by Baylan Megino
It has been one year since Honofre Salvador Megino, my father, died from Alzheimer’s and complications of pneumonia. Though met gently with peace and love, it’s not his death that I choose to remember. Instead, I asked my mom, Elizabeth Mendoza Megino, to help me piece together his life.
Luis Megino Family: Honofre, Jorja, Teofanes, Felino, Genoveva, Luis, Purificacion
Honofre Salvador Megino was born in 1924 near Urdaneta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, the fourth and last son of teacher Luis Megino and his wife, Genoveva Salvador Megino. In the late 1920s, with five children to feed, Luis went to the U.S. with his brother Simplicio to work in California’s agricultural fields.
As a youngster in Pangasinan, Honofre’s brother Patricio (son #2) had shown such promise that he was sent to boarding school in Lingayen. Patricio then went to the United States in 1928 to continue his education in San Francisco.
Growing up in the provinces, Patricio learned to play billiards on the family billiard table located on the ground floor below the elevated house. With little to no financial support from family, this knowledge allowed him to survive in the United States while he attended college at San Francisco State.
During this time, Patricio and others wrote a Filipino newspaper that eventually included written pieces from Carlos Bulosan. While not positive, we believe Patricio and Mr. Bulosan met during one of Patricio’s summers as a salmon cannery worker in Alaska.
Later in the 1930s, Patricio married Felipa Suguitan, a widow who shared a seamstress shop in San Francisco with Mary Rillera. The couple eventually moved to Centerville (part of current-day Fremont) and shared their home with Clement, one of Felipa’s relatives. Their social circle included Tommy Clarin, Bernard (last name not remembered), and Sixto (last name not remembered).
Meanwhile, back in the Philippines, Genoveva asked the remaining young children, Felino (son #3), Honofre (son #4), and Purificacion (their youngest child and only daughter), to write letters imploring Luis to return home. By 1938 Luis had returned as part of of the Repatriation Act. In exchange for his one-way ticket home, Luis agreed never to set foot on U.S. soil again. (NOTE: He did visit in 1964 for the Seattle World’s Fair.)
When World War II broke out, the Megino family lived in Manila’s Intramuros. Honofre was attending Bohol Junior College in Manila and taking a national correspondence course for radio work. When Felino took a class in stenography, Honofre taught himself by studying Felino’s textbooks. The two brothers took the Philippine National Civil Service Exam, and ranked #1 and #2 for Secretary/Stenographer. At the outbreak of the war, many Filipino students stopped attending school because they thought their credits would not be recognized.
In April 1942, Uncles Andronico and Teopilo Marana were Philippine Scouts.They survived the Bataan Death March. However, because they were in such bad physical condition, the brothers were among the Filipinos released early on — the Japanese soldiers thought they would die anyway. Other Filipinos along the road helped care for them, and quickly nursed them back to health.
The two Marana brothers returned to Pangasinan and formed a guerrilla unit, which Honofre and Felino quietly joined. Dad was accepted to work in the Mayor’s Office in Manila, and was responsible for writing the travel passes in Japanese Kanji.
Now embedded in the Manila Mayor’s office, Honofre secretly wrote passes for the guerrillas to travel between Manila and the provinces. This was a very dangerous time for the Megino brothers, because they held a list of all the guerrillas in their unit. However, food was scarce in the city, and providing a travel pass allowed the guerrillas to bring much-needed food from the provinces back to relatives in Manila.
Honofre seldom spoke of those days, but once told the story of one unfortunate guerrilla. Several of them were gathered at a home when the Japanese soldiers came to the door. Immediately the tension was heightened when a woman entered the house wearing the traditional informant’s hood. Only able to see her eyes, the angry woman pointed to her boyfriend, and he was swiftly taken away. As Honofre told it, he and Felino were “sweating bullets” as they were questioned because the secret list was tucked into the stairtread not far from where the soldiers stood. If the soldiers had searched and discovered the list, many fellow guerrillas and relatives would have died.
While on a trip to visit his family in the provinces, Honofre received orders in Manila to report for military service, but by the time he arrived back in Manila, his unit had already left. Had he been able to report on time as ordered, he would have been in a unit that did not survive the Corregidor battles.
Eventually, Honofre joined his guerrilla unit in Pangasinan, which engaged in skirmishes as far north as Trinidad Valley near Baguio. Andronico Marana, however, would not allow Honofre to participate in the skirmishes.
One day while traveling on the main mountain road between Baguio and Banaue, the truck they were riding rolled off the road and plunged down the mountainside. Honofre grabbed onto the trunk of a large shrub, and reached out in time as a woman tumbled on her way down. He held onto her, saved only by that one shrub on the side of the mountain, until they were rescued. He was hospitalized for his injuries, then rejoined the guerrilla unit.
During the war, access to medical care was difficult, if not impossible to obtain. The eldest Megino son, Teofanes, was a rising young lawyer, but he died from an untreated illness. He left behind his young widow, Jorja.
On the other side of the Pacific, Patricio worked for the Office of War Information (OWI) as one of the radio voices who sent information to the Philippines (see his picture in the book, “One Nation”). He also raised chickens with Felipa in Centerville.
Always trying to better the lives of Filipino farmers, Patricio tried to organize Filipino farmers to sell their produce to the U.S. government. At the time, in order to get a government contract, you had to submit a truckload of product (in this case, celery) for a random inspection. The farmers packed a truck with celery, but the truckload was rejected. The farmers suspected the rejection was due to discrimination, and did not make another attempt.
At war’s end, Honofre was a Master Sergeant in the 57th Infantry Regiment. He was recruited into the Central Intelligence Corps (CIC), which he described as a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Edmund J. Hahn was a lawyer and FBI agent from New York, and Honofre was assigned as his clerk. Mr. Hahn practiced his Catholic faith as they traveled around Pangasinan, and was Honofre’s sponsor when he converted from a member of the Aglipayan Church to the Catholic Church.
Patricio petitioned Honofre under a student visa, and he arrived in the U.S. on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19,1947.
My dad’s birthdate was always in dispute. His mother claimed one date, his baptismal certificate showed another, and his immigration papers listed yet another date one month later. This year (2014) he would have been 90 years old.
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