|The LIFE STORY: Bonifacio L. Salas
(First 22 Years Recalled)
I am Bonifacio Salas, was born 25th of May 1936 in Pilar, Bohol. I am the oldest son of Felomino Salas, a teacher, and Eufrocina Licayan, a house keeper. At the age of two, my father taught me how to plant a coconut. He said, plant this coconut on the side of the toilet. So I got the coconut and put it on the side of the toilet and place many stone on the side. I helped my father plant a coconut and banana. Within 4 years, the coconut bears fruit while the bananas, only one year.
1941 when the Japanese Imperial Army invade the Philippines. People were being deceived. The Japanese Army scattered everywhere in our province. I carried a big bundle and ran to hide. My father was beaten with a firewood when the Japanese caught and investigated him. Those days the Japanese were dropping bombs anywhere. Most of our plants and crops where destroyed. Famine and epidemic followed. The city collapsed and I saw smoke from offices and buildings burned to ashes. Only the blast of an Atomic bomb made the end of all of these.
1945 when we were at peace, or a semblance of it, at least. In the proceeding year, I was enrolled first grade in Abachanan Elementary School, Sierra Bullones, Bohol. Many of my classmates were older, there were 30 years old there. Some were 35. Some 6, there were 7, and me was 9 then. During the time, I won the Philippines and Asia Map Drawing Contest. I finished the sixth grade year 1952. On the next year, my father accompany me to my Lolo Juan Salas in town of Jagna, Bohol. We walked 30 km, and crossed mountains. I was enrolled in Central Visayan Colleges (CVC), also in Jagna, Bohol. I am not familiar to the people of this new place so I always went home every month. It was my hobby walking far distance. When I became tired of walking I just rest a little and carved my name in the trunk of the tree. Sometimes I slept in vivuoac area. The name of the places I passed from Jagna to my hometown were Tobod, Monte, Buktol, Taytay, passed the forest of Cogonon and looked at the cave and passed by the cliff and our house can be seen below which is Abachanan.
I learned nothing from CVC. The only friends there I would never forget were my classmate Petrocenio Acedillo and Olimpia Casinias. They were the Validectorians. I had seen them again many years after in picture as teachers in Bohol University. By next year, I was again transferred to my hometown, and was enrolled in Sierra Bullones Junior High School. During my second year here, I met my previous classmates in elementary. They already know to speak Tagalog this time. I know because they had greeted me in Tagalog but I could not understand. I reached my third year in high school. I recalled that one of my classmate in that school became an acting Mayor year I990. He was Mr. Sergio Atup, and his sister Lourdes Atup became a nurse in town. One day, there was a training in our school for the Provincial Sporsts Meet. I was one of those selected to practice broad jump. In the contest I had received little honors and bring home a bronze medal. After the contest, a teacher from the other school invited us to transfer to their school so I am happy because they are familiar to us. In the proceeding year, I asked permission from my parent that they should let me I transfer to Bilar Agricultural School, but my father did not allowed me to transfer. He said to me, "you have to finished your high school here. If you are not interested to continue your high school here, better stop schooling and plow the rice field." In the end, I decided to plow rice the field, and in just 3 weeks, it is planted already.
My two brothers continue schooling in the same school. Every Sunday, they went home and get rice and vegetables. My father was teaching to the nearby village and boarded a house near the school, and every Sunday went home. The smallest of my brother went to school also just 50 meters away from our house. And every Sunday all of them went home, and they were kidding me always: "Brother, you are already an agriculturist!" There was a 10 hectares vacant lot owned by my family ready to be cultivated. But inside my heart I have no interest. I want to work in the city. After vacation, they all went back to school. I decided to pack all my clothes and placed it in the paper bag. Early in the morning I started to walk on the way to the market. When there, I rested a little and set on again by the road side. A little while, I saw men carrying carton boxes, and went near me and asked me where is my destination? I said: "I don't know sir." They were already old and had a lot of experiences painted to their faces. They said to me: "Join with us, let us go to Davao, I have brother there, has a coffee plantation. We will apply to him as a worker". I joined them.
