Felicidad Mendez discusses her early life, and how, when In 1983, when the New People’s Army established a stronghold in Valencia City, her family navigated through the by paying “revolutionary tax” to the NPA while remaining neutral between the conflicting parties.
Born in 1952 to farmers in Bohol, Felicidad Mendez fondly recalls going fishing with her father and playing by the sea with her many siblings. She was only able to complete primary education. When she was 14, she was naively convinced by her cousins to seek employment in Manila, with the suggestion that spending time away from the fields and the sea would lighten her complexion; even though her family could survive on their existing agricultural lands. Although initially opposed to the idea, her mother eventually consented while her father was away on business, and Mendez traveled by ship to Manila.
Unprepared to live independently, Mendez immediately felt homesick and regretted her decision. She was held at the employment agency until a suitable assignment arrived, surviving only on corn and poorly cooked rice. Her homesickness made her physically ill, and she was quarantined apart from the other jobseekers at the agency. However, she was hired by a female doctor requiring a babysitter for her newborn child. The doctor also treated her illness and trained her to provide childcare. While working for her, Mendez was courted by her employer’s brother, but was unable to proceed with the relationship due to her father’s objections.
She returned to Bohol after 2 years, and 2 years later, moved to Bukidnon, where she met her husband and married him at the age of 20. Her husband worked for his aunt as a driver, and was temporarily assigned to manage his aunt’s business. During the 1980s, her area was attacked by the New People’s Army (NPA), but they navigated the conflict without evacuating by paying revolutionary taxes to the guerrillas in the form of rice. However, they never formally joined the NPA to avoid antagonizing the military. Ultimately, the conflict ended when the NPA surrendered, and Mendez’s family also signed the surrender papers although they were not NPA members.
Interviewee: Felicidad Mendez,
Born: November 11, 1949
Interviewer and writer: Kisho Tsuchiya Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya & Dominique Lucagbo
Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo
Date: March 05, 2020
Location: Malaybalay, Bukidnon
My name is Felicidad Mendez, I was born on November 11, 1952 in Mandawa, Bohol. My parents were farmers. They also went fishing which I really enjoyed in my childhood with my father and siblings. I had 16 siblings in the family but 2 of them died during birth. I am the fourth child from the eldest. We enjoyed fishing with my father where we would paddle a fishing boat to catch fish using a net. We could only fish if there was a lot of us since the nets required a lot of man power for to work. I also went to school but unfortunately was only able to graduate primary education.
I was 14 and stayed at home doing nothing but a lot of children my age went to Manila to find a job. I was convinced by my cousins to go there because it was said that people who go there tend to have a lighter skin complexion every time they came back to our hometown. A lot of us have darker skin because we are often exposed to sunlight whenever we play near the sea and spend a lot of time in the farm. It made our skin darker than most people from the city. I was still 14 years old that time and was pressured by my cousins to go and so I asked my mother about it. She was against my decision at first. But in the end, she signed the papers to be passed to the agency. My father was away at the time doing some business in Cebu City and wasn’t able to stop me from going. He scolded my mother for allowing me who was still a child and don’t even know how to wash my own clothes.
They were right about everything and I regretted it as soon as I stepped on the ship. I was already homesick and crying while the ship was playing a mother’s lullaby. I missed them already but chose to stand by my decision. When we arrived in the agency we were held there for a while because there were a lot of people who were also waiting to be hired. We had nothing to eat there but corn and rice that wasn’t even cooked properly. I was really regretting my rash actions that time and realized I already had a peaceful life back in Bohol because we have a farm and can eat daily without much problems. Thinking about them made me ill while in the agency office. I was transferred in the second floor to rest so that I won’t make the other sick too. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a job but thankfully a miracle happened.
A woman came to the agency looking for a babysitter. She was a doctor and just recently delivered her baby. She was going through the ladies in the first floor and still didn’t find someone who’s qualified enough to be a babysitter. She asked if there’s still more girls and they pointed at me in the second floor. I was clueless but still followed her. She discovered that I was sick and gave me medicine and let me rest for the mean time. She acted like a mother to me and was really gentle and kind. After I recovered, she taught me the basics of taking care of a child. I was clueless of these things but she was patient enough to tell me the dos’ and don’ts’. I eventually got a hold of my job and was doing fine there. The Doctor had a brother who was an accountant and started courting me. I wrote a letter to my parents saying I will go home and also mentioned my boss’ brother. My father was livid about it and said that if I go home with a guy I’ll be as fine as the sand. I was scared of what my father can do so I rejected him and went home alone. I worked in Manila for 2 years and went back to Bohol.
I spent another 2 years there. Then I went to Linabo, Bukidnon where my sister is residing. I met my husband there and when I turned 20, we got married in Bohol in a church wedding. We then went back to Bukidnon to settle for good. My husband was kind and responsible. He’s working as a driver to his auntie. In fact, we were assigned by her auntie to manage her business for the meantime. During the 80’s there were attacks of NPAs in our place but we still remained taking care of the business. The NPAs wouldn’t dare to touch us because we gave them sacks of rice whenever they ask and that made us unnecessary for evacuations. Some of our neighbours evacuated in fear of the chaos the NPAs will cause. The NPA tried recruiting us but we denied their offers as we were also afraid of the government’s soldiers who were also there to maintain the peace. In the end, the war ended by signing a paper indicating their surrender. We also signed the papers even though we were not part of them. Bukidnon was then back to its normal business.
My husband and I had 2 children but the first born died during birth. I was really devastated and hopeless when he died but was still blessed to have a daughter. She was a good child and we were able to let her graduate with a degree of Education. She now teaches in a public school and married to a fine man who is a seaman. Her husband is successful enough for them to live a happy life. I am happy now for what she achieved. I wanted her to be successful in her life and I am happy that she’s on her way there.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Felicidad Mendez
How does Felicidad Mendez’s family’s navigation of the martial law period illustrate the agency of the common Filipino citizen in shaping their experiences of the Cold War on the ground?
What does Mendez’s family’s signing of the surrender papers suggest about the extent of popular support for the NPA? What does that suggest about the nature of the Cold War in the Philippines?