I. THE INTERVIEW: Part 1
(From a tape-recorded INTERVIEW between ERMIN GARCIA and Fr. JUNI JESENA, S.J. at the Sunday Punch office, Dagupan City, December 22, 1965)
Excerpts from the words of ERMIN GARCIA:
I had a girlfriend.
Of course it was known all around town that we were sweethearts. I used to visit her in the marketplace. Morning, afternoon—I’d be there. And my friends used to ask me, “How much did you sell?” And even these Chinese, they say, “During the war, we were always watching you with your girlfriend.”
I was very idealistic and this girlfriend of mine was a member of the Catholic Study Club. So was PAULING, who became Mrs. Ermin Garcia. Pauling came over from Bolinao, with her family. And they stayed with some of their relatives in Pantal.
The first time I saw Pauling was when she took part in a Rizal Day Program. She sang. And then there was this orchestra. They got her as a singer for the orchestra here in Dagupan. And whenever there would be a dance in Dagupan she would be asked to sing.
I wrote two plays and I directed them myself…our group put up the plays… benefit. They were both a success. They were liked.
And the second time that we were going to stage a play, Pauling had the female lead role. One of my friends played the male lead role. I was the director.
One time when I went to visit my girl in the market, she was angry. She was jealous of Pauling. And I never had…nothing at all…never. Pauling was just a girl to me. Just another girl. With talent. That’s all. Could sing, and could act. My girl kept on… sometimes she would nag, and sometimes she would… she had this sickness… when she’d get very angry, she would collapse and faint. Shock. And I think she had an illness in the liver, jaundice.
One time, she collapsed in a fit of jealousy in the store and what I did was I lifted her, and from inside the market I carried her to a drugstore outside market. Boy, the town was again buzzing with that. My friends were kidding me about it.
My girlfriend kept on being jealous, absolutely with no basis. Even in church. You know, Pauling used to sing in the choir. And this girlfriend of mine would be in the pews there inside the church. And every time Pauling would sing, this other girl would collapse.
The congregation would be laughing. And I pitied Pauling. Poor girl. She was innocent. So I tried to be… I pitied her… and I started to appreciate her ways because she, Pauling, really is the docile type. Very docile and always smiling, a kind word for everybody. But the other girl was a spitfire. And I was thinking. “My golly, if I marry this girl, we’ll never have a day of peace. But with Pauling, I would be very happy.”
And then that pity developed into you know, appreciation, and then I parted with my girl and eventually I got married with Pauling.
My love life is very… is a very interesting one. My friends tell me, “Ermin, boy, you take a vacation from the Sunday Punch and start writing your biography, and it will be a best-seller!”
Do you know that I… even before I met this girl, I had another girlfriend before the war, a senior Pharmacy student from UST. And she was brought home to Balanga, Bataan by her father at the outbreak of the war.
After two weeks I followed from Manila, to Balanga. There was no transportation, but I managed to get to Balanga, and they were all surprised to find me there.
When Bataan fell in April I went to Manila right away and I tried to find out where they were, from the relatives. And it so happened that a messenger had just arrived from their evacuation camp, Barrio Consuelo. They made their move after the fall of Bataan to this Barrio Consuelo across the Manila Bay going towards Hagonoy. The place could only be reached by boat.
I brought along my casero. He accompanied me, because I cannot speak Tagalog. When we got there to Hagonoy, I said, “We will go to Barrio Consuelo!” “What? Do you know that to go to Barrio Consuelo you have to take the boat for five hours, and only yesterday the Japanese were machine-gunning all the boats passing there, because that is the only escape route of the USAFFE. From Bataan they sail and they take this route.” “You heard that?” Asked my casero. “Better turn back.” “What ‘turn back?’ I am already here. I am going through with it,” I said. “You expect me to go with you?” He asked. The Japanese machine-gunned every male that they saw. We could not even get a boatman to ferry me.
We finally found one, and at a very high price. And the casero bade me goodbye. And the way he bade me goodbye was as though that was the last time he was going to see me alive. He was… he was crying.
He even made me write a note to my parents that he was trying to prevail on me to return to Manila with him, but that I refused… that he should not be blamed. I made him the note. “All right, here, what are you worrying about?”
And I slept by a riverbank, in a small… just a shed, on a dike, on the swamps. To wait for the dawn. And before sunrise, we pulled off. I was there by noontime. And when they saw me there, boy, the father of the girl almost fainted. He said, “How are we going to bring you back?”
I just wanted to visit her. And the whole camp was agog.
ACJ: How did you begin your newspaper career?
EG: I always was very fond of writing. During liberation I immediately put out a newspaper. The US Army, when they read by paper, boy, they liked it, and they liked my editorials. They were flying my newspaper, air-dropping it over the occupied areas. They were printing, boy, about one hundred thousand copies per issue. And they were giving me material: the paper, the ink, because it was very hard to get paper then. Finally I had my own newspaper, THE PIONEER HERALD.
(End of INTERVIEW: Part 1)
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