Raising seven boys is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but Tatay and Nanay Rosa had done very well indeed with Fernando Jr., Benjamin, Reinaldo, Leonides, Herminio, Virgilio and Joselito. An only girl, Generosa, who came between Virgilio and Joselito, died when she was a baby, denying Rosa the little joys of braiding hair and tying ribbons. After Generosa’s death they adopted a girl, Rosalynn, but they gave her back to her father when she was 13.
But it was a whole rafter of energetic and boisterous boys that filled the life and hearth of the couple. Raising seven boys had its own extraordinary grace and robust blessings.
All the boys studied at the Baguio Central School, a public school where Tatay was the president of the PTA. Owing to his extraordinary work in rehabilitating the elementary schools in Baguio after the war, he stayed on as president of the PTA Federation for twelve years, leaving it only after the last of his sons had finished elementary at Baguio Central.
All of them, with the exception of Joselito (who wad given a scholarship in the Brent High school), studied in the U.B High School. In their senior year Rey and Des were transferred by their father to the Baguio Military Institute in Baguio, the exclusive boys school that Tatay Bautista had set up with wealthy financiers from Manila and Visayas to shape up hyperactive and misbehaving rich kids. Not that Rey and Des needed a shake up; they were in fact exemplary students, champion orators in the Northern Luzon Voice of Democracy.
Des went on to become an American Field Scholar, lived in American family for one yearn and when he returned to the Philippines he chose to study in Silliman where he shone in interdepartment oratorical jousts. A year later he transferred to U.P. Diliman, where he got involved in fraternity brawls. Hauled to Baguio University, with strict instructions to his teachers that he be treated as anybody else, he finally finished an A.B. in Social Sciences. He served as Baguio City Councilor for eight years. He’s now a successful realtor and restaurateur, married to Aurora Tamayo, from Baguio, a B.S.E. major in English from St. Theresa’s College. Their ethnic restaurant, Bonuan, started out as a French restaurant in partnership with Robert Fox, a connoisseur of French cuisine. Des and Aurora have, so far, seven children.
Rhey, on the other hand, finished a B.S. from Ateneo and had wanted to take up medicine. But as he was being groomed to take over as president of U.B., he took up instead a masteral course in U.P. and Centro Escolar. But before he could defend his masteral thesis he was drafted into the university. He also become president of the PACU, the organization of private schools, board member of the PERAA (a retirement plan for teachers), and the Center for Educational Measurements. It was during his term, 1989, when PACU carried out an unprecedented lockout as stern warning to the subversive groups on campus as well as to force the hand of the government to impose sanctions on the destructive minority elements. Rhey is married to Divina “Debb” and well-know concert pianist. She has performed here and abroad and recorded two longplays (“Bayan Ko” and Romance”); both with Redentor Romero on violin). She now takes care of four children, while running a travel agency in Baguio and occasionally organizing musical events on Baguio’s Campuses.
The first son to become the president of the University was Fernando Jr., the eldest, who took over from his father when he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1971. Fer finished A.B. Economics in U.P and M.A. Economics in Fordham University. He died in 1988 of cancer of the lymph nodes. His widow, Milagros Nee Dauz, from Bacnotan, La Union, now sits in the board. Milagros lives with her four children in San Francisco, California, where she runs a deli shop. Her daughter Lala gave birth to Tatay’s great-grandchild.
The second son Bnn finished Architecture from the National University ; after passing the board he found work in Hong Kong and then in the States where he was joined by his wife , the former Ma. Lourdes Reyes, who eventually finished her M.A. in English at the University of New York in Albany. He now has a successful private practice in Manila and a growing family that now includes grandchildren by his son Abu and daughter Ynna. And there are three other children eager to get married and produce more grandchildren for the couple.
Herminio who finished Chemical Engineering from La Salle, was named city administrator of Baguio in January of 1993. His wife, the former Leonisa de Vera from Manila and graduate of St. Joseph’s College, is the treasurer of the University of Baguio. She and Herminio so far six children, everyone of them spitting images of their mother.
