by Lady Fele Mann
TRINA’S maiden name was TRINIDAD LAYOS, who was very popular during the early 60’s - her teenage days - in Barrio Cili, Binalonan, Pangasinan, for being humble, caring, loving and very helpful to anyone in need. Her special attraction to young men was her alluring good looks, sweet smiles and queenly beauty. She won as the 1ST PRINCESS during a big Barrio Fiesta Celebration in Barrio Cili and very close to being declared as the QUEEN - only an inch away. She was also voted as the MISS JUNIOR at a hotly contested beauty contest when she was a Junior student in the Binalonan High School. Her physical beauty was almost mesmerizing so that young men were queing to dance with her at every party in the village. Trina was the envy of young girls everytime teenagers fussed around her at the very start of the music just to have her in their arms while dancing -wishing that the music will never have an end. No one among the young ladies, including me, dared to sit beside Trina during a “social dance” for fear of being left out as every young guy only wanted her to be their dance partner. DISGUSTING experience!
In the United States, Trina was popular among the Filipinos, especially in New York where she lived with Leonard Zikmund, a 60 year old former US Army Officer who fought alongside with US soldiers against the Japanese last World Ward 11. Trina and Leonard were pen pal friends who communicated with each other for sometime till he proposed to marry her in the Philippines. Their wedding, although a simple one, was the most memorable part of Trina’s life because she knew deep in her heart that he was the man who have loved her till death do them part. Leonard was special to her for being gentle and loving and who would give anything to make her happy. He came at the right time when Trina was sick of wrestling with hardship, poverty and destitution Going back with him to America after their wedding was like “A GRAND INDEPENDENCE DAY” with plenty of rejoicing and celebration. It was likened to a sweet sound of music in a still murmuring brook - soothing to the heart and music to the soul.
According to a saintly preacher,” When a person is humble he or she qualifies for both GOD’S GIFTS, first a “Common Grace”, one that GOD gives to all human beings deserving or not, and second a “Special Grace” - a kind of gift to all who accept the gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus. When you receive Jesus our Lord and Saviour, God receives you in His open loving arms and you will experience “special grace” from Him - a kind of grace that calms down fears, erases guilt and give meaning to our lives”. These words from a preacher were an “eye opener” which when practised would change people’s lives.
The above exhortation luckily applied to Trina, who was trained at an early age, about the value of humility and generosity by her loving but strict parents. The teachings of her Mom and Dad about humilty was deeply engrained in her whole being and genuinely practised it - which was why it was not difficult to understand why she possessed a “ Special Grace” that only GOD can give and which she used as a stepping stone towards her success in achieving her cherished dream: - to make a difference in other people’s lives. She proved it many times when during our childhood days, she was always generous in offering foods to those who visited her. When my mother was away and we had nothing to eat I went to her place a number of times and she never got tired cooking foods to share with me. She was a great Samaritan in the real sense of the word. I couldn’t forget her rare generosity. It lingered with me throughout my life. With her kind of magnanimity it is impossible to forget her.
After I left the Philippines in 1972 to study Nursing in England after over 11 years of teaching in the primary grades at Sta Maria Elementary School in Binalonan, I never heard anymore about Manang Trina. But one day when I visited my sister Francisca Javier Fernandez (Reyna ti Bucanegan in the 60’s) in Stockton California years ago to invite her and her daughter, Dr Divina Fernandez, to accompany me to Las Vegas to attend the 1957 Class Reunion where I was invited as one of the Special Guests, it was there when I learned that Manang Trina was living in San Jose, California after her husband died of heart failure in New York. After our unforgettable grand reunion in Las Vegas, we visited Manang Trina right away and there I spent few nights with her reminishing the good old days. That was the tightest embrace I had with a friend who showed caring concern for me when I needed it. She fed me when I was hungry, she comforted me when I was lonely and desperate because of the manifold trials of life.
“How did you feel when Leonard died, Manang Trina?” I remember asking her. “As if I died a thousand deaths, Ading Fele” was her quick answer. It was a deep sense of loss for me; I cried night and day. My faith in God was tested but I had no other recourse than to accept the situation and keep trusting in GOD. He never abandoned me before in the midst of every trial, I’m sure he will never abandon me - never” “Leonard and I lived happily for 7 years. It was during our stay together that everything made sense to me. He was a very loving and caring man and he would do anything to make me happy. He was the one who sent money as monthly allowance to my family in the Philippines and asked me to keep my wages for the rainy day. I only realized what he meant after he died. I was was able to continue sending money to my family from my savings for their foods and or the education of my nephews and nieces who successfully obtained their careers and live a comfortable life - not to starve anymore”.
Let’s take a closer look at the life of Trina Zikmund as a refreshing inspiration to others and why she has achieved a “life worth living” in a far away land outside the land of her birth. Born on 17 May, 1937 in Binalonan, Pangasinan, her parents - Victor A. Layos and Toribia Quiniones moulded her to be patient and courageous in life. Her siblings Ceferino, Rufo, Agapita and Felicitas have contributed in her well being by treating her well and looking after her when their parents died. She was taken by her Uncle Sebastian and his wife to Mindanao where she finished her college education - a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics at Mindanao Agriculture College in Bukidnon. Her life in Mindanao was not an easy one; while studying she was looking after her Uncle’s kids a job that entailed supreme sacrifice. When Uncle Sebastian and his wife went to America as scholars, Trina went back to Luzon and finished a Secretarial course at Ramon Magsaysay College in Urdaneta, Pangasinan.
