By Federico A. Espiritu
A towering tree besieging Felix Santillan’s home in Walnut Creek, California was felled but this God’s gift will never wither to oblivion given the resurrection the FilAm Navy veteran carved new form from this nature’s wealth.
Felix’s crafty hands and tools converted the remnant woody trunk into sarimanok-colored miniature banca inspired by sights of paddled water boats he gazed on during his frequent crossings of pristine Pateros River on his regular travels to Rizal High School in Pasig in the 1970s.
Nostalgia also spurred the artisan to craft within mere three weeks a mini-Pinoy jeepney that reminded him of the days he rode and drove the mass transit of baby boomers like him that eventually inspired and spurred him in post-retirement from the US Navy to clinch success in the fashionable transport business for the rich and famous. At age 13, Felix also created a miniature truck using crude tools, yoyo as headlights, tin cans for wheels’ rim and out-lumber plywood. His teen toy truck had even functional steering wheel and suspension system. (Felix’ latest e-tricycle and other creations are being envisioned for showcasing in San Francisco’s mammoth Pistahang Pilipino parade and exhibits in post-pandemic era.)
Today, former bus conductor once barking the Baclaran-Monumento and vice versa route Santillan is owner and Chief Executive Officer of the flourishing Alltravellers Limousine and Towncar Service that counts 17 flashy celebrity limo cars, party/tourist buses. The former Navy mechanic and postal employee counts hundreds of Hollywood and Filipino celebrity as prime clientele well documented in framed photo displays in his recreation room and digital files, among which included fond memories of American Idol’s Simon Cowell, Captain America Chris Evans, singer-composer Patti Austin, awarded actress Melissa Leo, American Idol top winner Alejandro Aranda, actress-filmmaker Olivia Wilde, 49 Quarter Back Steve Young, Breaking Bad movie star Hank Schrader, Rapper Busta Rhymes, actor-producer Ted Danson, documentary fillmaker and youngest daughter of Senator Robert Kennedy Rory Kennedy, actor-producer-rapper Omar Epps, FilAMstand-up comedian Jokoy, Ariel Pineda of Journey, megastar Sharon Cuneta, dancer-host Vhong Navarro, veteran musician Jose Mari Chan, Kris Aquino, Willie Revillame, Piolo Pascual, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Vilma Santos, Daniel Padilla, Kathlyn Bernardo, Jodi Santamaria, Martin Nievera, Rico J. Puno, Marco Sison, Rey Valera, Billy Crawford, Anne Curtis, Ogie Alcasid, Kuh Ledesma and that when collaged together become glittering spectrum of famous stars’ kaleidoscope of his generation.
Felix’s mini jeepney and banca bring back recollection of poverty in youth that nearly took his life, but with the bountiful blessings the Almighty Lord has showered upon himself and his loved ones, he now feels riding high in his own fleet of classy limousines steered by angelic chauffeurs.