I was born in the Philippines to Filemon Agustin, a farmer, and Beatriz Alejandrino Agustin, the sixth of 11 children. I grew up on a small farm in a small community, the Science City of the Philippines. We have one of two agricultural universities in the Philippines, attended by students from countries around the world.
I was in high school when World War II broke out, giving me a lasting impression living through four miserable years of Japanese occupation. I continued my studies after America liberated the Philippines. I married Frank Luena, who was in the U.S. Army, and quit school to follow him wherever he was stationed. We had six children, but lost the first two when they were infants. Frank was discharged from the army and studied vocational courses under the G.I. Bill of Rights. We stayed in Manila.
I continued my studies graduating from high school a day before my first son (the third child) was born. I enrolled at Centro Escolar University for Women, but a year later another son was born, so I quit school again. My third child was on the way when Frank left for the United States. After my third child was born I enrolled at Araullo Law School in my home town, but decided to move back to Manila and enrolled at Far Eastern University, majoring in accounting, dropping out in my third year to join my husband in the United States.
With three sons in tow, 10, 9, and 6 years old, we flew to Hong Kong to take the tour ship USS President Wilson. We stopped at Kobe, Okinawa, Japan and Hawaii, which was our port of entry, before arriving in San Francisco. It was a 17-day voyage on the sea. Frank was there waiting to take us to Orange Cove. We had free housing and utilities that came with my husband’s job, a foreman, for the Zaninovich Bros.
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It was hard to adjust to life in the United States. I tried work in packing houses where I lasted only one or two weeks. I was hired at Bailey Manufacturing Co., a men’s pants factory. The work was tough, so I told my husband that it is not for me; “I am going to continue my studies.” I enrolled at Reedley College while working at Bailey. I met an engineer in my night class and he said they needed a secretary in his company and for me to apply if I was interested. I got the job, so I quit Bailey and worked as a bookkeeper for a plumbing and air conditioning company.
When the company closed, I went full-time to Fresno State and graduated after two years. I received my Bachelor of Arts in education with a major in Spanish and special education. I was hired at Kings Canyon Unified School District as a special education teacher and got my Resource Specialist Credential. I also have an adult credential to teach English, so I was able to teach night classes three times a week, which I did for 20 years, quitting only when all my sons graduated from college. I was also a master teacher for National University in Fresno.
My sons were aware of the hard work I was doing, so they strived to get a good education. George, the oldest, is a nurse practitioner and a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel. Edward is a comic book illustrator and Glen is a chemical engineer and scientist. Richard graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and was a major in the U.S. Air Force.
When the children had finished college, I got involved in the community. Frank was a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, so I joined the auxiliaries. The VFW was in charge of the yearly carnival and I was chairman of the Queen contest. I was also Planning Commissioner in Orange Cove and Program Director of the Orange Cove Day Care. I organized the Filipino Women’s Club of the San Joaquin Valley and was secretary and president.
The clubs and organizations I belong to include Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion auxiliaries, Diwata Lions of Fresno, Organization of Filipino–American Educators, Filipino American Association of Fresno & Vicinity, Fil Am Women’s Club of Fresno, Filipino Political Action Coalition of Central California, Fresno. I held offices and was a charter member in most of them.
I have received many awards: the Melvin Jones Fellow Award, International Lions Club; Mother of the Year Diwata Lions Club of Fresno; Woman of the Millennium, Filipino-American of Fresno; Teacher of the Year, Kings Canyon Unified School District; 200 Leadership Award – State of California Senate/Dave Cogdill; Outstanding Community Leader of the Year – Phi-Am Veterans; Woman of the Year – Filipino-American Women’s Club of Fresno.
Frank passed away in 1997. I taught another five years, retiring after teaching for 35 years. I started travelling. I went to Europe twice and took a river cruise in Germany, Belgium and Holland. I went to Australia and took a river cruise there. I traveled to Canada, visiting Alberta, Vancouver and Toronto, where I saw Niagara Falls. I went to Hawaii, visiting Oahu and Maui.
I sold our house in Orange Cove and moved to Fresno, living for four years at my son Richard’s house. I sold the house and moved with Richard to Albuquerque. Richard got married and I went to San Francisco to live with my brother, but I got homesick. I missed friends and my hobbies, so I went back to Fresno.
I have been living here since 2015. I enjoy playing mahjong every Friday and sometimes go to Table Mountain casino. I take pleasure being with the people I met at the Clovis Senior Activity Center. The staff is great and I relish the camaraderie of the group I eat lunch with, especially Bonnie Elfstrom and Judy Paulson. The atmosphere is caring and friendly. I enjoy the entertainment and music on the day Jolly Times meets.