At the end of the fourth month of his nine decades and three years on Earth, Filomeno Avanceña Bautista entered into eternal life on April 29, 2021.
“Dodong” as he was fondly known to family and friends, was a model of integrity who was looked up to by everyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with him.
He had a 45-year career with the one and only job he held in his professional life, as a career executive with Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI), formerly Philippine Packing Corporation, like PPC, where he rose through the ranks to become a purchasing manager, hospital administrator, manager of DMPI Cooperative, reaching the pinnacle as President of the Cooperative Union of the Philippines (CUP) where he served for three consecutive terms.
In his civic affairs, he was also a member of the Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission during the administration of the late Mayor Pablo P. Magtajas.
Dodong was the second child of his namesake the eminent historian Filomeno “Nono” Marcos Bautista y Abellanosa and Hospecia “Pesing” Avanceña y Chaves.
According to a tribute read at his wake by his nephew, Judge Vincent “Vince” Bautista Rosales, the only son of his elder sister Henrietta (“Tita”), he was actually the third in a succession of Filomenos in the family. The first Filomeno was his grandfather Filomeno Bautista y Neri.
Born on April 25, 1890, in Cagayan de Misamis, his father Nono personally witnessed the Fiesta Nacional of January 10, 1899, celebrating the Philippine independence from Spain. A government scholar at the Philippine Normal School, he was appointed principal of Mambajao Elementary School in Camiguin and eventually became the Division Academic Supervisor of Misamis, Surigao, Bukidnon.
For this momentous birth of his first son, Nono wrote in his diary:
“On May 26, 1927, a baby boy was born to us in Mission Hospital. Rays of sunshine were seen in the family and our third child was named Filomeno. Esther was fond of him and she would oftentimes come up to his crib and kiss him. She called her Papa Junior. At the delivery were Miss Florence Fox and Miss Ortega, myself, my mother-in-law (Fortunata Chaves Avancena). Pesing stayed in the hospital for 9 days and Dr. Ramos just charged us P75.”
“As recounted by my mom, Tito Dodong was sickly as a child. He suffered from nephritis and Lolo (Nono), then assigned in Surigao, would often order from his friend a ship captain, to buy Bear Brand milk for him in Cebu,” Judge Vince recalls.
He grew up in the family residence in Licoan, the present site of a convenience store next to Sabal Hospital. He learned to play the violin which he didn’t like very much since he was teased by his friends for engaging in an effeminate pursuit. But he would also join his barkada in making kabit on tartanillas all the way to Divisoria and back on their roller skates.
When the family put up the Cagayan de Oro Hotel sometime in 1938-1939 next to Plaza Divisoria at the corner of what is now Tiano Brothers and Tirso Neri streets, it was the first recorded public installation of the name.
“This was our second hotel just before the war in 1938-1939,” the late Dodong recalled during a 2020 interview at this residence. “My father named it the Cagayan de Oro Hotel because at that time Cagayan was known for the gold which could easily be found in the hills of its hinterlands like Tumpagon. It was our second hotel after the first one my father established on a rented property fronting what is now the downtown office of Cepalco.”
“My father was a former Division Academic Supervisor and he coined the name long before Mayor Max Suniel became the city’s first mayor, and long before Assemblyman Maning Pelaez named the city in his bill,” he added.
Manong Dodong attributed his father’s coining of the phrase Cagayan de Oro to his passion for history. An educator, his father founded the Parent Teachers College (now Phinma Cagayan de Oro College) and relentlessly pursued his research on the history of Cagayan de Misamis. He retired in 1933 to write Glimpses of Mindanao-The Land of Promise and The Bautista Manuscript of the Philippine Revolution in Misamis Province, 1900-1901, both published in 1939.
“I was his clerk for both manuscripts,” he noted.
After school, Dodong’s Lola made him sell barquillos, and like most boys his age, he was a shoeshine boy along with Tito Lando and Tito Ted, Judge Vince recounts.
When World War II broke out on December 8, 1941, Dodong was 14 and in second-year high school at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School. As a member of a Boy Scout Troop, he and his fellow Scouts in their uniforms helped direct traffic and enforce the mandatory blackout alongside Filipino and American soldiers. Among the fellow Scouts in his troop were former Mayor Reuben Canoy, and Fernando Ablaza, while their Scoutmaster was Segundo Salas. (Click on the link to read more).
