(The Church in the Wildwood)

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My Father's Picture

My father's name was Antonio. He was the youngest of eight children. He attended school and did well, but he did not finish school. In those days, this was common.

Being the youngest in the family, my father was spoiled. He was given the opportunity to attend school where the other children were not. Unfortunately, my father was not given a lot of work and responsibilities in the home to train, discipline and develop him into a good, solid contributing member of the family and society. There were enough older children to do this.

During the early years of married life, my father, who was seven years younger than my mother, would be goofing off more than he would be working and providing for the household. My mother was the sole provider. Through time and maturity, however, my father was able to redeem the past and take charge of his life. He developed into a fine, mature and responsible husband and father.

Church in the Wildwood tells of Christian growth and maturity on my Dad's part.

One thing I remember about my father was his exceptional memory. When he was a young lad in school, he had written the most interesting compositions and could still recite from memory several of them to us. I remember the subjects of two of his compositions--one was about his dog Fido, and the other was about a sweetheart who lived on Mount Santa Rosa located at the northern tip of the island. I think my father's memory was phenomenal.

My father's family embraced the Catholic faith as most families in Guam did. But as a young teenager, my dad would steal away from his home and go to the Baptist Church nearby, not coming inside to attend for that was anathema and strictly forbidden, but he would situate himself close enough to hear the beautiful music coming out of the church. It was as if he was 'destined' to become a Protestant later on in his life. When he married my mother, he learned from her the same hymns that he heard sitting there outside the Baptist Church.

Church in the Wildwood tells of my father's courage to change his religious faith at a time when it was a curse to do so.

I remember how my dad and I would sit down (I at the piano and he on the sofa) and sing some of the beautiful church hymns. We would start on the first page of the hymnal and go through the entire book. Of course we didn't sing all the songs because we didn't know all of them. Sometimes we would sing for hours. Some of his favorite hymns were: "Whiter than Snow", "Revive Us Again", "Heavenly Sunshine", "Amazing Grace", "The Old Rugged Cross", "From Greenland's Icy Mountain", etc.

During World War II around 1941, the Japanese invaded Guam. It was a most calamitous time for everyone. Many lives and property were destroyed. My father told how he and his family and many others in the village of Mangilao were evacuated from the village and were told go to Manengon located several miles away. Many people walked to Manengon which took several days; some rode on carts pulled by caribou. Fortunately for my family, my father had a cart and a caribou, and my family was able to ride to Manengon. However, there were a lot of stops that had to be made on this trip because the caribou suffered from cramps and couldn't go an inch farther.

Church in the Wildwood tells of hard times at the Japanese invasion and occupation of the island, but faith in God sustained

The trip to Manengon was a hard and dangerous one because by now the war had escalated, and civilian casualties were high. People were being hit by shrapnel and other implements of war. My parents saw corpses along the way. They were able to recognize some of the dead as their friends. Some were too decomposed to be recognized. Many family members were separated from each other. Many were missing. Cries of lamentation and wailing were heard everywhere. It was a time of great sorrow and mourning. My parents also told of how swine in the town were seen eating the decomposed remains of those who had died.

During the Japanese occupation, my father was especially tormented and tortured by the Japanese because they thought he was Caucasian. They thought he was an American--the enemy. One cousin, a young female around twelve years of age was also beaten for the same reason.

Church in the Wildwood tells of my mother's deliverance from possible death at the hands of the Japanese

Where was my mother when my father was being tortured by the Japanese? Right there with my father. It was only by God's grace that she was not hurt or killed by the Japanese because when they were hurting my father, my mother took a large butcher knife and threatened to 'kill' them if they hurt my father. In spite of my mother's threats, which were simply ignored, the Japanese were lenient to her. Of course, she was only four feet five inches tall and very pregnant. But she had a faith in God stronger and more solid than the rock of Gibraltar.

At this time, food was scarce. The little food that was available was for the children and for my mother who was either pregnant or nursing. My father would then go in the jungle to pick fruits. Many times, fruits were not available except for some lemonchena which was a wild lemon with unusually thick white rind. My father ate nothing but lemonchena for days and was amazingly sustained. At times some compassionate Japanese would provide our family with food. We were given white rice rolled into balls plus other food items as well. My family praised God for this jester of compassion on the part of the enemy.

I do not have any ill feelings against the Japanese for their involvement in the destruction of my island. Many Japanese (fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, sweethearts) were killed in Guam and mourned for by their families in Japan. I think war is terrible for all sides. I long for the day to come when there shall be no more wars and rumors of wars, where all are brethren, children of the Heavenly Father.

