Filipinx American History: A Celebration of Community, Activism, and Persistence

Family Memories: Remembering My Lolo Ruping, A Personal Narrative of an Apo and Her Lolo

Ruperto Sayoc Dominguez, affectionately known by his family as ’Papa Ping’/‘Lolo Ruping’, served in the US Navy for 20 years in a capacity that wasn't traditional for most Filipinos.  Ruperto who was originally from Imus, Philippines, settled in Vallejo, California in the 1970s and created a new life of economic opportunity for his wife, Edna, and three sons, Angelo, Lorenzo, and Michael Dominguez.  As a naval officer, Ruperto was trained as a machinist who made parts for submarines and other warships. After retiring, he would continue his craft working on a team at Mare Island that sent him all around the world to repair nuclear submarines.

Like many Filipinos who gained US citizenship by enlisting, Papa Ping saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and decided he would make the most of it. Although it came with costs, like time away from his family and later suffering from undiagnosed PTSD; serving not only allowed him to expand his own horizons, but those of his family as well. He was able to raise his sons as Filipino-Americans, a social status considered privileged to those back home in the islands, and exposed them to social and economic freedoms that otherwise wouldn’t have been within reach. He also extended the same gesture to the family he’d left behind back home. Leading a simple lifestyle for himself, he used his financial ability to support his relatives in the Philippines with their living expenses, sponsored their travel to America, and  supported their means of accessing higher education for many of his cousins, nieces and nephews. 

His generosity and palpable dedication to his family was how he taught all of us how to love. Papa passed away in November of 2018, but the tone he set for us has already carried through generations. Our Utang Na Loob (or debt of will) to each other still lives on strong today, all stemming from his precedence. Because of his example, I can connect to my identity as a Filipina by embodying my interpretation of its meaning; walang iwanan. Inclusivity in everything I do. Bringing a “family style” dynamic wherever I find myself. Like Papa Ping, I use the resources available to me to ensure my family and community are taken care of, and that nobody gets left behind.

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