Chapter IV: 1954-1992
When I started in the Postal Service I was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Sergio Acena who live at 1812 12th Avenue. We attended mass at St. James Cathedral weekly. One sunday while taking the eucharist at the communion rail, Mrs. Lily Sapigao saw me and she thought that I reminded her of someone she knew well. After mass, she tried to locate me. It was many months later that she found me with the Acenas. We got acquainted. Upon conversation she liked me and she recommended that I pay a friendly visit to Virginia her first cousin who was taking graduate courses in nursing in a famous nursing school in Cleveland Ohio.
Virginia, had an older brother Tomas and two younger sisters: Luisa and Josefina. Tomas died in his first year in high school while Virginia and Josefina entered in that famous University of Santo Tomas of Manila. Luisa who was an elementary classroom teacher graduated from Far Eastern University in Manila. After graduating as a nurse from U. of Santo Tomas in 1952, Virginia was immediately employed by her own alma mater. Two years later, she was taking her graduate courses at Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Cleveland, Ohio. And at the same time was employed by Sunny Acres hospital in Cleveland.
As an old timer in Seattle, I was reluctant to meet a young lady who was an ambitious nurse determined to earn her masters degree. However after many long conversations with Lily, I consented to go to Sunny Acres to meet her. Thus, on my vacation to New York with my friend Del to see the New York Yankees play at Yankee Stadium, I paid a courtesy visit to Virginia. The meeting turned eventful for each of us. I was immediately captured by her charms and graceful attitude. I was entertained with great attention by Virginia and her co-workers at Sunny Acres.
In my short visit with Virginia, snapshots were taken with her friends and some with myself. Many films were used although all were in black and white. I made an album for her from the good ones that turned out and lovingly sent to her with my loving inscription inside the front cover of the album. Today, the album remains an important memento of our first, but very significant meeting.
After I returned to Seattle, I wrote daily and nightly, her pictures in different angles in front of me. I wrote and poured my soul lovingly to her as though she was listening. Six long months after dozens and dozens of airmail love letters were in her possession was I able to receive a hint of her reserve and gradually changed her salutation from Mr. Cacabelos, to Dear Manong, and eventually My darling, or my beloved. Those were my happiest moments to open a letter with such a greeting and endearment. I have kept her letters and often reminded her of their priceless value to me. She never told me what she did with mine, except that in the beginning, she shared my letters to her friends.
After Christmas 1954 when she finally accepted me as her future mate for life I counted myself as the luckiest man on earth. I began to save every penny I earned at the Postal Service. I did not send my shirts to the Chinese Laundry any longer, but washed and ironed them myself. Remy good-humored me often by saying,"You know she will be doing that for you soon." But it was only January 1955 and the scheduled wedding was half a year away. My feelings of anxiety rose to a fever pitch at times. There were nights when sleep did not come until late at dawn. Thinking and wanting the days to speed by. My days were filled with great anticipation of the grand event. Happiness was limitless, indeed immeasurable.
The glorious day was June 22, 1955 when Virginia arrived in Seattle, met by Lily and myself and immediately taken to County City building to secure a license permit to be married 3 days later. June 25, 1955 at the church of the Immaculate Conception, the Reverend Monsignor Theodore Ryan united us in holy matrimony. After the nuptial mass, Remy, my reliable friend, brought us to Aida and Fred Floresca's booming restaurant on Aurora Avenue. A sumptuous luncheon was meticulously prepared for our enjoyment. After the delicious luncheon, Val Laigo, one of our ushers dedicated a love song to us, "I'll be loving you Always" It was prophetic to us - the good Lord blessed us with a love without end. Yes we had treasured our love which kept our lives sweet and joyful.
The greatest need of a married couple was to own a house to enjoy and where to start a family. So after two years in an apartment, we finally found a small brick house at 4718 South Brandon Street in Rainier Valley where we resided happily for our first 12 years of our married lives. Four years after we were married,we were blessed with James our one and only offspring. We were overwhelmed with joy to have a handsome son born July 15, 1959. When Virginia and I had James, we did not ask or pick someone to be godparents. James godmothers and godfathers wanted the honor. So we happily accepted each of them. So James had Mary Feri, Mila Ramos Mercado, Buena Ocasion, Victoria Josue, Irenio Cabatit, Henry Presto, Henry Gamido and Roman Aguinaldo. That gave James four pairs of godparents.
