Dejaro discusses his experiences of childhood abuse by his father, the social situations in Davao (religious friction between Christians and Muslims, youth gangs, student activism, etc.), the city’s situation right after President Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, and his career as a musician.
Born in 1957 in Davao, Philippines the son of a police officer, Dejaro begins by discussing how his father would physically abuse him and the rest of the family, due to his post-traumatic stress from being stabbed by Japanese soldiers during WWII. This continued until Dejaro reached the age of 23, and was able to confront his father. Until then, his daily routine was to escape the house to evade his father and find company and security with his friends, who were in a gang. Due to his interaction with bad company, he picked up vices like alcohol and smoking, discontinuing his education before the second year of high school.
He also discusses the conflict between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, explaining that many of these clashes were between rival youth gangs. These gangs armed themselves and operated in the night to protect their own, he suggests. Dejaro’s cousin was nearly severely injured when he hit a Muslim, and his gang retaliated. This damaged Dejaro’s views of the Muslims. Further, he also encountered other groups such as the New People’s Army (NPA) activists, in which his brother was a member. While his friends brought him to NPA’s speeches in the mountains, he was never interested to join. NPA used his sister’s house as a hideout, and destroyed public and private property during the Martial Law period.
When the situation had stabilized in Davao, Dejaro began learning music, and his instructor introduced him to marijuana. Dejaro’s brother also became a musician, and tried to help him build a career to support the family, starting at a disco house in Davao. He was later offered a contract and moved to Cagayan de Oro. By 1977, he was in a band and they decided to travel to Manila to find more work. Their first year in Manila was difficult, but they eventually found stable employment in Roxas Boulevard, where they also met a Japanese colleague. They later signed a contract to work in Kobe, Japan in 1983.
Dejaro enjoyed his time in Japan, but left for Korea after 6 months for better pay, where he formed a new band. As he was treated more unkindly in Korea than in Japan, he decided to move to Taipei after a year. He married his bandmate in Korea hoping that they could both get visas to Taiwan, but that was denied and they remained in Korea, returning to the Philippines in 1996. He admits that his marriage was unsuccessful, as he repeated his father’s abuse of his mother with his own wife. They also suffered a miscarriage and settled for child adoption. These challenges made him resume his drug habit, until he found faith in God and changed his ways. Now a parent himself, he understands his father’s harshness to some extent as a form of discipline, and continues serving the Church as a musician.
Interviewee: Reynaldo Dejaro Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya
Born: October 4, 1957
Interviewer and writer: Kisho Tsuchiya Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo
Date: March 14, 2020
Location: Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City
My name is Reynaldo Dejaro, I was born on October 4, 1957 in Davao City. My father was a guerrilla during the Japanese time and my mother was a dressmaker, together they had 11 kids. My father was a respected man and many people knew him, but he was known for being violent and abusive towards my mother and us. My siblings hated me and called me the ‘’black sheep’’ of the family because sometimes when I don’t like our food, I tended to throw tantrums and threw the table together with all the food. I also kicked some of my siblings and cursed my mother. I had no one to call every time my father hit me and I always had bruises in every part of my body. There was one time where I was outside playing when suddenly my friend shouted that my father is coming. When I looked back, I met my father’s belt buckle. He does that all the time with no apparent reason. He once chased me with an axe and I was running for my life I would even go as far as the river to escape him.
My mother told me that my father was like that because of his experiences in the war. He was trapped during the Japanese war and was stabbed by the Japanese with a bayonet. He was rescued but was already traumatized. That’s why whenever he saw people fighting, he would get his axe and try to stop them. My mother, unfortunately, was also one of my father’s victims. He would step on and kick my mother’s face while she was innocently sleeping. This went on until I turned 23 years old. I asked my father if he was still going to hit me even though I was already 23. I guess he realized what he was doing and finally the beating stopped.
Our house in Davao was near the highway, just a walking distance from Victoria’s Sugar Cane Factory, most of our neighbors were our relatives. We were also near a Muslim community. Conflicts between Christians and Muslims often happened, especially among gangs of teenagers. My cousin was almost killed when he hit a Muslim. They got mad and retaliated, my cousin’s shoulder and thumb almost got detached from his body. Some of them prepare themselves at night, equipped with weapons to defend their own. Starting that day, my perception of the Muslims was stained. I thought of them as traitors who can’t be trusted.
My daily routine back then was to escape our house and go to my friends [barkada, or gangs]. I stopped going to school and wasn’t able to reach 2nd year high school. My friends taught me vices such as liquor and cigarettes. We usually stayed at Mabini Street where bystanders from our city also stayed.
