THE ANCHETA FAMILY
52 Hillcrest. It's outside of Watsonville, on Loma Linda, off Salinas Road, in North Monterey County. You have to cross the Pajaro River, the county line. That's where I'm from, where my father moved our family from Mountain View in 1959. The land was part of Bolsa de Cayetano, and the adobe house
that once stood there, overlooking the Pajaro Valley, was owned by the famous Vallejo family; but for thousands of years, it was Ohlone land. My father Julio Ancheta was the eldest of nine who emigrated in 1928 from Bangui, Ilocos Norte to the cane fields of Lihue, Kauai, when he was 22-years-old. Like his cousins, who were also the eldest of their siblings, he came with hopes to send an abundance of money back to the family he left behind. Working cane under the plantation managers was brutal. And it didn't pay much. My father then worked in the fields of California, up and down, but sometimes he called Salinas home. During World War II, he joined the US Navy and served in the Pacific. He was stationed in Nagoya, Japan, after the war and at some point after that, he went back to his home town in the Philippines. He met my mother, a 22-year-old nanny, on vacation from her job in Manila. She was also the eldest in her family. By then, my father was 42. They were married after two weeks or two months; the narrative varies.
In 1948, my mother left for America and was on a slow ship that would take 15 days to reach San Francisco. Since my father was an American citizen and war veteran, she did not experience delays or heartbreak. My father and mom lived in a Filipino labor camp in Salinas. My father was an irrigator in the lettuce fields, and my mother was the camp cook to the single men. She recalled, "If I made pork, they wanted beef. When I made fish, they wanted pinakbet. "Their first child was named Cynthia. She died of pneumonia when my brother James was just 9 days old. Because my mother was sad and without family, my father sent her to San Francisco to be with friends. I was born a year or so after she came back. Before I turned 1, my father got a job as a construction worker in Mountain View. And then Watsonville. It was a small shack on two plus acres. Our neighbors were Japanese American, Mexican American, white Dustbowl, and Black. The Baniaga family, down the street from the dairy farm, was the only Filipino family until the Reyes family moved up the hill. My father had promised a real house to my mother, so over the years, he added a duplex to the property and a brand new 3 bedroom home close to the cypress trees. My two younger brothers, Julio Jr. and Marc were born during those years.
My father kept his job in Mountain View. Back then, people did not commute. Highway 17 was another story. So we saw my dad on weekends. Despite his schedule, my family belonged to the Watsonville Filipino community. My mother belonged to the women's club. They had good friends: some single manongs, and many biracial families. I had no cousins in California until much later, so my parents' friends were my uncles and aunties, and their kids were my cousins. In later years, after my father retired, my mom worked at the canneries, including Smuckers, and my dad grew garlic and snow peas on the extra acre. My mother would can tomatoes and make plum jelly with Virginia Sulay. Friday or Saturday nights were Filipino community dances with a live Filipino band at the Vets hall or CPDES in Santa Cruz. I spent many of my teenage Saturdays at those "social box" events, dancing cha cha and steps from the swing era with my elders. My mom would be in the kitchen selling biko or lumpia, and my two little brothers would be running around with the other little ones.
52 Hillcrest. I thought I would never come back after moving to SF to attend college, marrying my childhood boyfriend (Jeff Tagami, from a Hawaii/Watsonville Filipino dynasty), and giving birth to the two Tagami grandsons in San Francisco. But after my dad's death, after my mother was forced to sell most of the property to the school district (eminent domain, to build a new school, Ohlone Elementary), we moved to what was left of the family compound on Hillcrest. The next generation, Miles and Travis, were raised and brought up close to family in Watsonville. Following my mom's passing in 2017, 52 Hillcrest was sold.