We rode a bus bound to Tagbilaran City. Direct to the wharf, and we boarded a water vessel called Campania Maritima Tagbilaran going to Zamboanga City then to Davao City. When we reached the land, we rode with a jeep, from Calinan to Subasta were the brother of the old man was managing a coffee plantation. When we arrived in the plantation, I looked at the planted coffee. Not yet matured and need no worker so he lead us to his friend in Sirib, Calinan, Davao City, 2 km to walk. We went to his friend one named Isidro Escoton, with his wife Mana Piling. They have a daughter Gloria Escoton and two workers Osoy Nunez and Romeo Escoton. He need two laborer. I worked there for 3 months only. My work was heavy: grinding coffee. I asked permission to the master that I will work just for another week only. I tried to look for a job in the city, and bet for the chance to have another kind of work. Next day I rode a jeep going to Davao City. I went inside the Police Station and beg a Police to let me sleep there in the station for a while until I found a job . After two nights, and no employment still, one Lieutenant Afos said to me "work for me. I need a worker". He was constructing a house then. After one month I asked permission again to let me go after the next day. So he let me go and he gave me a small amount.
I rode a jeep again going away from the place. After a few minutes, I saw a sign board nailed in the with notice that said: "Wanted Janitor". The place was in San Roque St. still in Davao city. I applied for the job, and he accepted me. He called up his another helper shouting "bring his baggage to your room" while pointing to my things. The name of the owner is Rodolfo Reyes. He has a brother named Task Reyes. There is daughter Emma Reyes, and the younger Ginging Reyes. I started to clean the yard, the inside the house. After 3 weeks, my boss said "tomorrow, your work will be in the fishpond. You will maintain the dike and make it higher". After another 2 weeks, he gave my co-worker a salary of 20 pesos for the month. And I was given a polo and the tag price is 15 pesos plus the 5 pesos. My salary for one month. My co-worker and me agreed to look for another job because the work here is unbearable and the boss scolded us very often. My co-worker was Francisco Pineda of Lapinig Island, Surigao. I told him about a better job i left with Mr. Esidro Escoton of Sirib, Calinan, Davao City. Early in the morning, at 4:00 we woke up, packed our baggages and had planned to go in the fish pond but I went instead directly to bus station and rode bus going to another province, Kidapawan. We passed and board a Carmen ferry directed to Maram-ag to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I met one of my previous classmate in Sierra, Bullones Bohol. He finished his college in Musuan Agricultural School and he is now a teacher. My money was already exhausted so I continued travelling. I arrived in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental.
One of my uncle had lived near here and was in Tagcatong, Carmen, Agusan so I proceeded and again rode a bus going to Agusan. Passing many towns, I saw another signboard: CIVOLEG (Civilian Volunteers Legion, A Land for the Land Less) It was a program contained from the promise of Mr. Ramon Magsaysay last election campaign for the Presidency. I decided to drop by at CIVOLEG Office. The interviewed me and I was qualified. They asked me to give small amount for membership fee. In return, they give me some papers or documents and we agreed that I shall prepare ax, bolo, kettle, rice, salt, and etc. Early in the morning, many people were arriving with their own provisions as agreed upon previously. We started the work going upward to the mountains. Nearly 1000 members were present.
While we were busy talking to one another, I found out that my uncle Fermin Salas was also a member. I introduced myself. "I am the son of Mr. Felomino Salas of Sierra Bullones, Bohol." He was surprised. He cannot believed what he just knew. We talked little after that. We both were busy with our work. After the cleaning, we started to construct our barracks, surveyed the site were it was situated. After a week, the barracks was completed. Some of the members were given already their lots. On the following day, I just had received my own lot. All were equal with 10 hectares each. The measurement is 200 meters northward by 500 meters east ward. My lot was very far. 4 km away from the barrack so I decided to make my own cottage in one of the corner of my own lot. I started cleaning and cut grown up trees. After a week, one hectares was cleared and ready to be planted.
