THE FLORENDO FAMILY
My father Clemente Estilong Florendo was born on November 20, 1910 in Naguilian La Union, Barrio Callao, Isabela, Philippines. At age 20 he embarked upon a month-long journey from Manilla on the Passenger Ship “President Jefferson”.
He traveled with his cousin Crispino R. Estilong (Uncle Chris). He never looked back. My father and Uncle Chris arrived in Seattle, King County, Washington in June 1931. My father’s older brother Doroteo Florendo (Uncle Doroteo) arrived in Seattle in June 1929. Uncle Doroteo worked as a Laborer doing City Work for the City of Seattle.
When my father arrived, Uncle Doroteo said, “Now, you are here. If you don’t work, you die.” Uncle Doroteo gave my father one year to live with him and find a job. After my father and Uncle Chris arrived in Seattle, they rented a car with Uncle Doroteo and drove to California.
My father worked as a field worker in San Jose, Santa Clara County, in Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County, in Castroville/Salinas, Monterey County, in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, and in El Centro, Imperial County. When my father first arrived in California and worked as a field worker, his co-workers were Italian, who spoke Italian. Dad spoke English, Spanish, and Ilocano, but not Italian. It was a very lonely time.
By 1940, my father was living in Castroville, Monterey County and Uncle Doroteo was living in El Centro, Imperial County. They shared a Post Office Box in Watsonville and traveled between Watsonville/Castroville and El Centro for work. Sadly, Uncle Doroteo passed away in Santa Cruz at age 37 in July 1943.
Uncle Chris retired and returned to the Philippines in the mid-1970s. Uncle Chris gave my brother Clemente his beautiful 1955 Chevy, white with red interior, which we could stand up in as kids.
My parents, Clemente and Maria, met through our Aunt Alejandrina (Tia Jandina) and Uncle Fortunato Bayuga (Uncle Nato) who had a cherry tomato farm and farmhouse on Paulsen Road, Watsonville. Tia Jandina and Uncle Nato met through my Godmother-Aunt and Uncle, Victoria and Max Bersamin. Tia Jandina and Uncle Nato’s 8-acre farm is still there, fallow, and surrounded by homes on two sides. Their farm was the place where my mother’s side of the family first arrived and where my Uncle’s friends, including my dad, met the Quintero sisters.
When I asked my father why he chose to live in Watsonville, over San Jose, Half Moon Bay and El Centro, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Watsonville had the best dirt, for planting.” My father had a farm and farmhouses where he grew strawberries next to his friend’s property which had a flower nursery. He later sold that property to help my mother and older siblings immigrate. By 1960, my father was a naturalized U. S. Citizen. One of the questions asked during the Immigration and Naturalization Service interview was, “Are you married?” followed by, “Where does your wife live?” His response was, “Yes, I am married. My wife is in Mexicali. We are going to have a baby. I would like to become a Citizen to help my wife and family immigrate.” My brother was born that same year. Thanks to my parents, their work ethic, and love of family, my parents and older siblings became residents and naturalized Citizens. I am the youngest and “First Generation” of our immediate family. I was born at the old Watsonville Community Hospital on Montecito Street. Together, our parents and older siblings, Agapita, Rosario and Jesus, worked to purchase our family home on Maple Avenue. The American Dream.