Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! Who’s that man in the house.”Son”! My mother said.”Give your Father a hug.” My father! I said. So I did what my Mother told me and hug the man in front of me. It shouldn’t have been hard for me to do. But, I didn’t even know I have a father. I meet him the first time in the summer of 1954. I really didn’t get to know him that much. He was gone before I know it. Mother told me he have to leave for work to put food on our table and we’ll all join him soon in America.
There are 5 children in our Family. The oldest is name Jerome after my father which is typical in our country. Philippines Island. The second to the oldest is Mary. I’m the middle child. They call me Chris named after Saint Christopher. The forth is my sister Ava and the fifth and last is June our last name is Castaneda. We also have an Aunt that leave with us. We just call her Aunty. She is on my father side of the family. Every body call my Mother by her nickname. “Connie”.
We are a poor family. There are no middle class in the Philippines. Your either rich or poor. We lived in Quezon City. It’s one of the five largest city. The other cities are Manila, Davao, Cebu and Zamboanga. The Phillippines is an an archipelago comprising 7107 islands. The island are divided into 3 groups. Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. There are 171 native dialect but our main language are English and Tagalog. So transitioning to America language was not to much of a problem.
We were living in a big house at one time and have several relative living with us. When mother run out of money. She gave up the big house and moved the family to a small two bedroom apartment. Dad is already gone. Its’ a typical two story apartment made from concrete and slabs. Which have a downstairs and upstairs. The upstairs was divided in to two bedroom. The downstairs was the leaving room and kitchen. There are a row of about 8 apartment connected together. Each have a little backyard that was fence in with an 8 foot high cinder-blocks that gave us privacy. It serve as a shower and washing our cloths more less an outdoor laundry. The one that stayed with Mother was my Aunty. All other relatives and suppose to be friends left Mother. My Father working overseas is suppose to be sending Mother money to support the family. It was rough going for us back then. I remember growing up hungry all the time. Even to this date. I still fill that hunger feeling. Its’ a feeling that do not go away.
Its’ a mystery to me during my childhood years I never ask or question my mother or aunt what my father do for a leaving. All I remember is we don’t have enough food on the table and the cloths I wear have holes in them that my Mother have sewn a patch to cover the tear. I still remember just like yesterday hearing laughter from classmate laughing at my pant patches as I walk to the front of the class chalk board were I’m suppose to write the alphabet. Which I never was good at academically.
I have a bumpy childhood and was accident prom. I spent bed ridden in a cast from chest to toe on an operation from a hip accident. Were I was hospitalize in Clark Air force in the Philippines. I must have spent 2 or 3 years in the hospital and the only person that ever visit me was my Mother. After I was healthy enough to walk and was sent home to Quezon City. Mother got the news she been waiting for. We’ll finally join our father in Forth Bragg N.C. So in 1958. I was 12 years old at that time when I meet my Father the second time.
Once we arrive and settled in Fayetteville, NC. Dad rented a 2 bedroom house close to Fort Bragg in Fillyaw Rd. off Yadkin Rd. I don’t know how we all fit in a two bedroom house but we did. We later move out of that place and move to a 3 bedroom wooden frame house off Camden Rd. to accommodate the growing family. The family finally bought 3 bedroom brick house with a garage which we don’t use in Dairy Dr. All this time, Mother was working as a helper. Cleaning house, anything to create an income to help out with fathers Military pay. Father was an E4 at that time and the pay was not enough to support the family.
It was in those days that I learned about my Fathers’ military career. Bits and pieces of it anyway. what I learned: He was a Bataan Death March Survivor during World War II. He was station in the DMZ in Korea. He went to the Vietnam War three times. And served in the Dominican War conflict.
When he is not fighting foreign wars. He work as an Architect to supplement his military income. He keep busy but his steady income comes from his Military pay. Which was not enough to cloth and feed the family. There are several building that he help design dotted around Fayetteville. That we know off but don’t know were they’re at.
Leaving with Father is leaving with him but not knowing him. He is a stranger in the house to me anyway. I always go to Mother for anything. Mother keep herself busy working. And it was only thru her effort and hard work that improve our financial standing. She was the one that acquired wealth for my father. She even started a Filipino Club first one in Fayetteville, NC. She also manage to send four of her children to College. She did this without complaining and did it with honest humble work. Since she do not have a driver license. She use the transit bus to go to work and ask people to drive her when she needed to go somewhere special. When I think of my Mothers’ accomplishment she did for us. I’m bless to have a very caring Mother. As for my Father, we were never close like I was with my Mother.
After graduating from High School All the children went there separate ways. My older brother Jerone move on with his life and started his family and stayed in NC but in another city. The older sister Mary got a degree in Music after that married and leave with her husband in Washington State. Chris (Me) after finishing college went to Washington State work for a Blue Chip Company. My sister Ava after finishing college married a Doctor and leave in California and open her own dance studio. My youngest sister June finished college with a teaching degree and went back to school to get her Master in Education and is now teaching.
My Mother continued working and open a Children Day Care Center. It was very innovative at that time. It’s a first in Fayetteville. When she past away in 1986. She left all her wealth to my father. She was buried and a simple headstone was use to commemorate her.
My father was at a loss when Mother past away. But a few years later, he re-married to a Filipina woman named Elizabeth. During this time. My sister Ava and her husband moved from California to Fayetteville. Her husband who is a doctor opened his practice. I also came back home from Texas to Fayetteville in 1999. Were my wife open her practice.
My sister Ava’s husband since opening there practice in Fayetteville 1995 became very busy and successful. My Fathers’ wife Elizabeth worked for her and then ask favor to hire her family members. Which my sister oblige. Since Elizabeth family are just getting started with their life. My Father let her stay in one of my Mothers’ property with no rent payment. It’s a humble 3 bedroom brick house with a single car garage. It’s not much but that’s were my Mother started her Day Care and a lot of the neighborhood children grew up in. It was my understanding since she is not paying rent. She will keep the property in tip top condition. That never happen. The house turn into despair needing a new roof, paint and heating and air condition system. This was upsetting to me because when I brought my wife with me to Fayetteville. We could use a house to live in and that would have been perfect for us. Its’ a good thing that my Sister and her husband is generous and let us stay in their house. Till we can get our own house. Which we eventually did.
My Father past away March 10, 2012. He been married to Elizabeth for 20 years since my Mother past away. When the will was read Elizabeth who was made the executor of my Fathers’ Estate. Was left with a house and all the money that my mother worked for. While the new wife is entitled to receive any benefit that my father may be entitled to being a Japanese POW. Reading the will there is about $3,000.000.00 dollars in the bank account not counting the real estate property.
(I want to say that this story may contain some truth but it is mostly false.)