Sumbang, Daniel

December 13, 2005

English 165


Essay #4



            A person’s most inner thoughts and reactions are learned from their past. The way we move, the way we think, and the way we interact to one another is all thanks to the history we have lived. We experience great things in life that definitely affects the choices we make.  Without our past molding us to become who we are, there is no room for expression and beliefs, we are left empty without a way to think for ourselves. Through careful analysis and research, I’ve compiled a “mini-ethnography” of the life of my grandmother, Peregrina Benusa Vedad during World War II.  Though most Filipinos in the Philippines found refuge in the countryside and farmlands, Peregrina and her family found a safe haven in the mountains of the Visayan Islands.  There they lived for 3 years, acquiring survival skills and learning to fend for themselves in a treacherous environment.

            Living in the mountains and dropping your life is one thing, but dealing with problems such as war as a child is another.  My grandmother Peregrina was only 11 years old when word spread about a war breaking out in the Philippines.  In her town of Leyte, a province in the Visayan Islands, Peregrina didn’t get a hold of the idea of a war breaking out. Most notably, Peregrina didn’t become fully aware of the war because her parents kept the secret from her.  They simply told Peregrina and her sister, Lourdes that they were going on a vacation, a vacation that would greatly affect their lives and last for more than 2 years. 

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            Peregrina in fact fits in with a whole group of Filipinos that has experienced World War II as a child.  At a tragic time like this, the Philippines were greatly affected by the Japanese taking control and the American soldiers trying to fight back.  Children at that time, not only were suffering as much as the adults, but were often left clueless.  They weren’t fully told the current state of the Philippines and were overlooked in most situations.  Many older kids were told to mature faster to help their parents care for their younger siblings. And many toddlers at that time weren’t given the extra care they needed in those important years of their life.   

            Prior to this interview I conducted with Peregrina, all I knew about World War II was taught to me from a book. Readings upon readings are based on biased information either favoring the Japanese or the Americans. You really don’t get to see and read about what’s in between.  I personally only understood the whole concept of the war and how it started and ended, but most books leave out the actual experiences that these citizens had to face during those 3 years of war.  In fact, most textbooks, if any, would only cover the lives of American and Japanese citizens.  Books would often leave out Filipinos who in fact had to suffer as much as these people had to. Finally, after doing this interview I learned a whole lot more than what history books could ever say. Years of first hand struggles experienced by my own grandmother are told to me in a 15-20 minute interview.  All that I could ever know and much more were explained in vivid and colorful words, all remembered by my own grandmother.  The expectations I had for this project was like any research project, I would get enlightened by the books and articles I read, and then write about it, but were only based on books. But to get visually stimulated

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and hear first hand about history is amazing, especially from someone you are close with.  All in all, the experience my grandmother had lived through has molded her to become what she is today; a hard working, dedicated, and independent woman of her time.

            At the tender age of eleven, my grandmother, Peregrina was told to gather as much of her belongings because they were going on a little trip.  Peregrina couldn’t really grasp the idea of their departure, but followed her parent’s instructions.  That same day, they arrived to their destination.  Peregrina and her family including her mother, her father, her older sister, her mom’s sister and her husband, and a  few of their maids fled to the high mountains of the Visayan Islands. According to the book, The Best War Ever, America and World War II by Michael C.C. Adams, it states that “By October 1944 MacArthur had leapfrogged his way north into the Philippines.  Here he fought the decisive battles of Leyte Gulf, which smashed Japanese resistance in his area.” Although the book says that they fought in the Leyte Gulf, where Peregrina is from, Peregrina did not experience any of this first hand.  Peregrina was physically there in Leyte, but because her family fled to the mountains, they were not around to see any of the battles.  Obviously, Peregrina did not know any of this was happening in her city until they arrived back to their town. Instead, while she was in the mountains, Peregrina described the atmosphere around her as very tropical, tropical in a sense where there were many trees and it was green all around. There was a peaceful sound; Peregrina and her family were finally away from the city. All you can here is the wind swooshing against leaves and light water running. Peregrina herself said that her experience in the mountains was really fun and that she really hadn’t noticed a war breaking loose.

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             Many Filipinos at that time thought that the best way to avoid the war was to simply run away from it.  Most Filipinos, depending from the island that they were from thought that the best way to run away from their city was to flee to the top of the mountains.  That way, it would be a lot easier for them to find coverage if anything emerges.  According to an interview with Araceli Orcena, conducted by Valerie Orcena, Araceli too fled to the mountains of her town in Lucban, Quizon. Although both women at that time lived in two separate parts of the country, the same ideology of fleeing to find refuge is still there.  Both women fled to the mountains with their families, and both women were still young in age, Araceli being nine years old at that time.  Today however, my grandmother Peregrina is not only affected by this particular occurrence, but has molded herself from this experience.  Peregrina today is living a healthy life at the age of 75.  She remembers her time at the mountains and uses her experience from there to move on in the present.  However, instead of running away from her problems, Peregrina faces her troubles head on and deals with it.  Because of her experiences in the past, she has learned to survive and to face whatever problem arises.  Peregrina’s relation to other Filipinos out there today is that most children during World War II are in their early 70’s and are now the elders of our time.  Their commitment and dedication to work harder is implemented in our heads today, and because of their experience during World War II this has affected us greatly today.

