I erred when I stated in my last visit here that I would no longer speak of our month-long vacation to the Philippines. I’d forgot to share one of the most important parts of the trip, spending time with Lynndee’s maternal uncle, Inocentes. And, ironically, this is the perfect day to speak of him for it is his 81st birthday. So first off, let me say, Happy Birthday Uncle Inocentes!
I first met him on my first trip to Lynndee’s hometown back in 2009, when we met and she became my fiancé. The location of our meeting was a retreat that her cousin Marc, Inocentes’ son, had. It was located in the vast, sprawling pineapple fields of a Dole plantation, sitting at the base of an active volcano, Mount Matutum. Though active, its last eruption was in 1911. On that day, Uncle Inocentes and I clicked immediately. We discovered that we both had an immense interest in books, history, and of most importance to sports nuts, baseball.
Me and Uncle Inocentes in our usual state: yacking away about things of interest.
He was a treasure trove of baseball history. He told me the tale of a wall in Manila where the home runs of Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig and Joe Dimaggio were kept track of with slash marks, a wall which actually survived the war and the almost total destruction of Manila when the city was liberated. To this day, he is still involved in Little League Baseball, teaching the game to young Filipinos though it isn’t a national sport there like here in the US.
It was during our first meeting that we sat for hours and talked baseball. But we also talked of much history. He shared with me the coming of the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines at the start of WWII, telling me the tales of how he and his father survived that tragic time. But it was during this last trip that he shared even more interesting facts with me, explaining to me just how it was that he had such a knowledge of America and its history.
Uncle Inocentes and Lynndee’s Dad
One of the most fascinating facts he shared with me was about his education. In 1901, 500 young Americans, most of them recent college graduates, landed in Manila. These individuals were precursors of the Peace Corps volunteers of a later generation who had been sent to set up schools. Having arrived on a converted cattle ship, the Thomas, they later on were dubbed “Thomasites.” His mother was educated by these teachers, and the system they set up was the schooling that Uncle Inocentes received. That is why, to this day, he can recite all the American states and their capitals. He also spoke of having been taught how to sing the Star Spangled Banner, many popular tunes of the time and many religious hymns.
He grew up in interesting times under what was America’s first, and only, colonial experience, a time which many Americans are unfamiliar with the history of. For those with any interest, I recommend the reading of a great book by American journalist and historian, the late Stanley Karnow – In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. There much history and many truths in this book, unknown to many, that needs to be known by all Americans.
As for me, I can hardly wait until the next time I get to sit down with Uncle Inocentes and be educated even more about the history of a country and people that I love so much.