Interview With Esterlita Timugan

Esterlita discusses growing up in several locations in Mindanao and Cebu; how she pursued higher education in medical technology in Cebu, and how it went to “ waste” as she became a trader, until her retirement.

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Born the oldest of seven children in October 1948 in Lanao Del Norte, Esterlita Timugan discusses growing up in a modest household where both her parents worked to support the family. Her father was a butcher while her mother ran a small restaurant, but they could not afford any electrical appliances. Even as a child, she would help her parents with their jobs instead of playing. Notably, she observes that despite living in Muslim-majority Mindanao, she did not meet Muslims in her locality. However, she had Muslim classmates at school.

    Esterlita was a good student, graduating high school as valedictorian and was able to pursue higher education in Medical Technology in Cebu. Some of her course mates were student activists opposed to the Marcos administration, and while she did not disagree with them, she kept herself distanced form their activities. Unfortunately, her father fell ill at the same time, and the family had to pool all their meagre resources to fund his treatment. Esterlita recalls endeavoring to minimize her expenses to assist in this effort. Despite her struggles, she was the only one amongst her friends to be granted an internship in Iligan City. Though she graduated successfully, she could not afford to travel to Manila to take her licensure exam, ending her potential career in medicine.

    She then got married and moved to Nasipit where her husband worked in the Nasipit Lumber Company. There she became a trader, selling goods from Cebu or Cagayan de Oro to customers in Nasipit. The business was strong enough to allow her to buy land and build her own home. However, business declined by 1990, as customers were leaving Nasipit, and she decided to retire. She and her husband moved to Valencia, where her sister worked in the Department of Social Welfare & Development, and was willing to help them. Esterlita now runs a small shop, reminding her of her past business successes; however, she still wonders how her life would have differed if she had been able to pursue her medical career.

Interviewee: Esterlita Timugan                    Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya

Born: October 20, 1948

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya                    Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo

Date: March 3, 2020

Location: Valencia, Bukidnon

Language: Bisaya                                                                                                 

I am Esterlita Timugan, I was born on October 20, 1948 at Lanao Del Norte. My father was a butcher and my mother owned a small restaurant, they met at Ozamis Occidental but later moved to Lanao Del Norte where they had 7 children, me being the eldest. We lived in a simple house that was made out of wood, we had no TV or refrigerator and cooked our meals in a firewood stove, the closest thing to electronic entertainment we had was a radio. I was very close to both of my parents and often helped them in their jobs especially my mother. As a child, I’d play tag or house with my friends as all children do but most of the time, I would choose to help my parents instead of playing. Even though I lived Lanao which is a place usually filled with Muslims, we had none in our town only on the other towns, although I still had many Muslim friends in school. 

I believe that I did do well in school and even became a Valedictorian when I graduated Highschool. I moved to Cebu City to continue my studies and pursued a course in Medical Technology. It was around this time that I was forced to become a responsible individual because of the financial and social distractions in studies. Cebu was a bustling City compared to Lanao and everything was expensive and I had to adapt. Especially since my father had to be hospitalized because of an illness, we had to pay his hospital bills and medication. We were not a rich family so I had to do things in my little way to save up money like using my bathroom essentials for as long as possible. There were student activists as well opposing the Marcos administration, and although I didn’t get myself or my friends involved in their activities, we didn’t necessarily oppose them.  

Despite all that I still did well, out of 6 friends, I was the only one qualified to get an internship in Iligan City, a city that wasn’t as developed compared to Cebu, but was still more developed than Lanao. And, somewhat for lack of a better term, it was “dirty.” I would later on graduate my studies in Medical Technology, but unfortunately, I was unable to take my licensure exam due to financial reasons, at the time you could only take the licensure exam in Manila and my family didn’t have enough money to send me there. In the end I wasn’t able to practice the knowledge that I earned through my 4 years of hard work and sacrifices.

After sometime I got married to a man that was introduced to me by a common friend. We met because for a time I stayed with my aunt in Nasipit Agusan Del Norte and we were neighbors. He was kind and handsome, then later on we got married twice first at a Civil wedding in May 20, 1976 and then a church wedding in July 3 of the same year. I moved in with him in Nasipit Agusan Del Norte. It was a peaceful place. When we got married, I felt secured that he wouldn’t leave me anymore. He worked in a big Company in Nasipit called the Nasipit Lumber Company and I started a business of my own. I would acquire the products from Cagayan de Oro City or Cebu City and would sell them to the people in Nasipit. It was a great business because I had a big income, big enough to be able to buy land and build a house. This went until the year 1990 when I retired from my business because the people buying from me were moving out of Nasipit and I was losing profit. After I retired, I felt lonely, because, for how many years in enjoyed working, and all of a sudden, I had nothing to do.

Soon after we also moved out of Nasipit to Valencia Bukidnon because my husband and I had no income anymore and in Valencia, I had a sister who worked as a Head in the Department of Social Welfare and Development who was willing to help us. I had a mild stroke and couldn’t move like I used to. Right now, I have a mini store that I own and it reminds me of the joy I had when I had a proper business. 

Looking back in life the only thing that I regret is not having the opportunity to take that licensure exam. That is the biggest “what if” in my life. What would’ve happened if I had taken and passed that exam. But all I can do now is enjoy my life and remember the things that made me happy the most like me being married to my husband and not dwell on the things that would make me sad like not being able to take the licensure exam or even the time when I got a stroke.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Esterlita Timugan

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Transcript Notes

  1. This interviewee is the wife of Antonio Timugan Jr, who also participated in this project (interview available).

  1. Consider the merits of oral histories from individuals like Esterlita, who intentionally kept herself out of the political conflicts in the Philippines under Marcos. 

  2. What does Esterlita’s testimony, as an “outsider” to the Philippines’ Cold War conflict, suggest about the nature of the Cold War in the Philippines?