AN ODE TO MOTHER
SALVACION CENTENO JOSUE was the typical provincial lass who migrated to the big city and made good. She was born on August 8, 1930 at Vigan, Ilocos Sur, where hardy folks survive through farming, usually tobacco and cash crops along the mountain ranges in between an unfriendly China Sea, now rechristened West Philippine Sea. She was born to Pauline Centeno, whose parentage was prominent in their town. (Grandfather Benedicto is a former priest, an artist of great skill. Up to the present, the sculptures in the main plaza of Vigan, across the municipal hall and the church, lay a corner stone where all his artworks are installed. He was formerly a priest but was entranced to leave the religious life to marry a pure Irish, grandmother Michaela. In between academic load, he was an art tutor also of a youthful scholar, who later would become President of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino.), and Justiniano Josue, a tall and reserved gentleman who would later leave his family, proceeded to explore the world in the US Navy—at that time, the US, since it was the American regime in the country, the youth were encourage to join the US military—circumnavigated the world, stayed a while as his base in Australia, where he contracted another family, and later in his retirement, chose to stay in the Philippines. Justiniano, or Dad, to his brood, was calm, silent most of the time, very reserved and soft spoken. He was also a good artisan. He, however never lived long enough to display his skill. Grandmother Paulina died earlier than Justiniano, a few summers apart. Grandmother died of breast cancer. Grandfather died of old age. He was older by several years than grandmother.
Salvacion or Sally to her family is the elder among two children. She was followed by Gregorio, eight years younger. Greg was the baby boy Sally would coddle and straddle during World War II, when all the people of Ilocos Norte would evacuate their town and hide in the mountain side. Those according to her, were perilous and trying times. They must have to invent everything and cook anything to survive. She would grow up in the little barrio of Bulbulala, on the fringes of the capital town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and would later migrate to Manila to take her college years. She lived with her relatives in Dos Castillas St., Sampaloc, Manila and after a few years, would graduate from the course Bachelors degree in Elementary Education at Far Eastern University. Thereafter, she would be employed at the Department of Public Works, as staff secretary. The office then of the department was still situated at the main headquarters of the Bureau of Post at Lawton (now Plaza Bonifacio), in Intramuros, Manila.
She was a dutiful staffer, self assured and composed, industrious to the point of being a career woman until she was introduced to a swaggering and boastful guy, Carlos Legaspi Tesoro, who would later propose marriage to her. Carlos was then a postal teller at the Bureau of Post, very ambitious, highly motivated and determined. She was impressed by his elaborate projections and bearing. He was on the other hand smitten by her modesty and docility.
Carlos was a go-getter, a man in a hurry. He courted Sally, and in a whirlwind of wooing, the couple decided to tie the knot. Their wedding, quite opulent at that time, grand to a certain extent, was held at the Church in Sampaloc, Manila and were graced by prominent members of the community. Carlos had the flair for celebration and his marriage was one great event. They were married on June 15, 1952.
Two years later, a boy would be born in the relationship and six months later, would be christened Venancio. Another year later, a girl would be born, Theodora. During those times, Sally would concentrate on her children. She would never return back to her former post and would rather focus all her efforts in the running the household. She would be joined later by her brother, who was orphaned and would be part of the family for quite sometime.
Sally would regale her children with tales during the war, coach them tirelessly in their schooling and would be a doting mother, a protective parent, a defensive pillar and an obliging and loyal wife to her ambitious and hardwearing husband. She would stay at the background, taking charge of the children and nurturing them to their fullest potential.
She would maintain the household, preserve stability and sustain peace even when at times her husband’s active posturing would invite intrigues and scheming by his office. She was the strength behind the period when her husband would be distressed by court cases and a string of incidents that would impair their life’s savings. She tried, however awkward, to get back to work, to be employed and contribute to family coffers. Her children were still in school and her husband beginning to wane in desperation. She became an underwriter to an insurance firm but that would not be long, She resigned because she wanted to supervise her children and she could not stand the sacrifice. She would rather scrap her savings and manage the expenses to the hilt. She was about to arrange a good budget schedule until an unimagined incident happened. Her husband would be subjected to a major operation. That means, the family bread winner would be out of commission for three months. The hospital, medicine, all the expenses had a toll on the family. She could not imagine her children dropping out from school. She could not even contemplate on selling conjugal properties. The husband and wife decided instead to live under the regime of loan and credit. For months, she would supervise and guide her son on the procedures in filing documents and in paying off loans. She cannot disturb the younger child because of scholarship. The son, an ordinary student and wise on the ways of the streets would be fine for her to expose on the elements of seeking loans and seeking more credits.
It would not take long, when her husband would be back in harness. She would inspire him to achieve greater heights in his career. She would coach him to sustain his work in the academe and would further prepare him for weekly sideline on tutorials. She cannot however discourage her husband’s fetish on attending feasts, enjoying a surfeit of delicious foods. Until, one day, the husband would again be hospitalized and have to undergo another major surgery in his internal organs. She bore the brunt again and in the process, she broke down. She suffered a stroke. This was an instance when both of them would be hospitalized, the husband at the GSIS hospital and adjacent to it, she would be confined at the Philippine Heart Center. Both of them were nearly in coma, both of them under intensive care. It was a sorrowful and agonizing period for the family.
This time however, the children have their respective families, and already of age to lend succour to their beleaguered parents. It did not take long, when they would come back, however weak, but in a way stable.
The son, Venancio, was already reaping recognition in his work. The daughter, Theodora, already a ranking official. Sally’s effort and sacrifices paid off. Carlos’ audacity as patriarch was a success.
Life was beginning to take a favourable spin, from a struggling family to a family of achievement until one day, fate would create havoc on them. Sally, stricken with three successive strokes, and still relishing her role in the professional attainment of her children, would be a casualty to a violent crime.
August 26, 1989, at the age of 59, she would meet her Creator. She was felled with 17 stab wounds, 5 brutal lacerations would land on her breast, the treachery and perfidy of her destiny. The perversion of society has been inflicted on her innocent and spotless life. She would pass away as immaculate and pure as she can. She would pass away unsullied and untainted with anything bad. She has become the Guiding Angel for her family from that unfortunate day on.
Today, if she is still alive, she would have turned 81 last August, 2011. But fate made her work in heaven for her family and it has been 22 years already.