Interview With Brenda Valencia

Brenda Valencia discusses her move to Cagayan de Oro as a child, memories of living in fear during the Marcos regime’s martial law, and how her family business of smuggling prospered in Puerto during the late twentieth century.

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Brenda begins by discussing her early childhood from 1949, when her parents worked as sugarcane farmers in Negros Occidental. In 1954, the family moved to Cagayan de Oro, where her parents worked as fishmongers. She completed her high school education there before joining her parents in their trade. She then discusses her father’s adultery, but notes that she still remained close to both parents. At age 23, she got married and became a homemaker, while her husband worked at the Philippine Packing Corporation. 

    This was during the Martial Law era, and she recalls how the Marcos administration used psychological shock tactics to instill fear in the populace by airing the executions of political detainees on television. It caused her to live in fear, of both the state and the New People’s Army, until the regime collapsed. During this time, the smuggling trade also boomed in Puerto; and her family was involved in purchasing goods smuggled in by cargo ships serving the Philippine Packing Corporation. However, the trade faded with time, and Brenda settled back into the role of caregiver as her children found jobs and became parents themselves.

Interviewee: Brenda Valencia                    Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya

Born: January 4,1949

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya                    Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo

Date: February 24, 2020

Location: Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City

Language: Bisaya


I am Brenda Valencia, I was born in January 4,1949 at Negros Occidental together with my 4 other siblings, we lived near my grandparents at the farmlands where my father used to farm sugar canes. When I was about 5 years old, we transferred to Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City because my parents found work as fish vendors. It was in Bugo Central School that I studied primary up until secondary studies, but after graduating Highschool I stopped studying and helped my parents in selling fish. We would buy the products in Puerto market and travel all the way up to Camp Philips Bukidnon and there we would sell the fish.

It was a very stressful life especially when my father decided to cheat on my mother, because my mother would take me everywhere when she was chasing after my father. When we finally saw the woman that my father cheated with, my mother and I fought her. In the end my father went back to my mother and never did anything silly again. But despite all that I was still close to both of my parents. Then at the age of 23, I got married. I fell in love with him because he would frequently visit the house and at the same time courted me. When he proposed, I said yes. I was a housewife and took care of the children and the house itself while he worked in the Philippine Packing Corporation.

Thankfully we lived in a relatively stable relationship because it was around the Martial law era. I was not only very afraid of the NPA, but also with the government. They would keep the masses in check by airing the execution of offenders. We would see them die by the electric chair or by lethal injection and that gave me a big scare. I was so scared that I thought it was the end of the world. But as we all know when the dust settled everything went back to normal and so did my life.

There was a time when smuggling was very rampant in Puerto where the ships that docked to load and unload products from the PPC would also smuggle goods like TV’s radios and the like to the people. We didn’t know the schedule of when the ship would come. But that wasn’t a problem since we could easily see if the shipped had dock and if so, we would use our boats to go near the side of the ships. There we would make our transactions. This became a sort of business for the people in Puerto and it boomed at around the 1990’s. But nowadays the same ships don’t have any goods anymore therefore eliminating the smuggling business.

Now at my age the only thing to do is stay at home since all of my kids are now graduates and already have their own families, occasionally I would take care of my grandchildren and that makes me feel very happy. When the family is complete and would go out for dinner that makes me very happy as well. The last thing that I would want my grandchildren to feel was the sadness that I felt when I lost both my parents.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Brenda Valencia

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Transcript Notes


  1. What does Brenda’s reactions suggest about the nature of the Philippines’ Cold War, given that she did not directly participate in any conflict?

  2. In light of Brenda’s reflections on feeling fear under Martial Law, discuss the extent to which the Philippines’ Cold War under the Marcos regime was real, and the extent to which it was imagined.