(From the Author of Information Technology Blog) My heritage consists of great, humble men with such interesting life stories, all fighters and heroes in their own lives. In addition to my own father, a former fortune 500 VP and now, liver transplant and coma survivor — on my mom’s side, my grandfather, and great grandfather, were also great and interesting men. Being named after my grandfather, I saw it fitting to dedicate an article to him. Here is their story, written by my uncle, Neal Cruz, a respected journalist and prominent political columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
REMINISCENSES ON MY FATHER, PABLO M. CRUZ
LAST SEPTEMBER 4 WAS THE 44th death anniversary of my father, Pablo M. Cruz, the only child of a very poor couple but who became a topnotcher in the CPA board examinations and rose through the ranks of the government bureaucracy to become a Cabinet member in the administration of President Carlos P. Garcia.
He had a heart attack in his office several years before his scheduled retirement, survived it but died later of pneumonia. This is his story but I will begin with his own father, a Katipunero, because he had an interesting story. He did not finish school but brought into this world a brilliant and hardworking son, who himself brought forth 11 children. I gleaned their stories through bits and pieces heard from my aunts and uncles and other elder relatives.
Numeriano Cruz, father of Pablo Cruz
My grandfather, Numeriano Cruz, our Lolo Nano, had very poor parents, because of which he did not finish school. As a young man, Nano was lured by adventure to join the Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio and was almost killed in his very first battle. It was in Novaliches that the Katipunan unit of Nano faced off with the Spaniards and Guardia Civil. The Katipuneros were armed only with bolos and bamboo spears; the enemy was armed with rifles and revolvers.
Numeriano Cruz and the Katipunan of the Philippine Revolution
Brandishing their bolos and spears, the Filipinos charged towards the enemy, running on bare feet, and were cut down by the Spanish guns. Nano was among those felled by bullets. His comrades scattered and fled, leaving Nano for dead in the battlefield.
The next day, a lass who was to become my grandmother (I don’t even know her name) chanced on the wounded Nano while gathering firewood. At first she thought he was dead, but when he put her hand on his chest, she felt a heartbeat. He was still alive.
She hurried home to ask for help, and Nano was carried to their hut on a carabao sled. The lass who was to become my grandmother nursed him back to health. It took a long time but at last Nano’s wound had healed and he was ready to go home.
Nano’s comrades, meanwhile, had arrived home and told Nano’s relatives that they saw him fall. After many days and he did not return, they assumed he was dead and went through the usual ceremonies at home for departed kin.
Home for Nano was in Malabon. At present, the trip from Novaliches to Malabon took only half an hour on concrete roads, but at that time, walking barefoot on trails and crossing numerous streams, it took a whole day.
Clad in a clean white shirt given to him by his benefactors and his old pants, Nano set off for home after breakfast, bringing with him his lunch wrapped in banana leaves. He did not reach home in Malabon until after dark.
It so happened that at that very evening was the last day of mourning for Nano and people were gathered in the sala and outside the house in prayer. Imagine their shock when they saw this young man in white walk out of the dark towards them. As he came nearer, they recognized him as Nano whom they had assumed was dead. They ran away screaming in fear. Some of those inside the house jumped out the window and also ran away. But it was not a ghost who came home. It was Nano in flesh and blood, home from the war.
Nano spent the next few days telling his story, how he was rescued by a family in Novaliches and nursed back to health. He longed to go back to Novaliches, to the girl who had nursed him. So he left after a month to go back to the Novaliches girl. Nano had fallen in love. To make a long story short, Nano courted and married his nurse. Nano took her home to Malabon. They survived by planting corn in a small plot in Tenejeros. They boiled ears of corn and sold them. Their only son, Pablo, was born under such dire circumstances.
Pablo Cruz, Early Years
His mother died when Pablo was just a toddler and a childless well-to-do aunt took care of him and considered him as her own son. She sent him to school and after many years he graduated with a degree in accounting from the Jose Rizal College. In the board examinations for accountants that followed, he landed in the top ten.
Cabinet Member under President Carlos P. Garcia
He was immediately hired by the Budget Commission whose office was then in Malacanang. Because he was talented and an efficient worker, Pablo quickly rose through the ranks.
During the administration of President Carlos P. Garcia, when Pablo already had 11 children, he was appointed as the very first chief of the Office of Economic Coordination (OEC), the predecessor of the present National Economic Development Authority (Neda). All the government owned and controlled corporations were under his supervision.
In-between, he married who was to become my mother. Her full name was Anastacia, (named after the famed daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia whose entire family was massacred by the Bolshevik revolutionists) but she was known by everybody by her nickname of Ines. Her husband Pablo was also called Ambo.
Together, Ambo and Ines produced six children, 5 boys and only one girl: Virgencita, Magfidio, Virdeo, Neal, Floro and Reynaldo. There was another daughter, Emily (named after one of the Dionne quintuplets), but she died when she was only one year old.
My father was choosy about the names of his children because his own name, Pablo, and surname, Cruz, were so common that he had many namesakes and that produced a problem when getting government clearances. So he gave most of his children uncommon names. He himself gave himself an uncommon name by using only the initial of his first name and then spelling out his maternal and paternal surnames. Thus, his name became P. Miranda Cruz.