By the next Sunday, we went down to town to buy seedling of coffee, cacao, casava, and banana. After another week, it was planted already. I was afforded to have a leisure time then. Going to the river more frequently now to take bath and catch fish. Sometimes I worked with my native friends then. One of them was Jose Umalig of Apong Kahoy, Son of Datu Hagbongan, Manobo Leader of Claveria, Misamis Oriental. He is a constructor of a caingin in that area, I worked with him for two weeks in thick forest. For the extra work, I was able to save a little amount. I decided to expand my lot too. I cleared again the nearby lands, cut trees and other. This is my routine in four years. Finally, my efforts were realized. All crops I planted bore fruits, and ready for harvest to be brought to the nearest market for sale.
Until a day came that I suddenly realized that the future here is not encouraging, but problematic. The road is not yet ready, and there is no road actually. It is really very difficult to carry big bundles 24 km to go down town. Our leader here at CIVOLEG was dead already. He is an army veteran, Mr. Prado. Some of the members just decided to leave the place in dismay. The other visited only once a year because they had another property in the city to think of. The overall result was that the trees were still standing and there was no sign of improvement, and movement. Happy to say that only my lot had this development. Little by little, I just learned that my nearest neighbor was one km away from me. Life here was really with terrible sadness. Finally I decided to sell my land to a rich man I will find in the town. I found one interested, but the moment she too realized the distance, she became uninterested. She was Soledad Cardoniga, of Tagcatong, Carmen, Agusan. "It's a lively place", I said to her. But she talked back telling me that she heard stories about the difficulties, thorns, and leeches in going to my place. I knew then at that moment that she was really discouraged. Our transaction did not materialized.
One day I visited my neighbor 1.5 km away from me. We did talk a while when he invitee me to go with him in Gingoog City to attend their town fiesta. I decided to accompany him. He had a house in the city. He introduced me to his friend. After fiesta, my money was exhausted. The next day I began the long walk, 28 km back to the mountains. Once, I also accompanied my uncle to Agusan, their province. We rode the bus and arrived at the place at night. I was embarrased, sort of an inferiority complex when I went upstairs there was 5 pretty ladies. There was my cousin too, Carlito Salas, same age with me. He introduced me to his lady friends. One of them participated in a beauty pageant. After a week of stay there, i went back to work.
Until there came a time, a man inspected our place at CIVOLEG. He said the situation was no good. He talked to me about his lands planted with corn. He offered me to buy the cornland from him. I was then intrested in the offer so i followed him. The place is 25 km from Gingoog City. There was a two-hour walk on the mountain side to reach the place. When there, i looked down and saw a small house a corn plants a foot high. I bought the lands for 60 pesos.
By next day, i inspected the lands, saw many monkeys, and wild pigs foot prints. The water is unsafe, but i decided to take care of the plants. After two months, i harversted corn. In two weeks managed to harvest seven sacks of dry corn. My next problem was to carry the sacks to the market. I have to pass narrow trails with boulders on both sides, and have to leap over those boulders. At the nearest road beyond those mountains, i have to ride jeep for 8 km to the neares corn buyer. With the sacks of corn, i still have to carry 6 trunks of banana. There was another way by the river by a little raft. I decided to travel by the river.
It made some money for me. I bought a t-shirt and pants, and proceeded back to CIVOLEG. 4:00 pm when i reached barracks, and was raining hard. The Dangayon River was already overflowing. I was soaked wet. Many leeches clang to my arms and legs, blood oozed. The river is still passable but it was already dark so i decided to wait for the morning. There was the onset of fatigue in me, and the leeches still in my arms, bloated and swollen, my knee stiffened.
Finally, I reached my cottage. I cooked. That was the first solid a swallowed in 24 hours. I fall asleep. When i woke up, the strengh came back again.
A week after, after 4 years of hardwork, and poverty, i decided to sell my lot in CIVOLEG to Beb De Lara, owner of a lumber concession nearby. He gave me 500 pesos, i signed a document and will never return to this place again.
When i left the CIVOLEG, i sat on a large boulder, i cried hard looking at the thick forest behind. With a little money saved, i set again for another adventure, in search of another life purpose. I WAS THEN 22 YEARS OLD.