Compadre Roman Aguinaldo was the most attentive to James life. He had bestowed upon James many favors as well as to us. Snapshots and presents came James way during his youth. Only compadre Roman remembered! We joyously accepted his kindness and generosity through the years. James, we believe only knew one godparent who cared. Compadre Roman! Had we chosen his godparents - we know and are very sure that we would have more suitable compadres and comadres who would have bestowed affection and attention to him. In the beginning, we celebrated James birthday with a feast. July 15 being in summer, we were fortunate to have good weather to enjoy the celebration.
He attended St. Edward parochial school until we bought a beautiful house at 5709 South Victor half a block away from St. Paul's Parish. James started his 4th grade at St. Paul's and four years later graduated from the 8th grade and at our recommendation entered Seattle Prep a catholic high school under the Jesuit Fathers. By then, James was over 16 and wanted a new car of his own to drive to school. We were fortunate to be able to purchase a Camaro for his needs. That brought great joy to his life. He offered rides to his friend Leonard Hill and his lovely sister Julie, Dulce Frial and also Alexander Oh. Both boys were top notchers at Seattle Prep and their superior scholastic achievements encouraged James not to be far behind them. Those were happy enjoyable years in their lives. The new car had also its disadvantages. It was a machine with too much power. Many were the speeding tickets to be paid. It amazed us of the amount paid in a year's period. Too much!
Many years before 1970, Virginia had applied for her sister Josefina and her family to come to America. There was Josefina, her husband Ben and 4 children: Ben Jr., Elsa, Jerry and Dolores. They arrived in 1970 and stayed at our old house at 4718 So. Brandon St. until they bought a house of their own. In May 1972, Virginia's father Segundo Rabina, my father-in-law arrived for a visit traveling with the help of Virginia's first cousin Dimitria Fadul.
He liked America. He was surprised at the many appliances at home such as the refrigerator, stove, washing machine, dishwasher and even the hoover vacuum cleaner. He declared his happiness to Virginia for making it possible for him to come to America to visit us. Tatang and I had many long talks about our lives. I saw a parallel in our struggle to live. He too came from a poor family and went to farm with a landed family (Laurencio) in Asingan, Pangasinan province. His work performance out shined everyone of the 4 brothers in the Laurencio family: Juan, Santiago, Ladislao and Luis. The family liked him. In time the beautiful daughter of the family, Dionisia, fell in love with him. After their marriage came Tomas, Virginia, Josefina and Luisa.
James and Tatang were beginning to teach each other. Jim had a few Ilocano words and Tatang a few English words. This grandpa-grandson blooming relationship suddenly ended when Tatang suffered a stroke in May 1972. Indeed it was Jim who called 911 for his immediate rescue. After 6 months of suffering he died December 19, 1972. Although I had known him only less than a year, I missed him. He and I had struggled hard to live.
Sergio, Silvestre and Remegio and I are members of the K.C. Fraternity. Compadre Remegio, bless his soul, died in 1975, leaving Ellis and their two daughters. As we got married, our responsibilities multiplied. A house and furnishings put us all in debt. The struggle for a living was our first priority. But being Filipino, we still remained close to one another. Our parties and celebrations gave us opportunities to get together quite often and see each other regularly.
Looking back from our school days to the present, we were all blessed with good health, still active and loyal to our Seattle Filipino Community, except Compadre Remegio. Sergio was a president of the Filipino Community for one term, Silvestre for 4 terms while Art and I remained in the sidelines. The Filipino Community of Seattle owns a building at Juneau Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way We call it the Filipino Community Center. There is a long history of its realization.
