Saturnina Moncada discusses her childhood experiences during the Japanese Occupation, her career in the Del Monte Company, her marriage, and how contemporary youth are different from her generation.
Born in 1937 amongst 9 children to a farmer and his homemaker wife in Cagayan de Oro City, Moncada begins by recounting her childhood experiences of fleeing the Japanese military during the second world war. The war began when she was 6 years old, and her family fled to the mountains for 5 years, constantly relocating when the Japanese military approached, surviving on her father’s vegetable and banana crops. Her house was repossessed by Japanese soldiers as a kitchen, and was destroyed by the time they returned after the war. While she did not personally witness direct combat, she did hear gunfights between the Japanese and Filipino guerrillas, and saw guerrillas bring down a Japanese aircraft.
Beginning first grade at age 11 due to wartime disruptions, she completed her elementary education and entered secondary school, but withdrew after 2 weeks to seek employment at the Del Monte Company in Bugo. This became a 38-year career for her. She rotated through the labelling, canning, and slicer sections, sorting different grades of pineapples. In her third year of service, she met and eventually married a colleague at the company. The job allowed them to educate their children decently. However, her husband developed vices that made him violent. A former Filipinista disillusioned by her church community’s flaunting of wealth, Moncada converted to Born Again Christianity, prayed for her husband to reform, which he did.
Moncada reflects that Marcos’ presidency was a beneficial period for the Philippines, as she experienced the benefits of his development projects such as the Marcos Bridge. She also appreciated how the tight regulation of individual liberties during Martial Law reduced crime rates; policies which she feels President Duterte is echoing, and welcomes.
Later in life, she was able to divide her lands between her children, which they also used for agriculture. Her family now owns a convenience store, and she remains active as a member of the Barangay Women Development Committee, which empowers women to contribute towards developing their community and region; and participates in spiritual service to God.
Interviewee: Saturnina Bacanaya Moncada Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya
Born: February 17, 1937
Interviewer and writer: Kisho Tsuchiya Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo
Date: March 01, 2020
Location: Bugo, Cagayan de Oro City
My name is Saturnina Bacanaya Moncada. I turned 82 last February 17 and celebrated it with my friends and batch mates. I am beyond grateful of my current life. I was born in Iponan, Cagayan de Oro City with my parents and 9 other siblings. My father was a farmer, and my mother was a housewife. I was baptized as a Filipinista but converted into Born again because I felt no spiritual change while I was still going to church as a Filipinista. All I saw were people going to church in extravagant dresses and heels, boastful with their material possessions. Until a missionary talked to me that made me change my religion and from then on, I spent my days serving God.
I started primary school at the age 11 because of the war. The war started when I was just 6 years old. I remember evacuating in the mountains as fast as we could. We were there for 5 years and were constantly moving further into the mountains whenever the Japanese would almost reach us. I was still so young but I remember walking under the sun holding my grandmother’s hand. I get tired easily and would ride on the back of our carabao with all our other things then walk back again. It was tiring, we sometimes settle in houses we could find but there were also times when houses were too full with the other evacuees so we had to sleep outside houses. We survived by eating cassava, vegetables and bananas that my father planted.
During the war, my 5th sibling was born. It was really scary because I could hear Japanese and Filipino guerrillas were exchanging gunshots just around us, but I wasn’t able to witness it with my own eyes. The only thing I witnessed was when a Japanese jet plane fell from the sky after being struck down by the guerrillas. There were 3 Japanese soldiers inside and was caught. They were treated well by the government and were freed to go back to Japan soon after. Our house was big enough that Japanese made it as their kitchen, when we returned our house was shattered and burned to pieces. After 5 years we came back and saw the remains of our house. The horses that my father used as transportation for hire was nowhere to be found. We didn’t know if they killed them or if they used them. I just remembered additional armed forces suddenly came coming in numbers of ships and planes. Japanese Soldiers were quick to retaliate but was already outnumbered and they gradually vanished in Cagayan de Oro City.
When the war ended, I went back to school as a 1st grader at 11 years old. I finished primary school and enrolled to secondary high school. But only went there for 2 weeks because my friends convinced me to apply in Del Monte Company in Bugo. I was interviewed and got accepted. I started working there, and had work rotations in the labelling, canning and slicer section where we separate 1st class from 2nd class pineapples. I started living in Bugo where some of my siblings already resided. Bugo back then was a swampy area and there were just few houses and most of the land was rice fields. Gradually houses and buildings started to sprout from different parts of Bugo. Life was going well. My friends and I sometimes go out at night to talk just outside our houses. Life was simple back then unlike now, children tend to spend too much just to have fun.
During President Ferdinand Marcos’ reign, I really felt the benefits of his projects. Marcos bridge was one of those that is still being used now. Although he was strict with his law, he just wanted us Filipinos to be disciplined. I can actually compare him to our current President Rodrigo Duterte. He was able to lessen crime rates in the Philippines and that alone is already a big accomplishment.
Working in Del Monte for 3 years, I met my husband who was my workmate. We got married and had children. He was a good husband and a father but he had vices that made him violent sometimes. It really hurt me every time he acts like that and even asked God what I should do to make him leave his wrongdoings behind. My prayers were answered when he finally stopped, and saw his children grow up disciplined and respectful towards their elders.
I worked in Del Monte for about 38 years and finally retired. My children were able to reach a decent educational degree. I am proud that my children grew up with respect towards myself and other people. They listen to me and actually obeyed me unlike some children nowadays. Usually children from this generation feel so entitled with their selves and never listen to their elders. I distributed and divided some of my land properties to my children and they used it to cultivate corn and coffee. We also have a mini convenience store and eatery. We are now living comfortably in life. I am also a current member of Barangay Women Development Committee (BWDC) where women are empowered by making our place a better place. I am thankful of what I’ve become and what my children are becoming. We always ask God to guide us as we live our life serving him.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Saturnina Moncada
How does Saturnina Moncada’s reflections on the Marcos regime challenge traditional understandings of the Martial Law period in the Cold War Philippines? What does that suggest about the nature of the Philippines’ Cold War?