editing life: closing chapters

Tita Do passed away last week. At a grand age of 93. She was dad’s oldest sister. When dad was in his teens, he lived with her in California. Crazy. It’s like Benny…and Elice…and Elaine with Curt…they all stayed with me for a time while getting their wings ready to take off.

Her hand is in everything through her kids and my cousins, through my dad to us.

Here is a story from a decade ago when Uncle Dam and Tita Do celebrated their 65th anniversary. It’s a good story.

11111798_10204260144919069_7563917808892055002_n Lolo, Uncle Dam, Lola, Tita Do, Dad

East County Times (Antioch, CA)

July 6, 2006Column: WHERE WE LIVEA BLESSED 65 YEARS
Couple reunites, finds bliss after Bataan Death March

Author: Tanya Rose
TIMES STAFF WRITEREdition: FINAL
Section: News
Page: a3
Dateline: PITTSBURGIndex Terms:

She was 12 when they met. He was 22, a military man like her father. He said he would wait for her to grow up – but really, that was a joke, and they decided to become friends instead. She said he had a girlfriend back then anyway. He said, “I had two.”

By the time Damaso Basco married Dolores in July of 1941 in their native Philippines, he was 29 and she was 19. They planned to start a family. She wanted to substitute teach

But World War II broke out, and Damaso Basco was captured in his native land by the Japanese army along with thousands of other Filipino and American soldiers. It was the beginning of a long, torturous separation for the newlyweds.

The men were forced to make hellish walks to prison camps, miles and miles in the scorching sun – today, this is known as the Bataan Death March. Many died along the way of malaria, dysentery or dehydration. Many were shot, bayoneted or beheaded by their captors. Many were buried alive.

Throughout the ordeal, Dolores kept tabs on her husband to the extent she could, following him with groups of other women. She didn’t care if she died doing it; she would keep up if it killed her.

While he was being held inside a school building, Dolores found h! im and sneaked him food and love letters. She begged Japanese guards to let him see their new baby daughter, Dulce, before he was herded to another location. The guards said, “no.”

“Oh, I suffered,” said Dolores, now 84.”We were praying so hard. The officers’ wives, we left together with all of our children, and we didn’t know if the men were alive or dead. There were so many rumors. We just didn’t know.”

He survived and eventually made it to Manila, where Dolores and Dulce met him.

“We cried a lot,” Dolores said. “We never expected to see him again.

“Damaso Basco, now 94, and Dolores will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary today.They will have a party at the family home in Pittsburg this weekend – a modest gathering, only about 100 people, half of whom will be family.They say their lives have been bliss since moving to Pittsburg in the early 1950s. All of the soldiers had been offered U.S. citizenship after the war, so Damaso! Basco came to this country and eventually got a business degr! ee. He w orked as a purchasing agent for Pittsburg Community Hospital until he retired.He doesn’t talk much about those days in the 1940s, but to make sure people don’t forget what happened, he and his wife were instrumental in starting the Fil-American Club in Pittsburg. Today, it is a thriving cultural and social club that has hundreds of members.With seven children, 22 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, Dolores Basco said she and her husband have been blessed.

“I didn’t think we would make it to our 65th anniversary,” she said. “Our lives are peaceful now. We have a nice life.

“Doug Basco, the couple’s fifth child, said he admires his parents.”I can only hope to get to year 65,” he said. “And nothing I’ve been through can compare to what they’ve been through.”

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