Reminiscences, intimations, apologia and other garbled sounds from a man at rest.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Eriberta Rodriguez Ner
My grandfather was Narciso Ner. His father was Andres Ner who was married to a lady from the Jimenez family named Honora. The Ners were among the prominent and respected clans in the province of Cavite. My grandmother’s name was Eriberta Rodriguez. The Rodriguezes were not originally from Cavite. She had two sisters, Lola Kakang and Lola Isang and a brother, Horacio, who was a dentist. My grandmother’s parents were Marcelo and Patricia Rodriguez. Marcelo was once the provincial treasurer of Cavite. Their forebears must have been from Manila. I can remember her stories about the grand “bailes” they attended in their relatives’ houses in the Binondo area, the enclave of the merchants’ class, in the heart of Manila. My eldest sister, Nita, recalls stories that would have pointed to the province of Rizal as the source of our grandmother’s ancestry.My grandfather who was an optician and an optometrist by profession but a politician by avocation had played godfather to so many christenings and weddings. In Wawa almost all of the people around were related to us either by blood or by affinity. The family really felt at home in this place.
During the war the relatives in Wawa were glad to see the return of Andeng, my mother, their one time beauty queen, together with her husband, Micoy and their brood.When she was single my mother was a schoolteacher who taught at the provincial high schools in Indang and Tagaytay, towns in upland Cavite. She had an Education degree from the State University where she met my father when she enrolled in my father’s mathematics class. Smitten by the beautiful Cavite lass, he launched a determined courtship that led him to do regular visits to barrio Wawa despite the difficulty of travel during those days. He was a prolific writer of letters professing his affections. Mother kept all these and filed them in beribboned bundles arranged in chronological order. The letters were still with her until her death at the age of ninety-seven.
My father was held in high esteem by my mother’s relatives and the simple folks in Wawa because of his being a professor in the State University. It was not so at first. Being from a remote barrio the folks speculated that he could be a “moro”, a Muslim bandit, as he was from Mindanao and may have other wives in his province as they thought “moros” were wont to do. In truth my grandfather,
Don Pedro Roa y Racines and his wife, Luciana Chaves, belonged to the landed few of Cagayan de Oro. However, of the reputed large family estate not a square inch of land ever reached our generation.I remember, though vaguely, a family squabble involving inheritance claims to the land that was left by my great grandfather in Balulang, somewhere near Cagayan de Oro. The name Balulang, according to stories of those native to the place referred to my grandfather who was a widower or in the dialect a "balu". When somebody asked whose land the place belonged to the the answer was "balulang" which roughly translates as "it's only the widower's land". One side of the family laid claim to the land with a tale of a sales transaction transferring the property to them was executed and they had documents in support of this. They alleged that there was a transfer of ownership to them some fifty to sixty years ago because of a default on payment for a loan that my great grandfather took to pay off gambling debts. My eldest brother, Cocoy, who was
Luciana Chavez Roa
taking up a law course together with cousins, Totong and Tuching, pursued their claim on the disputed land. The conflict was causing divisiveness in the clan. Both parties were hurling threats of suits and the animosity had grown to immense proportions. My father put his foot down and ordered my brother to desist from making further action on the matter. He said that it was not worth the aggravation besides this only made us covetous of something that we did not earn through the sweat of our brows. My brother and cousins desisted but grudgingly.
Kindness and uprightness were some of my father’s more unequivocal traits. These won over the older folks in my mother’s family on their very first encounter with him. My father was probably the last of his ilk. He was the type of person who would insist on going through the procedural routines in transactions involving government agencies such as driver’s license renewals, tax payments, car registrations, etc. without engaging the services of the ubiquitous “fixer”. Everyone knows that these procedures were designed to be exceedingly slow so that “express” handling may be availed of for a paltry emolument.My father also did not believe in the padrino system, a feudal way of life ingrained in most Filipinos. He discouraged us from seeking endorsements from influential persons to get hired in a job or to get things done, generally. He did seem ridiculous and anachronistic at times but to me he was inspirational. My father was a model of an uprightness that I would forever be in admiration of but hard put to follow.
Emeterio Roa, Tecla Roa Cosin, Federico Roa
The Roa family had the reputation of rearing some of the best minds in Cagayan de Oro. In his high school graduating class my father was the salutatorian while a first cousin, Miling Roa, who later on married Justice Arsenio Solidum, was the valedictorian. He and most of his siblings were highly numerate. My father was one of four actuaries in the Roa clan.
