Orosa was 16 years old when he was orphaned. He was left with several siblings
to attend to. So he had to learn the ways of this world early.
Life in Cabusao, Camarines Sur was simple. It was after all a barrio. The only means of livelihood was the sea and the palengke. He chose the former. Victorio became a fisherman. He started out as an apprentice with some of the older fishermen. Through fishing he was able to support his younger siblings. Back then housing was no problem. They needed no titles and what nots. They just camped on a place, built a nipa hut and then make it a home.
As a bachelor, Victorio Orosa was quite a man. He was imposing. In a place where most people never even reach the height of 5'3", he was 5'9" (so that's where I got my height, I'm 6'1"). He never finished any formal schooling he learned the basics of the three r's through the "maestros" (informal schools). Perhaps that would be within the levels of grade 2 or so in our present American originated public school system of elementary and high school. But he was well endowed with other skills. He was THE fisherman in their time and place. He had the biggest banca of them all, 10 meters in length. He was the only one who could push that banca to the sea when it is parked by the beach. His strength was legendary in their town. Nana Conching said, he was the "idol" of the town's youth. Aside from this strength, he had one more trait that people respected. He was righteous. Nana Conching kept on telling me that his life may have been so simple ("payak" in Tagalog), but he was as righteous as his life was simple. He knew of no vice and lived off on no sin. He had simple but admirable principles and he lived by them.
That is perhaps the reason why my grandlola's (Lucresia Araguirang's) mother wanted him for her daughter.
And their love story deserves to be a novel. This is how it went.
Lucresia Araguirang was a mestiza. Her father was a Spanish friar. Her mother was from Cabusao. Blondish hair, blue eyes, fair skin. She was quite a maiden.
Victorio, or Toyong to his friends, was by now in his late 20's.
Lucresia, or Lucre, 19, was supposed to be engaged to someone else, a rich bachelor named Don Facundo. They lived in the next town from Cabusao.
One day, Toyong was invited by the tinyente del barrio of the next town to attend a wedding. In that wedding, Lucre was also present. This was Toyong's first (and last) meeting with Lucre. Their next meeting was during the "pamanhikan".
While they were dining after the wedding, the tinyente del barrio who was an uncle of Toyong, told him, "You see that girl. That beautiful mestiza over there, you
will marry her."
Toyong of course took it as a joke from his uncle. Besides, Lucre was going to be married within three weeks from that meeting.
But someone else intervened. Lucre's mother.
Lucre's mother met and got to know Toyong. She found Victorio a respectable man. She wanted no one else for her daughter. (Perhaps it's because of where she's coming from, she was a local, and she probably had a discrimination against Mestizos, Don Facundo was a mestizo).
My great-grandmother made a way for Lucre to get out of the engagement. Everything was set by this time. The sacks of rice were already prepared, the "kawayans" were already prepared (I have no idea why they had to prepare bamboo for the occassion, I forgot to ask Nana Conching about that, I was engrossed in this movie-like love story, to think that it happened to my great-grandpa, everything. Everything except the "dowry" which was going to be delivered this afternoon by 3pm.
She, Lucre's mom, said... "if they will not arrive by three o' clock (alas tres en punto) exactly, I will consider that a great disrespect, and I will not entertain them (Don Facundo's party)."
By 2 pm or so, Victorio, with his uncle, arrived at the house to "visit" Lucre. Lucre's mom showed him the affection of a mother. Entertained him as if he were the groom-to-be. Lucre was, understandably, infuriated.
Don Facundo's party arrived 15 or so minutes after 3 pm. They were no longer entertained.
Toyong's visit was already the last. It was considered the "pamanhikan". Lucre's mom wouldn't have it otherwise.
They were wed. Toyong built for them a house near the beach (a stone's throw, said Nana Conching). All this time, Lucre was still apprehensive.
It was said that Lucre tried sleeping on top of a "baul" (a big wooden box) and wouldn't let Toyong touch her. She was, in nana Conhing's word, like a senorita in the house. She wouldn't work at home, wouldn’t clean the house, she wouldn’t even lift a finger to do any chores.
Toyong did not mind it, he had some house help. (Nana Conching said, he was "mapag-ampon". He sort of like adopted kids and young people around, and took them in). These ampons of his did the housework for Lucre.
They were off on a rough start.
Jordan “TJ” Orosa
March 11, 2003