Virgilio, the fifth president of the university, has a B.S. in Business Administration from U.P. and a master of science in Management from Rensailler Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He worked in the states for nine years before settling in Baguio and raising with his wife, the former Lilia Ayson Ronquillo, a native of Pampanga, and an A.B. Humanities graduate of U.P. Baguio, 10 boys and one girl (so far what wonderful prodigiousness!) Although he was the last of the Bautista boys to get married, his brothers now have little chance of catching up with him.
Joselito, the youngest, studied interior design at the Philippine School Interior Design. His second wife, the pretty Ma. Luisa “Bubut” Romillo, of Aparri, Cagayan, an A.B. Public Relaions graduate of St. Paul’s Manila, is mother to five stepchildren and two of her own.
“Nanay and I never interfered with our son’s with our sons ‘choices for their mates,nor tried to exert any influence on them,” says Tatay. Whoever they brought home or introduced to us, we accepted. My only request to my sons was, not to marry a rich girl, because she may turn out to be arrogant and domineering. Hindi naman tayo tunay na mayaman.” They gave him wealth of children instead 50 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, as of this writing.
Some days, as on reunions and birthday celebrations, the big big house on A. Bonifacio would ring the laughter of children and their boisterous playing, like in the days when seven Bautista were still boys. Since his sons had gone their separate ways to raise families of their own, Tatay has gotten used to the silence in the house, which Baguio creeps upon you with a stealthy melancholy embrace. But he – and the house – also remember rowdier times.
Tatay remembers when they were all cramped together in the upper floor in the lean-to on Session Road, sharing space with a tumble of boxes and things belonging to the school. When the Main Building on General Luna was constructed, they were all again cramped together in one of the classrooms below the library, sharing a 7x9-sq m space with two cousins of Nanay who were teachers. The children slept piled in double beds.
Five years later they moved to the Cardinal Apartment near the school to make room in 1958 that Tatay was able to construct the house on A. Bonifacio – a home of their own at last, 20 years after his wedding in 1938.
The house is perched in the side of a hill on a 1,000-sq m property that once belonged to Anido family. Tatay bought it for P20 per square meter and the alley beside it that made a convenient short-cut to General Luna for P25. He purchased the lot in 1954 and ever since then, whenever he had the money, he hoarded the construction of the house. One year, it was the wood for the floors and the walls. Another year, the GI sheets. The year after that, the bags of cement which he made into hollow blocks using the molds from the school. He bought the steelbars from secondhand dealers at Poro Point in San Fernando.
On the fourth year he invited a master carpenter from Pampanga to see if he had stored enough materials to build a house. Yes, there’s enough, the carpenter said, for a shell – no partitions, no double walling. That’s alright, Tatay said. Go ahead and start the construction. “I had to move the children out of the apartment. It was becoming so cramped some of them were squeezing themselves underneath the beds.”
Eleven months later, on December 18, 1958, the shell was ready, such as it was, for occupancy. “We had the place blessed and we carried into house a jar of salt and a jar of rice, for prosperity and the completion of the cycle of life.”
But there were no partitions yet, as the carpenter had projected and the bathrooms were flagrantly wide open. “Nagkikitakita kami lahat doon,” recalls Tatay amused. That first summer he raised enough money to put up the partitions. The nest summer, partitions of the double walling. The third summer, the closets and the rest of the double walling. The fourth summer, the house was painted. The fifth summer, work began on the basement and was finished in three summers. In effect, it took all of eight years to finish the house. It is a measure of the strength of their character and the indomitability of their spirit that in building their dream, whether school or home, Nanding and Rosing always had to work long and hard and patiently. It was the same thing when, after his stint with ConCon, and having relinquished his official duties in the school, and he went into business.
