My father Charles Caro was a United States marine stationed at Sangley Point naval base in 1926. He was a native of Lodz, Poland, the son of an Jewish-Italian rabbi and a German-Russian mother. He came to America when he was 18 and lived with his aunt and uncle in Brooklyn, New York.
Dad met Romana Ramos in Cavite City. They were married in 1928. Even though Dad spoke only English and Spanish and Mom only a little English, communication was no problem because in Cavite City most natives speak "Chavacano" a mixture of Spanish and Tagalog and this was the language with which Mom and Dad talked to each other.
My two brothers, Henry and Edward were born before me, then came my sister Janet after me. Being the first-born daughter, my father doted on me and lost no opportunity to show me off to all his friends. I am what is popularly known in the Philippines as "mestiza" being born of a Caucasian father and Filipina mother.
I remember vividly how Dad would proudly introduce me to his Bombay (Indian) friends who owned the Everlasting department store in Escolta, Manila. By today’s standards Escolta then would be like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, CA.
It was inevitable that with all the people I was meeting I would meet a person who would link me to filmdom. And happen it did when I was five years old. It was Lucita Goyena, wife of the owner of San Miguel Brewery, who introduced me to movie director Tor Villano. After that, as they say, the rest is history.
Prior to WWII, I had fun being in some Filipino produced movies. My movie career started with bit parts in "Halimaw" and "Babalik Ka Rin". They were followed by "Kung Kita’y Kapiling" where I had the role of an illegitimate child of famous stars Angel Esmeralda and Arsenia Francisco. This was the golden age of Filipino movies and I was so happy to be a part of it. However, even good things come to an end. World War II broke out and it seemed that my movie career was over even before it started. My father was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in Japan. He survived and came back home after the war. As it turned out my movie career resumed after the war. At age 14, I played a role opposite Berting Labra in "Ilaw Sa Landas". Big name stars Fred Montilla and Linda Estrella had the starring roles. It was truly exciting to be able to rub elbows with the likes of Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran, Mila Del Sol and Leopoldo Salcedo, King of Philippine movies, even comedians Togo and Pogo. The studios of the silver screen were like a dream world and I was privileged to have played a role in it.
My childhood was spent mostly in Cavite City. We lived in the district of Santa Cruz which was like a small town where people knew everybody. I finished grades 1 to 6 at the Santa Cruz Elementary School and then went on to attend Cavite High School. I graduated with the Class of 1952.
It has been a long time since our carefree and happy days at Cavite High school, but I still recall many memorable experiences. I almost won the title of Miss Cavite High School in 1951. I would have loved having the title but lost out to Gloria Presa. How could I forget those vacant periods between class at Aling Chayong’s house, listening to Gulong Ng Palad and Dr. Ramon Zelga. Even now I can’t help but laugh when I remember the time my leg went through Aling Chayong’s slatted bamboo floor when doing the tinikling, while being urged on by Lili Cafuir, Medy Molina Enriquez, Lourdes Bernardo and Zeny Gamboa. I made many friends who to this day have been dear to me. Our class reunions, which we hold mostly here in America, have kept us in touch with each other. It is always a lot of fun to see the changes brought by the passing of years on each other. Nowadays it is with extreme effort that we try to hide our gray hairs, but now I don’t try anymore because I am truly gray all over. Anyway I take comfort in the fact that I don’t count the years in my life, rather I count the life in my years, and they are good.
Henry also graduated from Cavite High School, Class ’46, and Edward, Class ’49. Janet, being the youngest, only managed to attend her first year at Cavite High because by December 1952 we immigrated to America. This is why I hear Janet complain that she never meets here anyone she knew from the Philippines. She had not stayed long enough in high school over there to have met and developed friends like I did. In 1952, on our way to America, the navy ship USS Altman made a stop-over in Guam. That’s where I met Angel Esmeralda once more. He owned a tailoring shop. Upon seeing me he gave me a great big hug and exclaimed: "Ay naku, ang anak ko, how you’ve grown into a young lady!" I was just six years old when he last saw me.
