High School & FEATI

Peace and order finally came with the surrender of the Imperial Japanese forces.   School re-opened and I was enrolled at the Daliao Elementary School.  Nothing out of the ordinary but in one class we had to learn some filipino folk dances. I didn’t particularly like doing these sissy dance movements with your arms high above the shoulders and doing twirling with the hands. The year came when I finished elementary education and ready to embark on high school education. The town of Toril did not have a high school and the only high school was located in the city of Davao which is about 14 kilometers from Toril. The public transportation system between the city and Toril was not well established yet aside from being unreliable in their schedule

In my first year of high school at the Davao City High School, I boarded with a family friend whose house was located on our property and they were paying rent. The family had three or more cats and the place smelled of cat pooh. Aside from this house being infested with scraggly cats, the couple frequently had shouting matches caused by the husband being accused of having a mistress. I didn’t stay long in this house.

I was enrolled in Section “F” class, close to the bottom in class category. I didn’t know how students were classified but it must have been by one’s average grade in the last year of elementary school. During the weekends and school holidays, I went home to be with my parents. At the start of my second year in high school, I was enrolled in Section “B” when I started to know the other students better and felt comfortable with the class. At this time, Vic and a close friend of the family occupied the down stair room of Atty. Jose Joaquin’s (a family friend) house. There were two other women students from Toril boarding up stair.

Vic and the other guy studied upstairs because there was electricity while I studied downstairs with a kerosene lamp. The poor lighting from the lamp probably was not good for my eyesight. For my third year, I remained in Section”B” and started to score the highest in class tests in Biology and Literature and very good results in other subjects. At this time I was boarding with another family friend. The man of the house was one of my father’s companion during his trek from Manila to Davao during the Japanese occupation. There were other boarders in the house, a brother and sister. I roomed with the brother. We had fun together as we shadow-boxed and tried to not-so-hard hit each other’s stomach. The meals were very good and we always had meat, pork or beef, as she worked in the public market selling meats.

At the start of my fourth year, the school administration wanted me to move up to Section “A”. I didn’t want to be in that section because I was happy and satisfied in the class I was already in. Besides, those students in Section “A” were brats and were the sons and daughters of well known families living in the city, with some exceptions of course. I pleaded with some of my teachers that I should remained in Section ”B”, but it was to no avail. I mentioned to my mother what had happened and I asked her if I could transfer to Mindanao College which is located also in the city for me to finish my high school education there. Had she said “no” and I was expecting this for an answer, I would have complied as my mother can be straight forward and firm. Surprisingly, my mother acceded to my desire and off I went to another high school.

Mindanao College is a private school and I had to pay a tuition fee whereas at the Davao City High School, the education was free. I did not board at this time and I commuted everyday to the city since the public transportation was much improved and more readily available and dependable. I graduated from this college on ____with a high school diploma with honors. In the Class of ____ yearbook, it was noted under my picture that my ambition was to be a ‘Pilot’.

My plan was to apply for admission to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Bagiou and I thought that after graduating upon completion of a four year study in science and military courses, I would apply to be assigned to the Philippine Air Force for pilot training. There was one obstacle to be overcome to qualify for admission and that the requirement was to have successfully completed at least 60 credit units of college study. So, I enrolled at the Mindanao College School of Liberal Arts and took elective classes on Philosophy & Logic, Political Science, Spanish Language, Government, etc. It took me a little more than a year to obtain 60 college credit units. I studied for the PMA entrance examination and took the test. There were hundreds of applicants to the PMA because if admitted and completed the course, one is assured of a steady, life time career in the service for the country, a bright prospect for rapid advancement in the ranks, and guaranteed attraction from the opposite sex.

I failed to qualify because I flunked the vision test as the requirement was to have a 20/20 vision. Of course, I was disappointed. Then I applied for admission to the flying school of the Philippine Air Force. Again I flunked the vision test.

I figured that the next thing associated with airplanes is to become an aeronautical engineer, instead of becoming a navigator, a flight engineer, a private pilot or an airplane mechanic, because there is more prestige and honor of being an engineer.

