My Life Story

By Jesusa Javellana Guingona
5 July 1932-29 March 2011

Manuel Guingona and wife Jesusa Javellana Guingona. Photo taken on November 19, 2007.

Once upon a time, there lived a rich man by the name of Cristino Javellana (fondly called Capitan Tinong) and his second wife, Hermenegilda Hinolan (first wife: Baldomera Ledesma ) in Jaro, Iloilo. They owned a big “tisa” or brick house in front of the Jaro cathedral. He had four children with the second wife and I will concentrate my discussion on the second wife’s siblings because I have little knowledge about the first wife’s.

1. The eldest was Consolacion (Nay Ascion) married to Cirilo Punsalan from Tanuan, Batangas. They bore 9 children. When Capitan Tinong died and her mother mismanaged their properties, she moved to Passi, a small town of Iloilo. Nay Ascion, with much disgust transferred to Manila with her husband and never came back to Iloilo.

2. The second was Rosario (Nay Chayong), the husband of which was Pedro Pama and they had four children. She stuck it out there in Iloilo after she got married.

3. The third one was Socorro (Nay Cory), single. What I have learned from stories is that she died with a broken heart.

4. The fourth and the youngest was Jose, or Tay Jose to others. Being the youngest and the only boy, he was somewhat spoiled by his sisters. Anything that caught his fancy, he could have it. He had a strong character but in a way a righteous man and very honest. He married a Cebuana, Crisensiana Papas, from San Fernando, Cebu. Both were teachers then. At this point, I have been wondering what year he migrated to Cebu and I started my own computation. His wife died in 1937 and they had six children (two years interval for each child). So, I presumed that he must be there in 1925 more or less. He was my beloved father!

Jesusa Javellana at age 6. Photo taken on August 27, 1938.

My Life Story

On July 5, 1932 in Jaro City, Iloilo City, Philippines, a baby girl was born to Jose H. Javellana and Crisenciana Papas from Cebu and they named her as Jesusa. Her mother fondly called her as Jessy for short. She grew up with her parents, two brothers; Jose Jr. (Pito) and Jesus, and three sisters: Marquita (Inday), Josefina (Pina) and Onie (the baby).

I had a vague memory of my childhood but I do remembered some past happenings. When I was four years old, while we were staying in a rented house in Cebu, I personally witnessed one incident which was vividly imprinted in my mind that I couldn’t forget. I saw Tatay pulling the long hair of my mother as a result of a heated argument, maybe. This happened when I was down in the garden. I saw them through the kitchen window from above. Then there seemed to be a block out in my memory of what happened next.

As years passed by, I found myself with the family in Cagayan de Oro where my Nanay’s relatives were. (Take note while I am telling my story that Tatay was a sort of a wandering Jew. As the saying goes. “A rolling stone gathers no moss”) Nanay opened a small Dress Shop in Talacag, near Bukidnon and tried to meet the family’s needs with her meager income. While we were there, it seemed I didn’t remember a thing that was worth mentioning.

I’ve been very close to Tatay ever since for reasons I really didn’t know. It must be love because he wasn’t stingy of showing his love to me. He kissed me every now and then and talked to me very often. Oh! how I missed him so much!

Crisenciana Papas Javellana and her four children.

When I was five years old, Tatay and Nanay were on the verge of separating. There were hush, hush talks between them which we the children didn’t know. But as I grew up, I knew the reason. Men are heterogeneous in nature and perhaps my father had been fooling around. Now, I understand the pain in the heart of a wife with an unfaithful husband.

Tatay thought of leaving the family in Mindanao where Nanay had a Dress Shop in Talakag, Misamis Oriental. His plan was to go to Manila to his sister, Nay Ascion first passing by Passi, Iloilo, where his mother, Lola Mindang was. So Tatay packed up his things and was ready to leave. Young as I was I already felt lonely without him. In a split second I went into a tantrum and rolled all over the floor. Poor Tatay had to tag me along to the grief of Nanay. We took a boat going to Passi, Iloilo and stayed there for a few days. All the while, Tatay had a plan to leave me with his mother, Lola Mindang but the same scenario happened. Finally, we took a boat and off to Manila. In the meantime, Nanay hurriedly packed up going after us in Iloilo. Her plan was to get me back home but alas we were gone when she arrived in Passi. She went home sorrowful and with a heavy heart. It is only now that I feel the love of a mother which unfortunately I never experienced before.

I could not remember how long we had stayed with Nanay Ascion in Paco. All of a sudden one day, Tatay told me that we were going home to Mindanao because Nanay was very sick. That night, I felt there was something like a bird that flew towards me and I shouted, “Nanay”.

The next day, we boarded a boat going to Cagayan de Oro. I had a short memory of my mother but innocent as I missed her truly. A cabin boy who was fond of me gave me a big red apple. I said to him, “I’ll not eat this because I’ll give it to my sick mother.”

