Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Engineer

This blog is dedicated to my late father to mark Father's Day. It's a story I want my kids to know and learn from.

When I was in grade school, I thought my father was an engineer. I wrote it down on school forms and proudly said it in front of the class. I never doubted it for a moment. After all, he worked at the College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines.

I remember being met with chuckles when I mentioned this at home. I could not understand what was wrong or funny about it. Nobody really bothered to explain it to me. Or maybe I never bothered to listen to any explanation. If someone did, I did not get it.

It was not until I reached Grade 6 perhaps that I realized that my father was not an engineer. He was a technician, an electronics technician and then was promoted to Precision Instrument Technician. I don't know exactly what instruments he worked with. I just know they they were complex and were related to electronics. His office was a lab. He also helped put up and then maintained the University's radio station DZUP.

Tatay with the men who erected the DZUP antenna tower, Sept. 4, 1959

My father and me at 4 months

On the side, my father repaired broken TVs and radio sets in the community. He was very much sought after by everyone, all the way up to the University President. My mother and I frequently tagged along when he made house calls. While he was busy repairing the TV, my mother would be chatting with the lady of the house. I would be eating the snacks.

Born of a tobacco farming family in rural Naguilian, Isabela, my father was orphaned by his mother at a young age. His father, unable to care for 7 children, sent my father to live with relatives. "Alilang kanin", my father used to describe his life at the time. He served his relatives who took him in and sent him to school. He was able to finish Grade 7.

But my father was resilient and determined to improve his lot. He went to the Big City, stayed with other relatives, and when WWII was breaking out, he joined the army. He was among the youngest and he served with USAFFE. Some of his war stories have been written about in Seattle newspapers for veterans.

He got medals. Real ones.

In 1945, he married my mother. Years later, with the money and benefits he received as a WWII soldier, he put himself through a technical school while working at the same time, and already a father to three children. By then, he had found employment with the University of the Philippines as a policeman. Although he skipped high school, he performed very well in his vocational course, graduating with flying colours. He got first honour, I believe.

He made it--and how!

He left the police force and worked for the College of Engineering. That was years before I was born.

Fast forward to the mid 70's. My father began travelling around the Philippines and inspecting and putting up radio stations at various localities and universities. He travelled from north to south, from Aparri all the way down to Tawi-Tawi. Then he became a consultant for World Bank projects and other big agencies.

I don't know when it started, but people started calling him Engineer. Real engineers consulted with him! I met some of his colleagues and heard from them firsthand how good my father was in what he was doing. He gained a lot of respect from people who were better educated than him, who had real titles and big companies. He rubbed elbows with people in high places.

The title "Engineer" amused us but no one was more amused than my father. Amazed is probably the right word. His career and track record were amazing! But he certainly earned it and everyone recognized that.

But I was the first to call him Engineer!

A few years ago in Seattle


Alma Bernadette said...

i designed something for lolo in a class last sem, and in my presentation i said he was an engineer, too. :)

LHB said...
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