My father wanted me to follow his footstep and be a doctor, although, he did not pressure me of becoming one. I knew I could not be a doctor because while I was assisting my father to relieve a boil on the patient’s armpit, I felt the patient’s pain while a medicine-soaked gauze was being inserted into the opened wound, and I almost passed out and had to leave the scene. My parents just leave it to us what profession we wanted to take up and it was paramount to them that we became educated and have a dignified profession.

Vic pursued medicine, Lolita took up pharmacy, Nenita went for medicine, and Anselmo took up commerce. All of us completed our education and became professionals in our respective and diverse undertakings. In my case, I asked my parents if I could pursue a study in aeronautical engineering and were supportive with no objections at all. At that time, there were only two places where aeronautical engineering could be utilized and that would be in the Philippine Air Force and in the Philippine Air Line. It was not a desirable place to be in the Air Force unless one is a pilot as pilots were revered. To be employed in the one only operating air line would be a miracle, unless you are the son of one of the top dogs that run the air line. So, the odds of landing a good airplane job are almost nil but this didn’t deter me as I was still naïve. I had other aspiration in mind but first I had to get this aeronautical engineering degree under my belt.

So, I was off to Manila and enrolled at the FEATI Institute of Technology, the only school in the Philippines that offered a curriculum in aeronautical engineering as one of the different engineering branches available at FEATI. During this time, Vic, Lolita and Nenita were also in Manila enrolled in their respective universities, pursuing their respective course of studies. My first year in college was uneventful, trying to figure out the school system, sizing up the classmates, getting used to the different classes and getting familiar with who my professors were.

At the boarding house which was ran by Mrs. Esther Del Prado, whose family was from Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, and who my parents knew, it was packed with students from Sta. Barbara. There were her son and daughter, Alex Pontaoe, Fort Alano, Arturo Santos, the Cardozo brothers, the Bato brothers, Vic and I, my friend Honorio from Toril, and another student whom I forgot his name. There were four bedrooms up stair and in the lower floor, a dining area, one bathroom, a maid’s quarter and a sitting room. Two or three people shared a room and in the living room upstair was shared by four or five people. Vic knew all these students as he went to the elementary and high schools with them in Sta. Barbara while Vic was living in Banaong with our grandparents. Nobody griped about the over-crowdedness of the boarding house as this was typical in those days to be able to find a boarding house with reasonable rates. Everyone speak the Pangasinan dialect and it was fun and lively to be with these students, each one of us was pursuing a different course of studies and enrolled at different universities.

At the end of the school year, at the start of the long recess practically all students studying in Manila went home to their respective provinces, including us. We took the ship that plied the Manila-Mindanao route and this sea trip took about five days.

My parent bought a small John Deere type tractor for the coconut farm we had in Tagabuli. During the long school vacation, Juan and I went to Tagabuli to run the tractor to pull the harrow (several metal dicks connected together with a shaft) with four shafts and could cut a 10 feet swat vegetation in one pass. Juan was raised by my parents and was the son of one of our maid. I don’t exactly the circumstances of how Juan came about but he was considered to be our ‘cousin’. Juan did errands for the family and lived with us. Anyway, I operated the tractor with the harrow in tow and Juan rode also in the tractor and his job was to untangle the vegetation that wrapped between the harrow dicks. We did this operation to control the vegetation that grows under the coconut trees such that during coconut harvest, the fruits that fell to the ground can be found. Juan and I spent the night in the farm in the house of the caretaker and on the next day resumed the harrowing operation of the area we did not finished the day before. We repeated this harrowing operation once in every three weeks.

While I was not doing work in the farm, I or Vic took turns driving the family car, a Pontiac, to take our mother to her regular trips to the city to buy medicine supplies for the drugstore and for Mama to collect rental money on her various rental properties. Vic and I maneuvered to the car to see who got to the driver seat first and be the driver for that day. I didn’t recollect that Vic ever work in the farm as he was raised differently by our paternal grandparents. I was more of a worker than any of my brothers.

First row, 2nd from the left
In my sophomore year of college, I knew who I would be chummy-chummy with and was getting used to the rigors of classroom works and school extracurricular activities. ROTC was a mandatory participation and Saturday mornings were devoted to ROTC training, military classes and formation drills.

