Interview the time being, plus they like having
Interview Paper The subject of my interview is Rob Reyes.
He has been our next door neighbor since we moved here to Indio six months ago. He is a second generation Filipino-American that was born in America and has lived in California all of his life. Rob is 26 years old and has been married to his wife Sandra, 27, for 2 years.
They don’t have any children, but do plan on having some once they save more money and the economy gets better. They are not rushing it because they have 3 dogs that are their “kids” for the time being, plus they like having their friends over on Friday nights for poker and social drinks.Rob is a technician for Time Warner Cable and has been employed with them for 7 years. His wife Sandra works at a doctor’s office in Palm Springs 30 miles away, so both of them are gone most of the day and we only see them in the evening when they are home from work. To fully understand Rob, his story, and what has shaped him into who he is today, we must go back to the Philippine Islands during World War II where the journey to America for his family begins.
Manan,” who is Rob’s paternal grandmother, is the driving force in this family, largely in part to the atrocities and suffering, she and her family endured during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. Manan, whose real name is Inez, was only 10 years old when the Japanese invaded her country. Manan and her family were from the Philippine Island of Lubang, and spoke both Tagalog and Spanish. Spanish was for official business in Manila and Tagalog and other dialects spoken locally. Manan was the 3rd oldest of eight children.
Her father and uncles were fishermen who sold their fish at the local markets in the area.Rob recalled to me how Manan often talks about how beautiful it was in Lubang growing up as a little girl before the “Japons,” as the local Filipino people called the Japanese, came. Manan often recalls the beautiful water, tropical birds, and exotic monkeys that filled her everyday life as a child. They were Catholic by religion and went to Mass every Sunday. The innocence of living in this tropical paradise was shattered one day when her and her siblings playing on the beach saw some planes fly overhead that had the big red emblem of the Japanese flag.
They ran home to tell their parents that the Japons were coming. The gravity and seriousness of what was about to happen became apparent within a few days when the Japanese Army marched into their little fishing village and executed the mayor and several other men including one of her uncles as the whole town watched. Then they announced that all the fishermen in the village would work full-time supplying fish for the Army or face execution.
Even to this day, Rob says that it is hard for Manan to be around Japanese people, because of what she witnessed growing up.The next four years were really hard because Manan told Rob that the Japanese soldiers would go around the area raping women and cutting off people’s heads for small infractions of the new Japanese laws that were being enforced on the people. They also forced the people of Lubang to learn Japanese because they refused to even acknowledge a person speaking to them in another language. They also made everyone stop going to Mass and executed the local friar. These traumatic events really forged into Inez a steely resolve that has carried down to Rob.
Over the years, Manan has stressed to the family that you can make it, there is no quit, things will get better, you have to survive. As Manan started getting older and more developed physically, her parents started worrying that a Japanese soldier or worse, officer, would notice how pretty she was becoming, and either rape her or take her for himself to the army barracks. So they started dressing her as a boy, and kept her fishing with her dad and cleaning it. The soldiers never wanted to be around the smelly fish or the processing of it, so this probably saved Manan from certain doom.The news started coming down the “bamboo pipe” that the Americans were coming to defeat the Japons and everyone was excited. When the Americans did come, the Japanese melted back deep into the jungle highlands to fight, so there wasn’t really a lot of fighting in Manan’s village, but the Americans were so nice that she never forgot it. They brought candy, and food, and the men were so handsome, that the lasting impression that America and the American experience left on a thirteen year old girl was embedded into her forever.
When the war ended, all Inez could talk about was America this, and America that, the U. S. this and the U. S.
that. As she grew older into her teens she started telling her parents that she wanted to go live in America and work. Having seen the American people up close and interacted with them had convinced her America was the place for her. In 1952 she boarded a ship from Manila to Los Angeles. Inez was 22 at the time and excited to see America. There was a great need for work in the produce packing houses of the Central Valley in California, and she left with her parents blessing.
She found work in a Merced, CA, Del Monte tomato packing shed where she worked for 20 plus years. She met and married her husband, Burt, a Filipino from Mindanao Island, while working there and they had 5 children. Of these five children, one is Rob’s dad. His name is Emil, and is the second to the oldest of Manan’s children. He was born in 1959, raised in Merced. Rob told me his dad still is bitter about kids calling him a “Flip” in school back in the 1960’s. The kids would tease Emil and call him “Chink”, words that still sting today for the 52 year old mechanic.
He joined the Navy after high school, spending two of them stationed in San Diego. After Emil got discharged from the Navy he moved to Los Angeles where he met and married Rob’s mom, Evangeline. The strong work ethic and belief in God are central to the Reyes Family.
Grandpa Burt passed away back in 1974, so most of the family, especially the younger generation, only know Manan, and her constant vigilance about being a good person, a good citizen, don’t do drugs, get an education, don’t be lazy, listen to you parents. When Rob was relating these things to me, I could almost hear her saying these things to me.I also found that his story of tragedy, loss, and triumph is the main theme of many immigrants coming to America. Many times, economics, war, or political persecution is the three main reasons people are forced to leave their country of origin. Without the clouds of war over the life of Inez, would I ever interview Rob, or would this paper be about someone else? Rob’s parents have an interesting dynamic going on in their family history. Evangeline, unlike Emil, comes from a wealthy family in the Philippines that still has economic interests in land, manufacturing, and business in that country.
Rob told me that the dynamic of having come from different backgrounds has caused some friction over the years because of their two different world views. While Emil is more reserved and conservative, Evangeline will often go on spending sprees in Los Angeles where they live. These outings often make his dad upset because Emil, thinks they should save more. The added “family rumors” that Evangeline’s family actually helped the Japons during the war has been a major source of conflict over the years in their marriage.Rob said growing up his best trips to the Philippines were to Manan’s (dad’s) family because they were more down to earth (poorer), and the expectations to have this and that were not present.
With his moms’ family, from Manila who were very wealthy, Rob stated that the cousins only wanted to know the latest trends and tried to compete over who had the best clothes. Rob understands Tagalog, but doesn’t speak it. Both of his parents are fluent in Spanish, Tagalog, English, and several of the native dialects from the Philippine Islands. Rob has one brother and one sister, James and Leticia (Lety).He is the youngest of the three and they were raised in Riverside, Ca. He is a 2004 graduate of Riverside High and moved out here to Indio, because his wife that he met four years ago in Palm Springs is from this area. Sandra’s family is fragmented with many problems, so both Rob and Sandra try their best to be family, yet distant because of the many issues her family has.
While Rob’s siblings seem to be more interested in material wealth, he seems content in himself to work, be a good husband, spend time with his dogs and friends, and lead a quiet, peaceful life out here in Indio.Just from listening to him, I could see the role that Manan, now 81 and living with an aunt in San Jose, has played in his life. He doesn’t see his brother and sister like he should, but he says it’s because he just doesn’t want to start comparing who got this or that.
This scenario often plays out at the family gatherings, but he still goes because Manan taught him family matters, no matter what. Emil taught him family matters and we have to love each other and stick together. Last Christmas, Rob called Manan to let her know they were coming up for the holidays to visit her.In their conversation he happened to mention that he was going to be bringing up one of his friends from work that didn’t have any family in the area for the holidays. Upon hearing this, Manan asked him, “Your friend isn’t Japanese? Because if he is, he won’t be able to spend the holidays here at this home, he will have to spend it somewhere else.
” I guess sometimes no matter where you live, or what you go thru, things are never as easy as we think when it comes to people, culture, and the events that shape us into who we become.