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Thursday, July 16, 2009
Memories of My Parents
David Jamili Katague Family taken in front of their Residence in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo in 1956.
Front Row(Left to Right): Papa David, Efren, Amor, Ruben and Mama Pacing
Back Row( Left to Right); Me, Myrla, Agnes and Erico
My Father, Dr. David Jamili Katague, D.D.S. was born in Guimaras, Iloilo on December 29,1905. He was the middle son of three brothers, Julio ( the youngest) and an older brother (I forgot his name). His parents were poor, but have a small property in Guimaras and Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. My father was very smart. Since his own parents can not afford to sent him to college, a rich aunt from Leganes, Iloilo adopted him. He was sent to Iloilo High School in La Paz, where he graduated salutatorian of his class. His childhood friend, Atty. Paciano Villavieja was the valedictorian. He was a freshman in high school when the three brothers of Guimaras,Iloilo change the first letter of their last name from a "C" to a "K".
He did not tell me much of his college days, but finished dentistry(Doctor of Dental Surgery) at the University of the Philippines,Manila in 1929. That same year he passed the dental board examination(#2 nationwide) and married my mother, Paz Barrido Balleza of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo. They resided in Jaro and built a two-story house in Arguelles Street. My father had a dental office in the first floor of their residence. After five years of marriage, they were still childless, so they adopted a son, named him Rodolfo. A year later (1934), I was born on December 20. I grew up in Arguelles street until 1941, when the Japanese-American War started in the Philippines, then we moved to Barotac Viejo where I finished high school in 1951.
My father's childhood years was very normal for that time. When he was in high school his father died and his mother remarried the younger brother of his Dad, so his mother's name was still Mrs. Catague. This second marriage produced nine children, three girls and six boys. The family resided in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. I had two occasions in my childhood years to visit relatives in Binalbagan. My father also mentioned we have relatives in Hinigaran and Himamaylan.
My father was a people person. I remember during our monthly shopping trip for supplies in Iloilo City, that he would greet and smile to every person we met along Iznart and JM Basa Streets. On one occasion, he greeted a person with enthusiasm as if they were long time friends. Afterward, I asked him who the person was and he said he does not even know his name. He treated men, women, young and old alike. I told him he would be a good politician. He could also draw freehand. His sketches and freehand drawing were beautiful. I know now that my children and grandchildren talents of drawing, sketching and painting is from his genes, since I have no ability at all to draw, paint or sketch. My mother on the other hand was very reserved. However, although she had not finished high school, she was good in mathematics. She could add and multiply in her head. One day, a vendor came to the house and was selling some farm products. She ask for the price and the vendor said 3 for 1 peso. Without blinking and hesitation, she said here is 8 pesos give me two dozens. I was amazed in how fast she could compute in her head ratio and proportion problems.
The marriage of my parents resulted in seven children. I am the oldest, followed by Erico(lawyer), Myrla (education), Agnes(dentist), Efren (engineer), Ruben ( accountant) and Amor(chemist). Agnes is now in Maryland. Myrla resides in Toronto. Efren resides in Sydney, Australia. Ruben is in Bacolod and Amor and Erico are still in Iloilo. All of them are married and have several children and grandchildren.
My mother, Paz Barrido Balleza family are big landowners in Barotac Viejo and the neighboring towns of Banate and Ajuy. The Balleza family were considered rich at that time. She was born on January 14,1909 and is the youngest of three children, the only girl with two older brothers, Modesto, Jr ( lawyer) and Jose who are much, much older than her. My mother's parents both died, when she was only in high school. So, she was under the care of her oldest brother, Modesto. At that time, Modesto Balleza family has a big house in Iloilo City, just across the street from St. Paul Hospital and one block from Assumption College-an exclusive school for girls. My mother went to high school at Assumption College until she was a junior. In her senior year, she met my father, falls in love with him, stopped school and got married. My mother with tears in her eyes told me, that the reason she married without finishing high school, was to get away from the control of his oldest brother. When their parents died, there was no Will. Thus, the properties ( rice lands, coconut lands, fish ponds ) were all under the control of her two brothers. The division of property according to my mother was very unfair. The brothers claimed the best rice lands to themselves. What was left for her to inherit were the properties in the distant barrios, rice land with no irrigation, except for one parcel of rice land( 20 hectares) near the town. Of course, she did not received one-third share of their parents properties. When she married, control of her properties was given to her. My Dad then help her manage the rice lands and other properties. I remember, we have more than 20 tenants come to the house in Barotac Viejo, almost every week during the planting and harvest season, besides the encarcado ( the overseer) of my mother's properties. At the side of our house, we built another house to store the rice harvests, so that we can sell the rice when prices are high because it is off season. The proceeds from the rice harvests were the one that send all seven of us to college. The income of my father as a dentist was just enough for our daily expenses. His dental patients oftentimes had no cash. In exchange for his dental services, they would bring chickens, eggs and vegetables and other farm products. Later, my father decided to quit his dental practice and spend full time in managing my Mom's rice land, fish ponds and other properties. My mother was very frugal. She would not leave a morsel of rice in her plate. I remember her say, "If you do not finish your food, God will punish you". So even today, I always have a clean plate after lunch or dinner. My mother had a strict budget and allocates 10% of the farm income into her savings. By the time, I was in college, they have enough savings to purchase a commercial property in Iloilo City. With the back pay, that my father received having served as a Dental Officer in the Philippine-American Army from 1941-1945, they were able to build a commercial building at Iznart street, just across the YMCA building and very close to the provincial capitol. The building we called “KATAGUE BUILDING”. When my father died in the early 1970's, the building was not properly maintained. In the late 1980's, my mother died. The seven of us decided to sell the building and land. The land was valued more than the building, because of its location. The new owner demolish the “Katague” building, built a bigger building and is now a school and a bank office in the first floor. When my parents died, they have a Will allocating the lands to the seven of us. As the oldest child, I inherited the best of the rice land, the 20 hectares of rice land near the town with irrigation. At about this time, the Agrarian Reform Program was in full implementation. My inherited rice land was the first one reformed. Since,I was residing in the US at that time, I was not able to do anything. Today, the 20 hectares are now owned by my parents former tenants. I have not received a single peso from the Philippine Government. The only land left for me was a 7-hectare upland parcel planted with corn and beans. My sister in Iloilo is now managing it for me. The rental income is barely enough to pay for the annual taxes. Ten years ago, I visited the rice land that was land reformed. I cried when I remember the history of this particular piece of land. Of the ten tenants that benefited from this program, only one approached me and acknowledged his gratitude. He told me, he was able to send all his children to college from the proceeds of my inheritance. As a matter of fact his oldest daughter after graduation from college married a US navy man and now resides in Northern California, only about 40 miles from us. So, this is a segment of my parents life experiences, as I recall it today. To my children, grandchildren and relatives, I hope you find my parents' life-story informative.
Amor (Knitz), Macrine and I visiting the tomb of our parents in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo on December 18, 2008. The tomb has been renovated and improved with contributions from Agnes, Efren, Amor and myself about five years ago.
Note: My mother was also generous. She donated a parcel of her inheritance of more than 14,700 square meters to the local high school (Barotac Viejo National High School). Her brother, Jose also donated the biggest portion of land for the school. Attached below is the sign in front of the high school acknowledging the donation. Knitz and I took this photo opportunity that documented the donation.