Felix Juan Bunac, Jr.

Felix Juan Bunac, Jr. Bio

I am 2nd generation Filipino. I will be 62 years old this year. I was born on February 24, 1938 in Pismo Beach, California in the corner of Oceanview and Dolliver Streets, right across from the old Filipino gambling houses. My parents were Felix Bunac, Sr. and Joan Wilson (she is known as Joanne). My father was born in Inabanga, Bohol, Philippines. My mother was from Waco, Texas. My father arrived in United States in 1928 and settled in Pismo Beach. My mother was of Irish descent. The laws in those days did not allow a white woman to marry a Filipino, so my parent traveled to New Mexico to marry. I have one brother, Donny Bunac. He is married to Carol Ann Cole and they have one daughter and two sons. He was also born in Pismo Beach. Through my mother, I have other siblings: three younger half sisters and one is deceased. I also have one half brother. A few years ago, I applied for a copy of my birth certificate in San Luis Obispo County and under nationality or race, they have me listed as “yellow”.

I married my high school sweetheart, Josie Leva from Santa Maria, California. We were married on December 9, 1956 at the Women’s Club in Pismo Beach, California. We have five sons: Vincent, Angelo, Steven, Todd and Sonny; one daughter, Jessica. We are blessed with 13 grandchildren. There are eleven granddaughters and two grandsons. So you could see after 5 sons and 1 daughter, we have a bunch of grandchildren.

During my early years, my parents divorced so I was raised by India and Tempo from Pismo Beach. I do not remember what had happened, but I was bounced around between my father and my mother, then back to India and Tempo. I attended Pismo Elementary and Junior grade in Pismo Beach. I also attended Arroyo Grande Junior High School. I recalled when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was sent to St Mary Catholic school, a boarding school in Berkeley, CA. for over a year. I was then sent to my mother in Compton, CA where she owned a restaurant.

My mother did not want me to attend the local school so I was enrolled in the Military academy for about a year. After this period, I returned to Pismo Beach with India and Tempo. I did not graduate high school in Arroyo Grande because I was sent back to my mother. I did attend Santa Maria High School. I did not graduate until I joined the Navy which was in 1958.

When my father was in United States, he used to work in the fields in Oceano, Arroyo Grande and Shell Beach. Pismo Beach was the hub for the Filipino farm workers. I used to watch them from our large bay window from our house. They were sharply dressed. They would come into town with their Macantosh type suit and their two tone shoes looking very sharp. My father and my Uncle Tempo ran three gambling houses in Pismo Beach. This was the Filipinos recreation.

When I was a young boy my nickname was “Pumpkin”. I don’t know why they named me that, but anyway I remembered some of the pinoys. They used to enter our house from the back door into the kitchen, and they would just start serving themselves food. There was always food on the table and the food was covered up with drying cloths made from sacks of rice or flour. They sit down and eat, then they wash their plates and put them on the drying rack and cover the food with the drying cloths. They would say, “Okay Junior, Pumpkin I see you later ha”. Back in those days, if you had more than others, you shared. My Dad or my Uncle Tempo made me a shoe shine box. Uncle Tempo gave me permission to shine shoes outside the gambling houses, but I was not allowed to enter the building. So I would stand outside and the men came by me, I would shine their shoes. I made some change.

I met a friend of mine, he used to shine shoes next to the Barber shop and the P.I. Market. We decided to go downtown. Downtown in Pismo Beach is by the beach to a little bar in the corner. Today it is a restaurant located across a saloon. My friend and I decided to sneak into the bar and the owner did not say anything ,so we started shining the Army guys’ boots. There was more money especially shining boots. They were from Camp Cook, which is now Vandenberg Air Force Base. My Uncle Ted Ferma saw us in the bar and warned us to leave. He spoke to me, “Hey, Pumpkin you better go home now because if your Uncle Tempo catch you, he is going to smack you.” I said okay, but we kept shining boots. I had one more to shine when my Uncle Tempo appeared at the door. Man, he grabbed my hair behind my ear and took me all the way home. This was the end of my shoe shining career.

In the campo, I remember staying there on weekends and during the summer, I was picking peas or beans, cutting cauliflower, celery or broccoli. One of my other jobs in the campo, was to place wood underneath the bano. This was to warm the large container of water to take your Filipino bath or shower. They never let me light it because they were afraid I would blow the place up.