Once in California we lived in Alameda, CA near San Francisco. Henry joined the U.S. Army and Edward the U.S. Air Force. The cold weather in Northern California was just too harsh for my mother who had spent all her life in the Philippines. As fate would have it, one day while crossing the streets of San Francisco, I was stunned to meet a close friend from Cavite, Dorothy Golly! Right away she helped me get a job as a file clerk for an insurance company. I didn’t expect to start working so soon since I wanted to explore the city but couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Dorothy’s family was just like ours. Her dad was an American serviceman and her mom a Filipina. Dorothy and her family moved to San Gabriel, a city east of Los Angeles. We were encouraged to move and also settled in San Gabriel.
San Gabriel then was a sleepy Mexican-American town. Now it has become a settlement for Asian folks. All along its main Valley Boulevard we have our pick of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai or Malaysian restaurants. With Asian signs and characters dominating the skyline, driving along this boulevard you would think you’re in Orient.
I will always remember San Gabriel because this is where exciting things in my life started to happen. In 1953, dad bought a lot and had a house built. This was the 50’s and life in America was simpler. Filipino sailors in the US Navy were frequent visitors to our home. I, my mom and my sister would attend many parties and dances. In 1956 there was a beauty contest to select Miss Philippines of Los Angeles county and my sister Janet entered and won the title.
It was at one of those Saturday night Filipino Community dances that I met this handsome, 19 year-old Pinoy, born in San Francisco. His name was Chester Jimenez, son of James Jimenez, native of Tondo, Manila and Herminia Maldonado of Cavite City. Herminia was the sister of Tony Donado, a well-known businessman in Cavite City. I have always heard the saying that marriages are made in heaven, and that someone up there keeps a book with the names of couples who are bound to become soul mates on earth. Imagine that! Neither time nor distance nor circumstances would prevent the fulfillment of love ordained in heaven. Chet and I met in May of 1955 and we were married on November 26, 1955. We were sure of each other then and the years we have been together proved we were meant for each other.
We began our life together in Los Angeles. In 1958 we bought our first home in Gardena, CA, our second home San Gabriel and finally our third home Alhambra, CA. In 1955 Chet started work as an aerospace structural design engineer for North American Aviation which later became Rockwell International Space Division and now is known as the Space and Communications Division of the Boeing Co. He was involved in projects such as the Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs. Chet really loved his job and retired in 2001 after 46 years with the same division. In Los Angeles, I worked as a salesgirl for May Co. and a bookkeeper for Security Pacific Bank.
Ever since our first child was born in 1958, I have been a stay-at-home mom and have loved every moment of it. I have always been thankful to my husband for having given me that opportunity. However, raising three children was no walk in the park either. It was a full t ime job that did not end after the usual eight hours.
Our eldest daughter Linda was born in 1958 and became a pharmacist and has two children, handsome Matt, age 13 and precocious Amanda, age 4. Amanda by the way had her first paying job in a commercial for Toys R Us which is now airing this November 2002.
Our daughter Lorraine was born in 1965. She is an aerospace design engineer just like her Dad and works for the Boeing Co. She and her husband Alan Youngkin who is an electronics design engineer with Raytheon Electronics, have two children, lovely Jessica, age 16 and stalwart Andrew, age 9.
Our son Daniel was born in 1970. He is still single, lives with us and works for Pro-Gear, a manufacturer of deep-sea fishing rods and reels. He loves fishing and we have a good supply of fresh barracuda, bass, yellowtail, tuna and albacore all the time.
I always enjoy telling my children and now my grandchildren about the happy days of my childhood in Cavite City when I was going to school. However, the best years of my adult life happened here in Southern California where I met, married, and have been living for 47 years with the love of my life.... Chet. In the time of my life everything seems to have fallen into place.... the right place, the right time.
I want to thank each and everyone of CHS CLASS ‘52 for the kindness and friendship you have shown Chet during our reunions. We appreciate it very much and we are looking forward to more reunions to come. MAY GOD BLESS US ALL!