            During the war, Peregrina’s was kept from knowing that a war has broken loose in her country.  At a young age, most parents believed that not telling their children about dangerous things happening around them is the best thing to do.  However, this leads the

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child to ask numerous questions and doesn’t make them fully aware of their environment.  At the age of 11, Peregrina’s parents did not want her to be scared and to let her know that their lives were in danger.  In most cases, this is the best thing to do for a child, but in fact can later lead to the child’s confusion and lack of trust for the adult in most situations.  Peregrina however did not really care about her surroundings; she honestly loved the mountains and thought nothing of it.  She thought it was amazing how the adults in her family built a great shelter out of bamboos and leaves.  She also found it surprising how her family easily adapted to the mountains and its harsh climates.  As a child in the mountains, Peregrina did a lot of normal things a little girl would do.  She played with her older sister, often doing practical jokes on her, and even helped her mother with supper and prepared meals.  Unfortunately at this time, there was no school available for children, so most children forgot what they last learned in class.  Despite the lack of education, Peregrina lived her life well while in the mountains.  As Peregrina grew older, she later realizes the main reason why her family fled to the mountains. She starts asking questions and hears the shouts from many other villagers.  Things start to add up and Peregrina’s fear arises. 

            In this case, Peregrina, like many other children at that time were told that everything was going to be okay.  Most parents kept their children safe by keeping them away from the war.  Like Peregrina’s parents, most parents tried to disguise their life in the mountains as anything normal, so that the child will not find and discrepancies of some sort.  In fact you still see that a lot today.  It’s basically human nature for a parent to keep certain things a secret from their child.  If a child were told about everything, their

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fears for most would greatly affect their well being.  The right choice was made by Peregrina’s parents by keeping the war somewhat of a secret and to ensure to their daughter that everything would be okay.  According to an interview with Pat Naguita, conducted by Nathaniel Ramos,  Pat herself was only 8 years old at that time, and really wasn’t aware of what was going on.  She sensed fear with the villagers but her parents too ensured that everything was going to be okay.  Like Pat, my grandmother, was told that everything would be okay.  This has affected my grandmother today with two reasons. My grandmother to this day still keeps certain things a secret from all of her children, even though all of them are grown adults.  She refuses to tell them about her own problems and ensures them that everything will be just fine. My grandmother simply moves on with her life, even though something big has happened to her.  She faces her problems, but does it in a well manner that it seems that nothing has affected her in any shape or form.

            Although away from actual war, many Filipinos at that time had pre-assumption of what the Japanese were capable of doing and feared the whole Japanese race.  A great connection I had found with Araceli Orcena, Pat Naguita, and my grandmother is the fear all three of these ladies had for the Japanese soldiers.  Most Filipinos at this time were scared out of their minds of Japanese soldiers.  They completely thought they were horrible and they had so much hatred against these people.  One can think that since this fear has happened to three ladies who were children at this time, I can assume that children and adults feared the Japanese and hated them for the things they have done to their country.  According to An Eyewitness History: World War II by Carl J. Schneider

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and Dorothy Schneider it states, “In the huge Battle of Leyte Gulf from October 23 to 25, the Japanese did indeed lure U.S. ships dangerously far from Leyte, jeopardizing the invasion.  They also deployed numbers of kamikaze (“divine wind”) planes packed with high explosives but with only enough fuel to reach their targets, onto which their pilots were to crash-a maneuver almost impossible to defend against.”  There was a great fear for these Japanese soldiers, and in fact who can blame them?  With there great scare tactics and kamikaze attempts, most Filipinos had feared that some of these could in fact hit their very own city.  However, today, times have changed and people move on from other’s mistakes.  I in fact have nothing against Japanese people, and its culture.  We cannot blame the people of today for their ancestor’s mistakes. Today, Peregrina herself has befriended a lot of Japanese immigrants and has forgotten the past.  Although many Filipinos fit in a category at that time and showed hatred against these Japanese soldiers, today, I can assume that living in America has changed their perception and ideology of the Japanese ancestry.

            The discoveries and analysis I’ve done throughout this research has definitely surprised me in more ways than one.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is impossible for someone to say that their past hasn’t completely affected how they are today.  My grandmother is a living example of how the war has changed her as a person and how she lives her life today. She has learned to forgive and she has learned how to survive, all of the essentials to live a prosperous life here in America.  I myself have learned that everyone’s experience here is all too unique, but we as a nation have certain things in common, and this has proved to become certain with the other interviews that I’ve listen

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to. Although we may have lived decades apart from these women, the generation today can learn a great deal of wisdom and culture.  Today, I can see myself going out there and researching more things that this world can offer. History is the number one thing we should prioritize today because without these lessons being taught to us, we cannot learn from the past, and history once again, will repeat itself. 




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Adams, Michael C.C. “The Patterns of War, 1939-1945.” The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Espiritu, Yen Le “Leaving Home: Filipino Migration/Return to the United States.” Homebound. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Nichols Jr., Chas S. “Planning Iceberg.” Okinawa: Victory in the Pacific. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1966.

Orcena, Valerie. Interview with Araceli Orcena. October 2005.

Ramos, Nathaniel. Interview with Pat Naguita. October 2005.

Schneider, Carl J. “The Philippines (September 14, 1944-End of February 1945).” An Eyewitness History:  World War II.  New York: Facts on File, 2003.

Sumbang, Daniel. Interview with Peregrina Benusa Vedad. October 2005.