Trina’s work experiences included: Receptionist in Great Pacific Life Insurance, Saleslady in a busy department store in new York, Day Care baby sitter on weekdays in San Jose California, worked at a Snack Bar on week-end to continue sending money to her family in the Philippines, especially to the family of Christopher Zikmund - a son both Leonard and Trina had adopted who married Maricar, her niece. Through my financial help to them they both have good jobs and a comfortable life.”
“What other blessings did you receive from GOD, apart from a monumental “ Special grace and of course physical beauty?” I kidded her. “Fortunately, I was born as an industrious and hardworking person whom GOD has put in the right place, that’s America and at the right time - when everything was bleak and dark that I almost gave up my hope of acquiring a better life, and the right person, that’s Leonard who resuscitated my hope by marrying me and gave me a comfortable life which enabled me to help raise the standard of living for my family. Leonard and I visited many tourists spots together like the Niagara Falls, Maryland, Montreal, Canada, Albany and toured around New York and Las Vegas in Nevada “ Her tearful eyes expressed her deep emotion as she again remembered the love of her life - Leonard Zikmund.
“What challenges did you have in your life and how did you overcome them?” “I was disccriminated against by some white people in New York in the retirement home where Leonard and I lived for 7 years. It was mostly populated by white Italians, Puerto Ricans and Spanish speaking people. After he died, the people there claimed that I wasn’t eligible to live there as I wasn’t a Senior citizen then. I went to complain to the Mayor of New York, reasoned out that it was unjust for them to kick me out just because my husband was gone. I spoke in a firm voice with a valid argument and the good Mayor sided with me by announcing to the folks there “How dare anyone discriminates this good woman just because her husband, a senior citizen, has died? She has the right to stay, that’s my final decision”. I won and my victory kept them very quiet since then. After some years I transferred to San Jose, California, where I was happier because of newfound friends who were good and friendly. I also had breast cancer operation on 13 December 2010 which was a risky one but through the mercy of GOD I survived. I discerned it wasn’t my time because I got more noble plans to serve Him and He granted my wish.
“And her biggest achievement that made her very proud apart from helping her nephews and nieces obtain their professional careers? He face lightened up with big smiles. “AHA, you are not going to believe this but after I became an active member, supporter and volunteer of the Democratic Party in New York under President Bill Clinton, I continued to do so with more eagerness and enthusiasm”.
“In New York people there believed that the Democrats belong to the poor and the Republicans to the rich. Then came my idol President, BARACK OBAMA, the man with a great charisma and great looks whose heart is for the poor. During his birthday on August 4, I sent him a nice birthday card with my donation for his campaign. I received a very touching letter from him and the First Lady -Michelle Obama which inspired me a lot since then. They exactly knew how to endear themselves in people’s hearts. They personally asked me to be an active volunteer which I did and since that time I have been door knocking to my friends and neighbours to vote for OBAMA during this coming November election. I have complete ID with his name on it and my ID number which I keep showing to my friends with genuine pride and not a boastful one. I think Barack Obama is the man for all seasons. He deserves to win anytime that’s why I’m having a special devotion to GOD for his overwhelming reelection. I reckon that his victory is a victory for all Americans.” We both giggled and laughed when I teased and hinted that Trina chose Obama more for his good looks than his political prowess. Interestingly she almost admitted but caught herself.
“You donate to Barack Obama’s campaign what about our kababayans in the Philippines who are starving and hurting because of poverty?” “Of course, I donate money for charity, foods and clothes to the needy especially after typoons and floods. I also give donation to the church and schools in Barrio Cili where we lived before”
Being in her mid seventy, she has health and back problems to deal with like arthritis on her knees playing up during winter time when it’s so cold. She wants to retire permanently in the Philippines to be with her family but whenever she remembers how expensive to go to hospital for treatment or for operation, she thinks it over again. Before and after her sister Agapita (Liling) died she sent so much money for her hospitalization, medicine and health care. She also knew that some hospitals refuse to admit patients who can’t afford to pay and in some cases, patients die without being seen and treated.
What’s your message to all our Timpuyog Journal Magazine readers?
The TJOURNAL MAGAZINE is a very attractive and compelling magazine to read. It’s both in Ilocano and in English which suits both English and Ilocano readers wherever they are in the world. I invite everybody to read my Poems or Daniw published in the TMI Journal Magazine for the past 6 months. I was inspired to write them especially when I’m all alone. TJournal magazine is worth supporting; I’m a good supporter’. TMI Journal Magazine Readers, never lose hope amidst all trials. Keep praying to GOD for strength, work hard to achieve your goals. Say to yourself “If others can do, why can’t I?- And sure you can!”
Trina’s greatest moments of joy is to share time with her family, take them to shopping for gift giving, go to Bonoan Beach in Dagupan and Puro Point Beach in La Union for picnics and relaxation, watch with satisfaction the difference she made in the lives of those she dearly love and care. Most importantly, to thank GOD endlessly for sending Leonard in her life to fulfill her dream to uplift her family’s standard of living which she marvelously did.
“ I did my part very well in being a good steward that GOD wanted me to be to help others. In return, He gave me a “special grace “ a key that only GOD can give to those who fully trust in Him. That same key also opened the door for me to live a ‘LIFE WORTH LIVING . AND I’M LOVING IT AND SAVOURING IT FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT!”