At first the little savings her had he invested in real estate and, very judiciously, in the money market. And then slowly through the years he put up the Ventureville Subdivision, a five hectare property in Campo Filipino north of the city; a leasing company; the FRB Hotel at the corner of General Luna and Assumption, which had 33 rooms and several restaurants, used also as practicum for Hotel and Restaurant Management students; and the Baguio Precision Corporation at the Baguio EPZA, ehich manufacturers copper and brass fittings airplanes and machineries.
With his son Reinaldo he also put up rural banks in Bokod, Kapangan, Lagawe, Itogon and Sagada. He had put up the capital, bought the equipment and furnishings, and then passed on the banks to his sons for management.
Naktaynay (for “Anak, Tatay,Nany”) was established as the umbrella organization for these enterprises, including the University of Baguio. In 1984 the FRB Foundation (for Fernando and Rosa Bautista) was set up to administer the FRB Trust Fund. Only the board of Directors of the University of Baguio can determine how the interest will be spent. As of 1992, 40 percent of the interest was used for the physical rehabilitation of the school, 25 percent for the replenishment of laboratory equipment and apparatuses, 10 percent for books, 10 percent for charity, and 10 percent to take care of inflation.
IN THE meantime, the matriarch Benedicta Gonzaga Bautista, lived a life worthy of her venerable years, in the warmth and comfort of home and family, although she might have occasionally missed the excitement of the pasugalan of Palumpong and the familiar, sweetishly pungent smells of the sweltering factory of La Grandeza. She basked in the doting attention of her son Ding and his wife Rosing until she died on August 7, 1976, at the age of 93, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Fernando’s brother in Manila had done well by themselves. Conrado Bautista prospered as a professional electrical and mechanical engineer. Unfortunately he met an untimely death in April 10, 1982. After drinking with some friends and relatives in his brother’s house in Baguio, he was, in a boisterous spirit, going down the stairs when he fell several steps below. He died on the spot. Amado, who died earlier in 1974, earned a reputation as a reliable and competent printer, a profession and enterprise he bequeathed to his sons.
All this time, Nanay, who had also retired from the board, plunged with greater ardour into her pious works. She joined the Mother Butler’s Guild and spent much of her time embroidering vestments for the priests and sewing altars covers. With the nuns she supported a mission among the children of fishermen in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and Sto. Thomas, La Union.
She was also kept busy attending meetings of the Baguio Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet Chapter, the Soroptimist, the Baguio Rotary Anns, all of which she was president of at one time or another. And always in a manner that marked her as a respected academician and the wife of University founder. “She was always quiet, very spare with her words,” says Mrs. Angela Abellera, who was with Mrs. Bautista for many years in the Rotary Anns. “But when she talks she talks sense. The members always deferred to her. When there’s a controversy of a divisive question, we seek her opinion. And she could always be depended upon to take the lead in raising funds for calamity victims. She organized bazaars and benefits shows saw to it that everybody contributed in one way or another. Of course, she was always gave the biggest contribution.”
Mrs. Abellera, meticulously made-up and looking grand and glorious in her octogenarian years, belonged to Baguio’s old society, which counted the Zarates and Lopezes , among others, an uppercrust distinguished for old money and illustrious bloodline – and in the case of Mrs. Abellera, an eccentric philanthropy. The family of Mrs. Abellera, a pharmacist married to a doctor, used to own a drugstore along Session road (where Mercury now stands). As an act of gratitude to the dispatcher who had worked for them for 15 years, they gave the drugstore to him, lock, stock, and barrel. Alas, the dispatcher was not match to the gift or the opportunity and he eventually sold the rights to Mercury.
Simplicity, and, especially, frugality ate the traits that Nanay is most remembered for. “They could afford the best restaurants and to live grandly but they are matipid, even in the food,” observes Mrs. Abellera. (Tatay admits he and Nanay had never really liked dining out, although their children are full-fledged bon vivants.) Mrs. Mercedes Filler, who was a constant friend of Nanay’s in her Bible-study years, remembers commuting on the bus with her in Manila (to listen to a preacher at the Ateneo Gym), although she could have a car at her disposal, and spending the night with her in Spartan sleeping quarters when they were attending a conference in Pasig although she could have, again at her disposal, a room in her son’s house in Makati (“It was also then that I discovered that Rosing did exercises upon waking up in the morning,” says the ebullient Chedeng Filler).
