’58 B.S. AGRICULTURE
Ron was born and raised in Valencia, Negros Oriental. After graduating from UP Los Banos, he briefly taught Vocational Agriculture to senior high school boys at Silliman University in Dumaguete City. He worked for the Bureau of Agricultural Extension in his province, then later as Roving Farm Manager of Country Farms, Inc., a subsidiary of the Araneta conglomerate of companies in Metro Manila.
Ron left the Philippines in 1961 to pursue graduate work in Agricultural Marketing at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. He never came back home because right after finishing his M.S. in 1962, he was hired as a catalog copywriter of Suburban-Farm products at the Sears, Roebuck and Co. headquarters in Chicago, IL. He stayed 16 years with the company and was rotated to other departments such as Automotive, Sporting Goods, Home Improvement and Children’s Apparel. He was the first non-American born copywriter, from a country that speaks a language other than English, hired to write advertising copy for the Sears Catalogs.
Ron was active in the UP Alumni Club of Chicago, and was Social Chairman of the Fil-Am Council—the umbrella organization of the Filipino-American community. In this capacity, he welcomed Philippine entertainers and cultural groups visiting the city and produced cultural extravaganzas showcasing Filipino songs, dances and fashion. He also formed the first Filipino band in the city—“The Mahogany 5+1” which made a name for itself in the dance venues and on Channel 42, a local cable TV station. He also co-hosted the “Philippine Hour”—a Sunday variety television show on this channel for a year. While a resident of Chicago, Ron worked part time as the Cebuano language interpreter of the US Immigration Service.
Ron’s family relocated to San Diego, California in 1978, where a job awaited him at the Sears Department store in La Jolla. Greener pastures beckoned in the northern suburb of Carlsbad, and Ron accepted a position as Catalog Manager of DynaMed, a mail order house specializing in emergency healthcare products. Downsized along with four other managers in a company belt-tightening move when interest rates hit 20% in the early 80’s, he decided to go into business for himself.
Ron went into food manufacturing and set up the Empanada Factory in Poway, CA. It became a successful venture. But the labor intensive enterprise took most of his time away from family, forcing him to sell the business. An Optometrist friend convinced him to apprentice as an Optician. He went for it with determination and passion. He got licensed and operated his own optical store – the “Eyeglass Center” in Mira Mesa, until a Korean Optician offered to buy him out.
In 1982, Ron taught a Mail Order Merchandising course at the University of California San Diego Extension. To earn additional income, he put up Ronsom House International–a successful mail order company. In 1989, he co-founded Podee, Inc., a baby products manufacturing company that wholesales the unique “Hands-Free Baby Feeding Bottle” to retailers of juvenile products such as Toys R Us, Babies R Us and numerous independent Mom & Pop stores across the country, including importers from foreign countries. He retired as its President in 2002.
In December of 2006, a book co-authored by Ron“Buhay Pinoy Overseas”a humorous collection of cartoon illustrations (with captions) depicting Filipino customs and idiosyncrasies in a foreign setting (mostly in the U.S.A.), was published by the prestigious National Book Store in Manila and sold in the publisher’s chain stores throughout the Philippines. His latest book—“Brown American”—a personal narrative of a Filipino’s journey from humble beginnings in his idyllic hometown in the Philippines to the jungles of skyscrapers in America, will soon be printed and distributed by an American publisher in the U.S.A. It is a must-read for people who are passionate in their pursuit of the American Dream.
In his spare time and moments of solitude, Ron dabbles in music and plays Ukulele lead solos with the “Brown Pearls,” a Pinoy musical group in San Diego. He just came out with his first CD recording—Ukulele Sweet and Swing with Ron Somera and The Brown Pearls.” He says—“We play music not much for the money, but for our stress therapy.”
Ron is married to the former Millicent Ortiz Pasaporte, a Filipina nurse who grew up in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, he met in Chicago. They have two adult children—Kimberly, a dialysis nurse married to Robert Gavina (Pinoy rin)—a systems analyst, and son Ronald—a computer chips manufacturing specialist.
In retirement Ron keeps busy in Church ministries at his parish, the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church. He is a lector, choir member, outreach volunteer for migrant workers, and a Little Rock Bible Study facilitator. He is a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Filipino Cursillo Movement in San Diego.
My Campus Memories
I lived in a cottage at the Grove outside the gates of the UP Los Banos campus with six other students. Each one of us was assigned one day of the week to buy groceries, prepare meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and clean house. I have never cooked a meal in my entire life before, except boil packets of chicken noodle soup while camping with my Boy Scout troop in my elementary years.
On my first assigned day, I bought bangus and attempted to cook sinigang. I followed every step of the recipe handed to me by my Batangueno roommate. With everybody seated at the lunch table, I served my steaming hot sinigang and—disaster! The soup was bitter as hell! (Pardon the expression.) What my friend forgot to tell me was to remove the bile of the milkfish prior to cooking it. This gave the dish an awfully bitter taste indeed. Needless to say, every one of my cottage mates was angry and hungry that day.
To play it safe on my next assigned day, I sautéed carne norte—breakfast, lunch and dinner—much to the displeasure of my co-renters. Until I mastered culinary art, this was my specialty dish which earned me the notorious alias of “Mr. Carne Norte.”
There were upper classmen sharing the cottage with us who were “masters” in their respective fraternities. I was appalled by the physical abuse inflicted by the masters on the “neophytes” I refused invitations to sign up, and joined the UPSCA instead. I cherish the memory of those Glee Club trips to UP Diliman to perform and attend general meetings there. I was a cast member of Eugene O’Neil’s stage play—“Oil” produced by UPSCA. I gave it my best shot (a la Marlon Brando) hoping to be discovered by LVN Productions or Sampaguita Pictures. But no agent approached. (Oh, well.)
I was proud as an Advanced ROTC Officer marching in the 1st Composite Regimental Staff headed by Jim Imlan—a tough Muslim from Mindanao, during parades. Before I was promoted, I was the Company “A” Commander of the Field Artillery Battalion—and my company was judged “Best Marching Unit” in the 1956 Loyalty Day celebration parade. As an Advanced ROTC grad, I automatically became a member of the Vanguard Fraternity and a “Brod” of Ferdinand Marcos—“a man with more military medals than Sgt. York and Audie Murphy combined,” that is according to former Senator Manglapus.
I’ll never forget an occasion in the office of our Spanish Instructor, Mr. Caballero, who was talking to a student from Paete, Laguna where lanzones grow in abundance. The student had an incomplete grade of 4, and to complete it, Mr Caballero said—“Which do you prefer, a ‘4’ without lanzones, or a ‘3’ with lanzones?” The student vaulted out of there faster than a speeding bullet to catch a bus bound for Paete.
Ah! Memories! I remember it well!