My Happy Birthday officially, I thank God unofficially

smiler blogMANILA - 11 November, Thursday. Today’s my birthday officially and I thank God unofficially. Let me tell you the story of my names 3 and my birthdays 3.

I forgot that today is my birthday officially, but some people didn’t. Michael C greeted me Tuesday (09 November): “Happy Birthday, and may you have many more birthdays to come. You take care.” I will! The PinoyExchange Team greeted me today, Thursday (“We at PinoyExchange would like to greet you a happy birthday today! Thank you for making us a part of your life. Wishing you happiness in your special day and in the year to come.” Thank you! OPMPinoy also greeted me today (“We at Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!”) Netlog also (“Netlog wishes you a happy birthday! Congratulations.”) Congratulations to all of you for not being afraid to gift someone by giving a simple and yet meaningful greeting, “Happy Birthday.”

I’m 71 today if indeed I was born on 11 November 1939. That’s what I want to talk about today; I want to set the record straight, if only on my account. Notwithstanding, if the date remains unsettled, I can always claim that I am the man who was born 3 times!

I Frank Agapito Hilario know I was born in Sanchez, Asingan, Pangasinan in Central Luzon, Philippines, into the farmer family of an Ilocano father, Dionisio Hilario (“Lakay Disiong”) and an Ilocano mother, Sixta Agapito (“Baket Satur”). Everyone in Sanchez knows all that.

I am the 2nd child of a 3-child family: Emilio the eldest, I am the man in the middle, and Brillita the youngest and only girl. None illegitimate, none adopted. Lakay Disiong lived beyond his 90s; Baket Satur lived to be 100 years old. Don’t ask me about the dates of their births.

All my school records show the exact same date of my birth: 11 November 1939, from the files of the Cabalitian-Sanchez (now Sanchez-Cabalitian) Elementary School to the transcript of records at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. That’s public knowledge. The Comelec has the same entry for that date of birth. Consistent. Doesn’t consistency constitute a statement of fact? We’ll see.

Now, this is not public knowledge: About 5 years ago, I went back to Asingan and checked with the Roman Catholic Church records there for a proper birthday certificate. I knew that the records of the Registrar of the town had been destroyed during World War 2. You can’t search fast among church records but, patiently, soon I found the entry for a certain Francisco Hilario who was born to Dionisio Hilario and Sixta Agapito. So that’s the full name of the boy: Francisco. But wait, this Francisco Hilario was born 22 September 1940 according to church records, or 10 months after Francisco Hilario was born 11 November 1939 according to school records. So, these are 2 different boys?

Also, this is not public knowledge: That house is gone now, but when we were that high, the front part of our house in the village of Sanchez was made of good old wood, and the 4 big sturdy corner posts went through the floor of the house and up to hold the roof in place. There was enough distance between posts and walls so that as a small boy I could squeeze into any of those spaces and stare at the post. Why would I stare at the post in that awkward position? There was good reason: Lakay Disiong had pasted a piece of paper, Grade 5 ruled paper if I remember right, with the names of his 3 children written, including their birthdays. Of course I remember me; the name written was Frank (I’m not sure if followed by Hilario), and the date was 17 September 1940 (written as September 17, 1940).

So now you have 3 almost-the-same names with the same parents but with 3 different birthdates! Francisco Hilario born 11 November 1939
Frank Hilario born 17 September 1940
Francisco Hilario born 22 September 1940.
Are they one and the same?

70 to 71 years ago. By the process of elimination, we will determine which date is which, who is who, official or unofficial. Without either documentary evidence or testimonial, I have to resort to logic. That’s what the better lawyers do, don’t they? When they have the facts, they bang on the facts; when they don’t have the facts, they bang on the logic. Including circumstantial evidence.

The 11 November 1939 entry on school records is easy to explain. When my parents brought me to Mrs Bautista to enroll for Grade 1, she could see that I was not of school age, not yet 7 years old. That was June 1947 - I would be 7 in September yet, or 3 months later. She was right.

Essentially unschooled, Lakay Disiong wanted his children to attend school and finish college. He was hoping that his 3 children, with their diplomas, will bring the family out of lack to abundance. So, a small detail like that and Lakay Disiong didn’t want No for answer. He went to a lawyer in town and produced an affidavit that his son Francisco Hilario was born on 11 November 1939, to make him older on record. It was easy to produce the affidavit because all municipal records had been burned during World War 2 - the whole town hall was burned down by the Japanese in retaliation for the bravery (and deadly anger) of the guerrillas of Asingan. I understand my father helped in the guerrilla movement by hiding the guns of the guerrillas in our house; even after the war, there were still guns in the dark storage room of our house, where the rice for cooking was kept. Presented the affidavit, Mrs Bautista laughed, and then she asked the little boy to do something that he should be able to do if he were really of school age, 7:

Mrs Bautista asked the boy to raise his right hand and above his head try and touch his left ear. Mrs Bautista knew her child development theory and practice.

