When I was 14 years old, my father came home from the base one day and announced that we were moving to the Philippines. This wasn’t shocking news, we’d moved several times before, although it would be the first time we moved out of the country.
My father was “going ahead” to set things up for us. I didn’t know what that meant but he left and we joined him 4 months later.
This 4 months was a significant time in my life, I was both feeling more mature and being treated more like a young adult, although 14 is probably a little young to be called a “young adult.” But I don’t know how else to describe the situation. My mother started to rely on me for more help. She actually had me drive the car because she was pretty much used to having my father drive. I remember one time I was stopped at a crossroad and waiting for a car to go by before pulling out. My mother told me to go, saying I had enough time to get across. I didn’t go; I didn’t think I had enough time. She seemed a little miffed over that. But hey, I was only 14!
One night, I snuck out of the house and joined some friends to go out gallivanting in the middle of the night. We ended up swimming in the Concho River, which was perhaps 2 miles or so from my house. An interesting fact about swimming in the river is that its home to a few different types of poisonous snakes. I remember thinking about that fact as I was in the water.
On the way home, the police found us walking down the middle of the street and asked what we were doing out in the middle of the night. For some reason, it must have been important to know what we doing became they separated us and asked us individually what we had been up to. I think everyone made up their own ridiculous and unbelievable story. In the end, the police brought me home and they knocked on the door. I think my mother must have been a little freaked out by the police coming to the door in the middle of the night. Of course, the reason for them being there became a little clearer when she saw me standing there with them. She never mentioned it the next day or ever after, at least not to me.
Those 4 months were called the time when my father “lost me.” This was his way of saying that while he was away, I had changed and not so easy to control. I think this “generation gap” was more pronounced when we left the Philippines in 1970 and moved to Monterey, California. But we’ll save Monterey for another blog entry.
Front gate to our house on Emmanuel St. in the Diamond Subdivision
During my time in the Philippines, I remember having a friend down the street that had a huge cage in her front yard in which she kept two monkeys. The cage was really big, something like 20 X 20 and very tall. I don’t know what kind of monkeys she had but they weren’t very big, perhaps about the size of a big cat. She was the only one who could go into the cage; the monkeys would attack anyone else who went inside.
The girl second from the left had the monkeys. Her name was Kim.
Another memory: my parents were going to spend some money (something they didn’t often do) and the choice they were contemplating was to either buy me a piano or my father a stereo system. Needless to say, my father got the stereo system. I think my mother made up the whole “choice” discussion. I remember thinking that a piano would be great.
No piano, but soon thereafter I was taking guitar lessons. The teaching method the “teacher” used was to ask me what song I wanted to play and then he’d show me the chords to play. I was pretty much just copying him and wasn’t really learning anything about music. I learned to play Proud Mary, Venus, and other songs of the day. I still remember how to play those songs today, some 44 years later.
While we were living in the Philippines, my family had a live-in maid, a regularly scheduled “yard boy,” and an occasional seamstress.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the maid was 14 years old. The maid did all the housework and my mother got her hair done.
I think this is the only time in her life she gave up control of running the house and not “doing her job,” as she described her role in the family.
One day, the maid was having a bowl of rice in the kitchen as she put soy sauce on it. I’d never had soy sauce before. I got a bowl of rice and put soy sauce on it. I thought it was a very exotic dish and that the maid was very clever to have come up with such a fine meal.
Christmas 1969, with the maid pictured.
The “yard boy” came a couple of times a week and he mowed the lawn, trimmed the banana trees and other fruit trees: mango, papaya, avocado and some weird fruit that I never ate. I think it was breadfruit, whatever that is. He also washed the car and shined shoes. Maybe he did other things but I can’t think of anything right now.
Fruit trees, mostly bananas pictured.
In school, I heard that everyone in the ninth grade (my grade at the time) had to take IPS. It sounded scary. I found out later that IPS stood for Introduction to Physical Sciences. But it was too late, I was dreading the class and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to understand it at all. In the end, IPS mostly consisted of burning stuff in test tubes over Bunsen burners and other activities that involved weird shaped bottles and flasks. It was sort of a silly class, actually.
Wearing traditional Filipino garb. (which the seamstress made)
The last thing I can think of right now is being forced to attend evening Catholic Catechism class at the high school. I hated it. It was like going to school at night. Ugh. I hardly participated and didn’t care about anything discussed. These “classes” weren’t graded and there wasn’t any report made to parents as far as I know. So it seemed like a waste of time to have to sit there for however long it lasted.
I do remember that during one of those Catechism classes, there was an earthquake. It was a strong one. The overhead lights in the classroom hung down from the ceiling and they were really rockin’ and rollin’ while stuff fell off of shelves and other things got moved around. It didn’t last long and the class resumed after it ended.
Earthquakes and tremors were somewhat common in the Philippines. Nobody seemed particularly concerned about them so I never thought they were dangerous. My mother, on the other hand, did NOT like them and we left the Philippines after being there for only 7 or 8 months. My mother would later say that the reason we left was because she didn’t want her baby to be born in the Philippines. She was pregnant with my brother Wayne at that time and was convinced that he would be a citizen of the Philippines if born there. I don’t think that’s the way it works when children are born to military personnel stationed overseas, but she couldn’t be swayed. I think my father got some sort of “I have to get stationed elsewhere for family reasons” reassignment. And as I mentioned earlier, we then moved to Monterey, California.
This is a famous, or at least well known, inactive volcano as seen from down the street from my house. I can’t remember its name.
Update: I looked it up – this is Mount Arayat