People and Places – Miriam 2 – “He is a really incredible man”

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Mark: Ok, so, a minute ago you were talking about your uncle and you said that he was one of the pioneers in Davao.
Miriam: Yes. He is a really incredible man. He is kind of a farmer/philosopher.
Mark: Uh-huh.
Miriam: He could have owned vast tracts of land, when he first went to Davao, because the natives …
Mark: But where did he… Where did he go there from?
Miriam: From Cebu. From Carmen, Cebu. He was just like an adventurer. He was a teenager bored with life. He didn’t have … you know.. opportunities to go to college in Cebu because his father died right after the war.
Mark: So this was just after the war?
Miriam: Right after the war, yeah. So he went to Davao and he was one of those people who got in first. I mean outside of Davao. Most of the people who were there were the natives, right?
Mark: Who were the natives?
Miriam: There were the Bogobos. There were different tribes, the Bogobos, you know, a few Muslims. They were really ignorant. They did not know the value of land, so they would just exchange one hectare of land, for example, for two cans of sardines.
Mark: Really?
Miriam: They had so much land and they were not titled. You know because the government did not really extend their control yet, to that territory. I guess right after the war things were pretty confused.
Mark: Right.
Miriam: The Japanese owned plantations, there but, you know, after they were defeated in the war I guess a lot of the lands were up for grabs. I do not know what happened exactly but my uncle said … people said … he could have owned …
Mark: However much he wanted.
Miriam: Yeah, however much he wanted … So other people who went there with him did. In fact a lot of the big names in Davao now, my uncle knows very well did, but my uncle chose just to own a few hectares of land.
Mark: And have a quiet life.
Miriam: Have a quiet life as a farmer and so he gave two hectares to my mother and father when we moved to Davao. Two or three hectares, I am not sure.
Mark: Uh-huh.
Miriam: Full of plants. Durian trees. Coffee and cacao, and well bananas, banana trees, you know, lots of different kinds of plants.
Mark: And he was a farmer/philosopher. What do you mean by that?
Miriam: Yeah because he … he tills the land but he doesn’t … he is not so desperate to make money off the land.He finds time to read, for example, and talk to and discuss ideas with people. People actually come to him … to his house and talk to him.
Mark: What kind of ideas?
Miriam: Just about the world. About people. About how we should live. You know. Every time he goes home he tells me how proud he is that he never left Davao. A lot of his friends left and are bored with their lives. They are stuck in the suburbs. An easy life … and then they get sick and come home to the Philippines.
Mark: Wow.
Miriam: Whereas he really values his life of, you know, being a farmer … like working three hours in the morning … and coming back to have lunch with the family and not to work in the afternoon. You know, whatever, because he does not really have an employer.
Mark: He is an older man, now?
Miriam: He is in his seventies.
Mark: Right. He is still healthy?
Miriam: Oh no! He is in his eighties. My mother is eighty-three. He must be eighty.
Mark: Wow!
Miriam: He smoked a pack a cigarettes a day throughout his life until he was seventy-five and the doctor told him finally to stop otherwise he would die. He started coughing. Yeah, he is still alive. He is a very thin, wiry man, with very alert eyes. You cannot intimidate my uncle. He really has his own world and he is very proud of it, you know.
Mark: Wow!
Miriam: Yeah so he has been a very independent man. In fact a lot of people who knew him in Davao when it first started out there really respect him. They always come and …
Mark: What is his name?
Miriam: Santos Ferer.
Mark: You call him Uncle Santos?
Miriam: Yes.
Mark: Wow! He sounds like a great guy.
Miriam: He really is a great guy. I really admire him. He has nine children and he worked so hard to send them all to university. He is not enticed by, you know, the glitters of city life and material things. Really, generally he is a philosopher.
Mark: Wow!
Miriam: But my brother says he is kind of an old-fashioned guy and the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Because, you know…you still see him outside his house tending to his… coffee. He has a drier. He dries the coffee.
Mark: He dries his own coffee?
Miriam: He grows his own coffee. Yeah, he is a great guy. I really like him.
He was seventeen when he went to Davao.
Mark: Seventeen?
Miriam: Seventeen. Yeah. And met his wife there and they, yeah, have nine children. One already died.
Mark: The same as your mother?
Miriam: My mother went after he was already there for quite a number of years. My mother …
Mark: She has nine children as well?
Miriam: Yeah.
Mark: Both the brother and sister have nine children?
Miriam: Yeah, but five from the different man.
Mark: Yeah yeah.
Miriam: And four with my father. We never really lived together, the five children and the four children together. The five children lived with the grandmother in Cebu. My grandmother got very old so they lived with different aunts. You know. Like two lived with one aunt and another one lived with another aunt
Mark: Right. Right.
Miriam: And one lived with another aunt.
Mark: You have really big families in the Philippines.
Miriam: Very big family. But even now, we are very close. Yeah, we are very close. I am very close to my half-sisters. Anytime there is an occasion like the birthday of my mother they always come …
Mark: Right.
Miriam: … to my mother’s house to celebrate and party. You know. From all over the place they come. From Cebu. Now there is one who lives, the eldest one, in Davao, so she is close by. And three live in Cebu so every time there is a big celebration they come for a big celebration two or three times a year, so, yeah, Philippine families are pretty big and pretty close, I suppose.