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Maila Ta Fan Boka

Family, food and fond memories

Restaurant owner's spirit and legacy live on

As a young island boy growing up in the hills of Agana Heights, Pedro "Dongo" Roberto Pangelinan would always take a seaside stroll passing what is supposedly Guam's oldest remaining eating establishment every day on his way to work in Tamuning.

Flipping through the chapters of Dongo's life, you'll find Linda's Coffee Shop and The Whispering Palms on just about every page.

But on the front cover of that book, and what Dongo took most pride in, are his loving children and the lifelong friends he made along the way.

This is his legacy, and it's one that will forever be preserved in the East Hagåtña eatery and bar now that his daughter Melissa "Sa" Pangelinan Camacho is taking the reins after her father's battle with cancer.

Surrounded by the love and light of his family, Dongo died June 26 at their Chalan Pago home.

A look back

Between his long walks to Tamuning in the early 1960s, Linda's Coffee Shop, and what was originally a bar called Willows, were two stops Dongo included on his route.

Old business documents at Linda's say the establishment has been around since 1965, but old menus archived at the restaurant say it's been established since 1957.

At the single-story restaurant, Dongo enjoyed listening to music through an original record-playing jukebox, and played his heart out on a vintage pinball machine.

In line with his love of music, he got a job as a coin collector for Guam Music Inc., eventually working his way up to be the company's vice president.

Despite being a workaholic, Dongo worked even harder to be there for his family, ensuring he carved out quality time with his four kids. Melissa, one of his three girls, said they'd go to the beach every weekend, and cook and eat family meals together most nights.

"He's a great man; he never neglected us kids," she said. "There wasn't anything my dad wouldn't do."

On his way home from work most days, Dongo would enjoy his favorite Linda's meal – a freshly fried parrotfish and coconut milk, washing it down next door at The Whispering Palms with a cold Bud Light poured into a tall glass of ice.

Over the years of cherishing good times at the local hot spot, Dongo befriended the business' second owner, Bob Delodge. He become a lifelong friend who would later be entrusted with the future of Guam's oldest restaurant.

Nearly half a century later, Bob asked Dongo to take over the business, and though he was hesitant at first, he wouldn't let a fear of risk in the restaurant industry end the legacy of Linda's and The Whispering Palms.

Dongo bought what had become his second home in 2012, and still stopped by for lunch almost every day, meticulously monitoring the condition of his prized place.

To this day, the restaurant and bar has the same tiles, walls, counter and stools since it first opened, although it has undergone a few facelifts here and there, including the construction of a small office space in the back, which Dongo fondly referred to as the "situation room."

'I'm going to stay by your side'

After three years of smooth sailing for the business, Dongo became severely sick, moving one of his daughters to call her sister Melissa to come home from Washington to see Dad.

At the urging of her family, Melissa flew home to Guam in January 2015 after living off island for 21 years. Her dad was diagnosed with lung cancer three months later.

"I told my dad, 'I'm not going to leave. I'm going to stay by your side," she said, with tears running down her face.

Her dad went through chemotherapy, and his cancer eventually went into remission for a year and a half, but came back with a vengeance. Melissa, as his primary caretaker, followed her father to the Philippines for medical treatment around the clock.

During his medical trips, his daughter said he was "free," enjoying the resorts and live music. And despite quitting cigarettes in 2003, Melissa didn't mind sharing a smoke session with her dad, which was quality time for the both of them.

She'll be quitting again after Saturday, she said, when she lays her dad to rest.

In the weeks leading up to her dad's death, Melissa found comfort in her late mother's spiritual presence, felt among their family.

"The day that he passed away," she said, choking through overwhelming emotion, "I told him it was time to go."

With his head in Melissa's hands, Dongo took his last breath at home.

Following in dad's footsteps

A black wreath and ribbon hang over the door of Linda's Coffee Shop, and another tribute is also placed above Dongo's regular table and chair in The Whispering Palms. Around the tributes are handwritten letters from his grandchildren and photos of his family.

"He wanted to live for six more years," Melissa said. "He felt that he wasn't done. ... He was worried about us kids."

Despite the unfulfilled wish and worry for his kids, the family is forging on, grateful for every second spent with their father.

Melissa plans to stay on island to walk in her father's footsteps by continuing the legacy of Linda's Coffee Shop and The Whispering Palms, where family, food and fond memories are at the forefront.

"That's the one thing I wanted to make sure stays for my dad. This is his."

"I don't want anyone taking it away. I'll fight them," she said, with a laugh.

"I'm going to do good for my dad."

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