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CANADA CONNECTION: My Childhood Memories (Part II)

June 7, 2022

In Victorias City, 1966-77 – Taking advantage of the fair weather sometime in the Summer of 1966, our family moved via a pump boat to Daan Banua, a coastal barangay of Victorias City, Negros Occidental, and the family residence of my father. The almost two-hour of crossing the placid and tranquil Bay-ang channel towards the historical Malijao River was very amazing and exciting. Operated by uncles Rodolfo and Oscar, the pump boat was loaded with family clothing and food stuff and some newly harvested coconuts.

For quite sometime, our family, together with two brothers, Eduardo and Francis, stayed in the Cajurao ancestral house which was later sold by our grand mother Fermina.

Having nothing to stay, our family temporarily rented a room in the Balleza house, later in the house of Dolendo family, and Ordena family until our father was able to build our new house sometime in 1969 in the lot owned by Lacson family.

Although we are settled in Da-Banua, our family would still find time to visit our relatives in Bay-ang, either via a pumpboat or the so-called wooden hulled “Conduksyonan”, a kind of Ro-Ro ship. At times, I also take a chance to ride the “batel” that delivers rice, or the VMC barges that transport canes, where I encountered the horrific travel in my life.

As our family continued to struggle for survival in living, the entrepreneur in me encouraged my desire to undertake menial jobs that made me earn some cents for a living.

The house to house vending of puto, bebingka, betchokoy, ukoy-ukoy, ice candies, agogo, and what have you kind of native delicacies, was a big help for our family needs. Vending “Sierra Pop” by carrying the box-filled iced pops, I reached the upland areas of Victorias as far as Hda. Opia in Bgy. Dacumon, and in Hda. Amanda in Bgy. Estado, sometimes in the midst of a velvety downpour.

Together with some neighbors, and my two brothers, I frequently went to Da-an Banua shoreline for sea shells gathering, and selling those sisi and batitis we harvested in cash or barter with rice. Packing of dried fish in the Diamante Fish Drying Farm also enabled me to earn some money for school allowance.

Due to scarcity of fuel for cooking of our food, I joined the risky fray of unbarking the logs delivered by Valderrama Lumber through big trailers, and pulling out Bay-ang canes from the rail cars as it moved towards VMC compound.

Cleaning the inside of the hull of VMC barges, and fixing of nipa roof of some houses were also another income generating jobs I did during my childhood days in Da-an Banua.

During cane harvest season, I would join my mother preparing cane tops for next planting, and together with my brothers I hop from canefield to canefield harvesting “alusiman” for our pigs.

My mother being always sick, during weekend I personally do the laundry of our clothed in nearby water station, courtesy of VMC.

My two-year elementary days at Daan Banua Elementary School was a sort of challenge as I barely had few friends as some classmates were fond of bullying me apparently due to my being a skinny and petite boy, and a newcomer in the school. But Ricardo Salar showed his friendship sincerely to the extent of even inviting me for lunch frequently in their house. My DBES schooling was also made memorable by joining the Boy Scouts Troop, which trained me the skills of knot tying, cooking, and tent building.

Despite the separate religion of my parents, who were married in Aglipayan Church, I regularly went to the Roman Catholic masses, being a baptized Catholic, until I became one of the catechists during the Flores de Mayo. Together with classmates Ermie Ebro and Cynthia Espinosa, we teach catechism to the children attending the afternoon May classes in the church. With Rev. Fr. Berting Gustilo as parish priest, Da-an Banua Catholic Youth Organization was formed, in which I was an active officer together with Teresita Jalique as President. The CYO members were very active in the church, some of us served as sacristans, Bible reading, and especially during the construction of the new rectory, during the term of Rev. Fr. Edwin Cadena. But in later years, the CYO dissolved as most of its members became inactive for some personal reasons.

My college education inhibited me from attending our CYO activities, as I was staying in the Tingala family boarding house in Bacolod City since 1972 until I finished my degree in Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1976.

As I grow older in the then Municipality of Victorias, my childhood days became more remarkable when I enrolled as high school student in then Victorias Provincial High School which was later named as Victorias National High School. Early in the morning, and while wearing short pants, I walked through the almost 5-kilometer gravel road going to VNHS compound, together with other new Freshmen students, who became my batchmates, like Jeanne Calamba, Ermie Ebro, and Nestor Abong.

Finding hardships in sustaining my school fees and personal needs, I succumbed to the job of being a house boy of Mr. & Mrs. Felix Guelos, whose wife Consorcia was our class adviser.

Apart from doing the daily house chores of toilet clean-up and floor scrubbing, I also helped in the family canteen, assisted Meding in cooking banana barbecue and selling in VNHS, and during Sundays I would join Meding in the “bolante” of some food stuffs in the town, and even in Bgy. Caduha-an during Thursdays, and help during the delivery of rented tables and chairs, the business of Guelos family. As foster parents, the Guelos family provided my uniform as member of the VNHS Drum & Bugle Corps where I played the trumpet.

After my high school days in 1972, I left the Guelos family to pursue my college education.

Thanks to Rev. Fr. Eduardo Perez for accommodating me as working student, and admitted in BS Chemistry with only P1.00 enrollment fee.

All through out my five year stay in Colegio de San Agustin was filled with sadness as I couldn’t easily have the money to buy my foods, and pay boarding house rent. But my father was resourceful in securing funds, borrowing from his friends, whenever I went home during weekend.

With Rev. Fr. Mamerto Alfeche as CSAB chaplain, I served as sacristan every Sunday, after which I got free breakfast. Thus, whenever I attend mass at St. Roch Parish, I never refuse to serve in the mass, either as sacristan or Bible reader.

After finishing BS Chemistry in March 1976, I was fortunately hired as classroom teacher in Don Felix Montinola Memorial Institute, with Ms. Leticia Villegas as principal. Teaching Chemistry and Physics, adviser to the Drum & Bugle Corps, and assisting the training of Boy Scouts and YDT cadets were among my responsibilities.

After my simple 21st Bday Celebration, I left Victorias City and my parents and siblings in June 1977 in pursuit of my calling for a new family.* (Dan Cajurao)

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