Sunday, July 24, 2011

*260. OFELIA PAMINTUAN-QUIOGUE: Sacrifice and Salvation In Times of War

OFELIA CENTENO PAMINTUAN, as one of the most eligible ladies of the Philippines in 1929 by Graphic Magazine. She would marry a Quiogue scion in a fairy tale wedding in 1934, but the War would abruptly end her young life. Her last act of courage was to save her son.

Out of the ashes of the last World War comes this story of loss, sacrifice and survival, involving a young Kapampangan wife and mother, who, in her dying moments in the hands of the enemy, made a final courageous act to save the life of her youngest son.

Ofelia Valentina Maria de Araceli Pamintuan was born on 10 July 1911, to Don Florentino Torres Pamintuan (b. 1868/d.1925) of Angeles with his second wife, Dña. Tomasa Centeno (b. 1897/d. 1937). Ofelia had a twin, Maria Victoria de Araceli, who died in infancy.

Ofelia’s parents were one of the richest hacenderos of the province, affording them to travel with the whole family and live in all parts of the world. Ofelia was the eldest daughter in a family of 11 that also included Luis, Mariano, Luz, Ramon, Javier, Manuel, Imelda, Virginia and Florentino Jr. She also had 5 half-siblings from her father’s first marriage to Mancia Vergara Sandico: Jose Maria Nicolas (Padre Pepe), Mariano Rufino, Paz, Caridad and Natividad.

All children were lovingly cared for by Don Florentino and his wife, whose idea of education was to expose them to the different cultures of the world. Ofelia was just five years old when Don Florentino took his family to Barcelona, Spain. It was an exciting journey for the young Ofelia, a sea voyage that took 45 days. In Barcelona, the family resided in a posh apartment building attended by Spanish nurses and house maids. The family stayed here and waited out the end of World War I, after which the Don decided to pack up his family and leave for America.

The Pamintuans settled in Washington D.C. where their residence became a meeting place for Filipino pensionados and visiting government officials. Ofelia was sent off to school at the Immaculata Seminary on Wisconsin Ave., together with sisters Caridad, Nati and Lucy. These were the halcyon days for the family, and the Pamintuan children had the privilege of seeing the comings and goings of such distinguished house guests as Pres. Manuel Quezon, Isauro Gabaldon, Claro M. Recto, Manuel Roxas and Sergio Osmeña. All these came to an end with the death of Don Florentino in 1925, and the family decided to resettle back in the Philippines.

The fatherless brood resided in a lovely mansion along M.H. del Pilar St., then part of the exclusive Ermita enclave of Manila. Ofelia quickly adjusted to the Island life and was enrolled at the Assumption College along Herran St. (now Pedro Gil St.) where she soon became a very popular student. In 1929, the nationally circulated magazine Graphic, included her as among the most eligible bachelorettes of the country, alongside society girls Pacita de los Reyes, Nenita Araneta,Lulu Balmori and Pacita Goyena. She was described as "having a sweet voice...considered as the young girl with the most 'IT' by the younger smart set".

But it was to the handsome Antonio J. Quiogue, of Manila that Ofelia chose to spend her life with. The Quiogues were an affluent family who made their fortune in the funeral and mortuary service business; everyone was in agreement that the match was perfect and made in heaven. Ofelia and Antonio were married on 15 March 1933 at the Capuchin church in Intramuros, in a ceremony officiated by Ofelia’s brother, Padre Pepe. The primary sponsors were Dr. Felix Hocson and Dra. Paz Pamintuan Faustino, the bride’s eldest half-sister. After the ceremonies, the couple proceeded to the bride’s alma mater, Assumption, where Ofelia offered her bridal bouquet at the altar of the Blessed Virgin . The newlyweds hosted a fabulous reception at the Manila Hotel and spent their honeymoon in Baguio.

The Quiogues settled in Singalong and pretty soon, their children came one by one, starting with Jose Francisco (1934), Lourdette (1935), Maria Victoria (1936), Vicente Ramon (1937), Erlinda (1939), and Manuel Antonio (1941), born just a few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Second World War had begun and the Philippines was soon invaded and occupied by Japanese forces.

The liberation of the Philippines after three long years, and it proved to be one of the most destructive and bloodiest periods of our history. In the ensuing melee, the Pamintuan children were dispersed—some evacuated north to Baguio, others fled to Naga and Angeles. As the Japanese were being repulsed from the north of Pasig, they turned on the helpless civilians as they fled to the south of Manila, going on an unstoppable killing rampage. Ofelia’s sister, Caridad, who had decided to return to Manila with her family, was killed along with her two children on 10 February 1945.

The massacre continued for the next days, and as the retreating Japanese reached Singalong on 13 February 1945, they discovered the cramped hiding place of the Quiogues and their neighbors. Amidst screams and pleas for mercy, the soldiers started bayoneting everyone in sight, and the first to fall were the Quiogue children, Jose and Lourdette. Ofelia, shielding her son with a mother’s embrace, absorbed the cruel thrusts of the soldier’s bayonet blades on her back, face and arms, in an instinctive act of selfless love. Mortally wounded and with life ebbing away, Ofelia mustered her last ounce of strength and managed to pass on her child to an equally heroic neighbor, Sincera Villanueva, who snatched Meckoy from her weakening grasp and ran to safety.

Ofelia’s ultimate sacrifice serve to remind us of the calumnies of men and their wars, but it is also a noble statement about motherhood, a role she played so virtuously, so valiantly, illuminating for us what love should always be—pure, selfless, unconditional. Certainly, her death was not in vain; her surviving children grew to adulthood and became successful in their chosen professions with one becoming a doctor and another, a priest. The youngest child she died protecting, Meckoy Quiogue, became one of the country’s most successful marketing man, holding top level positions at Philippine Refining Company, Coca Cola, J. Walter Thompson, ABS-CBN and GMA-7. He is currently the chief executive officer of a media conglomerate.


Marisa Lloreda Saez said...

Ofelia was my mother's sister... my mother, Virginia "Baby" Pamintuan was with Ofelia when the Japanese began their massacre that day. My mother got separated from her sister as they ran for cover. My mother told me about her sister's courage and selfless sacrifice to save her baby. Thank you for sharing my aunt's inspiring story...

Marisa Pamintuan Lloreda

alex r. castro said...

Thanks for dropping by my site, Marisa. I know Meckoy, by the way, and his wife Ina. I am doing some research on Kapampangan beauty queens and I chanced upon a mid 1930s picture of Miss Commonwealth of the Philippines; one of the winners was a certain Virginia Pamintuan.Could she be your mother?