Of course the shy little boy couldn’t do it. He was really too young. Shy, but not a slow foot; he was a quick thinker. Without as much as a by-your-leave, that little boy placed his right hand at the back of his head and took hold of his left ear, and then without letting go of that ear, that little boy slowly and carefully raised his elbow and, of course, even as it inched slowly up, the right hand remained on the left ear all the time! Mrs Bautista laughed. Bright boy.

So Mrs Bautista admitted the boy, but rules are rules, so only tentatively, as Visitor. But the boy showed that he was smarter than Visitor that soon enough Mrs Bautista made that boy a regular pupil in her Teacher’s List.

To be sure: That boy was Francisco Agapito Hilario. Not Frank Agapito Hilario. A wrong letter or a wrong spelling can deny you a birth certificate.

Why did Lakay Disiong use the date 11 November 1939? Because he wanted the boy to look older on paper, and 11 November in the Roman Catholic calendar gave him as one of the saints the name Francisco. Perfect fit.

So, we have a Francisco Agapito Hilario born, according to an affidavit, on 11 November 1939, a Saturday. Now, what about the Francisco Agapito Hilario who was born, according to church records, on 22 September 1940, a Sunday? And what about the Frank Agapito Hilario who was born, according to Lakay Disiong’s record, on 17 September 1940, a Tuesday?

(And why did Lakay Disiong not simply change the year, from 1940, to 1939, for school registration, without changing the day and month? My answer is that he had no way of knowing that it would in the future complicate things; he didn’t know any better; he had attended school up to Grade 3, that’s all. )

Since we have 2 exact matches, the month (September) and the year (1940), we can eliminate 11 November 1939 as the real date of birth. In the first place, we know that it was only for record purposes.

Now, how do we decide which one of the 2 September dates is correct? By elimination. 1st, the handwriting on the wall (post) by Lakay Disiong is credible, so it’s 17 September. My father was an honest man, and straight. Since the paper used was Grade 5 paper, it must have been written in 1951 or 1952, when I was Grade 5 or Grade 6, or only 11 or 12 years after I was born. I don’t doubt the accuracy of my father’s recall. Circumstantial evidence also points to this date.

How do you explain the church record that differs by 5 days? Easy. 17 September 1940 was a Tuesday; 22 September was a Sunday. In those days, the priests, probably Spanish, were fearsome as they would bring down fire and brimstone on the unbelievers for any perceived sin of commission or omission. Since the village of Sanchez was more than 2 kilometers away from the town proper where the church was, and since in those days, 70 years ago, the only transportation was either the back of a carabao or an open wooden cart pulled by that carabao, going to town just to report a birth was a self-flagellation. Solution: Report the birth on Sunday, when you go to church and hear mass. Problem solved! To avoid the fire and brimstone, Lakay Disiong lied and said that the baby had been born that day, 22 September 1940. To be sure, it was a moral sin, but it also made sense.

In those days, no baby could be baptized with a name other than from that of a saint that appeared on that date on the Roman Catholic calendar. And yes, in that calendar, there is a saint by the name of Francisco on 17 September; actually, it’s St Francis of Assisi. That should be the final argument on which birthdate is correct. That shy and smart little boy was named after one of the greatest saints of the Roman Catholic Church. You should be so lucky!

And yes that that shy little boy grew up as quietly as he could, and when he was about 57 years old, he vowed to share his wealth (many talents) to the world by distributing (writing about) what in essence the Prayer of Saint Francis is all about; here is a version as it appears in that I have never encountered before (I like it):

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong,
I may bring the spirit of forgiveness:
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather
to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
it is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Even if itself the real source of the prayer is questioned by some people (Wikipedia)

So, there’s no question; it’s settled: The real birthday is 17 September 1940.

But we’re not finished. Still, we’re sure that that’s Francisco Agapito Hilario, which I claim to be me, but not sure that that’s Frank Agapito Hilario, which I also claim to be me. Mistaken identity? The National Statistics Office will not accept that Francisco Agapito Hilario is one and the same as Frank Agapito Hilario even if they have the exact same parents, even if Frank Agapito Hilario said so.

Never mind the NSO. We go back to Grade 1 in the year 1940. When that shy little boy Francisco was in Grade 1, he found that he could not write his name in full on just one line of the ruled Grade 1 paper. Francisco Hilario was too long. So Lakay Disiong talked to Mrs Bautista and asked if that boy could simply use the shortened name “Frank” instead of “Francisco,” and Mrs Bautista agreed, bless her soul. My father wanted to honor his American soldier friend named Franklin, nicknamed Frank.

And that would be me: Frank Agapito Hilario, born 17 September 1940, unofficially. So, I’m 70, unofficially.

I don’t want to change the records officially because it would take a row of headaches before I could become 100% what I claim to be, birthday included.

And it’s triple fun if you can celebrate 3 birthdays, don’t you think, even if you had only 1 gallon of ice cream to celebrate each time? We can’t thank God enough. To thank God for the day from one year to another is a privilege for me, a blessing, even if I have to remember to say “Thank you” 3 times and be sure which day in 3 different weeks: a Tuesday in September, a Sunday in September, and a Saturday in November! What if I lost count of the days? That wouldn’t matter. I would not be counting the days; instead, I would be counting the blessings.

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