Activists such as NPAs were also active during that time. Some of my friends even brought me to a mountain to listen to them. But I never really liked to participate. I had a brother who joined NPA although our father was a retired policeman. He joined NPA when he was recruited in a school where he was working at. They used my sister’s house as their hideout. They go to streets at night waving flags while riding in the jeepney with red ribbons tied up their heads and arms. Their goal was to ruin the Philippine government. Ferdinand Marcos was the president at the time. When he declared Martial Law, Davao City was in chaos. NPAs burned cars and destroyed establishments. Restaurants, shops, and malls were all trashed. Some people took the opportunity to steal from shops.
After the chaos settled, I started learning music. It was Bobong Istores who taught me bass guitar. I started to take interest in music and this was also where I started taking drugs. It was Bobong who introduced me to drugs, mainly marijuana. It gave us temporary happiness, when we were high, we felt like everything’s at peace. Marijuana was easy to access and was even being given for free. My brother, who was a former member of NPA, was also a musician. He became a professional and was also the one who helped me become a professional musician. We were not close but still, he just wanted to help me stand on my own feet and help the family through music. I usually play disco, rap and standard jazz music.
I started my first gig in a disco house in Davao and moved to Cagayan de Oro City after being offered a contract. I played in Mandarin Night Club with a salary of 30 pesos per night. It was enough because the house I was staying in and food were already free, although I could barely call it a house, it was like a cage for pigs. There were 7 people in a small room with double decked beds but, it was better than nothing.
By 1977, I was 19 years old and my band decided to go to Manila even though we weren’t sure if we would get a job there, but we had to try. We went to Manila and had an unstable job. We had to sleep outside on the grass, and this went on for more than a year until we finally found a regular job. We worked in Roxas Boulevard as a band. The place was big and about 150 people could occupy the place. There were many people because of the topless women dancing as we play. We met a lot of people there and I was a good-looking man. I had many relationships. A girl even collapsed after I broke up with her. We had a new Keyboard man from Japan who had a Japanese girlfriend. The girl talked to me and asked me if I wanted to have a relationship with her Japanese friend. I agreed and she wrote a letter to her friend with my picture clipped on it. Her friend flew all the way to the Philippines and we had a relationship but it was only for short time because we weren’t really serious about each other.
By 1983, I signed a contract to go to Japan with the same band. We went to Japan and stayed near Kobe. We worked in a club and were paid 500 dollars per month. It was enough for me because life was peaceful in Japan. All the people were friendly and the sceneries were amazing. After 6 months, we went to Korea to work there, and went back and forth from Japan and Korea to renew our visa but finally got tired of it and stayed in Korea as illegal settlers. In Korea, I formed a new band with 2 Filipinos and the rest were Koreans. Koreans were not as good as Japanese, they were arrogant people and looked down on Filipinos. But we still tried to put up with them because the salary in Korea was twice our salary in Japan. After a year or so, I stopped working with them.
I met my wife in Korea. Before that, we were on the same band and we were planning to go to Taipei, Taiwan for a contract but my co-band member told us that only married women can enter Taipei. So, we decided to marry each other through a civil wedding. What was funny was that, after our wedding, our visa was denied and we still couldn’t enter Taipei. We stayed in Korea as husband and wife because she didn’t want to file divorce papers. She didn’t want to defy the church teachings. Our marriage life was a mess; I did what my father did to my mother. I used to hit my wife and many of our friends got mad at me. My uncle even tried to stab me because of his anger. And we were caught and imprisoned because we had a fight on the streets. Until now, I don’t know what had gotten in me, doing those horrible things to my wife. They tell me it must have been a reflection of what my father did to me and my mother.
I went back to drugs and there were times that my heart would stop beating because of the high dosage. I was a mess but one night I dreamt of someone who covered my face with a Bible. The Bible was as big as a blanket. I woke up and immediately threw away all the drugs and cigarettes and I started to change my ways and went back to God and to the church.
By 1996, my wife and I came back to the Philippines. We were having a child but my wife had a miscarriage. It was really challenging for us, I cried every day and was really depressed but we were able to move on and decided to adopt a child. We were happy raising a child but struggles came when our daughter started to grow up stubborn. But life must still continue, I still cry whenever I remember the beatings I got from my father. But I sometimes think that what he did was right, it was to discipline me in some way or another. For now, I am happy serving in the church as a musician and I am a changed man because God saved and changed me for the better.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Reynaldo Dejaro
What does Dejaro’s reflections about the armed Muslim and Christian groups, and his siblings’ involvement in the NPA suggest about the social dimensions of Cold War conflict in the Philippines?