Though the family evacuated to Olot, Balingasag, they did not abandon their residence in Licoan and would surreptitiously check on it from time to time.
Later, upon hearing that they were in danger from some wayward Magahats, the family moved the town proper, finally settling in Sapong, Lagonglong. The family survived the war by making soap which they bartered for food and other essentials. (more on that story by Celine Itchon from this link)
“ When I was about to go to college at the Ateneo de Manila, Lolo and I won a national writing contest about recounting his experiences as a civilian here in Misamis Oriental during World War II,” his granddaughter Celine Itchon remembers. “Lolo was with me when I went to Ateneo to look at the campus and the dorm. He even called a good friend in Manila and informed him of the good news. I cannot forget this because his friend, Mr. Terry Mon brought us to the best Chinese restaurant and treated us to a sumptuous dinner.”
After the war, Manong Dodong was accelerated and he graduated in 1947 at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School, with his best friend Reuben Canoy (whom he fondly calls “ Guy” ) as valedictorian.
He pursued his college degree in BS Commerce (Accounting) at the University of the East and afterward worked for the first and only company in his 45-year professional career with Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI, formerly PPC, Philippine Packing Corporation) then the first and only multinational company in the city.
Phil (Bebot), his eldest child, recalls his visits to the PPC office when he was a kid.
“Daddy was always a corporate man. I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old he would always ask me if I wanted to go to his office during Saturdays and reminded me to bring a jacket for, during that time when Americans were the bosses at PPC, the offices were really cold from the air con units running.”
Judge Vince relates, “I was indeed fortunate to have two models of integrity as a judge – my father who led an honest life as a BIR employee who never enriched himself in his position, and my Tito Dodong who led a modest life while serving in various executive positions at PPC.”
“He was successful in his career, rising from the ranks to an executive position. I respect my uncle for his integrity as a purchasing manager of PPC. It was a juicy position but I never heard any comment that he received any bribes for any contract of supply or purchase he entered into.”
From the rank and file, Dodong was promoted to supervisor, then purchasing manager, hospital administrator, consultant to the Del Monte credit union, then as President of the Cooperative Union of the Philippines – the pinnacle of his career.
On March 16, 1957, Dodong married Mengkie Lumbre of Palawan and Tacloban whose family emigrated to Cagayan de Oro after the war. Mengkie was a graduate of Lourdes College.
The couple has six children: Filomeno (Bebot/Phil), Cesar (Peewee), Raul (Bambi), Naomi Ruth (Honey) Bautista-Roble, Suzette (Sue) Bautista Itchon, and Robert (Bobby). Phil and Bobby are currently residing in the US.
However, it was not all flowers and sunshine since his busy schedule often kept him away from his family. If one wanted to meet with him at home, one had to be early at his house otherwise you wouldn't catch him.
When Manong Dodong finally decided to retire in 2002, he continued to pursue his Papa Nono’s advocacy in preserving the history and heritage of Cagayan de Oro. To this end, he served as a commissioner in the City Historical and Cultural Commission (HISCOM) in 2000 with his brother, the late Thaddeus Teddy Bautista. He continued his passion even beyond his tenure as commissioner by staying active in the city’s history and heritage activities.
Dodong and Mengkie also moved from Gusa to Capisnon, Kauswagan in 2011.
Judge Vince recounts how his mom, Dodong’s elder sister Henrietta (Tita) always made it a point to visit them on weekends.
“Tito Dodong always saw my mom, being the eldest, as the matriarch of the Bautista clan. My mom always visited Tito Dodong and Tita Mengkie on weekends bringing food, pasalubong for her younger brother. The pandemic was never a deterrence. When I asked why it was always us who visited them, Ma said Tito Dodong couldn’t visit him since he always wanted Tita Mengkie by his side. Tito Dong and Tita Mengkie became inseparable in their twilight years. And for Mama and Tito Dodong the close fraternal bond is best exemplified with no disgust for the past 93 years.”
“We may see his death as untimely, but in God's view it was timely, it was his appointed time and no one could question it . But that is life – mais c’est le vie.” (with Vincent Bautista Rosales and Eduardo Itchon)