The de Alas of Pampanga and the Muegos of Bohol and La Union …Two Clans: Threads of DivergenceOctober 2, 2009
My maternal grandfather Agaton Mercado de Ala, who died in 1994 at the age of eighty-nine was the oldest among the four children of the late Lorenzo de Ala and Irenea Mercado, both of Santa Ana, Pampanga. In her lifetime, Irenea has often claimed to be a cousin of the National Hero, Jose Rizal. Maybe this could help explain Agaton’s rabid nationalism. Ironically though, he died in Sacramento, California, USA where he also spent the last years of his life with his expatriate children. Agaton’s siblings included Juan, Maria, and Elena, the only surviving sibling. My maternal grandmother Faustina Mallari Sagcal, on the other hand, was the oldest among the four children of Eleuterio Sagcal and Zosima Mallari, also both from Santa Ana, Pampanga. Her siblings were Trinidad, Arcadio, and Justino, all deceased. Grandmother Faustina died in 1985 at Las Pinas before realizing her dream to visit California.
During most of their lives my grandparents Faustina and Agaton were farmers. The earth was in their blood. Together with thousands of pioneer settlers from Luzon and the Visayas they helped tame the wilderness of the Koronadal Valley and transformed it into the vibrant, dynamic, and pulsating city that it is today. They were also small entrepreneurs. My maternal grandmother, bought the produce of neighboring farmers and traded these in the town center. My maternal grandfather, Agaton started what would later develop into a major trade of fresh farm produce from Koronadal and the port of Dadiangas to markets in Manila. He was among the first Koronadal farmers to ship fresh tomatoes to Manila in the mid-1950’s, a trade that still flourishes up to the present.
Although they were farmers and had not much formal schooling, both Faustina and Agaton developed a passion for educating their children. Both wanted all of their children to finish schooling. My mother Remedios re-echoes her parents’ often redundant admonitions that the best and only inheritance that they could ever get is a good education. To them, education and honest labor are the only viable liberating forces in a person’s life.
On the other hand, my paternal grandmother Rosario Navarro Muego was a registered nurse. She studied at the University of the Philippines at Padre Faura, Manila where she graduated in 1934 with a degree in nursing. Throughout her professional life she worked in the government as a public health nurse. Among the many places where she served were Calauan, Laguna; Palauig, Zambales; Iba, Zambales; the EDCOR Resettlement Project Hospital at Buldon, Cotabato; Davao City; and finally, the Koronadal, South Cotabato Rural Health Unit. She died on July 11, 1959 in Koronadal, South Cotabato while serving as the nurse component of the local Rural Health Unit. Her epitaph reads: “She gave her life that others may live.” Indeed, it was a fitting tribute from a grateful community.
The former Rosario Navarro was the second among the six children of the spouses Aurelio Navarro originally from Villasis, Pangasinan, and Victoria Fontanos from Bauang, La Union. Stories by my great-grandfather Aurelio to his grandchildren, including my father, Pio Adonis told of his migration from Pangasinan to neighboring La Union towards the end of the 19th century due to the uncertain conditions obtaining in his province. In barrio Bal-lay, Bauang, La Union, he met, wooed, and then wed the village beauty; my great-grandmother Victoria Perez Fontanos The couple took up residence in Bal-lay where all of their six children were born and raised. Aside from my grandmother, Rosario, the other children were: Trinidad, the oldest; Toribio, Brigida, Felicula, and Juan, all deceased. It is interesting to note that two of Rosario’s siblings, namely: Trinidad and Brigida were also registered nurses and graduates likewise of the University of the Philippines in Manila. Juan graduated from the Philippine Military Academy but was killed in an ambush by communist-inspired Hukbalahap insurgents in Naguilian, Isabela shortly after receiving his commission as second lieutenant in 1952. Felicula was the first teacher in the family. However, she migrated to the United States in 1950 where she stayed until her death in May 7, 2004 (information given by Felicula’s youngest daughter – Jeanni). Brigida, the third nurse in the family died childless during the early 1970’s; while Toribio died in 2001. The last to go was Trinidad, the oldest among the six siblings. She passed away three months after his younger brother Toribio died.
On the other hand, my paternal grandfather, Vivencio, Sr. was the only child in the brief and tragic union between the educated government functionary Pacifico Ruiz from Leyte and the small-town beauty Micaela Muego of Calape, Bohol. He was adopted by the older brother of his mother following her early death. Being better off in life his uncle/foster father eventually sent him and his two cousins Rustico and Saturnino to Manila to study. Rustico ended up at the Philippine Military Academy where he graduated, became a military officer until his retirement as a full colonel in the 1960’s. Saturnino became an engineer, while Vivencio, Sr. went to medical school at the University of Santo Tomas. Tragically, he disappeared during the martial law years after an unfortunate embroilment with certain military officers. My family has presumed him dead..
