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Feb 21st
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako A Stroll Down Memory Lane with Ray L. Burdeos, a Book Author, and a Friend from Another Lifetime
A Stroll Down Memory Lane with Ray L. Burdeos, a Book Author, and a Friend from Another Lifetime PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Thursday, 18 August 2011 18:58


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako



R ay Burdeos is a friend, a long-lost friend from another lifetime. He's also an author. He writes books. About Filipinos who have served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. His latest book, "Pinoy Stewards in the U.S. Service: Seizing Marginal Opportunity" is his fourth and latest book.


I met him in the 60's in New London/Groton Submarine Base in Connecticut while I was stationed down there as a Navy submariner. I've just changed my rate then from a First Class Navy Steward to First Class Journalist, and at that time I was the editor of the base newspaper, called the "Dolphin."   


Ray wasn't a Navy submariner. He was a "Coastie." A Hospital Corpsman, stationed then at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, working as a Clinical Laboratory Technician. The Submarine Base and the Coast Guard Academy are separated by the Thames River, the river where some of the old diesel boats and fast attack submarines that were “homeported” there, traversed out to sea.


Those years were young years for both of us.


I met Ray when a bunch of us Filipino Americans in that town who were in the Navy and Coast got together and formed the very first Filipino-American association there. We were a merry group, plenty of parties and picnics and all ... and gossips and intrigues, too, of course. Friendships flourished. 


Then, I got transferred out overseas, to the Navy Base in Subic Bay, Philippines, working as photo-journalist for the Seventh Fleet Public Affairs Office.  From that part of the world, we would send out our stories and photos to military publications and hometown newspapers, and the Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) would sometimes pick up our stories for national publications. I was at the height of my career as Navy journalist during those years. I garnered awards.


I had no idea what happened to Ray. I supposed he also thrived in his Coast Guard career and went up the ranks.


Memories are long, so to speak, for several decades later, someone from that past e-mailed and told me that Ray had written a book, titled "The Steward and the Captain's Daughter."  I got hold of the book ... and Ray's e-mail address.  I told him I enjoyed reading his book. It's about his love affair with the daughter of the captain of one his ships he was on.  We exchanged emails. He encouraged me to write my own book, too.  He said I've got the "tools" to write my own book, having been trained as a journalist in the Navy.


I said, I'll try ... And I did try.  But completing the book never got to fruition.  


Ray and I moved on again with our own lives. Another decade passed. Then I heard from Ray again. He said he had written his fourth book. We began e-mailing each other, once more. 


He wrote:


Jesse ... I have been trying to contact you last year, but I didn't get any response from you.  I wrote my fourth book about Filipinos in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard who did well starting as stewards and later were able to change their rates.  You are one of them that I was interested to write about.  The title: Pinoy Stewards in the U.S. Sea Services: Seizing marginal OpportunityLook it up in the Internet or  That's Barnes and


How's you book coming?  (Signed) Ray. 


I answered:


Hello Ray ... It's good to hear from you.  I didn't get that email of yours from last year.


Your fourth book now?  Congratulations!  I don't remember at this moment the title of your first book that I've read.  I know I still have it somewhere in one of my littered bookcases. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. It was a love affair with your captain's daughter, wasn't it? That book reminded me of one of my many love affairs while I was in the Navy. But I was never successful in seducing a ship captain's daughter, just like you did.


You're indeed a fine writer.


I started writing my own book after you've told me that I should also write one, too. I got to Chapter 7 ... and then my computer crashed, and everything I've written so painstakingly got all deleted. And I couldn't retrieve any of it. It was an autobiographical novel of my life in the Navy.  It began when I received that calling card to report for testing in Sangley Point, Cavite. I have reached that part where I found myself working in the officers' wardroom aboard my first ship, the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid ...


When all that writings got deleted, I focused more on writing my weekly column, "A Cup O' Kapeng Barako" and on personality profiles for the Philippine Time/MegaScene, a Chicago hard copy magazine.  But I had a falling out with the publishers. Now I write primarily for an online publication, and kept the name of my column. Several Fil-Am publications reprint my column.  My bluntness in telling-it-like-it is in the way I write had garnered a lot of enemies for me that I've earned the name "OJ," as in Obnoxious Jesse. Believe it or not, I even get cursed out, I mean, really literally cursed with obscene words and names.


But I just laughed at them. I loved it, for that means, I am being read. Cursed out and hated, but read nevertheless. I suppose many of my readers love to hate me.


What I have in mind now for a book is perhaps a collection of the best and my most-hated writings. I need a publisher who would do this for me. What do you think?  Any suggestions?


I would like to read your latest book, and all those books you've written.  Can you please send them?  And please tell me how much it will cost, and I'll send a check to you. Okay Ray, take care now and talk to you soon.  (Signed)  Jesse.


R ay's response:


Jesse ... Hey, that's a terrific idea, "the best and my most hated writings" into a book.  That title alone will grab someone's attention. I am looking forward to see that in print.


