My Grandfather the Hero

Cebu City, the Philippines

March 5, 2011

He had “scouting in the marrow of his bone,” my grandmother wrote about her husband in her memoirs.

Aniano Velarde Poliquit, my grandfather, was born on April 25, 1904 in Albuera, Leyte. My grandmother called him Aning (to rhyme with her nickname, Tining). My sibs called him Lolo Pops. But he was Mr. Poliquit, the beloved scoutmaster, to boy scouts in all the towns he visited as a scout executive. The scouts would greet him with a song, “How do you do, Mr. Poliquit, how do you do?” Even as the boys have grown into old men, the song remains on auto-memory when they hear our last name. When my mom and I were in New York, a Filipino man we met on the street sang the song when we introduced ourselves!

Capitol Hills Scout Camp, Cebu City

Alas, I have no memory of my grandfather. No one in the family remembers if I had met him at all. I was too young when the sea claimed him in 1975. But as I add years to my life, the further I look back on the years I have missed.

My search for bits and pieces of those lost years led me and my friend, Ki, to the island of Cebu, to the summit of a forested highland called Capitol Hills. The odd combination of towering trees, deep ravines, and houses terracing the slopes makes the zigzag uphill ride reminiscent of Baguio, minus the cold. It took me decades to embark on this trip, but it took us less than an hour to reach the Capitol Hills Scout Camp from the provincial capitol in Cebu City. The sub-camps there were named after BSP (Boy Scouts of the Philippines) officials who facilitated the establishment of the scout camp in the 1960s, one of whom was my grandfather.

Sub-Camp Poliquit on a BSP Jamborette Tarp Map

Dirt Road Leading up to Sub-Camp Poliquit

Scouting was my grandfather’s life, and it had saved his life. During WW2, he was arrested by a Japanese lieutenant for allegedly plotting anti-Japanese activities in their barrio of Tinag-an. As he was led away in the wee hours of the morning, my grandmother wrote, “he looked at us for the last time. Oh, that look! Such look which brought a thousand and one meanings.”  Knowing how the Japanese brutally dealt with guerillas, proven or otherwise, she feared that she would never see her husband again.

Enterprising as he was, my grandfather convinced the Japanese that he could help in raising the morale of the people. By nightfall, he was back in the arms of his family. My grandmother continued,

He was to organize a jamboree to be participated in by all the barrios in Albuera…The barrio people wholeheartedly cooperated. The jamboree was held after a week’s preparation. The Tinag-an group won most of the prizes, much to the delight of the Japanese officials. Aning won the confidence of the Japanese that no patrol had been sent to our barrio. This was done also after a good understanding of the guerillas’ side. My husband did the most risky job of being a contact man, a negotiator…between the two opposing factions.

It was a testament to how he lived the Scout Oath – to do his best for his country, to help people, to keep his body strong and his mind alert, and to do so honorably.

Sub-Camp Poliquit

The sun had just been up when we got to the camp. No one was on hand to give directions to Sub-Camp Poliquit. Only a tarp map for a jamborette indicated its general location. Our cabbie consented to wait as we hiked up the dirt road to explore the camp grounds. Abandoned outhouses served as landmarks in the thick pockets of forest. We met a teen-aged boy who lived in the vicinity but didn’t know the sub-camp. He later caught up with us after asking someone else and pointed to the fringes of the camp. Further down the slope is a prison.

Maintenance of the sub-camps seemed dependent on their proximity to the admin building. Sub-Camp Poliquit is hidden way back at the borderline. We found a ramshackle mess hall and the camp site was overgrown with weeds. We imagined the clearing to be where scouts pitched their tents as officers kept watch from the hall. It was rather disheartening to see a place named after one’s grandfather in such a state of disrepair.

Camp Grounds (photo by Ki)

Ki and Me on a Scouting Trail

Then I sensed a presence following me, nipping at my ankles. I called out, “Lolo Pops?” I felt a soft, wet dab on my exposed leg. A little white goat was licking me! It was probably the kid of the star of Si Goat da Wonderful, a Cebuano TV series reportedly shot in the area. Could we be both honoring our deceased ancestors?

With the Special Participation of “Si Goat da Wonderful”

This was the closest place to a grave site I could visit. My grandfather was never buried.

Scouting was my grandfather’s life, and he gave his life for it. He was traveling with his then 10-year-old grandson Janus from Cebu to Leyte when an engine explosion sunk the ship they were on, M/V Tagbilaran. It may have been overloaded too. He ordered the boy to quickly get on a lifeboat as he stayed on the ill-fated ship to help women and children to safety despite his age (he was in his 70s then), failing eyesight, and difficulty in walking. He must have gone down with the ship. He lived and died by the Scout Oath to help others. Mr. Poliquit was a Boy Scout up to his last breath.

