You’ll Never See Me Again!

Sergio Ragsac (Photo courtesy of Robert Ragsac)

“… There were the four of us walking along the dirt road in April of 1924, from Barangay Pañgada to Vigan, the capital of the Province of Ilocos Sur. I was carrying a little bag of clothes and 180 pesos in my pocket, a ‘necklace’ hanging, locked on my neck. The 180 pesos was the money I was given to start my life in Hawai’i as a contract laborer in the plantations. My father Francisco Ragsag, my mother Eufemia Reg Ragsag, and my ninong (godfather), Esteban Reynon, each gave me 60 pesos. We didn't talk much; I was 17 years old and didn’t know anything about leaving home. Maybe it will be forever, but I was going anyway. My father said he would let me go, but my mother didn't want to and cried when she first found out: ‘If you go, you'll never see me again!’  She was right; I never saw them again after that day in Vigan, when I got on the truck with the other young Ilocano boys for the ride to Manila. …”

With that decision my father, Sergio Reg Ragsac (1907-1994), in 1924 at age 17, started a long series of life events that led to him crossing the Pacific Ocean in steerage of the Siberian Maru, laboring in Hawaiian pineapple and sugar cane plantations as a sakada (farm worker), living in wooden plantation shacks, meeting and marrying a pretty Ilocana in Waimea, Kauai, migrating to California in 1927 to meet his older brothers Leoncio Reg (1899-1985) and Benrabe Reg (1902-1991), and having a family of two girls, Helen and Elaine, and two boys, Robert and Ruben (1933-1994). The mother of these children, Mária Vidal (1910-1970), ran away with her uncle to Kauai, a 14-year-old who escaped a family life too harsh and cruel for a young girl in Lapaz, Abra, who only wanted, but was not allowed, to go to school.

In 1924 at age 17, my father started a long series of life events that led to him crossing the Pacific Ocean in steerage of the Siberian Maru.

Because of my father’s spirit of adventure and courage to leave his family to work as a sakada in a strange land, we were fortunate to be born in the U.S.A. Even though we were raised during the hard Depression times of the early 1930s, we survived and grew to ultimately live the American Dream. Not only do we owe him that, we are also deeply thankful that he found and married that pretty young Pinay who nurtured us and helped keep alive our Ilocano cultural heritage, while growing up in the white world of the 1930s and ‘40s. Little did that young Pinoy boy know when he left Pañgada so long ago that his legacy would live through many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, and just as many Father’s Days to come.

Robert V. Ragsac

Robert V. Ragsac

Robert V. Ragsac is a retired space systems engineer, having worked in the aerospace industry in various research and project management positions.