HONOLULU — We always admire individuals who started from scratch and became successful. But if these individuals originated from one place and are related to each other, their success en masse is doubly impressive.
This feat was chalked up by natives of Piddig, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, who immigrated to Hawaii in the last four decades or so. Specifically, they came from four barrios (now called barangays) of Piddig — namely Suksuken, Ab-Abot, Tangaoan and Lagandit, all poor, rural communities with arid, non-irrigated farms.
To simply say that life in these communities in the 1950s and 1960s is difficult is a gross understatement. Well, the people were not exactly dirt poor, but there were days during the year, particularly the period shortly before the harvest season (called “gawat” in the Ilocano dialect), when food was scarce.
Some families had to borrow a ganta or two of rice from a neighbor so they had at least plain rice to eat. With such tough circumstances, it goes without saying that the parents did not have money to send their children to school. As a result, most of the children were unable to attend college.
It was a pitiful situation because these people were inherently patient and industrious. Due to lack of opportunities, though, they wallowed in poverty. After the rice harvest, the men planted virginia tobacco to generate some cash, but after five months of laborious efforts they earned only a few thousands pesos. Even nowadays, the situation in these places has not changed.
But God did not forget these poor, decent people. With the Almighty working through their relatives who had earlier immigrated here, they were given the opportunity to come to Hawaii, which they have always looked at as a greener pasture.
The rest is history.
Now, almost all these Piddiguenos are well-off and enjoying comfortable life.
Whereas in the past their problem was lack of food to eat, today their problem is how not to overeat or how to finish all the food on the table.
Whereas in the past they had carabao-pulled bamboo carts (ulnas) as means of transportation, today they have three or four cars. Some even have luxury vehicles such as Mercedes Benz and Lexus.
Whereas before they lived in huts made of cogon grasses and bamboos, today they live in two- or three-storey concrete houses with four or five bedrooms complete with air-condition units. Some of them even have houses for rent.
And many of their children graduated from the finest colleges in Hawaii and in the mainland.
How did they do it? Blessed with seemingly unlimited reservoir of patience and great capacity for hard work, they take all blue-collar jobs that come their way. Some have two jobs, and others work long hours. And they grabbed every offer for overtime work.
Some work in hotels as chambermaid, cook or janitor. Others work in restaurants initially as chef’s aide, janitor or waiter. Still others work in factories, printing presses, malls or laundry shops.
They wake up very early in the morning, and they go home late in the evening. They are dead tired upon reaching home, but after several hours of sleep, they are up and about and ready to work.
The lucky few who finished college in the Philippines engage in businesses like homecare. Taking care of four to five patients everyday is a demanding job, but they persevere.
Naturally thrifty, they live a frugal life. In their backyard, they plant vegetables such as eggplant, ampalaya (bitter gourd), okra, tomato and, of course, malunggay. Some of them have planted papaya, mango and pomelo on their property line. In this way, they spend less on food and are able to save money. No wonder many of them have fat savings accounts.
I take pride in mentioning in this column the names of some of these admirable Piddiguenos. They include Modesto and his wife Felicidad (nee Corsino) Bautista, Presentacion (nee Rocero) and her husband Norman Valentin, Adriano and his wife Norma (nee Bautista) Daligcon, Conchita (nee Bautista) and her husband Joven Batoto, Pedro and his wife Ester (nee Antonio) Bautista, Ric and his wife Auring (nee Rocero) Salvosa, Miling Bautista and her husband Jimmy, Anita (nee Nicolas) Bautista and Romana Bautista.
They were given a chance, and they took advantage of it to the fullest.
It seems that even if they were given only half a chance, they would have made it just the same.