We arrived in Cagayan de Oro and we were met by relatives with sorrowful faces. When we reached their house, I was looking for Nanay. Only then that I knew that she passed away already. That explained of a bird-like thing that flew to me that night. Do you believe in ghosts? I do because I have seen three times. I felt the fang of loneliness for Nanay and I burst into tears and I cried like it wasn’t any body’s business. We deeply mourned for our beloved Nanay who we will never see again.

As she died in Talacag, near Bukidnon, my brothers and sisters were left under the care of a relative, Manong Tomas and Tiya’y Ityang. I didn’t know how we were related but all I knew was they mistreated them. Inday was the eldest, 11 yrs. old, next was Pito (Jose Jr.), nine years old, Pina (Josefina) seven years old and Jesus, the youngest, three years old. Imagine! They were given household assignment every day. What made it worst, they were given a room that was like a bodega as it had no windows. Bukidnon has a climate like Baguio and so at night they suffered the cold, especially Jesus because they had no sweaters or thicker blankets.

After a day in Cagayan, Tatay and I went up to Bukinon to get my brothers and sisters. As soon as we arrived there they immediately complained about the cold. Tatay didn’t lose time. He shopped for thicker blankets and sweaters and then talked with Nong Tomas and Tiya’y Ityang. They told Tatay how Nanay died.

This was their version:

While we were in Manila, Tatay sent a package to Nanay. One of her friends said, she was very excited to get the package. Since they lived in Talacag, a small town, she had to go to Cagayan de Oro to get it. So, tagging along Baby Onie, they took a bus going to Cagayan. In order to cross the river, a bus should be ferried to other side by “balsa” because there was no bridge at that time. When the bus was being transferred to the “balsa” the driver made a mistake. Instead of stepping on the brake, he let it go right into the river. The passengers scampered for life savers (salvadida), and so was Nanay. She saw the man holding Onie, the baby, but when he had a difficulty with her, he threw her down into the water. When Nanay saw that, she jumped into the water without much ado. She tried to save Onie but both of them were carried by the current down the river until they vanished from sight. Our relatives couldn’t find them for many days. The brother of Nanay dreamt of where to locate their dead bodies, slumped on a rock. They were finally found and brought to Cagayan de Oro where they were buried.

A case against the bus company was filed by Tatay but I didn’t know what happened to it.  The package of “reconciliation” became a nightmare to Tatay and the family. Sorrowful, we left Bukidnon and transferred to Cagayan. That was in 1937. Tatay rented a house near the cemetery. I knew he had a reason for that.

He worked with Cagayan Electric Company and sent Inday, Pito and Pina to school. If I remember right, I finished my kinder in San Augustin School.I could not remember who took care of Jesus when we were all gone Anyway, we lived there in that house for one year.

Jose H. Javellana and his second wife, Vicenta Bautista.

In the year 1938, Tatay fell in love to an old maid teacher and they got married. At first we couldn’t understand a stranger in the house but then Tatay explained to us that she was our second mother – Vicenta Bautista from Lagonglong, Misamis Oreintal. He told us to call her Nanay Tintay and we should respect her. At first, our relationship with her was fine but later on became sour because the older children, Inday, Pito and Pina noticed a comparisons between two mothers. Special mention was Pito, who was very close to Nanay. He was the most rebellious among us, second Inday and the third was Pina. Jesus and I were manageable at that time because we were young then; three years and five years old, respectively. Almost always, quarrels would steam between them and Nanay Tintay. Later on, when Tatay found out that the children was right he sided with us. He would transfer to another house bringing us all and leaving Nay Tintay alone with a maid. Nay Tintay would fetched us home and they reconciled. This happened several times in Cagayan de Oro City.

I couldn’t forget one incident while we were living in Pabayo Street, Cagayan which nearly cost my life. This happened in the month of May, 1938, the time of Flores de Mayo. My friends and were gathering flowers to offer to Mother Mary during the Santacruzan. I saw a santan tree full of white flowers, so without much thinking I climbed up the tree. I held on to one of the branches and all of sudden, I felt electric current running through my whole body. Immediately I slid off from the branch and I was hanging on the wire. I shouted, “Kurrintihan” with all my might and Nay Tintay who was by window (the tree was beside her window) became so hysterical and shouted for help addressing the teen aged boys who were just sitting down in the corner. One of them had presence of mind. He responded to the call of Nay Tintay. He got a bamboo pole and gave the wire a hard stroke and I was detached from the wire. Somebody caught me down. That was so ironical because Tatay was connected with the Cagayan Electric Company.

That’s why since then, I am afraid to touch anything run by electricity. I have yet to overcome my fear of electricity before I could be comfortable with it.

