morning was my Dad. It was his birthday today. He would have been 81 years old today had he not die at the age of 49 whilst working as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in Saudi Arabia.
My Dad, I think, was born too soon and died sooner. He would have loved the current technology we enjoy today.
He wanted us to be technology savvy. He would patiently show us how machine worked. He would not mind us taking gadgets apart to see the mechanics of it.
In his short life, he lived a fruitful one. He was mega intelligent. He finished high-school at a very young age because he was academically accelerated.
He was a handsome man, a bit of a lad. After romancing most of the young ladies, he had to leave his little barrio to see the world.
The problem was that he was only 14 years old. He needed to be at least 16 to be able to work abroad. Somehow he was able to get a birth certificate making him to be16 years old. His new birthdate was 15 February.
He went to Guam, where he thrived. He was popular and got taken into the care of an American family which send him to college and study engineering.
While in Guam, he started a friendship with my mother through penpal. After four years of writing, they became engaged. My father sent my mother a Sears catalogue where she can choose any ring she wanted. She chosed an eternity ring with 5 diamonds. I thought the ring is beautiful but my mother said she was disappointed when it arrived. The diamonds were not so big, not like in the catalogue picture. 🙂
My father became a BalikBayan (country returnee) and went to see my mother.
She’s beautiful, he was handsome and their chemistry was blazingly on fire. But like every great love stories, it was not always smooth sailing. My beloved grandfather (mom’s dad) was not enamoured of my father, who had become rather americanised.
My Lolo (grandfather) had a touch of xenophobia. When he was only 16, he too tried his luck working abroad. He became a deckhand. When he arrived in America, he said some Americans started shouting at the Filipinos, calling them little monkeys. My Lolo did not even bother to disembark from the ship. He was returning back home. He said he used to tutor American boys of his own age in Maths in school. He refused to be belittled by them! Too right too, LOLO (RIP).
Anyway, as my Lolo refused to consent to a wedding, my mother and father got married in secret (wedding photo above) a day before my father had to go back to Guam.
It was several years before he finally decided to make Philippines as his permanent base. With him he brought home a massive collection of books, records, cameras and other gizmos.
After living together as man and wife for more than a year, babies were not forthcoming. So they decided to go to Obando in Bulacan to dance the fertility rite of Santa Clara.
It worked too well because nine months later, I arrived, and then a year after my arrival, my sister Marilou arrived, closely followed by my brother William. My mother said perhaps they danced too well. (They should do, because I remember that my mother and father used to go dancing all the time. They had date nights; very progressive.) She’s a good Catholic girl but three children in three years was too much. She took the pill for a while. As soon as she stopped, she got pregnant again and we had our baby of the family, Jonathan. My mother decided to have a tubal ligation, very forward thinking in a Catholic country in the 60s, 70s.
We lived in Marag, we had the prettiest house. We had a library with my father’s books. We had Long-Playing (LP/ 33rpm) records played on battery operated record player, connected to a huge gramophone, booming delightful Merry Widow Waltz, Blue Danube and the likes.
My father was the Barrio Captain, in our barrio (duh). He was well respected because of his experience, his sophistication, his intelligence and brawn as well. He had a black belt in Judo. He once tackled the bully boy of the town using his judo! My mother would proudly tell us this as we were too young to remember.
My mother and father lived a very happy and contented life. He was devoted to her and she to him.
Though we had a very happy house full of laughter and joy, we never said “I love you” to each other. We know, we just knew we were loved! I still find it strange saying “I love you” now. I am more action rather than mere words. I grew up that way.
My father was into learning in a big way. He wanted us to be always reading and talking about what we read.
He wanted us reading real books not the extremely popular Pilipino Komiks, weekly magazine with illustrated drawings.
We did take to reading like ducks to water but it was still a bit disappointing to our very well read Dad. We were reading Mills & Boons and Barbara Cartland. In fact we were addicted. My sister and I as well as my mother were reading 3 books a day each, much to my Dad weary consternation and silent disapproval. LOL
My father used to get a daily newspaper. Again he was different from most Filipinos. He read the broadsheets rather than the more salacious tabloids. He would expect us to read the newspaper and discuss the news over dinner. I was a teen-ager by then and so was my sister. We did not do news unless it was about American singers/band/celebrities. But the glare of my father was enough to turn anyone to a pillar of salt. No one argues with my father, unless one was prepared for a long tortuous and laborious debate. (Did I say my father could have given Nietzsche and Voltaire a run for their money?!!!) He would ask us for our opinion and we had to give one. Thinking about that now, I think it was actually rather brilliant way to promote family growth. We talked over dinner.
As we are all growing and needed more money to fund university and college, my father once again had to go abroad to earn a decent living. He said what he earned in the Philippines for a year can be earned abroad in a month.
We missed him so much. There was no happier time than when he comes home and no saddest time than when we had to see him off to the airport except when we had to meet his repatriated body back to the Philippines. He died from complications of diabetes while in Saudi Arabia.
In his luggage we found a dozen of Mills & Boons! From the grave my father telling us we can read what we like!
And the most mysterious thing is that he actually died on 15 February, the date he chosed for his new “Birth Certificate”
Anyway, this blog is getting too long.
There are too much more to say but probably later.
Anyway, Daddy, YOU have been gone a long time from us but you are always in MY Heart, OUR Hearts.
I always think that you would have loved both James (my son) and Nathan (my grandson) because I can see you in them especially in James. I look at him and think, my Dad would be so proud of him! He does not say much, the quiet type but he can put his mind into most things. He is a ‘sorter’ like you. Methodical! And like you, most of his knowlege are self-taught!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!
Peter and I chose your birthday to get wed 29 years ago to honour your memory.
I have never said this before but I DO LOVE YOU, DADDY! WHEREVER YOU ARE!