Monday, August 11, 2014

Piecing Together The Past With Old Documents


For those of us born during the last world war, and even for those before that, there is one common challenge we face in establishing our identities for a variety of purposes, among those purposes are enrolling in school, getting employment, or more specifically securing a passport.

Our birth records are nowhere to be found as sworn by the local registrar, under the blanket reason that all such records were lost during that war.  To establish our birth dates we have had to have notarized affidavits executed by either close family relatives or acquaintances who were all witnesses to our births.   Only then can our birth dates be recognized by legal authorities.

However, there is one other quite reliable source which has first-hand record of our births, though not sufficient for most legal purposes.  That would be the local parish of the Catholic Church where most of us are members.

Thus though unable to secure my birth certificate from the local civil registrar, it was quite easy to go to the San Agustin Cathedral and secure an official copy of my Baptismal Certificate.  Information contained therein revealed a few interesting facts that caught my attention the first time I viewed it almost 40 years ago.

Beyond the few facts typewritten on the standard form, one with a fertile imagination can weave some revealing tales from them, in conjunction with other facts already known from other sources.

Thus, here is an attempt to weave a tale on the circumstances of my birth, to provide more flesh to the sketchy narratives I have kept over the years.

I was born in the sitio of Taguanao, which is now part of Indahag, sometime in the early morn of December 28, 1941.  This was the same month and year when Pearl Harbor was bombed and thus started the hostilities between the US and Japan.  Being a part of the US then, the entire Philippines was also drawn into the cauldron of another global war.  Local residents then were deeply focused on their plans to try and escape the invading hordes of Japanese.  This was “evacuation” time, when many urban dwellers took to the hills to avoid notice and contact with the hostile forces.  And it was essentially to each his own.

As far as I can gather, the entire sitio of Taguanao was in most likelihood owned by the family of my grandfather, and thus it would not be surprising to know that family members of the old patriarch were gathered and huddled together in that then faraway place.  This getaway  was securely covered with dense growth, located in rugged terrain, and isolated by the absence of roads.

But which children with their growing families evacuated to Taguanao?  My grandfather had 7 children, with the eldest being Carmen Neri Marfori.  And my father was the 5th in the family.  My aunt Carmen had 11 children and my father had 9 with me as the 5th in line.

My birth certificate listed my Aunt Carmen’s eldest child and her husband as my 2 godparents.  They were Carolina M. Pascual and Mike Pascual.  It stated further that the baptismal rite was performed January 27, 1942, a month after my recorded birth.

What can be possibly surmised from the above data?  That at the very least Tia Mameng and some of her children were with her in Taguanao.  And one of them would be Nang Carolina and her husband, Jovencio.  Later I would learn that aside from my grandfather, the family of Tia Mameng also owned a huge piece of property in Taguanao not far from the former.

Why did they become my godparents and why just them?  Again we surmise given the facts then that because the trip from Taguanao to the poblacion was quite an arduous one possible only on foot or horseback and to escape as much notice as possible from townspeople and other prying eyes, only a handful of people went down for the trip, with infant in tow.  I surmise the young couple would have been ideal for the trip, being physically able to overcome challenges along the way.

The record of my birth was signed by Fr. Vincent I. Kennally SJ, who most probably was also the parish priest who conducted the baptismal rite.

The following years were crazy war years, now cloaked mostly in forgetfulness.  And it would not be till the waning months of 1945 when peace would come visit the place again.