Andrea Roa, Tia Nene, Ti Tonio Roa
An older brother, Emeterio Roa, Sr. was the first Filipino actuary. He was among the first “pensionados” who were given a scholarship to study in the US. In the University of Michigan where he earned a PhD in Actuarial Science he had established a record of having a perfect grade of 1.0 in all his subjects, a record which may not have been topped to this time.
His sons, Dodo and Aki followed his footsteps and became actuaries, too. In the late fities there were only seven members in the Philippine Actuarial Society (founded by my father)and four of them were Roas. Another notable cousin made his mark in business and politics. The son of Tio Anton an older brother of my father, Pedro “Oloy” Roa was the richest man in Cagayan de Oro at the time that his logging business was flourishing. He also became a Congressman in their district and later on mayor of Cagayan de Oro.
1947 family picture in Maria Cristina
Other successful cousins were Frank and Percy, sons of Manuel Roa, who became members of the Ayala executive pool. On our side of the family my brothers excelled in media work, Cocoy our eldest was part of Geny Lopez’s executive pool as an executive of the now defunct newspaper, the Manila Chronicle. He was married to Praxedes Estanislao of Tarlac. His eldest son, Rico, is a successful advertising executive. My brother Dado was a popular radio disk jockey at Manila Broadcasting Company’s DZMB at the time radio was king. Dado is married to Mari, one of the Cuerva sisters who were known for their pulchritude. The eldest among the Cuerva sisters, Vicky, is married to the basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga, while another, Tina was married to the popular pelotari Filipino Sanchez. Dado’s daughter, Lydia, is married to Ariel Ureta, the tv talk show host.
Another brother, Pete, became the host of the first ever teenage dance program on television “Dance-o-Rama” in Channel 5 during the infancy of television in the country. This was where he met his wife, Boots Anson, daughter of the movie idol, Oscar Moreno. She, herself, is a popular movie actress and TV host, civic worker and sometime but reluctant politician. Their daughter, Chiqui, who is now married to Congressman Robbie Puno, is active in television doing hosting work and program production. Jay Lazaro,the son of my eldest sister, Nita, an AIM graduate became a director of a multinational Foods company at a young age. Nita, who was married to Engineer Juanito Lazaro, runs a successful preschool establishment in Marikina.
2006: Tito,Nits,Patty,Dado, Boots, Pete, Ed, Alma, Angge, Nen
I have two sisters abroad. Patty, third to the eldest, is married to an Indian businessman, Chandrakant Patel, who owned a brewery and coffee plantations in Uganda but lost them all during the change of dictatorship from Obote to Amin. Amin was among the first African despots who expelled Asian merchants in Africa. They tried to recover their holdings when Obote made a comeback but this proved to be a futile attempt. They now reside in East Brompton, Ontario, Canada. Angge, our youngest and eighth in the family, worked in the United Nations for more than twenty years, resides in New Jersey, USA. Her husband, Desmond Montemayor is a Senior Vice President in a multinational bank in New York, one of the few Asians who have shattered the glass ceiling in western business organizations.
Weekend at Bundok
Our second to the eldest, Tito, is a low-key type of person who for several years ran a successful insurance agency with his wife, Ising. His success as a person comes from his unselfish dedication to serving the community through church service and organizing, as well as raising funds, to grant scholarships for the talented children of impoverished families in the Sampaloc district of Manila. He was truly a man for others. And of course, my own contribution to the Roa notables, Eric my eldest son was married to Dulce Chua, also an architect like him, until her early demise in 2003. Eric has a successful practice as an architect while my daughter, Lyn, is now in Vietnam with husband Andy Belmonte. He is with the
Eric, Ed, Alma & Lyn
Starwoods Hotel chain as a top expatriate director in the HCM Sheraton. Lyn is a plain housewife whose claim to fame is achieving an average grade of 1.2 when she took up her masterals in Child Psychology at the State University. Even with all the unsolicited but well-meaning advice she gets from me she refuses to put to practice her expertise in psychology as a professional. She said that her young family requires her undivided attention.
Saigon at Li Bai: Alma, Lyn, Dus, Andy & David
My wife, Alma San Juan was in the rag trade for several years and by the time she retired from the business, she had three outlets in operation. The main shop was in Paraaque while the branches were in Alabang and Shaw Boulevard. I have earned my right to be with the Roa notables by my having contributed, together with my wife Alma, two of the world’s greatest grandsons, Eric’s Dustin and Lyn’s David. Dustin at the moment seems bent on becoming a Ferrari racecar driver in the mold of Michael Shumacker while David’s aptitude points towards languages. At the age of six he has attempted to write poems and produce picture books. These two give the indubitable assurance that the family pride of rearing the best minds and achievers will be carried on for posterity