Emiliana Tan was born on October 11, 1888. She first dreamed of becoming a nun since her teenage years. Her father Pablo Tan, a wealthy haciendero, sent his daughters to Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion in Cebu, an elite school conducted by the “Hijas de la Caridad” now known as Daughters of Charity. A certain Fr. Pedro Angulo, a Vincentian priest encouraged her to follow God’s call. With the priest’s help, she was all set to go to Spain to join the “Hijas de la Caridad.”
Her father pleaded, “come home (to Ormoc) and receive my blessing before you go.” She knew, however, that it was a ploy to keep her in the Philippines. The good priest, strangely counseled her to go back to Ormoc.
Ormoc back then was a small town. Only one small boat left for Cebu once a week. Pablo Tan was headstrong and determined to keep his eldest daughter out of the convent. So, Emiliana was always accompanied by one of her sisters whenever she left the house and her father placed lookouts in the boat to prevent her from escaping!
In the meantime, Pablo Tan was interested in a match for Emiliana. An intelligent young man of humble origins, the town bard who composed poems for the town’s celebration was a good match. They met and fell in love. But Agaton Fiel, Ormoc’s first lawyer failed the first bar exam because he was in love!
Eventually, on January 26, 1916 in Ormoc parish Church Agaton Fiel and Emiliana Tan exchanged “I dos.”
In the early 1920’s, the family experienced a great sorrow. A dysentery epidemic ravaged Ormoc. Antibiotics were not yet discovered. Among the child victims were Joselito (2) and Arturo (4) within hours from each other. Six months later, Araceli (6) succumbed to the deadly disease. Agaton and Emiliana were desolate. Father Angulo consoled the grief-stricken parents.
In 1935, they moved to Manila. Antonio Tan Fiel, who for some years earlier graduated valedictorian from San Beda College, received his diploma in Civil Engineering Cum Laude from the University of Santo Tomas in 1937.
December 7, 1941. The bombing of the Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. War erupted in the Philippines. Antonio Tan Fiel, also known as “Toňing” was a “guerillero”, an underground who resisted the Japanese invaders. He was caught in a “treacherous act” – listening over short wave radio to the forbidden news from the United States. He was imprisoned and tortured. He was never seen again.
On December 6, 1944, a week after Toňing was arrested, six grim-faced Japanese military police came to the house of Agaton and Emiliana. They finally decided to arrest Agaton, a prospect that spelled torture and death. Just before they were to take him away, the family knelt before the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and prayed as they never prayed before. In those few moments of wrenching supplications, a miracle happened. A change of heart! The dreaded enemy said, “Mr. Fiel you stay, your family needs you.”
On May 13, 1946, Josefina Tan Fiel sailed for the Good Shepherd Novitiate in Los Angeles. She was later known as Sr. Anne of the Religious of the Good Shepherd. Seven days later, Milagros “Guitos” Tan Fiel joined the Holy Spirit Sisters in Mendiola. She was later known as Sr. Milagros of the Blue Sisters. Their mother was overwhelmed with consolation. The nun she wanted to be but did not become was fulfilled in her children. Still grieving over Toňing’s fate, she reverently said, “the fruits of the cross are sweet.”
In 1954, Celina also joined the Good Shepherd Sisters and was known as Sr. Teresita. With three daughters in the convent, Emiliana exclaimed, “Lord, my debt is paid – with interest!” (Sr. Ma. Teresita Tan Fiel, RGS)