It had been planned by the students at the U. of W. in the late 1920's. During the 1930's every Alaska Cannery worker was urged to contribute two dollars for the future building. In my Cannery days, we who went to Port San Juan Cannery were automatically charged two dollars per season. Herman de Cano would keep 2 dollars as each employee was paid his season wages at the de Cano offices in Chinatown. Employees who worked from the different canneries were also urged to donate 2 dollars. After World War II, the desire to have a Seattle Filipino Community building surfaced in Community meetings. Many of us wondered where the amount collected during the years was kept. Only the U.W.F.A.A. was able to report over $3000. This amount was later split and 1/2 went to U.W.F.A.A. and the other 1/2 went to the Community Building fund.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's a concentrated effort to buy a building became the number one priority. Many suggestions to raise funds were mentioned. One that won support was to conduct a Bingo game. Bingo was begun and many participated. Virginia had been the Bingo Treasurer for four years. Queen contests were annually held and had the profits held for the building fund. Other fund raising events were also conducted: dances, dinners, etc. all for the building. These activities slowly paid the mortgage. Finally in 1974, a big celebration was held to burn the mortgage papers. In this celebration, the VIP's were presented and publicly recognized for their long hours each had sacrificed. Virginia was active in the community. She was the Bingo treasurer for many years - helping raise money to pay for the Seattle Filipino Community Center.
As a Family with many friends, we slowly found ourselves in a never ending succession of birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, community affairs, in the company of membership in our several organizations such as the Filipino Columbians and Columbianas, the Northern League, the Narvacanian Club of Washington, the U.W. Filipino Alumni Association and those of different Filipino clubs and organizations. Before 1970, the expense was negligible. Later the drain in our attending a dinner would set us back twenty, twenty-five and now thirty dollars for both of us. The frequency of the affairs is the main problem. That saying of scratch my back and I'll scratch yours never failed to draw us away from an affair. Go. Go.
The Knights of Columbus is an international fraternity of Catholic men. It is an important organization in every Catholic city worldwide. The K.C. supports the catholic faith. I was a third degree member for 15 years, a member of the Chehalis Council 1550 as a third degree. I was not able to join the Seattle Council 676 because of the prejudice that was present even in this Catholic Fraternity! Then I was exalted to the fourth degree, which is the highest rank of the order, with the James Shields Assembly.
When James was able to become a member of the Knights of Columbus, I joined Council 676 in Seattle. I am proud to mention that James is now also a fourth degree member. The Filipino Columbian Club is comprised of Filipino Knights who banded together to promote closer relationships among themselves and promote the national organization's agenda. The charities raffle is an annual project. We are well known by Council 676 because of our annual Easter Brunch. We have been faithfully serving this meal since the 1940's.
The first organization that I joined is the University of Washington Filipino Alumni Association. I also have a life membership in the University of Washington Alumni Association.
Then there is the Northern League, an association of individuals born in northern Luzon. Wherein I am also a life member.
The Narvacanian Club of Washington, an association of men and women with their spouses banded together to promote the welfare of Narvacan, their hometown in Ilocos Sur Province. The club's last assistance to Narvacan was a donation to help light the town plaza. The Narvacan mayor presented other projects to the club for members to consider. The report of the club's public relations officer who is investigating which project for members to consider will be presented soon.
The Asinganian Club of the Pacific Northwest was organized 2 years ago with a great bang! Natives of Asingan, Pangasinan residing in Seattle outnumber other groups in the city. It was no surprise therefore when in February 1990 they inaugurated their coming out celebration, the Filipino Community Center was crowded for the first time since the mortgaged papers were publicly burned with joy, proclaiming the center was finally paid for. So in its 2nd anniversary celebration, the Asinganians once more filled the center. To this organization, Virginia, a native of Asingan had made me a member.
I had joined the VFW early in the 1950's. Eventually I applied for life membership. It was only 4 years ago that I seriously paid much attention to this great organization. Then my comrades saw evidence of my potential as a future commander.
After Virginia's retirement in 1988, she and I got active in VFW Seattle Post 6599. Both of us had been avoiding full involvement in the post and auxiliary. We gave many reasons why we did not get totally participate in its worthwhile activities. However in 1988 our comrades and friends found out that Virginia had retired. Our main reason for non-total commitment to the VFW ended. Our Comrades in the post had known all the years that I had the capability to be an excellent commander. Our sisters of the Auxiliary likewise had tagged Virginia's exceptional potential as President of the Auxiliary. Therefore, after 1988, we really got active. We attended every meeting, supported all their activities and projects. True enough, each of us were elected to the highest position in the post as well as the auxiliary. Virginia was unanimously elected Auxiliary president. Her performance as Auxiliary President in her first year got raves of praises that she was automatically re-elected.