My remembrance of my mother, who died early, was that of a woman who spent most of her time weaving and embroidering jusi for barong tagalogs in a loom under our house. While she was weaving, she bade me sit beside her and read from a pre-school reader. It was she who first taught me to read and write.
She died while I was only in Grade 1, not long after the baby Emily died. Until now, I don’t know what she died of but I suspect now that it could be cancer which at that time was practically unknown and incurable. Why did I suspect that? Because when I came home from school, I would sometimes find her arranging clothes in the aparador and crying and writhing in pain.
They took her to the hospital. All I knew was that there was something wrong inside her. When she came home from the hospital, she was still in pain but there was nothing my father or us children could do. When the pain was too much, he held her in a tight embrace while she cried. Us children could only look and worry.
I was home from school when she died. She was lying on her bed and in pain. It was her abdomen. Women were gathered around her; her abdomen was exposed and they were slicing tomatoes and rubbing these on her abdomen. Probably the coolness of the tomato slices eased the pain somewhat. As I sat on the floor watching, the women told me to go somewhere play. Before I left, my mother called me and touched my head and told me to be good and study well. When I came back she was dead.
Among my father’s officemates at the Budget Commission was Modesto Enriquez, who was married to Trinidad Diaz, both former teachers who would become the owners, first, of the D & E Coffee Shop, and later of the Sulo and Silahis Hotels among other businesses.
Trinidad had a younger sister, Milagros, and Modesto played matchmaker between her and my father. She lived with the Enriquez couple in a cottage in Kamuning, Quezon City, where the Delgado Clinic is now. My father courted Milagros there.
My father sometimes took me with him. He taught me what to answer when asked the question, “Why do you want your father to marry again?” My answer was to be: “So somebody would take care of us.” Perhaps I fulfilled my role satisfactorily because Milagros agreed to marry my father.
So it was that one evening, my father took his new bride home to our house in Malabon. We the younger boys took her as our new mother but our only sister, the oldest, did not.
So the couple decided to rent an apartment in Lepanto in Sampaloc, at the corner of Azcarraga (now Recto), behind the old Selecta Restaurant. (We children were left with our Lolo Nano in our house in Malabon.)
I lived in the Lepanto apartment while I was studying at the University of Sto. Tomas on Espana. It was only walking distance. On weekends I went home to Malabon.
Later, they bought a house on K-1st street in Kamuning. Pablo and Mila had five children of their own, also with only one girl: Alex, Eddie, Joey, Nora and Rene. Rene got his name because as a baby he looked very much like Reynaldo of the first batch.
World War II
When Manila was bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 8, 1941, my father was working at the old Intendencia building, now the abandoned hulk beside the building of the Immigration office, just outside the walls of Intramuros. He was nicked on the scalp by a small piece of shrapnel. When he went to his car parked outside, he saw that it was riddled with shrapnel holes and when he tried to start it, it wouldn’t. When they went back the next day to fix it, they found only its burned hulk.
When my father got home to Malabon that first day of the bombing, his head was bandaged and his shirt was all bloodied. During the Japanese Occupation, my father and his new family lived in Lepanto and later in Kamuning, and we children lived in the compound in Malabon.
Display of Humility
Even when he was already a Cabinet member, my father still took a bus to his office. He bought a car, second hand and with his own money, only when President Garcia told him it does not look good for his Cabinet members to be riding buses to their offices. When my mother was alive, however, he had bought a convertible Chevrolet Roundabout with a rumble seat in the back, where the boot was. When we went for a ride, we children fought to sit in this rumble seat.
His next car was a four-door sedan. This was what was damaged and burned in the bombing of Manila. His third car, the one he was forced to buy, also second hand, when he was already a Cabinet member, was also a four-door sedan.
It was while he was working one evening in his OEC office when he had his first heart attack. He was preparing to go home but when he stood up he fell back in his chair. He couldn’t get up and his chest was on fire and he had difficulty breathing. His staff took him to a hospital. The diagnosis: heart attack.
He was confined at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. He was not a war veteran but he was confined there because his doctor, a neighbor, was a staff doctor there. He stayed there a long time, under an oxygen tent.
I was then working nights in a newspaper (was it The Manila Chronicle or The Evening News?) and when I finished work after midnight, I passed by the Veterans Hospital to visit him. I usually found my eldest brother, Magfidio, and his wife Ising there keeping watch over him.
When my father was able to leave the hospital and go home to his house in Kamuning, there was much rejoicing in both families.
My father was a fighter. When I visited him in Kamuning, I usually found him exercising with the aid of banisters built especially for him. He was trying to regain his ability to walk. But he had another heart attack and had to go back to the hospital. He was in and out of the hospital many times. His heart had mended and was working fine. It was pneumonia that killed him. That was 44 years ago.
Neal Cruz is a respected journalist and prominent political columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Though politics is his forte, he almost always puts the case for the environment in the front burner when issues for its protection are being compromised. He argues that everything around us affects the environment, whether it be traffic or population.