In 1956, Rosario and Vivencio resigned from their work at the EDCOR and my grandmother Rosario who was a registered nurse accepted an offer from her friends at the Filipino Nurses Association to work as a public health nurse at the Rural Health Unit at Marbel, Koronadal, Cotabato. My father Adonis went with them to Koronadal. He was then a new high school graduate having just graduated from the Cotabato Provincial High School in Cotabato City. The Koronadal Rural Health Unit then was composed of a doctor, a nurse, a midwife and a sanitary inspector. The nurse member of the RHU was Rosario, my grandmother; and the midwife was the former Antonina de Ala, the elder sister of my mother Remedios. Under these circumstances, it was just natural that friendships developed between the families of Antonina and Rosario.
In 1956, my mother Remedios was in her fourth year at the girls department of the Notre Dame of Marbel College in Marbel, Koronadal, Cotabato, a catholic school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, while my father Adonis was a freshman in the college department of the same school. The young Adonis became hopelessly attracted to Remedios and they became close friends. The friendship blossomed into a deeper relationship even after my mother left Koronadal to continue her college studies at the University of the East in Manila, and after my father left Notre Dame in Koronadal for Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City in 1957 to pursue a course in preparatory medicine. The special relationship even grew more profound after the death of my paternal grandmother, Rosario on July 11, 1959
With his mother and main source of support gone, my father had no choice but to stop schooling. Before the scheduled return of my mother to Manila to resume her studies, Adonis and Remedios decided to get married. My parents were finally married at a civil ceremony performed by the late Judge Marcelino Ramirez Jr. of the Polomolok Municipal Court at Polomolok, South Cotabato on June 2, 1960. The newly married couple stayed at Barrio Silway 8 with my grandfather Vivencio Sr. for a few months after marriage.
In February 1961, with my mother pregnant with their first child, the young couple Remedios and Adonis left Polomolok for Cagayan de Oro City in search of the proverbial “greener pasture”. My father thought then that he could find a way to resume his studies at the Xavier University in that city. There, they initially stayed with my paternal grandmother’s older sister, Trinidad, also a registered nurse, at Iponan, Cagayan de Oro City. It was in Iponan that Remedios, my maternal grandmother gave birth to her first child, a baby girl. They christened her Maria Theresa, the first of five children of Remedios and Adonis. Her other siblings are Anthony who is a “special person,” the twins Maria Cecilia (who died barely a month after birth) and Maria Christina, and me Pio Manuelito, the youngest . Like me, both Ma. Theresa and Ma. Christina were also educated at the University of the Philippines.
Unable to immediately enter the university because of extreme poverty, my father took on odd jobs while my mother work as a seamstress to support the growing family.
Finally, in 1964, with the help of some friends and with sheer determination, my father was finally admitted to the Xavier University as a student assistant with Dean Manuel M. Gapuz of the College of Education. He also enrolled in the same college under the 5-year AB-BSE program. A few years later, with changes in their fortune, my mother decided to open her own classy dress shop along Calle Real right in the center of Cagayan de Oro City, a fulfillment of an old dream. My father graduated with an AB degree from Xavier University in 1968 and a BSE degree in 1969. He also started teaching in the high school department of the university in the same year, and in the History Department of the college a semester later. He did not stop there. With the prodding of his boss, mentor, and foster father Dean Gapuz, he continued with his graduate studies on top of his full time research and teaching duties at the university.
In addition to his duties at the university, my father was also active in social work and with student activism. The early 1970’s was the height of the youth activist movement exemplified by the Kabataang Makabayan (KM). It was also a high water mark in the growing discontent and unrest in the labor sector in Cagayan de Oro city and opposition to the excesses of the Marcos regime. When Martial Law was declared by the late Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972, my father was one of the many students and professionals who were arrested and detained in the various military camps in northern Mindanao.
My family has traveled through distances. Most of the time there were no roads and road maps. When there were roads, many were strewn with obstacles that are often too harsh to contemplate. We had our ups and downs. Some branches of my tree have on their own, chosen to wither away. Still some were unkindly cut by the excesses of circumstance, man, and nature. But whichever case, my story is clear: stronger branches grew in their stead.
With great certainty, my tree shall stand for many more generations to come. This dream is happily buoyed up by the fact that the ground on which my tree grows has been made very fertile by the living lessons left by my ancestors. The rays of the sun will continuously caress its branches like the mega values that helped sustain it through many generations; and the rains will nourish its roots, embedded dip into the matrix of our nations history. I have a strong feeling that our tree shall see the seasons change, and reasons rediscovered.