Janus made it to an island and lived to tell of my grandfather’s selflessness. My dad spent a month in Cebu and surrounding islands looking for his body. Dad even asked then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile to send frog men to the depths of Camotes Sea for retrieval operations. My grandfather was never found.

My grandmother literally dropped dead a few years later, presumably from a broken heart.

Saluting Scoutmaster Poliquit

I may not have memories of Lolo Pops, but I wanted to remember the place that defined his life and death. And so I made the trip to Sub-Camp Poliquit to pay my respects to my grandfather, the hero.

Aniano V. Poliquit (far right) and Family: (L-R) Aniano Jr., Rosie, Trinidad Barot Poliquit, Lola Tinay (Martina David Barot), and Anterone

82 thoughts on “My Grandfather the Hero

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your Grandfather AJ! You have written it with such grace and pizazz! He must have been a wonderful man but his memory will live on through you and his family! Great post!

  2. It is important to respect our ancestors by writing about their live and who they were in the past. This is as a rememberance and gratitude to those who shaped us what we are today. AJ, I appreciate yr good works.

    • Terima kasih, Neneng! You’re right: Remembrance and gratitude – you drew the words out of my mouth.

      I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. I remember you also posted his story in your blog. That has somehow inspired me to write my own tribute.

      You’ve been a blessing to me. God bless you, Neneng.

  3. Very inspirational! Sad to say that his body was never found but sacrificed to save others especially his nephew.

    • Sorry, erratum. The boy was Lolo Pops’ grandson, not nephew. He was my dad’s nephew. Got confused there. Thanks Inno.

  4. nice story of your father. Very courageous what he did for the act of selflessness and it shows how great his passion is with scouting.

    lol at the Goat da Wonderful reference.

    • I have a feeling that will end up as a plot thread in the next episode of The Transcendental Tourist Through Time. Reminds me – where’s the next installment?!

  5. This is such a sweet and heart-warming story, I love it! (just believe me, plz) It made me think of my grandfather whom I never had a chance to see in person. “He was a quiet and reasonable person, and a bookworm.” I heard so from my relatives. Sounds like me?! You have honorable ancestors indeed. Just I felt mixture feeling when I read about what Japanese military did to your grandfather in WW2. Sorry for that, and I am glad he made it through…
    And wonderful pics as well, especially the goat’s pic is so cute! :)

    • Ok ok I believe you, Karry! :) I’d love to read about your grandfather, who you said you took after. That’s your homework, ok? A biography of your grandfather. Due next Thursday. :)

  6. Congratulations EJ for a wonderful essay about your grandfather and Sub-camp Poliquit. His wisdom surely have transcended unto you. As a boy scout myself, Adelante – 1959, we used to trek to the area we now call Camp Marina. Beverly hills was then under development. When I was a PMT cadet in 1964 and later a cadet officer of the UV PC ROTC 1965 – 1969, we also have our marches and bivouacs in the area and planted trees. The tall mahogany trees (if its still there) near the Admin building, we planted when we were trained as recruits of the Philippine Constabulary in 1970.

    I am very lucky to bear the same family name of your Grandfather. As a soldier and later a Police Officer, I too have been greeted with the song “how do you do Mr. Poliquit” in almost all places in the Philippines I have been to. Most of them are educators. And if they’re not, they were the boy scouts of your Lolo Aning when he was the Scout Master of the Province of Leyte.

    • Thanks for sharing, Nonie! I’m AJ, by the way.

      Yes, the mahogany trees still canopy the camp. The area is heavily forested. Nice to know someone who had a hand in planting those trees. I knew about Camp Marina, but I didn’t know it’s the same as the Capitol Hills Scout Camp.

      My brother also told me last night that when he was in Houston, TX, he paid through credit card and a Pinoy who saw his name on the card sang the song. Lolo Pops’ legacy has gone worldwide.

      I hope to meet you at some Poliquit reunion in the future. How did you know about my blog?

  7. I never heard of this story.. thanks tito ta.. I want to visit the sub camp Poliquit also.
    I want to go with you next time. hehe :) pls. tell Si Goat da Wonderful I said hi :)
    clap clap clap to great grandfather the hero.

    • Do visit, Kim! Pet the little goat for me please. :) You should tag along with me in my travels. I don’t have a DSLR. I need a personal paparazzo so I can post decent photos in this blog!

