Interview With Thelma V. Daigdigan

Thelma discusses the various difficulties she overcame to complete her education, and her personal life, from the 1950s.

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Born the 7th child in a large farming family in Tayasan, Negros Oriental in 1952, Thelma notes that she did not experience any financial hardship in her childhood. Her family was well supported by her parents’ coconut plantation, and she was able to pursue tertiary education. Though she was interested in a business degree, she was forced into an education degree by her father, as she was guaranteed a job at the local school by her relative who was the mayor. She attempted to circumvent this by secretly enrolling in the accountancy course, but her plans were discovered by her father when he saw her grades. He then forced her to switch to the education major, and threatened to stop her education otherwise.

    Thelma obeyed her father’s wishes, pursuing her education degree. However, her studies were disrupted by the rise of the Marcos regime. Her school had a strong presence of student activists opposing the government, and many of her friends invited her to join the movement. However, she disagreed, and transferred to Foundation University to distance herself from them and complete her education. She did not allow the political upheavals to affect her studies, and appreciated the economic development of the country under Marcos. 

    A year after graduating, she applied for her first teaching job at Bugo, Cagayan de Oro City, and went to Cebu to take her licensure exam. In Cebu, she met her first lover who was in the Reserve Corps of the military. After 4 years, the relationship declined as she could not handle a long-distance partnership while he worked on a ship. She then had a relationship with the head of the school where she taught various subjects. Two years later, she got engaged to him, but the very next week, her former lover returned and tried to convince her to marry him. However, she stayed with her fiancé, and quit working after their marriage, following him to various postings. After a year, she returned to teaching in Tagpangi South District Elementary School, and had her only child.

    Unfortunately, her child died early of illness, and she instead devoted her energies to raising her siblings’ sick children as her own, as there was a traditional belief that if children are sick in one person’s care, they should be entrusted to someone else. Her nephew and niece grew to become successful adults. In retrospect, Thelma accepts hardships as a part of life, but feels they should not deter one from pursuing their education

Interviewee: Thelma V. Daigdigan                      Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya

Born: November 30, 1952

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya                              Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo

Date: February 25, 2020

Location: Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City

Language: Bisaya                                                                                               

 I am Thelma V. Daigdigan. I was born on November 30, 1952 at Tayasan, Negros Misamis Oriental. I am 67 years of age and I am already a retired teacher; I finished my studies in Foundation University with a degree of Bachelor of Science in elementary education, before retiring I taught for about 35 years. I grew up in Tayasan Negros Oriental together with my 17 other siblings, both my parents were farmers that owned their own land, I was the 7th child and was very close to both my parents and my eldest sister. The people in Tayasan were very hospitable and most of them had professional jobs, and if not, they farmed with lands that they own. We lived near the river so the land has fertile.

During my childhood I never experienced any hardships, although both my parents were very poor and earned little income, my grandparents were doing okay and provided for my educational needs, they owned an area of land that contained 500-1000 coconut trees and I relied on their business for some time. I still lived with my parents but almost every day go to my grandparents’ house since it was only a walking distance away from our house. I remember during my elementary years I had many friends and I would give them fruits like mangoes and bananas, soon after I graduated my primary studies in the year 1964.

Time went by and I was finally entering the tertiary level, but instead of being happy I felt sad because I wanted to take up a course related to business as my grandmother has inspired me to do so, but my father strongly disagreed with my decision and wanted me to take up education, the reason for his strong disagreement was because he was advised by a family member of ours that if I were to take a course related to business I would not immediately find a job but if I took education there was a spot reserved for me in our local school because the mayor at the time was a relative of ours and was willing to give me the job. Despite everything I still took up an accounting course in college hoping to finish it without my father knowing. Sadly it did not end up well for me because my father saw my course when the grades were delivered, he was furious at the fact that I did not follow his instruction, he then forced me to choose between studying education or quitting school all together, and in the end I opted to change my course and continue my studies.

It was around this time that Marcos was the president which led to a little bump in my studies because the school that I studied in, a Franciscan school was closed because there was a rumor that a high ranking member of the school was an activist, but I never believed in this rumor. At the same time my classmates and other students were trying to recruit me for their movement and I wanted no part of their activities, that is why I needed to transfer schools, I went to Foundation University, and it was there where I finished my studies. Marcos’ reign really did not have an impact in my life because I was determined in finishing my studies and achieving the goal that I set for myself. In fact I believe that Marcos did a good job in his term because I could see the development happening in our country. Amidst all the drama I still enjoyed my college life because I was part of a varsity team in volleyball and I also played softball, which made life a little bit easier.

When I finally graduated my parents were so proud that they had a feast in honor of my graduation. I became a teacher one year after I graduated because my brother advised me to rest for a little while because I never stopped studying since I started, after a year I got bored and decided to apply for a job in Bugo, Cagayan de Oro City, it was there where I had my first job. I thought of Bugo as a very developed area because at Tayasan there were little transport mostly busses and motorcycles but in Bugo transportation wasn’t a problem. 

But before all that I had to take the licensure exam in Cebu City and it was there where I met my first lover, he was a ROTC member, Franko Barete, the ROTC were assigned to escort us to the examination building and he was the one who escorted me, we fell in love and had a relationship for 4 long years, but eventually I couldn’t handle being in a long distance relationship because Franko worked as a Mechanical engineer on a ship. I met another man - he was a head of the school. I liked him because he was kind and patient towards me and after being in a 2-year relationship he asked me to marry him. The problem was 1 week after he proposed, Franko came and also proposed to me, my parents intervened saying “we can’t decide for Thelma she needs to decide on her own”. Franko stayed in Cagayan for about a week trying to convince me to leave my fiancé and come with him to the house that Franko had bought for us. in the end I stayed with my fiancé.

During my time in Bugo I taught reading, writing, mathematics first as a substitute teacher in the 1st grade level. Then I was assigned to teach the 4th grade level and taught a little bit of everything science, math, history, music and arts, even physical education. After I got married, I stopped working and went with my husband to wherever he was assigned, this went on for about a year then I decided to go back to work and I was assigned in Tagpangi South district elementary school. And It was here that I gave birth to my one and only son, but sadly I didn’t get to see him grow up because he caught an illness where he couldn’t recover then died, I was depressed not only because I had lost my only child but also because I couldn’t bear another child anymore.

Time passed and my brother and I talked about the passing of my son and suggested that I would take care of his sickly child because there was a superstitious belief that if a child was always sick in your care then it would be wise to give the child to another person. It was because of this that I took care of the child until he became a healthy boy. Then another brother had the same problem this time with a baby girl I also took care of the child until she was healthy, then I took both of them in and raised them like they were my own. Both of them finished their studies, the girl in the field of tourism and the boy in Nursing.

Looking back at my life there were times when I was depressed like the time when I lost my biological son, that deeply saddened me in so many ways. But there are also times I triumphed like when I finally finished my studies enabling me to finally support my family. I believe that hardships are not a hindrance to education even if you are poor, if you are interested in studying and determined in finishing it then you can do it.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Thelma V. Daigdigan

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Transcript Notes


  1. How does Thelma'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?

  2. Given your answer to Q1, consider how Thelma's positionality, social, economic, and cultural background shaped her perception and experiences in the Cold War Philippines.