In Dansalan

Dansalan (Marawi now) was the next place we went to. I don’t know what the job of Tatay was . We rented a house owned Mr. Agcauili from Pangasinan. My brothers and sisters were sent to a public school and Tatay enrolled me at Maria Auxilladora Catholic School right behind the church. I was in grade III then. A German nun ( named as Marie Felicidade) was very fond of me and tried to lure me to stay with her in the convent. I don’t remember now if she was my teacher or if she saw me only during rehearsal of the Christmas pageant to be shown on Christmas day. I was the main character and mind you, I could still remember my lines:

“I’m the Christmas spirit, once so fair but I have lost my way, the hurrying things do pass me by. I am doomed to wander lost forever till I could find a faithful heart to lead in and show me the way”

She came over the house and had a long talk with Tatay and Nay Tintay. In short, they liked the idea and I started packing my things. I was suppose to be there December 15, 1940. But the war broke out December 8, 1940. On the day of December 8, 1940. morning, we saw several planes, two or three planes, flying over the market place where Pina and I were, selling titra-tira (home made candy ) which Nay Tintay made. The planes were like entertaining the people below with an exhibition tactics swooping high and low to the enjoyment of the people, mostly Muslims. Then out of the blue, they started to open fire with machine guns to us and we scampered to hide to the different places in the market. Tatay arrived and told us not to go out. That was the start of the Japanese occupation.

Japanese Occupation

After that “plane exhibition” by the Japanese, they started bombing Camp Kiethly and around Lanao. We could feel the heat every time a bomb was dropped although we were hiding in “imbornal”. When the bombing became heavy we evacuated to Ramain, next town with other families of military officials. We enjoyed our evacuation place because we were housed in the residence of a Moro captain, in a big house with several rooms. Each family was assigned to a room and took charge of the cooking for a day. Every day was like a fiesta, plenty of food. Once in a while, a Moro friend gave us “baboy ramo” or wild pig to the delight of us all. The cooks had a hey day of cooking adobo, afritada etc. I didn’t know how long we have stayed there because we usually leave the place if somebody had told us that Japanese were coming.

My memory became vague at times and the next I remembered was that one day at dawn, we packed up our things and walked on foot to another place. That must be in Lugait, near Iligan. I didn’t know. We stayed in a cute house in one of the towns of Lugait without permission. During that time, you could occupy a vacant house and nobody would question you. Also, you could get as many as you want of fallen coconuts, vegetables and fruits.

We settled there and developed the place good. We had a vegetable garden, a small poultry for home consumption only and raised several pigs. In short we were self sufficient when it came to food.

At that time the guerrillas or the military were abusive. They came around and just commandeered anything that caught their fancy to the great disgust of Tatay. When Tatay showed them his character they branded him a Japanese collaborator. There came a rumor that he would be digging his own grave, very common in those days. We were so afraid that would happen to Tatay, so we thought of transferring to Aya-aya, a high mountain of Lugait.


A certain family (I forgot their name) who owned a vast hectare of lands in Aya-aya gave us a piece of land to cultivate. We planted corn, vegetables and sweet potatoes (camote). It was the first time that we planted camote and I was very excited when harvest time came. With a bolo in my hand, I dug out the camote tuber and anywhere I dug there were tubers. It meant that all the site was full of tubers. We were able to get several sacks of it.

I don’t remember again how long we were there but we enjoyed being young and care-free. Tatay, who worried a lot for our safety, lost too much weight. For us children we looked at it as work and play.

A big blow to us children was when Inday and Goria, our only maid, got married in Aya-aya. Inday married Nong Doming Brandares and Goria to a military man (sundalo). I was then 11 yrs. old, Pito 15 , Pina, 13 and Jesus was 9 years old. We had to do all the work done by Inday and Goria. Pito and I were tandem in fetching water from the well, looking for firewood from anywhere and making coconut oil for Nay Tintay’s small baking business. Pina did the cooking for the family and Jesus running errands. Somehow, we survived the hardship until liberation day,1945.

Liberation Day

The Americans were coming to liberate us from Japanese tyranny. From Aya-aya we went down to Lugait and stayed in a big house along the highway, vacated by the owner. Along the highway, we saw a truckload of GIs waving at us with a victory sign and throwing chocolates. The people responded enthusiastically, “Victory Joe!”

I couldn’t remember next what happened to Pito, Pina and Jesus. They must have joined Inday in Colambogan where she was staying with Nong Doming. I was left behind with Tatay and Nay Tintay in the big house. After a few days we packed our things and went to Iligan where Tatay rented a small nipa hut near the seashore and the Iligan warf. Every morning, we three and  Nay Tintay walked on the beach barefooted looking for bancas who were selling fresh fish. We then cooked the fish for our breakfast. All the while we were there, Tatay already had a plan to go to Manila to Nay Ascion. He was only waiting for a chance to board an army boat called FS. One time, I saw the nun (Marie Felicidade) who was about to board the boat. She just waved at me and I reciprocated. Days later, we too were lucky to take a ride to Manila.

Published on October 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm  Comments Off on My Life Story  
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