  8. I was scanning comments of members of the Poliquit Clan at Facebook when I came accross Ms. Agnes Poliquit’s “My son’s tribute to his grandfather, Aniano V. Poliquit. What a lucky day.

    I’m now living at Magbangon, Tinag-an, Albuera, Leyte where I established my residence after retiring from the Philippine National Police in 2004. I love fishing so I live by the sea.

    • That’s serendipity then. I feel like a sentimental trip to Leyte is happening soon. I hope to see you then. Let’s keep in touch. Please add me on Facebook.

  9. Pingback: Lament for the Littlest Fellow in Bohol « The Transcendental Tourist

  10. You did it again, AJ. You sure know how to tug at the heartstrings of your readers. This a very touching post, and I salute you for your efforts to know your grandfather more. Your Lolo Pops left you a legacy through his heroic deeds. And you are giving your grandpa a legacy through these heartfelt words.

    And the goat! Such effortless sense of humor there! Haha!

    • I think it comes with age – wanting to know more about your family. I’ve never really appreciated my family history (actually, history in general) till recently. I find myself looking back more often now than I had ever been inclined to do when I was young.

      Thanks for reading this very personal post, Reiza!

  11. Your family sure is an illustrious one, Age. Like you, even I did not appreciate history until recently and now I yearn to discover my roots. Your dad, mom and now, your grandfather point out to the fact that ‘zest’ and ‘love of life’ run through the veins of your family members. I loved loved this glowing tribute to Lolo Pops.

    Have a great week ahead, dear Age.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • Touched by your appreciation, Mrs. Sus. Love of life is indeed hereditary and it’s Lolo Pops’ legacy to us. Amused that you called him Lolo Pops. It’s very Filipino (lolo is Tagalog for grandfather). You’re an honorary Filipino, Mrs. Sus!

  12. Such an inspiring and touching tribute to a Grandfather. I know your grandad is so proud of you for such gratitude and meaningful words. Excellent post.

    • Thanks for reading guys! But for all the good things he had done, I’m most thankful to him for giving me a dad who was a wonderful father to me. :)

  13. I was teary eyed reading the last part of your post.He was such a wonderful man.You all must be very proud of him .This is one of the very inspiring and touching story I have ever read so far .I salute Lolo Aning for his bravery.

  14. My salute to your grandfather for his bravery. Wherever he is right now, he must be very proud of this wonderful piece written for him. This is a very well-written piece. I hope I could write something like this for the heroes of my life.

    • Thank you, Enzo! I believe it’s important that we write about our parents or ancestors for posterity, for the younger generations to be acquainted with their family heritage. National and pop culture heroes have so much ink on them, but how about our personal heroes? If we don’t tell the world about them, no one else would.

  15. wow what a story.. you should be proud that you have a grandfather and yourself you wrote this piece a very inspiration thoughts….Congrats…

    • My cup runneth over, Kathy and Noel. Yes, I will be writing about my other grandfather soon. His life story is also worth telling.

    • @Sining Factory: I just hope the BSP maintains the campgrounds. My family plans to donate some money for its upkeep.

      @Blair: Thanks! But I’m the fortunate one to have him as my lolo. :)

  16. It’s how your grandfather dealt with both Japanese and Guerilla camps successfully that makes his story quite interesting to me. That must have been nostalgic visiting Sub-camp Poliquit. I remember my grandma wears the same fashion- dress, shoes, hairdo the same way yours did.

  17. I meant “wore” not ‘wears.’ I have a bit of a problem letting go of dear old people, good old memories, thus the unwillingness to use ‘past’ verb forms for them ;)

    • You said it! My dad just recently passed away, and it took some time before I could use the past tense when referring to him. That’s the language component in the grieving process, I suppose. Thanks for putting in your 2-cents, Hazel. Much appreciated.

    • Thanks Veronica and Violy! I’m glad I have a blogging platform to express these emotions. I thnk we all have a rich heritage if just try to find out about our ancestors.

  18. I am so proud reading this! what more you?! “He lived and died by the Scout Oath to help others. Mr. Poliquit was a Boy Scout up to his last breath.” I hope we all learn from your grandpa’s story to be boy scouts and girl scouts.. until our last breath! Thanks for sharing!

    • I still hope I could live up to my grandfather’s example. I’ve known this story all my life, but it started to resonate with me only recently. Age does make you look back more and assign meaning to the past. Thanks for reading, Gemma!

  19. such a poignant post about your great grand father, Scouter Poliquit! I am most honored to have read through what you have left us and liked so much how u weaved the prose into this post.