While my maternal grandparents Agaton Mercado de Ala and Faustina Mallari Sagcal virtually grew up together in the town of Santa Ana in Pampanga where their immediate ancestors also originated and lived; my great grandparents Rosario Fontanos Navarro and Vivencio Ruiz Muego, Sr. only met early after graduation from their respective schools in Manila in 1934; Rosario having just then graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Nursing , and Vivencio, Sr. having just finished his schooling at the University of Santo Tomas medical school.
My parents are the second and the third of ten siblings in their respective families.. My mother Remedios, is the second of the ten children of the spouses Faustina Sagcal and Agaton de Ala, of Sta. Ana, Pampanga. She was born on January 21, 1936 also in Sta. Ana, Pampanga. Her siblings, in chronological order are: Antonina, married to Delfin del Rosario of Naic, Cavite. They have only one child. Lorenzo, married to the former Helen Esquivel of Jaen, Nueva Ecija. They have two children. Adelaida, married to Ramon Pangan of Santa Ana, Pampanga; with three children. Ernesto, married to Sonia Dimailig of Calaca, Batangas; with one child. Estrellita, married to Rodolfo de Venecia of Dagupan City and Sacramento, California, with seven children. Federico, married to Miguela Marquez of Midsayap, North Cotabato, with two children. Corazon, married to Dominador Episcope of Calasiao, Pangasinan and Sacramento, California; with one child. Herman, married to Cristina Lumbang of Santa Ana, Pampanga, with three children; and Alma. Adelaida, Estrellita, Federico, Herman, Corazon, and Alma have since migrated to the United States where they have established permanent residences at Sacramento, California, U.S.A. Furthermore, they have all acquired American citizenships. Herman died in Sacramento, California, USA in October 2003, while Ernesto followed in June 2004 at San Pedro, Laguna.
My mother Remedios was one of three siblings who initially traveled to the Koronadal Valley resettlement site with their parents in 1939. She was then barely three years old. After the liberation of Cotabato from Japanese forces in 1945 she attended primary school in their part of the settlement at Barrio Eight, Koronadal, Cotabato. However, she completed her elementary schooling at the Koronadal Elementary School at the poblacion. Early on she learned how to design and sew dresses and she went through high school at the Notre Dame of Marbel in Koronadal, almost on her own with very minimal financial support from her parents. After graduation from high school at Notre Dame in 1957 she went to Manila, where she stayed with the family of Elena Cunanan, her father’s youngest sister, at Malate. She enrolled in Commerce at the University of the East and eventually supported her schooling by working at a garments factory in Pasig. At the same time she took up short courses in design and dressmaking to hone up her skills in the industry.
On the other hand my father Pio Adonis, is the third of the ten children of the spouses Rosario Fontanos Navarro of Bal-lay Bauang, La union and Vivencio Ruiz Muego of Calape, Bohol. He was born on May 5, 1937 at Dayap, Calauan, Laguna where his parents were initially stationed as health workers. His siblings include Vivencio, Jr, married to Ligaya Mojica of Iloilo City, with seven children. Melita, married to Sally Sallador of Ibajay, Aklan, with eight children. Benjamin, initially married to Flavia Fajardo of Manila with three children. Victor Aurelio, married to Ma. Concepcion Blas of Ilocos Norte, with two children. Arturo, who died in infancy during the Japanese occupation; Edward Salvador, married to Luz Naca of Binalonan, Pangasinan with two children. Cesar, married to Thelma Cinco of Tacloban City, with seven children. Danilo, married to Virgie Belanque of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, with two children. Estela, married to Samuel Solero of Carcar, Cebu, with two children.
Of the ten children of Rosario Fontanos Navarro and Vivencio Ruiz Muego, three have since died: The oldest, Vivencio, Jr. on January 17, 1998 after a lingering illness, Edward Salvador, a year later on January 16, 1999, and Arthur who died in infancy during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
Two have left the country and have taken up permanent residences and citizenships in other lands. Benjamin, the fourth child now lives at Bowling Green, Ohio, USA where he writes books and teaches at the Bowling Green State University. . He has also acquired an American citizenship. Victor Aurelio is now a Canadian citizen living and working in Toronto, Canada with his family.
My father finished his basic schooling at the Bal-lay Elementary School in Bauang La Union where he grew up with his siblings under the care of two unmarried grand-aunts, younger sisters of their grandmother Victoria. After graduating from elementary school he followed his parents to their new assignment at Palauig, Zambales where his mother Rosario was Puericulture Center nurse and his father Vivencio, Sr. became an aid of then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, Sr. He attended high school at the Zambales Provincial High School at Iba, a few kilometers away from Palauig.
MINDANAO The Land of Promise: A Convergence