In my junior year of college, school life was getting more interesting. This was my fourth year in ROTC since I took ROTC during my Liberal Arts schooling at the Mindanao College. At the start of the school year in ROTC, I was assigned the rank of Lt. Colonel and was attached to the staff of the ROTC battalion commander. I was issued a sword as from the ranks of a lieutenant to colonel; the officers carried swords during the ROTC drills. This also means that I had to have a lady sponsor for social ROTC functions and I didn’t have one, so a lady sponsor was assigned to me. In fact, two lady sponsors were assigned to me because the primary sponsor was not dependable as she was a fledgling movie actress with many commitments.

I was also invited to join the Phi Iota Tau fraternity, whose membership was by invitation only and was composed of students with better than average grades. There was hazing involved and some of the things the members required us to do in public was embarrassing and humiliating. The one aspect of hazing I did like was to deliver a bouquet of roses to the members’ sweetheart, wherever she might be, at her home or in her class at another university. I did all what was required of me and was accepted as a full pledge fraternity brother. School classes were going fine and I was passing in all of my class subjects. At the end of my junior year, I graduated from ROTC and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Philippine Air Force Reserve.

Again, during the long school year recess, we headed home again to Davao on the slow boat to be with our parents. Juan and I resumed our work in the coconut farm, operating the tractor with the harrow dicks in tow, going between rows of coconut trees. Vic and I resumed our race to the car driver’s seat and the one who got there first was the one who drove the car to the city for Mama to do her errands.

Then, it was time again to head back to Manila on a slow boat to finish my studies. This time I didn’t have the ROTC as a distraction to my studies. I was able to focus more on what my next step would be after graduation. Before I left Davao, my parents and I were in the opinion that I should go to America to further my studies, to establish a new life there and if possible, to make America my new home. So, in my senior year at FEATI, I started to investigate the universities in the US where I could pursue my graduate study program. I talked to people who had been to the US, either as tourist, student, or persons who had just returned to the Philippines upon completion of their educational pursuit.

I also took up flying lessons at FEATI since it had a flying school program and was equipped with three World War II Piper Cub L4 observation airplanes. I told myself that if I were going to be an aeronautical engineer, I should be familiar with an airplane’s flight characteristics and should know how to pilot one. I signed up for flying lessons and soloed after 8 hours of flight hours. From there, I occasionally flew alone as my allowance would tolerate. On some occasions, a more advanced student pilot flew with me, for him to accumulate flight hours without paying for the flight hours, who taught me how to execute some complicated maneuvers, such as the spin, stall, split S, the loop, and touch and go on a grassy airfield. I had accumulated about 24 flight hours when I decided not to waste anymore my parent’s hard earned money.

I was informed by one of my professor that there was a FEATI graduate who was undergoing graduate study at Purdue University. I was able to contact him by mail correspondence and asked for guidance and suggestions on anything relative to seeking admission to the graduate school at Purdue and some other dumb questions on life in the US. There was also a FEATI graduate couple who just returned from Purdue who gave me some pointers, among them was to take the Greyhound bus from my disembarkation point to Indiana so I could see the country, the prairie, the cities and the farmlands. I also read in the newspaper the appeal and advantages of taking a freight ship across the Pacific Ocean, which turned out to be a big mistake.

After all the research and self-examinations, I decided to apply for admission at Purdue and also applied for a student visa at the US Embassy in Manila. My senior year studies at FEATI was progressing well and I was getting good grades in all of my subjects. I had to get good grades otherwise my admission to the graduate school would be denied. I had no other options as the destiny I had established for myself had been mapped out. However, study and no play, would lead to a dull life. For us as boarding students in Manila, we had to keep ourselves occupied during the weekend. In some universities, there would be school extracurricular activities or social functions conducted on Saturdays. That left Sundays for going to church in the morning and the afternoon was free. At my boarding house, each of us scattered in different direction according to his own fancy. In general, Sunday afternoons were spent visiting one’s girl friend, loved ones, going to the movies, going park or amusement centers to kill time, or be brave enough to go court the woman that shot an arrow into one’s heart. In my junior year, I became acquainted with three young ladies worth pursuing to become good friends but careful enough not to be distracted from my commitment to go abroad.
On ------ I, along with seven other male classmates, graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.
Fred is seated on the right