Shared Stories: 1943-49 Starting a Family

This is Lisa Filler’s second installment of the story of her mother and father who were married and started their family during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II.   (Note: Lisa is a very cute lady with an exceptional smile.)  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Lisa Filler

The Philippines were governed by Japan during World War II. American soldiers left with the promise of General McArthur, “I shall return.”  

Ligaya and Juan, my mother and father, continued working and learned the Japanese National Anthem, numbers and some Japanese words.  In October 1943 Juan Alberto  (nicknamed Jubert) was born, the first child of Juan and Ligaya. 

He was so cute with light and smooth complexion. Co-teachers and neighbors liked to take care of him. Ligaya breast feed Jubert while she was on maternity leave. When she went back to work she asked her friend and neighbor, Nan Abarquez, who also gave birth to a son (Teddy), to take care of Jubert while she was at work. Jubert and Teddy were breastfed by Nan, one on each breast. The two became very close friends.

There was a rumor among the Filipino population that McArthur was coming back as he promised. Ligaya’s father told them to come to Pagsanjan so they will be close to him.  One day in Pagsanjan, Ligaya went to the market. On her way home, a Japanese soldier with a rifle stopped her, demanding her to go inside a house. 

Ligaya knelt down, begging him to let her go home. She tried to explain in Japanese that she had a son waiting for her. But the Japanese soldier still insisted. 

All of a sudden the soldier ran away, to Ligaya’s surprise. She got up and started running home. While she was running an American airplane was flying very low. That’s why the Japanese soldier ran. 

When Ligaya reached home, everybody was packing their things to evacuate to the mountain. They lived on the mountain on her father’s coconut plantation while the town of Pagsanjan was bombed by American airplanes. 

When the Japanese surrendered, they went back to the town and most of the houses were gone, including their house. The Filler family went back to their jobs in Welfareville.

In 1945 Ligaya got pregnant but had a miscarriage. In January 1947 she gave birth to second son who was named Jose. Jose was cuter than Jubert, also with light and smooth complexion. Juan was so proud of Jose because he was allowed inside the delivery room with Ligaya. 

In 1948 Ligaya was pregnant again, and this time she was already 40 years old. Teresa and cousins suggested having an abortion. Modern women at that time were having abortions. Ligaya and Juan said no. They wanted to have a girl; and no matter what gender, they wanted this baby. 

In February 1949,  I was borne and was named Lisa. Because Ligaya was 41 years old she was given a Twilight medication that put her to sleep while delivering the baby. I was borne asleep and had to be in incubator. 

When Ligaya woke up she asked for her baby. My father explained that there was some complication that I have to be in incubator. They went immediately to see me. 

Ligaya was so happy to see her baby girl but so sad that she cannot hold her. I was not looking good. I had to stay in the incubator for weeks. Ligaya was released from the hospital without me but they visited every day.

When I was released from the hospital I was not cute as my two brothers. I was skinny with dark skin and cried a lot. To Ligaya and Juan I was the answer to their prayers; their precious daughter. Ligaya was so happy to hold her baby girl. 

I was so close to my mother that we were inseparable. People called me the shadow of my mother. I cried until I fell asleep whenever my mother went to work. Sometimes she would take me to her classroom. Co-teachers and even the principal took turns watching me.

However, some people were wondering if I was switched in the hospital because I have dark complexion and don’t look like my cute brothers.