1963 was a very good year for me. I was temporarily free from an over-protective family, attending college in a university as far away from Negros as I could possibly be. I was 19 and ready to challenge the world.
Government and the arts
1963 was also a good year for the arts in the Philippines. The Philippine Madrigal Singers was organized and would go on as the most awarded group in the world’s prestigious choral competitions.
1963 was Diosdado Macapagal’s year. President of the Philippines since 1961, he fought graft and corruption in the government and instituted land reform.
Gloria, his daughter, was 16 years old, blissfully unaware that she would become one of the most corrupt presidents this country would ever have.
Poor ex-president Diosdado must have turned in his grave so many times, they had to patch and re-patch the cement on his tomb.
Home sweet farm
Land reform affected my family directly. Although our farm was much smaller than the other haciendas in Negros, it was home to me. I was born there with just the aid of a hilot (nursemaid). Land reform would partition the land and give them to the tenant farmers.
I grew up with our encargado’s (caretaker) children, played with them and occasionally shared their meals. I learned to eat rice drenched with coffee from them. We went around the fields and pulled and masticated sticks of sugar cane until our gums bled.
Miniskirts and marijuana
1963 saw hemlines rise higher and so did the mind with a sniff of Mary Jane. I wasn’t allowed to use either one. I solved the first by leaving the house in the approved skirt length and rolling up my waist band as soon as I was out of sight. As for Mary Jane, we never got along.
Year of firsts
1963 was a year of firsts for me. First to be so far away from home, first to live in a cold place, first cadet hop at PMA, first to have a serious boyfriend.
There was a radio station that we both listened to because it played music we loved. It started at 11 pm and ended at 4 am.
On Nov 23, 1963 (November 22 in Dallas, TX), sometime before 4:00 am here, the program was interrupted to announce that President Kennedy had been shot.
There are only a two events in my life that I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when they happened. This and 9/11.
As young and uncaring as I was of politics then, there was no escaping the Kennedys. They were America’s equivalent of royalty – young and handsome Jack and beautiful and accomplished Jackie. Even their names rhymed.
Whatever they did – or did not do – was news.
It is said that the mind has selective memory. For example, I can remember clearly this picture of young Jack Kennedy on a PT boat, shirtless, with that engaging smile on his face but I cannot recall a picture I thought I saw of him wincing in pain because of his back.
I remember him saying, “I’m the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it” but I can’t remember words he must have said during the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
Who can forget this line from his inaugural address, “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” words that ring true 50 years after his death – words that should resonate with every Filipino now more than ever.
I remember the Catholics in the Philippines rejoicing that finally, a Catholic has been elected president of the US.
In the short time that he was president, Jack Kennedy seemed to have had more global crises than his predecessors. The Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the space race which ultimately landed men on the moon, the building of the Berlin Wall, and increased involvement in the Vietnam War. In retrospect, it almost seemed like some cruel fate crammed all these events on him, knowing his term was short-lived.
My thoughts go back to that fateful day when the whole world was shocked into attention – to the image of Walter Cronkite holding back his tears as he proclaimed to the world that JFK was dead. I can’t forget Jackie Kennedy, still in her bloodied suit, standing by Lyndon Johnson’s side as he said his oath on Air Force One, or the rider-less horse at the funeral, and 3-year-old John-John innocently saluting as his father’s coffin passed by.
The end of Camelot
I have often wondered what America would be like today had that shot from that building or grassy knoll, or both, not hit Jack Kennedy that sad day in November. The idealist in me thinks that it would have been a better place. Like the song says….”in short there’s simply not, a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.” – Rappler.com
Monin Muriera-Navarro lived and worked in the US for more than 30 years. She held the position of administrative manager for an engineering and environmental consulting corporation. She retired in 2010 and lives in Baguio City.