Her wordless visibility was more persuasive than talk. Says her husband: “She hardly spoke even in board meetings. She’s not wasteful even in her words. But she always contributed the most thoroughly thought-out plan or course of action. Her frugality, practiced through the long years of hardship, came in handy in tight situations. As a treasurer of the University, she handled money so well that we were never delayed in the salaries of our teachers,”
A quit, wordless strictness had also served to whip the seven rowdy boys into line. In the early days when they ate and slept in one room, she enforced the strictest discipline. At the table, she’d get the ladle and distribute the food among the children so everyone got a fair share. If one did not like what was served, he was asked to leave the table, and quick as a flash the rest would be scrambling over his plate. She had always kept silently to his husband’s side, always supportive of him, never questioning his decision, although he was his intellectual equal. “In all of our 49 years of marriage, we never had a quarrel,” Tatay says. “People would say it’s a myth, but it’s true.”
Tatay could afford to indulge her every whim or fancy, but she remained austere in her tastes and thrifty to a fault. She never enjoyed shopping, even in abroad when she accompanied his husband in his travels. In fact she never did enjoy the travel – or the sports – at all. “I took her with me to many Olympic and Asian events but I practically I had to drag her along each time,” Tatay says.
She would rather have stayed home and embroider altar clothes. “She became more spiritual,” says Tatay, “and money became more and more unimportant to her. Although she was very good in handling the school’s money, she didn’t bother about her own money. She was very generous with it. She gave to the church. She gave to her sons. When she died, she had less than P11,000 in her personal bank account.”
Nanay Bautista was stricken with diabetes. “She religiously followed her diet and her doctor’s prescriptions. But she was getting on in years. She never complained about her illness.” Mornings she’d take a walk with her friend Epifania “Paning” Encarnacion, around Burnham Park after which they would rest their tired and ancient limbs on one of the benches in Malcom Square, among the women peddling peanuts and native cakes to early risers. “I knew there was something gravely the matter with her when one morning she did not get up to take her bath. She always took a bath in the morning,” recalls Tatay, sadly. During a Sunday lunch for the family her blood pressure rose and she suffered a stroke. She was rushed to the Notre Dame Hospital. On February 6, 1987, at age of 79, Rosa Castillo Bautista died, quietly and wordlessly, her head gently lying on Tatay’s chest.
After a weeklong wake at the Dap-ayan Little Theater in U.B., she was buried in the school grounds, wearing the terno she had prepared for their Golden Wedding Anniversary. For that occasion, Tatay had also bought for himself a tuxedo in Korea, and as a gift to Rosa, a gold-plated silverware from a store in San Francisco and table linen with gold trimmings from a store in New York.
After her death, in the spirit of generosity that marked his and Rosa’s life, he gave away her clothes and shoes and her few jewelries to his daughter-in-law and granddaughters, so that all of them had something of the matriarch.
And what did Tatay keep of her? “Only the muffler she used every night. And her memories.”
It was while Tatay was sorting out her things that he came upon a verse Rosa wrote on Easter Monday of 1978, their 4th wedding anniversary. They were married on April 18, a Monday; it takes 40 years before that same date occurs on the same day, an arcane knowledge that Rosa kept in her heart and charmingly celebrated in verse:
40 Easter Mondays today
We both have lived and loved
Never a doubt of faithfulness
To each we both have shared May the years ahead we see
Be still filled with peace and serenity.
R Ding Bautista, the lovestruck young man once again, wrote back, winging words and sentiments beyond the grave:
R I love you so much more now
Than when I married you,
And I will love you more tomorrow
Than I do today.