Sometimes I did not work in the fields. They would tell me to remain at the camp. I would stay with the cook and help him with anything he wanted me to do. One job was to feed the cats. There were millions of cats around the farm, also dogs. My other jobs was to feed the chicken and I was not allow to take them out of the cage because they prick you so hard. I was just a young guy.

After dinner at the campo, I remember the pinoys would loosen their pants and walk out with their shower shoes. The shower shoes were old shoes or boots that they cut off the backs. They would sit down and light their pipe or toscanny. They talk about work or their gambling experience the night before or if they found a white woman. Sometimes they play the guitar and sing music. Gosh! Those were the best days in our lives. When I used to stay with my Uncle Uneon(?), at night when you had to go ihi, you have to use the coffee can. This was also another job of mine, was to empty the coffee cans.

I remember going to Sabongs. My Uncle would say, “we’re goin' to the montan”, or to Oso Flaco or Arroyo Grande hills. My friend at that time was Jessie Real and his brother Donnie. Their mother used to sell chicken and biko at the chicken fights. I remember some of the big sabongs, people came from different areas of California, Stockton, Delano, and Salinas. They would come on the special holidays like Labor Day or Memorial Day. There would be hundreds of people. I liked attending the sabongs until I experienced a raid. I ran with my Uncle until we were out of the area. I used to love to eat the Biko and the dessert that was made with bananas. If we did not know where to go for the day, we would cruise around until we see smoke in the sky. When you see the smoke, you knew there was a bar-be-que somewhere. We just knew the area, the houses or the sabongs. We liked to get together at the bar-be-que and drink. I remember one time the bass drum, was made from a galvanized drum turned upside down with a string and a pole attached to the drum.. This was a Filipino ingenious idea.

My Dad took us down to San Pedro. He worked in the canneries for a short while. I never ate so much albacore and tuna in my life. I also remember my parents traveling to Salinas to the “Batacan Club”, a gambling house then traveling to Stockton to gamble. We were not allowed in the gambling houses so we stayed in the hotel rooms. We did experience discrimination. My mother being Irish (white) and my father being dark (Filipino). In those days, there were a few restaurants so my parents were not allowed to enter. So as a mestizo, I have also experienced discrimination in my younger years. I remember my Dad and Uncle Tempo use to attend the Filipino movies on Thursday in Guadalupe, Ca at the Royal Theater. I never knew what they were saying. When we were in Guadalupe, we visited with my Uncle Leo Pisa, he was a barber. Ted Munar and I were friends since we were infants. We grew up in the same area in Pismo Beach.

I also used to live with the Roslinda family. I was friends with Ronly Rontal and his brother Richard. We used to work in the strawberry fields for Papa Seyong Roslinda. We also traveled to Stockton to work in the asparagus field. We worked as sled boys. It was so uncomfortable, it was black, dusty, and hot.

Throughout my tour in the Navy, I was able to visit my father in the Philippines in 1960 and 1975. Every time the ship would embark, I would try to get a leave to visit. I was able to see him two times. It was a big thrill for him and me. I would be there during the time of the big fiestas. I had a lot of relatives in the Philippines. My father passed away in 1987 before I retired from the Navy. After I retired from the Navy in 1987 with 29 years of service, I worked in construction, then for a oil refinery near Martinez, California. I was injured on the job and was placed on disability.

In 1994, I had a triple by-pass after some heart complications. At that time, a cancer tumor was removed from my lung and I was given five years of good health. I was fortunate to receive 100% benefit coverage from the military. I was very fortunate to travel all over the Western Pacific and half way around the world, being in the Navy. My children were all born when I was in the Navy. I was stationed across United States and I have been in the East coast four times. My son Vincent was born in Hawaii; Angelo in San Diego; Steven and Todd at the Navy base in Great Lake, Ill.; Jessica at Stanford Hospital, CA; and Sonny at Oaknoll Hospital, Oakland, California. All my children live in Sacramento, California. I am staying with my daughter. She is taking care of me because of my disease. My wife lives next door with my two sons and grandchild. I have one son in Chicago, IL and he has three daughters. I was fortunate to see them when they visited me during Thanksgiving. I am in good shape.

I have given myself to the Lord.

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