Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sergio, Milagros, and Mario

We continue with excerpts from Ken Ishikawa's manuscript about Raul M. Gonzalez (b. 1930):

“Raul’s older brother, Sergio is known as the joker of the family.  He was the warmth to Ester's coolness.  Unlike his elder sister, Sergio loved to talk and to entertain guests.  His amiableness and outgoing nature, he got from Estrella.  Despite, having contrasting qualities with some of his siblings, Sergio was not a belligerent big brother.  Like his mother, he loved supporting his siblings in their endeavors…

“After Raul came Milagros and then Mario.  Milagros was the youngest girl of the family and therefore the three older siblings were protective of her.  For all her life, she's been called Baby.  As a little girl, Baby would often be at the tail of his brother Raul, hoping to be included in his latest adventure.  However, Raul would leave her behind because he often investigated the paddies and the fields for tadpoles, catfish and tilapia.  Mario, on the other hand, was always holding the hem of their mother, as he was too young to venture on his own…

“During the early days of the resumption of classes [after the end of the Second World War], Sergio, Raul, Baby and Mario were crossing the road.  The siblings were rushing to the other side because of the rains, and Mario got left behind in the middle of the crossing.  He got hit by a US army jeep.  The soldier immediately drove him to the Mission Hospital where he was tended by American doctors.  According to their diagnosis, Mario suffered from a dislocated shoulder because of the bump.  However, the overzealous physicians, in their desire to let the boy suffer no pain, injected him with morphine.  Whatever dosage it was that they used for the 7-year old Mario would prove to be a deadly one: the boy woke up no longer.

“It was a tragedy that tore the hearts of all family members.  Were they awarded with survival from the war only to suffer this cruel joke in the end?  Estrella took Mario's death most painfully.  After the burial, she would hold the boy's picture and cry for hours.

“From then on, the Gonzalezes' faith in the science of medicine was shaken.  They avoided hospitals, developed a distrust for doctors, and reviled painkillers and anaesthetics.  Whenever one of the children got sick, Delfin and Estrella asked a relative, Dr. Piamonte, to make a housecall.  If they were the ones who fell ill, they took their pain in stride.  One of Estrella's fingers once got broken but she never asked for a doctor to come to mend it.  That finger would stay crooked for the rest of her life.  Years later, Delfin would die of thrombosis.  Although his was still a treatable condition, Delfin allowed it to go worse until it killed him.

“Like his parents, Raul became suspicious of doctors and medicine.  Many years later, whenever his own children had to be hospitalized, he admonished against the use of anaesthesia.  Mario's needless death taught him that even experts make mistakes.  It was a physician’s lack of precision and forethought that killed his youngest sibling.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Young Ester and Raul

Today’s entry is directly taken from Ken Ishikawa’s unpublished manuscript on the life of Raul M. Gonzalez.

“Family members referred to Ester as Inday because of her being a responsible eldest sister who looked after the four other children.  It was also obvious then that she was blossoming into a lovely girl.  Despite these graces, she did not overreach herself, but maintained a quiet and reserved exterior.  At first glance, people thought her to be 'suplada' – stand-offish and a little anti-social…Calm intelligence was a quality she shared with her father.  Her reserve and her intelligence combined to produce a mien that extended relatives would come to believe as a Gonzalez attribute…

“Like Ester, the boy Raul took after their father and his pensive aura.  However, Raul possessed an intelligence fiercer than his father's…It was this curious mind that would push the young Raul to constantly explore the world around him to the point that it got him into trouble with Delfin in more than one occasion.  Even when it was already time for the Angelus, six year old Raul would still be outside playing.

“One time, when Raul was seven years old, Ester garnered the honor of being the princess of their school festival and was therefore required to be in Iloilo city for a parade.  Estrella took Ester and Sergio and left little Raul behind in Jaro.  Raul, however, had other plans. With three centavos in his pocket, he rode a double-decked bus heading into the city.  His plan was to look for the family car and hope that his mother and siblings were there.

“Iloilo City in 1938 was already a large network of banks, warehouses, establishments, roads and side streets.  Raul wandered around that pulsing, concrete web until 11 in the evening, sometimes stooping and bowing his head, hoping to find coins that some passerby might have dropped.  Meanwhile in the house, Delfin and Estrella were frantic with worry.  His father was already coordinating with the police.  It was fortunate that Raul had found a taxi which brought him home.  Raul may not have found some shimmering coins but his father gave him two shiny beet red globes attached to his buttocks after the spanking was over.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Delfin and Estrella Gonzalez

The father of RMG, Delfin Gonzalez, did not finish school owing to the poverty of RMG’s grandparents.  Delfin’s mother, a Chinese mestiza from the Kimbiong clan, wove cloth to contribute to the family income.  Despite his incomplete education, Delfin was recruited by the American colonizers to teach in one of the public schools they were building.  After a few years of teaching, he decided to try his hand in helping manage haciendas outside Bacolod, Negros Occidental.  

At the haciendas, Delfin would recruit workers and toil close to them under the sun.  When he transferred to another hacienda, most of those workers would follow him.  Delfin would take breaks from his work to return to Jaro.  It was during one of those breaks that he met Estrella Jover Maravilla.

Before she met Delfin, Estrella was busy earning a living as a teacher and raising her five siblings, Jose, Juaning, Hector, Loleng and Anita.  They were orphaned in their youth with the death of their mother, while their father abandoned them to be with another woman.  The courtship of Delfin and Estrella was short, and he promised that he would also take care of her siblings.

Estrella was a pious woman who prayed the rosary and went to church regularly.  Estrella taught and required RMG and his siblings to pray the Angelus at noon.  After supper, the family would be on their knees to pray the rosary.  Throughout the years, praying the rosary would be a devotional practice of RMG.  During the summer, the house of Delfin and Estrella became the meeting point for lay leaders to settle the details for the Flores De Mayo which Estrella helped organize.

Estrella would share the household food with the workers of Delfin.  And when he came home at noon for lunch and then siesta, he would lay his head on her lap while she plucked away his white hairs.  He would thus fall into a restful sleep.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Raul M. Gonzalez (RMG)

Today, we begin a series on the life and thoughts of my father, Raul Maravilla Gonzalez (RMG).  This series is partly based on the unpublished research manuscript of Ken Ishikawa, a writer and an Asian Public Intellectual grantee.

Raul Gonzalez has served the Filipino people as an active opponent of dictatorship during the darkest days of Martial Law.  After the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos thru the February 1986 “People Power” event, Cory Aquino assumed the presidency and appointed RMG as Tanodbayan (Ombudsman), a responsibility he exercised until September 1988.

From 1995 to 2004, RMG served as Congressman of the Lone District of Iloilo City.  From 2004 to 2009, he headed the Department of Justice in the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Raul M. Gonzalez was born in Hacienda CaiƱaman in La Carlota, Negros Occidental, on 03 December 1930.  His father, Delfin Gonzalez, was the administrator of the plantation, which was Spanish-owned.  Delfin was from Jaro, Iloilo.  His wife, Estrella Maravilla, worked as a teacher at the Colegio de San Jose, Jaro.  Delfin and Estrella had 6 children: Ester (Inday), Sergio, Herman, RMG, Milagros (Baby) and Mario.  Herman died as an infant, Mario died in childhood, and Ester passed away in 2001.