Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, Philippines National High School. Me and My sister (Amor) in front of the Sign at the entrance of the school showing our mother's land Donation to the School
The other day, I was finally able to have a person to person talk with my part-time gardener during his lunch break. He is a half and half Japanese-American who grew up in a small town in Hawaii. His father is a Japanese-American with a typical Japanese surname, but his mother is Caucasian. He does not have a Japanese feature so by just looking at his physical appearance you will never associate or guess his mixed ancestry. However, his surname is very Japanese. I have good vibes with him specially when he mentioned about visiting the Philippines several years ago. We got to talk about the hometowns where we grew up.
My chit-chat with my gardener about our home towns has inspired me to repost the following article. I wrote this article about 3 years ago.
If you have not heard of this place, I do not blame you. It is a 4th class municipality about 60Km North of Iloilo City. Iloilo is one of the four provinces in Panay Island. Panay Island is part of the Western Visayas Region of the Philippines. The Visayas Region is the Central Part of the Philippine Archipelago. You may ask me why I am writing about Barotac Viejo, Iloilo (BVI) . Let me explained.
BVI is the town where I grew up. It is the town where I finished my elementary school years. It is also the town where I finished high school. In 1951 I graduated valedictorian of my high school class. It is the town where I have both pleasant and unpleasant memories of my childhood and teenaged years.
My childhood memories of the American-Japanese war occurred in the town proper, foothills and jungles of this town. ( http://davidbkatague.blogspot.com). My memories of my elementary and high school years as discussed in my autobiography , http://theintellectualmigrant.blogspot.com , (Chapter 2 and 3) also occurred in this town.
When I left BVI in 1951 to pursue my college degree in Iloilo City and later in Diliman, Quezon City, BVI was a 4th class town with less than 5000 residents. Today, Wikipedia states that is still a 4th class municipality, but with around 39,000 residents. When I left BVI in 1955, there was the elementary and high schools, public market, Cockfighting Arena, the Catholic Church, the Post office and one gas station, a couple of hardware stores, a Chinese bakery and may be 100 residential homes in the town proper. Today it is still a 4th class town with more buildings both for business and private homes. The local high school was named to be a national agricultural high school. Part of the land for the school was donated by my uncle ( Jose Balleza) and my mother Paz Balleza ( see photo above). There is a beach resort ( Balaring Beach) about 5 Km from the town proper.
Our ancestral home at the back of the Municipal and Post Office building, before it was sold.
When I left the town in 1955, the mayor of the town was Luis Tupas, a relative of my mother. Today the local politics, are still controlled by the Tupas family and their clan. When I left the town, my parents bestowed me a 12 hectare parcel of rice land as part of my inheritance, as discussed in my blog http://lifeinus1960present.blogspot.com. Today that land has been land reformed and I have not received a single centavo from the Philippine government. What was left of my inheritance is a 2-hectare parcel in the upland area without water irrigation and almost useless for crop growing.
So after all this years, almost 57 years, the town has not really changed. I found a Facebook Page about the town last year. Searching in Google, there is not much information about BVI. If you click on the Image Section, two of my pictures are in the first page.
In 2005, my wife and I accompanied by my sister visited our parents grave in the cemetery of BVI.Me and my wife and sister Amor at the Cemetery. Our old house (located at the back of the Post Office) was gone. The only thing that remained was the foundation stone with the engraving Dolce Building, 1952.
Tears from my eyes flowed like a gentle rain, when I saw that foundation, recalling the pleasant memories of my teen-age years. The house is gone but my memories of BVI will live forever. I wish for a better future for BVI and its residents. If you know of someone from Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, I will appreciate your comments.