    Gusto ko ung scouter AJ Poliquit na naka-hand salute sa logo ng BSP. hehehe

  20. I salute your grandpa. Once a boy scout is always a boy scout. I’m also a boy scout by heart. I love scouting. I love its scout oath and law. As a school principal, in my senior age, I’m still an active boy scout. You’ve a wonderful, historical account of your grandpa…

  21. That was wonderful story I have read so far. You’re very resourceful. I’m also proud of my Abuelo(Granddad) he work as personal driver of President Sergio Osmena. I can’t believe it there are only few Filipinos can drive in 1940’s. It’s amazing to trace your roots, isn’t it? Keep blogging.

  22. i was deeply touched by this story. It reminds me of my grand mother naman in bacolod who used to be like Melchora Aquino noong panahon ng hapon.

    • Thanks! @Chin: You should post a similar tribute then. As travel bloggers, we usually write about our country’s heritage – why not our family heritage?

  23. Such a nice legacy done by your grandfather to his community and I would say to the country. You must be very proud of him and keep his story alive for generations to generations.

    • Thank you Ric. The stories of our national heroes are important in inspiring love for our country, but it’s closer to home when we tell of our ancestors’ heroic deeds.

  24. Hi AJ

    I’m Gil from Tinag-an, but currently based in Sydney. Thanks for sharing your grandfather’s story. I was Grade 6 when MV Tagbilaran sank,and heard the news about your grandfather. While I do not know your Grandfather personally, but I know your aunt Rosie, who was my and my sister’s first piano teacher. Where is Maam Rosie now? If you have information, let me know. My email address is gmarvel2000@gmail.com

    Gil

    • I’m glad this blog made a connection with people who know my family. I’ll drop you an email. Thanks for the feedback, Gil!

  25. Out of the blue I tried searching my last name and stumbled upon this blog. My father must be a cousin (or nephew?) of your grandfather. My late father was Nemesio Poliquit, he was born in Leyte, I can’t remember now where but I know he didn’t speak the dialect Waray? he spoke Cebuano. It’ll be interesting to connect with you. My email addy is nette_quitpan@shaw.ca

    • The best reward I get from this blog post is connecting with people who I might be related to. I’d have to ask a relative about your father. If he spoke Cebuano then he must’ve come from the same town as my grandfather – Baybay (on the Cebu side of Leyte). I’ll email you as soon as I get some information. Nice to meet you (at least online), Nette!

  26. Hi AJ,
    Your post is so heartwarming. My daughter was searching something on the net and she read about your blog and ask me if i knew Aniano Velarde Poliquit.By the way I’m Clarita Velarde Papillero. I live here in Tinag-an, Albuera.I personally knew your grandfather, as far as I remember I was in grade two then.He thought us boyscouts songs..He was a good scout master.He made us laugh on his jokes.Indeed he was a good comedian.Here in Tinag-an he stayed on his brother house Simplicio Poliquit.
    I salute your grandfather for his greatness!

    • Hello po. It’s also heartwarming to hear from people who knew my grandfather. I wish I did too. Thank you for the memories you shared here. So he was funny like my dad, little wonder. :) And thanks to your daughter for telling you about my article.

      By the way, the Poliquit clan is planning a grand reunion there in Baybay, maybe next year. I look forward to seeing you there. Let’s keep in touch.

  27. its true coz I met an old educator somewhere in ormoc and when she knows that i’m a true blooded POLIQUIT she narrated the song…HOW DO YOU DO MR POLIQUIT…im so proud to be one of our clan.thank you to our great great grandpa…LOLO ANING!

    • His signature song has certainly outlived him! I’m so glad this article has reached Poliquits outside of my immediate family. Lolo Pops was ours, not just mine, and we can all be proud of him and learn about the stuff we’re made of.

      I hope to see you in the Poliquit Clan grand reunion in 2015 in Baybay.

    • Thanks for reading, Corinne! He had his flaws, but ultimately it was through his heroism that he would be remembered.

  28. bihirang bihira aq magbasa,piling-pili lang (twilight,da vincci..) kasi masakit sa mata,pag mahaba,hndi na caught interest ko, nabobore aq,aantukin ako,hndi ko matatapos,hndi ko na mababalikan.
    I could give a hundred more reasons sa katamaran ko mag basa pero pag nag basa ako sigurado one of the best..very brave lolo pops.. :)

    • Wow, for the first tiiiiiiiiime you read my blog!!! At comment din pag may time. :) Thanks Leelin! If there’s one post here that I’d like for you to read, it’s this one. Quota ka na…agad-agad!

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