Sometime during the war, the men with carpentry skills were instructed to get their tools and be present at a certain time and place in order to board the plane for Wake Island. There was a construction project that had to be done there. When the time came to meet at the place specified, my dad was there but he had forgotten his hammer and was asked to go back home to get it. Somehow, the construction crew did not wait for him and they left without him.

It was found out after the war that the men who left for Wake Island were completely wiped out by the Japanese. These men were friends of my father and some were relatives. My cousins Neneta and Esther's dad was one of the men killed in Wake. By forgetting his hammer my father's life was spared. We praised the God of Heaven for His miraculous intervention in preserving my father's life by causing him with a phenomenal memory to forget his hammer.

Church in the Wildwood tells of my father's miraculous deliverance from death by forgetting his hammer

During this time, many in Guam were openly expressing their desire to have the United States of America put an end to Japanese oppression on the island. A song came to be written that became quite popular about "Sam, my Dear Uncle Sam, will you please come back to Guam."

In 1944, a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Marianas involving Guam, Tinian, and Saipan took place. The fighting was fierce. The Americans were winning the battle. When the Japanese realized this, rather than go through defeat, humiliation, and disgrace, they fought to the death committing suicide with their kamikaze planes. The request of the 'Uncle Sam' song was granted; and Guam, after almost 31 months of Japanese oppression, was finally liberated. Good old Uncle Sam came to the rescue! I remember distinctly singing the 'Uncle Sam' song as a very young child long after the war had ended.

Church in the Wildwood tells of the events commemorating the liberation of Guam from Japanese oppression.

Liberation Day, commemorating the liberation from Japanese oppression in 1944, was a big event in Guam which lasted several days. There was a ceremony with speeches by the Governor of Guam and other dignitaries. After the ceremony, there were parades consisting of floats from each of the various districts. Some of these floats were intricately designed and beautifully decorated with all kinds of flowers and greenery. Bands were playing. The event was like a carnival and was held at the Paseo de Susanna grounds near the capital city of Agana. There were all kinds of rides, contests, games, and foods--hot dogs, barbecued chickens and ribs, sodas, cotton candies, etc.

The highlight of this whole event was the selection of the Liberation Day Queen. Each of the many districts selected one candidate to represent their district. The girl selected was, of course, beautiful and talented. But that was not how one won the Queen title, however. This was a fund-raising endeavor, and the one who raised the most money would be the Queen.

The candidates were all involved in different projects to raise money for some worthwhile causes. The most common thing that was done was sell raffle tickets. Raffle tickets were and probably still are popular in Guam for fund-raising events. Everybody pitched in to help sell tickets for their candidates. Tickets were bought for a dollar each, and the purchaser hoped to win a brand new car (donated by a car dealer) as first prize of ten other smaller prizes.

The girls almost always held fund-raising dances in a large auditorium in their respective districts. The time and place were announced on the radio, TV, and printed on the papers. One had to pay to dance with the candidates. Periodically, tallies were made of the money collected thus far and announced/printed on the newspapers. Excitement mounted as the day approached for the final tally to be made to determine who would be crowned the Liberation Day Queen.

The Queen would ride on a special and beautiful float on the Liberation Day parade. She would be sitting there in her beautiful and elegant queenly robe, diamond crown and scepter, all smiling and waving proudly to the people. By her side would the Princess Royal who would be the second runner-up of this whole fund-raising event. Somehow, it always worked out that the winners for Queen and Princess Royal were the most beautiful girls anyway. Actually, all the girls were beautiful, except that they did not raise quite as much money as the Queen and the Princess Royal did. The picture of the Queen appeared on the whole front cover of the newspaper on the first day the Liberation Day festivities started. This account is as I remembered this momentous event. I've been away from Guam for almost thirty years so it may be a little different now how they celebrate this festivity.

Church in the Wildwood tells of the down side of the liberation of Guam from the Japanese

Guam was liberated from the Japanese and every one was happy, right? Well, not quite everyone. As in any war aftermath, some soldiers turned wacky and got into deep trouble. It was reported by other villages that there were American soldiers who were on the rampant and were raping women. I did not remember now if any of the women were killed. The women all over the island were being warned to be extra cautious around their homes. In those days, it was common for soldiers to associate with the local people. My family befriended many soldiers. One young soldier became very special to my family. His name was Pete Patterson. My parents simply called him 'Pete America'. Even long after the war had ended, my family continued to communicate through the mail with Pete. Sometimes packages were received from him. I remember my father telling us how my sister Ruth and I would entertain Pete America and some of the other soldiers by singing "You Are My Sunshine" and swaying (dancing) as we sang. They got a kick out of this. We must have been three and four years old.