Indeed, her auxiliary sisters wanted her for a third term, but now she had another valid reason to discontinue her full support: our long awaited grandson, Kevin, rescued her from another challenging year. As for me, my comrades likewise wanted me to succeed myself - but I sincerely rejected their wishes, giving my age and failing strength as excuses. We will not entirely abandon the organization, we merely avoid being the principal officers.
Our five clubs plus our loyalty to the Filipino Community of Seattle call our attention, fill our time. But of course, our family above all these organizations comes first. We now devote our time to the 2 additions to our family: beautiful Courtney and handsome Kevin.
The years rolled by and in 1984, James graduated with a bachelors degree in zoology. Then James married Beverly Liza Dacuag of Hawaii, who graduated from Seattle University with a degree in Special Education. They bought a house at 3407 Talbot Street in Renton. In four years we were blessed with a granddaughter, beautiful Courtney. She enlivened our lives. Our dull lives got rejuvenated. She brightened us from day to day. She is now four and loves to have me read stories to her as well as take a walk in front of the house.
Whenever we ask her what she will be, her pat answer is to be like her mommy and be a school teacher. At other times, she would humor her grandma and answer that she might be a beautiful nurse. Then Kevin Anthony arrived. We were overwhelmed with joy. He is now 3 months old and is beginning to recognize his grandma's voice and tries to converse with her with smiles. He is blessed with good health and a happy disposition. So far he sleeps well and loves his formula. I love holding him. He reminds me of his dad. He too cuddled in my arms.
After retirement, I enjoyed the leisure that I had dreamed of for so long. Reading is my favorite pastime. I have books scattered everywhere. The drawback is my inability to retain the importance of what I had read. Indeed, I would take a book and start reading it, only to notice that I had already finished that certain book. I would read before going to sleep and many times I would fall asleep, my glasses on my breast.
We love Husky football. Our family is proud of our Huskies. Whenever our Huskies play in the Rose Bowl, we follow them. The 1992 Rose Bowl is an example. Our family were all present in that memorable game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies which we won 34 to 14. Courtney is only 4 and I hope that she will have followed the Huskies a dozen times by the time she graduates from the U.W. We have two season tickets in a spectacular location. Seats one and two in Row PP, section 28 at U.W. Husky Stadium. Seat one is an aisle seat, so it is convenient to go for refreshments and more importantly to the rest rooms. We could get better seats in Section 26, but not the convenience that we enjoy in Section 28.
Then there is pinochle. Playing pinochle is relaxing. As a rule we play for small stakes such as a quarter for a game or collect a dime or fifteen cents for sets. Also rummy. This is fun for six or seven people to all play on one table. The winner collects a quarter from each player and a penny or 2 cents per point. We are fortunate to have friendly neighbors to play with and enjoy the game.
As I sit in my easy chair with the Holy Bible on my lap, I fondly start reading the Book of Ecclesiastes. This book had given me food for thought for many years. Mr. Summer of the English Department in our English Literature #301 had made us read that famous book of Ecclesiastes. Wise Ecclesiastes, son of David, King of Jerusalem continued to instruct, to inspire and most of all to think what is worthy or otherwise. Now in the twilight years of my life, I think of the ending of my earthly pilgrimage.
Chapter 3, verse 12 of Ecclesiastes points out, "And I have known that there was no better thing than to rejoice and do well in life ." As I reread this line, I seem to think or perhaps convince myself that it sums up exactly my ordinary life. I judge myself as having done well throughout my life. That I am on good terms with all my neighbors; I have not harmed anyone, I am happy with the portion God has allotted me. With deep gratitude I rejoice at my present state. Yes, I think of death, I am not afraid that soon it will overtake me. Indeed I long for it. I firmly believe that I am ready to embrace it for I know I have done everything I can for the well being of my loving family.
- at home May 1992
In Memory: Rufino Foronda Cacabelos November 26, 1909 - February 4, 1994