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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Hero Dad's True Life Story - Happy Birthday, Lolo

This is a re-print of the most popular Facebook Page post on the LoBiondo Page, by far. I wrote this and posted is on the LoBiondo fb page for my father's birthday, last year.  It has been shared all over the country.   We are blessed to be celebrating his birthday together again this year.  Back by popular demand, here is the famous "Lolo Story": 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the first man I loved, my first and forever hero, and the most dependable, loyal, honest, charming, and loving man I have ever or will ever know, my dad, Mariano Muyot, known to everyone simply as "Lolo" (Tagalog for “Grandpa”). Lolo was born in Manila, the Philippines on December 26, 1935. His father was an optometrist, who had a large, beautiful home and office in the beautifultropical city of Manila. His mother a beautiful woman, a stay at home mom to him and his 5 much older brothers, they were all teenagers when he was born.

When WWII came to the Philippines, the Filipino army was probably one of the most under-prepared armies in the world at the time. Nonetheless, all 5 of my uncles volunteered and, because they were all educated, went in as officers. When my father was 7 years old, Japanese soldiers came to Lolo's beautiful house to interrogate his father, since my uncles were helping the U.S. Army learn to be "guerillas," the Japnese soldiers wanted to know where the US guerilla soldiers were. My uncle wouldn't give up their locations. He was beaten in front of my father and they smashed his precious eye-glass cases. The soldiers did not beat my grandmother but they slapped her in front of my father, which is something he will never forget. They burned down my father's house and took my grandfather to a concentration camp with other P.O.W.'s, including Filipino and US soldiers.

My father witnessed many atrocities and went from being an affluent doctor's son to being homeless. He never had a toy growing up. He looked in the sky and saw "dogfights" between US and Japanese warplanes daily. If you know history, you know that General Douglas MacArthur is personally responsible for saving the Philippines and the US soldiers left behind on that island nation. Truman was ready to abandon the nation and the American troops, but MacArthur said, "I shall return," to the Filipino people he loved so much and he meant it. Defying his own Commander-in-Chief and sabotaging his own career, MacArthur did come back, he did liberate the Philippines and the remaining American troops. My grandfather crawled home from the concentration camp, emaciated, he looked at the faces of his wife and children and moments later, died in my grandmother's arms. The "G.I.'s", the American soldiers who liberated the Philippines, were so good to the Filipino children they gave their own C-rations to the kids, including my dad.

Lolo vowed then and there to do something to re-pay the Americans. In 1963, he joined the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay Naval Base, initially as a foreign citizen. He served for 7 years. After serving in the Gulf of Tonkin, the only battle of Vietnam to be considered part of a "war" (Congress briefly declared war, then revoked it, hence Vietnam was actually a "conflict" although 56,000 soldiers and sailors died), he became a US Citizen under the provision whereby a foreign citizen who serves in the U.S. military during wartime is eligible for US citizenship. In between, he met an Irish American gal from Beacon, NY named Mary McCaffrey. They dated for a few weeks and got married in San Diego, CA during shore leave on April 4, 1964. They just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary.

I was born July 23, 1965 while my dad was on a ship in Vietnam. My brother was born December 20, 1967. After leaving the Navy, my dad worked a full career at IBM, from which he retired years ago. 

He had colon cancer in 2001 but beat it. He was in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital on 9/11 when the planes hit. The nurses and doctors couldn't wait to meet me and tell me how all the patients were so scared but my father, who had just had surgery days ago, walked around the hospital wheeling his IV with him, comforting the patients, especially the younger ones, saying he had faced death several times before, and not to be afraid, the worst thing to do if you're going to die is to be in a state of panic, to put themselves in a state of peace and everything would be all right. They say he brought peace to an otherwise panicked hospital. I could go on and on about my dad. All I'm going to say is I was one lucky little girl, you can only imagine what it was like to be Daddy's little girl. Not that we had a lot of money, we didn't, but I always knew I was loved, loved, loved. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY, I LOVE YOU!!!