About publishing your book, go to the Internet and just type AUTHORHOUSE.COM and it shows everything about publishing a book.  That's the one I used.  In the application for publishing, there's a question about who suggested to you to use their services.  Just mentioned my name ...  They'll give me 100 dollars for recommending you. 


Publish that book now!


About my books, the only one I have is the latest one.  I'll send you one ... a gift.  I got two reviews on that.  One is by and the other by Allen Gaborro, A Fil-Am writer, based in San FranciscoCalifornia. In that book, I wrote something about you ...  It's on page 67. The only complaint I have about this book, is the "typos."  The printer did a poor job on this one.  (Signed) Ray.


I answered:


Hello Ray ... I got your book.  I've began reading it.  Read that portion about me.  Sayang, we were not able to get together.  Anyway, thank you for mentioning me and for your kind words.


Right after I retired from the Navy, I went back "home" to the Philippines ... and while attending a summer Literature class at my old alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, using my GI bill, I met a woman there, the teacher of that Lit class, who then became my wife. It was love at first sight, if there's such a thing.


As you know, that scandalous affair with Mimi (you remember her, right?) got me into trouble, too.  It broke up my marriage with that English woman (you remember her too, right?)....


When I went back to the Philippines and got married there again, we lived in Baguio City, where I became the editor of the Camp John Hay Newsletter.  When they closed down all the U.S. military bases in the Philippines, I came back to the U.S., went to Florida, where I became a Martin County deputy sheriff.  And with my wife and children, we settled in a little, quiet town, called Palm City.


When I retired from the Sheriff's Office, we all came up here to the Northwest and settled in Auburn, a quiet suburb of the city of Seattle.  To keep myself busy and out of trouble, I began writing again. Thus, "A Cup O' Kapeng Barako” was born.  I enjoy writing.  It has become a pleasurable hobby for me.


I am talking too much about myself ...


I'll always remember you in your dress blue Coast Guard uniform. You were in your uniform that day when we began forming that first Filipino-American Association in the New London/Groton/Norwich area. You looked so reserved, a gentleman in uniform.


In your latest book, in that portion where you told your own story and unexpectedly met your ship's "Captain" once again, who became then the "Admiral" of the Eight Coast Guard District Command, you should've asked him about his daughter. But I understand your "fear" for not asking about her. But you know, I'll always wonder what happened to her. Her name was Kim Bullard, right? That part of your life story was very "touching" to me. I think I also know the reason why you didn't become a warrant officer.  Perhaps, that Admiral hindered you.


Well, Ray, thanks for sending and autographing your book for me. It was interesting and compelling reading. It'll be one among my collections of precious books. 


I want to shout this out, loud and clear: Yes, despite all the prejudice and the discrimination that we, Filipinos, in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, went through during those times, there were many of us who were able to overcome those hardships and became successful in our chosen fields of our military careers!  We showed the Navy and Coast Guard establishments that we, Filipinos, were indeed, intelligent high achievers! 


Take care now, my friend. (Signed) Jesse.


Ray's response:


Hi Jesse ... Yes, I do remember that pretty woman, Mimi.  It seemed that you two were meant for each other. All along I thought eventually you'll be together, but I guess it didn't happen.  But you know, lots of these retired Navy and Coast Guard guys who got divorced here and went back to the Philippines ended up marrying young and beautiful women. There's no question you were one of them ... who also did well choosing and marrying the prettiest.... (Signed) Ray.


I told Ray that, "Yes, I did choose and marry not only the prettiest English professor at UST, but also the brightest of them all!"


POST RETIREMENT & A REVIEW OF RAY'S LATEST BOOK: Upon retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard as a Chief Hospital Corpsman, Ray attended the University of Texas in Galveston and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Care Administration.  He eventually became the manager of the Department of Defense Outpatient Clinic at St. Mary's Hospital in Galveston.  And like me, he's now fully retired.


In a review by one of the writers of Amazon.Com of Ray's latest book, it reads:


"This book shares personal and compelling stories of a unique group of Americans and I was surprised to find myself wrapped up in one story long after my expected bedtime!  As I read, I felt like I was getting to know the Chavez family; maybe it was the letters from Zack's children or perhaps the story of trying to marry as bi-racial couple, I am not sure.  But I am sure that this glimpse into the lives of men who left their homes seeking opportunities was compelling. 


"The writing is not stellar (there were even typos), but it felt more real that way.  I recommend this book...."


I, too, recommend this book.  To me, there's only one word to describe Ray's latest book: TOUCHING!  Touching because, in a way, it's my story, too.  Touching because Ray considers me as a friend.  The autograph on his book, that he gave me, reads, "To Jesse ... A good friend back in the sixties at Groton Submarine Base.  (Signed) Ray L. Burdeos." 


Touching, because, it's a stroll down memory lane.  JJ



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