The Life and Legacy of Manuel T
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
This song has been forever etched in my memory. This is the song my grandfather, Manuel T. As a young kid, I would always take heart whenever I hear this song. No matter how bad the day went, or whatever difficulties I encountered, all these seemed to disappear when I got home, hearing the familiar tune of “You Are My Sunshine”, and getting a big hug from my grandfather, my “Lolo”.
To me, my Lolo, Manuel Cases, or Lolo Maning, as we fondly call him, was a source of inspiration. When I was young, I would hear many stories of his values and principles about life, about how he has touched the lives of many, and transformed the province he was elected to lead during his term in public office. It is my aim to share the history of Manuel Cases, my Lolo Maning. To share his life and his work so people may receive the inspiration and empowerment I got every time I would hear his escapades which touched and moved many. To share His Story. The story of a loved one who is “our sunshine”.
My grandfather, Manuel Cases, or Lolo Maning, has always been a passionate person. He shared his ideas with vigor and wit. He declared his speeches with fire and flair. He lived his life, being out in the front line, making things happen and creating possibilities for people. He was a figure who lived his dreams, who made a difference for his family, and for the nation he so lovingly served the Philippines.
We often wonder where Lolo Maning’s passion came from. But sitting often in the dining table over lunch when I was younger, my grandmother, Lola Ninay used to say that my great grand father, Lolo Maning’s Dad, was from Mongolia. Lolo Maning’s father, she would say over a lunch of “diningding” and a salad of “rabong”, was an infamous character in their town of San Manuel del Sur, in Agoo, La Union. He was a man of fire, a man who had the wildness of Genghis Khan and his clan of Mongols. She would fondly tell the story of how his father would often ride a horse through the town, intimidating the townsfolk and swashbuckling his way through the barrio.
Lolo Maning would often say that his father was so harsh, that he would often scold them or punish them with a beating for the simplest of errors. His older brother, Bruno, his sister, and he would always cower in fear whenever their father would come home, not knowing what type of unstable whim his father would now impose in the household. He would often liken his father to a bear, an imposing figure whose wrath you’d dare not incite. Whose path, you would best avoid lest you fall prey to his harsh ways.
To cope with the harshness of his home life, the young Maning believed intensely in education ever since his youth. He believed that improving himself through education would be the path to go beyond his current life of poverty and harshness. Thus, even without the support of his father, lolo Maning, at a young age, decided to pursue his studies, even if the school he attended was very far from his house in the fields. Often he would share that he would often have to walk barefoot, crossing a number of flooded fields, holding his shoes over his head, just to get to the school he was going to.
He believed in mastery and honing his skills. He would often share that as a young boy, during his free from chores at home and working to earn some money to sustain himself, he would go to the fields and share his ideas to the world. At an early age, he was already engaging in declamation, declaring his ideas to the universe, all on top of a carabao plodding along the fields surrounding his home. There must be something he saw while riding on top of that carabao. A new vision for himself. A better life. A better world. In his declarations on top of a carabao, he would share his dreams, his thoughts, his ideas, and the visions he saw himself as. You could say that his moments on top of the carabao during his younger years, were his ticket to seeing a better figure, a bigger game for himself. Standing on top of a carabao, he could create a new future for himself that inspired him, that inspired the greatness within him. In his declarations, little did he know at that time, that the universe was already conspiring in his favor. Conspiring to create with him a new life, and to reach new horizons beyond his wildest dreams.
With the hardships of his young life, the young Manuel Cases, saw a future much greater for himself. He saw a greater vision of himself that moved and inspired him to action. That is why, one day, at the age of 14, he made a stand for himself for this bigger vision. On this fateful day, without any clothes or belongings, he encouraged his brother to leave their home and cast their lot with what the universe would give them. He and his older brother, Bruno, boarded a boat, and as castaways, sailed away to an emerging land of prosperity the United States of America.
It was not an easy journey. Being first time passengers in a ship, which was a foreign mode of transport to the young boys so used to walking or riding on carabaos, they had their share of sea sickness. My grandfather would fondly share how he and his older brother would often throw up as the boat shook from side to side. With little food and surviving on left overs from the generous graces of the ship personnel, the two young boys only had their determination and their dream to fuel them forward.
With fear shaking them, with uncertainty staring him point blank in his face, the young Manuel steadied his resolve and kept creating his dream for himself. This more than anything is what sustained him through the long journey on ship to the United States, the year: 1924.
After many days and nights on the ship, Manuel Cases, aged 14, Filipino, landed in the shores of a land of prosperity: The United States of America. Upon landing in this strange new world, with a language he couldn’t even understand, the young Maning knew that to thrive in this new environment, he and his brother must find a way to educate themselves and integrate themselves into this new culture they have landed in.
The first steps upon landing in America were clear to the young Manuel, who so respected the value of education in creating his future of greatness go to school and get a job to fund his schooling. Looking for a job was the first critical step so he and his brother could earn enough to keep the alive in this new environment, without family and friends, with everyone completely foreign and new. My Lolo Maning would share that this time was a time of really moving out of his comfort zone. He and his brother had no one to depend on but themselves.
So with the little they had, they knocked on to establishment after establishment, willing to take on whatever work, whatever odd job came their way in this new land. Fortunately, after a lot of knocked doors and aching knuckles, a kind soul took them in to start their work as dishwashers for his restaurant. The two boys gladly took this on, manna from heaven in their penniless state.
My Lolo Maning always believed in Education. He believed that education is the way to progress. By building ourselves, we are able to accomplish more. By expanding ourselves, we are able to contribute more and empower others more. Thus, instead of just graduating from high school, Lolo Maning opted to pursue higher education. The problem was hed didn’t have any money at that time to enter a University. So he took on more odd jobs and work to earn his tuition fee and gain entry into a great university.
It didn’t how dirty the work. His vision drove Maning or Manuel forward. From washing dishes, to harvesting tomatoes, to waitering in restaurants. He even went to the extent of shining shoes. One day, he even met a Filipino in the US, a congressman or politician in the Philippines. The politician recognizing him as Filipino, asked him to shine his shoes to earn some additional money. Maning gladly took on the job, a few dollars closer to securing his tuition for entering a university.
At last, after juggling multiple jobs, Manuel finally earned his tuition fee to enter university. He knew in his heart that he someday wanted to make a difference of his homeland the Philippines. He saw one important avenue to effect transformation Governance. Thus, he bravely went into one of the top universities in his area the University of California, Berkeley and applied into his bachelor’s degree of Political Science. He was out there to make a difference. Completing his university degree was a key step in moving toward his dream.