One day we were visited by a lone, black soldier. This was unusual. My mother did not know him, and my father was at work. I remember this event distinctly because I was in the house with my mother. My mother must have discerned that the man was up to no good and quickly told me to hide under the bed and not come out. My other siblings were probably outside playing and were out of harm's way. My mother, calm as usual, greeted the man. They started talking. My mother told him that she was preparing lunch and that he was welcomed to join us, but first, she needed to go to the neighbor's to borrow some matches. She was to cook rice on the wood stove, but she ran out of matches. She told him she would be right back. The man must have believed her, for he sat there and waited for her.

Church in the Wildwood tells of angel's protection when in harm's way

Meanwhile, I was under the bed and from my vantage point, I could see the man's shoes and legs sitting there in an adjacent room waiting for my mother. It seemed that I was under the bed for a long, long time. The man must not have seen me when he first came in the house for he did not know that I was hiding under the bed. After a while, he got up and moved about. Then, I couldn't see him from where I was. I must have been too young to be frightened because I did not remember being frightened at all. But I was a good kid and obeyed my mother and stayed under the bed the entire time.

What my mother did when she got out of the house was she, together with other neighbors, ran to the authorities and reported the incident. Later, the man was apprehended not far from our home. Sure enough, he was identified as one of the men involved in the rape.

Even though my father was a carpenter by trade, he had not always worked as a carpenter. He worked for several years in the Department of Agriculture in the village where we lived. His job was to feed the livestock, to clean their pens, etc. This was an excellent place to be employed because it was walking distance from our house. My dad, and so as many others, didn't have a car. Later on my father was hired as a carpenter at the Naval Ship Repair Facility. By this time, he had a jeep. He worked at the Naval Ship Repair Facility until he retired.

Church in the Wildwood teaches that God will see us through the valley of the shadow of death

Then, my dad contracted cancer, a malignant tumor located in the stomach which was inoperable. About this time, I had been reading a lot about alternative medicine in curing cancer. The book that influenced me greatly and caused me to feel confident that I could help my father was entitled, "How I Conquered Cancer Naturally" written by a woman who went to the Hippocrates Institute in Boston under Ann Wigmore and learned to use alternative medicine to cure her of cancer. At the Institute, she ate raw fruits, vegetables, drank raw juices (wheat grass) etc. Cooked foods were totally out of the regimen. They did cleansing of the intestinal tract, etc. There is a Hippocrates Institute in south Florida if you are interested in this type of thing.

In order to take better care of our parents, we had them come to the United States. This way I would be able to have my dad go through an alternative way in dealing with cancer. Well, it turned out that my dad's cancer was so advanced. He could not retain any of the raw fruit or vegetable juices that would have helped him.

I took him to colonics for cleansing of the intestinal track. I took him to the Livingston Cancer Clinic in San Diego, etc. I felt that I did all that I could to help him. Unfortunately, in spite of everything I did, my dad passed away and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego.

I remember so many things about my father. He was over six feet tall and dangerously handsome. There were times in his life where women seemed to be chasing him around, but nothing came of it as I remembered. The one thing that I remember so vividly was how he had turned his life around and became a good provider, husband and father. He was a great cook. He did most of the cooking when we were growing up because my mother was too busy taking care of patients. Oftentimes we woke up in the morning to the smell of pancakes. Those were the good, old days.

Church in the Wildwood reiterates the unusual courage of my father to change his religious faith at a time when it was taboo to do so

But the one thing that topped all this was that even though my father was born and raised a Catholic, he was a Protestant in heart. I could see him, a teenage boy, leaving his home and purposely going over to the Baptist Church to listen to the beautiful music coming out of the church. Then later in his life when he had to make a big decision concerning changing his religion (unheard of in those days), it was not difficult for him to make that decision because he was already, in mind and heart, a Protestant. Indeed, my father longed, yes, even fainted for the courts of the Lord: his heart and his flesh cried out to the living God of the little brown Church in the Wildwood.


Church in the Wildwood

There's a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

Oh, come, come, come, come, come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the vale;
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

Oh come to the church in the wildwood,
To the trees where the wild flowers bloom;
Where the parting hymn will be chanted
We will weep by the side of the tomb.

How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale.

From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night;
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.

--William S. Pitts

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