I wrote these stories in 2007 for a family history project as a freshman at Seattle Prep.
On December 7, 1941, my grandpa, Urbano Juan Dacuag was working on a sugar plantation nearby a US Naval base about a 20 minutes drive away. Following his usual routine, after Sunday mass, he was drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying his morning breakfast with his friends, inside the house he lived in at the plantation. He looked out the window and saw the beautiful morning sun, which was a sign of hope and anticipation for a new day. In the middle of his breakfast, he and friends were startled by weird sounds, described as being “small booms”, “several high whooshes”. They looked out the window and saw black smoke that had rapidly stained the clear white canvas that was there. The mystery of the smoke planted a mystery in everyone’s mind, soon after; a radio announcement solved the mystery, announcing that the Japanese had attacked the nearby naval base, Pearl Harbor, without warning. The news quickly spread throughout the entire island and my grandpa saw people running outside like insane animals in pure panic. The people of the island soon came to their senses and retained an atmosphere of calmness. For the next couple of weeks, my grandpa and his fellow workers volunteered along with everyone else to clean up the mess that would scar American history forever. My grandpa described the horrendous odor through the air, the odor of hundreds of dead brave soldiers. He said he felt a sense of extreme sorrow that he had never felt before as he and others loaded the dead bodies of soldiers and civilians into the back of several trucks. But he looks back, and he saw that the adversity that the people on the island had faced made them stronger people and realized the sense of community that was built on the island of Oahu, that would last forever.
Struggle and Appreciation -1936
After graduating from Yakima high school my grandfather, Rufino Cacabelos, was searching for work in the summer, he eventually ended up in Auburn, Washington at a Japanese farm. This job let him come one with nature, “Once again I came in contact with mother soil, the giver and source of life”. Along with well-experienced Japanese workers, my grandpa just trotted along and did his job. Anything from strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage was grown on the farm, all staples in the market. The whole summer, he along with others started work at 6 am, then had a one-hour lunch, and then went on to work till 8 pm, a total of 14 hours a day. Along with the physical exhaustion that the hard labor offered, my grandpa also went through a mental struggle during this time, juggling in his head if immigrating was the right choice, questioning if moving to the U.S was the right choice. Was this back-breaking 14-hour farm labor worth it? He was paid 90 cents an hour along with board and lodging. He looked forward to soaking himself in the large hot tub after a hard day’s work, for the whole summer he looked forward to that 30 minute soaking after work. In 85 days my grandpa earned $76.50 plus a bonus of $10 for a being diligent worker. When I hear this story, I am filled with inspiration. The willingness of my grandpa to just do the work, and not complain, is amazing. I gain a sense pride from this story, knowing that all his hard work would pay off because a year later my grandpa would earn enough money to attend the University of Washington, and achieve his American dream, education. As my grandpa struggled during his hours of hard labor, he made it, he won the race, and I am lucky enough to look back and appreciate all the hard work and determination which now runs through my own blood.
In 1926 my great uncle Narciso Cacabelos, stepped his foot onto American soil. Three years later, my grandpa desired to follow in the footsteps of my great uncle. Influenced by the several letters of my great uncle, that included praises for the advantages of American schools and the American way of life, my grandpa’s eyes were set on the “American Dream”. My great uncle wanted my grandpa to join him so much, that he included $60 dollars in a letter to help him pay for his trip to Seattle. Saddened by the news that she would let go of another son, my great-grandma reluctantly consented. She soon agreed to mortgage two pieces of land in order for my grandpa to have enough money to make it to the U.S. After he passed his physical my grandpa had a ticket to “the land of the home and the brave”. He took a bus to Manila two days prior to the scheduled departure of the S.S. President Pierce. This ship would take him from Manila to Shanghai, Tokyo and then finally to Seattle. He was in for a whole lot of traveling. On April 29th, 1929, my grandpa started his journey on the bridge from the Philippines to the United States. He and other travelers were cooped up in the ship’s steerage hold. After he had reached Tokyo, he was overwhelmed by seasickness. He constantly vomited whenever the ship swayed violently. During this state, he only lived on orange juice, as solid food would contribute more to the pain he was already in. During the time on the ship, he lost count of days, but he remembers that he ended up in Seattle, on the afternoon of May 20, 1929. His 21-day trek had finally come to an end. He had started his dream, a beautiful dream, a dream that I live out every day.
The Educational Opportunity Program, also known as EOP was about to undergo some important change in the spring of 1980 at the University of Washington. This program is a special admissions program for underrepresented ethnic minorities, economically, and educationally disadvantaged students. The boards of regents of the university were looking to increase the requirements needed for students applying through the EOP, including a student’s GPA to get in. In other words, a form of retention was going to take place. My father, Jim Cacabelos and other minority students started to band together and prevent this injustice from happening. They first started voicing their opinions at open forums, and then started to meet often to discuss the issue. This group of confident students went across Seattle, Washington going into the diverse neighborhoods of Seattle, and letting people know what was going on, and gaining important support. All of this rallying had a reason because soon the Board of Regents would meet, to improve the changes made to the EOP. My dad and the group of students decided to sit in at Schmitz hall, outside the meeting room of the board. A variety of people joined in on the protest, my dad described it as a mixture of students, faculty, and community members. Unfortunately, this peaceful protest came to an end, as the police took several protesters; include my father, for refusing to clear the hall. This was my dad’s first arrest; he was scared, very scared. He and the other students were thrown into a holding cell. When I looked into my dad’s eyes I saw something special, he stood for something he believed in, I hope that one day I will have the same courage as my dad did to stand for something I myself believe in.