Going virtual

Jenara Regis Newman
·4 min read

GOING virtual during the pandemic seems to have become the new reality. Business and club meetings have become virtual, and so have attending masses, buying goods, meeting friends, attending classes. There is also the proposal, or is it the law now, that Christmas caroling should also go virtual!

Going virtual is rather alienating. But it can also be a way of connecting with people living far away from us. And so, my San Francisco-based nephew Ken White wanted us to meet with his Mom (my sister Paz) via Zoom. After the initial get-together with him and his partner Mark Freeman, my sister, brother Chongie, brother–in-law Marin Alvarez, and son Jun and my daughter Pia, it was decided that we should have a virtual family get-together on my father’s 113th birthday last Sunday, Nov. 15. Tasked to finalize the virtual party was Pia.

Our base was Chongie’s house because he lives in the family home on Echavez St., Cebu City, built the year I was born by my grandfather Julian Sanson.

The emcee would be fourth generation Regis, Julian Sandiego (because he is very much a Sandiego in the sense of being at home hosting, entertaining, like his uncle Val). Time would be 9 a.m. Sunday in the Philippines, 12 noon Sunday in New Zealand, 6 p.m. Saturday in the United States and Canadian West Coast, and 9 p.m. Saturday in the US East Coast.

Those who attended were Paz, Patricia and Ken White, Mark Freeman in California, Ricky Alvarez in San Diego, Julia Alvarez and children Mikaela and Gabo in Oregon, Marilisa Iannone in Richmond, Canada, Martin Alvarez in New Jersey, Maricor Rosales in Philadelphia, Angelo Tobes and Melette Seriña in Georgia, Anton Regis in New Zealand, Dian Tobes in Boracay, and the rest of the clan in Cebu.

Julian made sure everyone had his/her say in the meeting, interspersed with music from, of course, the Sandiegos, plus a song number from Gabo in Oregon. He made us recall special memories about the family patriarch.

I shared a memory which I, being a journalist, should share now with readers. In one of Capt. Manuel Segura’s war books, he asked where—in the fight against the invaders—was Lt. Regis, who was supposed to be with the intelligence unit.

If I knew the answer then, I would have gone to his place which was only about a kilometer and a half away from us.

My father, Leopoldo Regis, was very humble. He did not boast about his accomplishments. Being in the military, he was imprisoned when his general, Manuel Roxas, surrendered to the Japanese. While in prison, we, his family, evacuated to Barili where our Cui-Sanson relatives were.

An uncle, Jorge Sanson, was the Hospicio de San Jose dentist while another uncle, Manuel, was the facility’s physician. We stayed with Tio Maning and at one point, from there, we also had to evacuate to a nearby hill with the family of Tio Anoy Cui.

When Tatay was released from the Japanese concentration camp, he came back to his hometown, Naga where, in Tuyan, we were next door neighbors with the Japanese troops stationed there. He conversed with them in the Japanese he learned in the concentration camp. One night, we fled the place in secret, crossed mountains to go to the town of Barili, this time to a barrio called Luhod. At one point going there, I could feel fear as we were stopped by a group of strangers who, later on, I found out were guerillas. We settled in Luhod.

Every day, Tatay would go down the hill while my older brother Cesar and sister Paz would go with him part of the way. They were attending Mrs. Pace’s classes, using banana leaves as paper and coconut midrib as pencils.

I did not know why my father went down every day. It was only years later, when he had already passed, that I found out.

Former Cebu City Mayor Eulogio Borres, an engineer by profession, and I met incidentally in Barili. He then recounted to me that he was in Barili during the war. My father, he said, was the lead engineer, with him and another engineer, Jesus Zosa, in a project that harnessed electricity from Mantayupan Falls in order for the guerillas and Pedro Calomarde to hear the news from—the Voice of America?—about the war which Calomarde used in the printing of his wartime Morning News.

Wow! My father did that and he did not even tell me? That was the kind of person he was.

The Zoom party went so well that there is a plan to have another one for those in the family that missed it. After that Zoom affair, even if I am not a techie, I can now appreciate the uses of virtual reality, though it’s still not just the same as person-to-person contact.