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My dad got behind the wheel and as we drove off, he looked up at the sky and pointed to something in the distance and said, "Look! I think that's Santa Claus! That looks like his sleigh and reindeer! Can you see it?"
I strained my neck to look through the rearview window. I squealed and begged my dad to drive faster so we could catch up to Santa. I saw a flying object and a trail of fumes. It was definitely him!
At twelve midnight, our phone would ring. It would be Daddy calling us via long distance. The three of us would take turns talking to him. Each with a hurried greeting. We try to say as much as we can while keeping it brief. Long distance phone calls cost a lot at that time. To make up for the short conversation, we would send Daddy a greeting card with long letters written on yellow pad. These letters have to be posted a month before to make sure it reaches Daddy on time for Christmas day.
Perhaps the Señor knew everyone’s secrets. My uncles said that sometimes, when the moment came to carry the Señor from the chapel to the carriage, the figure wouldn’t budge. The men of my family tend to be rather large, and one of them could easily carry the Señor by himself. But sometimes, even with three or four of them, the Señor refused to be carried. The figure seemed heavier. They said maybe one of them had sinned, and so they would call a different group of menfolk to lift the Señor.
So inseparable were they, that a pregnant Dina endured the hardship of Tonio’s guerrilla life. Food was scarce, of course, and most days all they had to eat was bitter gourd. The plucky Dina was no liability; Tonio was lucky to have her with him. One time, they were set upon by what was likely a reconnaissance unit of Japanese soldiers. In desperation, Dina pushed Tonio into a man-sized hole (another life-saving ditch, yes), and promptly “sat” on his head, while extending her full skirts to hide his body.
Reading through his letters, I discovered that my grandparents were wary of him because he was a “Manila boy.” One of the notes I found were addressed to them. He told them that he knew that they looked at him with suspicion as he was from Imperial Manila, but he assured them that he had good intentions with their Elma. He introduced himself, talked about his parents, their family background and the work that he did.
Twenty-four streets named after the 24 scouts who died when their plane crashed on their way to the 11th World Scout Jamboree in Marathon, Greece, in 1963.
My grandparents used to tell me that there would have been a Scout Dionisio Street, but my Tito Neri was not allowed to go. My grandmother had insisted he stay and he was very unhappy about it.
Not for the first time, she sadly felt relieved that her beloved Lola Consor and her beautiful, willful mother Charing died before all this happened. They never would have survived the torturous journeys to safety, the lack of good bread (or any bread for that matter), and the horrendous murder scenes that had unfolded before her overprotected eyes. Especially during these past few months. The Japanese were always ruthless. But now with imminent defeat, they were savages.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had chocolate! My father stared at the shiny bar as the soldier opened the package for him, revealing the rich brown color. It really was chocolate! He took the bar and greedily took a bite. Yuck. It's disgusting was the first thought to enter my my father's head.
When Elias met Charing, he was already old—in his 30s! (I never thought being in your 30s was old.) But clearly, Charing, who lived on books and worldly stories, was enchanted by this man’s real life adventures. She did not want to marry an entitled mestizo cousin. She did not care about consolidating wealth. She wanted to be with the landless merchant. And so they devised their escape.
When Dada would recall his romantic years, he would blush, remembering how the common water shed made encounters possible, by the poso and palikuran (restroom), where the townsfolk would commune for their daily ration of water and sanitation. It was also a time when paglalako or peddling of goods was a common sight, and everyone would think of a way to raise money just by toting along their goods and shouting at the top of their lungs. Dada would woo my Nanay by offering his help to carry the bilao (wick tray) or by fetching her by the main road to carry her bayong (native shopping bag) to my lola’s house.
My mom wanted me to be a priest. I have always known my mom as a religious person. She was the church-going type and she would drag me there when I didn't want to go. I think she came from a generation that was deeply religious. Her siblings were regular church-goers as well. I remember regular rosary sessions with them when I was growing up.
All through his life as husband and father, Angkong did not tell Awa to be “less smarter” or “less fussy about others.” Instead, he let Awa be, and while she was busy in the front part of the house, Angkong manned the kitchen and prepared meals for his wife and their ten children.
The sailboat relied solely on wind and there were entire days with no movement. It was not a comfortable journey. Aside from the constant fear of being discovered, the boat had no benches and the lower deck had no windows. There was also no bathroom. To do their business, everyone had to overcome their shyness. In my lola's words "We had to go to the back of the batel and with somebody holding your hand so that you would not fall into the sea, you just squatted (over the side of the boat) and did our thing."
For most people, life with their parents can be long-running films, and that's the case between me and Mommy. With Dad, however, it's mostly snapshots, interspersed with a short video clip here and there. If the story jumps back and forth across three decades, it's because the photos are few and far between, and each of them carries volumes.
My story with them starts here; if the smiles on their faces hint that they're up to something, it's because they were, and that it was a secret.
Our origins couldn’t have a more of a surprising twist, beginning with this tale of how we got our last name. This might just be barrio folklore, but it is one I’d like to believe and am choosing to pass on to my children.
The hotel warned him about how brazen the thieves were in Romania, so he tucked his wallet into his right front pocket, hung his DSLR around his neck, and slipped his backup camera into his left front pocket.
He opened the doors and stepped out into the street. He was immediately greeted by a rush of crisp morning air, and the first rays of sunshine.
This is what Papa’s Ateneo students knew about his ink: Sir Joey had trekked to the furthest, deepest corners of the Philippines, seeking out each elusive ethnic group to learn their secret techniques and their secret ways and their secret music. Lo, they were astonished with his own mastery and technique, and so bestowed their own secret symbol and colors upon his flesh to mark him as one of theirs. These symbols were said to cover his entire body: from his chest, to his back, to the tops of his thighs and his shins.
Lolo was one of two Taaleños who lived to tell about the Death March. He assimilated into the civilian population and made his way on foot back to Taal, half dead from malaria.
As I later heard it from Lola, he returned to her. Lola was always one for romantic gestures.
As World War II came crashing on the Philippines, December 1941 found the young Bobises scrambling for safety away from Manila to escape the invading forces, and to meet up with Vicente’s sister’s family in Lucena, Tayabas. Little did they know they were headed right near where the invading forces landed.
She found herself suddenly and jerkily whisked away towards the back of their house where the deep well was located. Warnings of an invasion reached her father days before, and he had prepared their hiding place. The Japanese had already shelled Manila and massacred people in their own houses. Nobody would care to look inside the well, he thought.
The shop below was run by a Chinese man who went out each day to sell tahô, a syrupy yogurt, from two tin buckets dangling from either side of a wooden yoke on his shoulders. Mom loved hanging around the shop and the Chinese man became her friend. He allowed her to play at measuring out goods. He pretended to buy food from her. And later, he built Mom her own little yoke and she marched up and down the street pretending that she too was selling tahô.Mom has idyllic memories of those years in the Chinese quarter, it was a feral time, running and playing on the streets with other small children. If the war had never happened, it was an experience she would never have had, growing up amongst the buttoned up, conservative middle classes in Manila.
As with other houses in the neighborhood, my family’s on Valley Road was taken over by the Japanese military. It was designated to be the headquarters of some Japanese officers. My grandparents, Mary and Pacifico Sr., had no choice but to surrender the house, so they sent their children to live with Eusebio and Frances, who by then were residing at the top of Poinsettia Street, on España extension.
In the 1940s, my Abuelito, Francisco Bayot Zaldarriaga, went to New York. He was a journalist representing the Philippines.
My Abuelito was a very Spanish-looking dude who was about 6'2" with blue eyes and owned his own little paper.
In those days, racism was in full force.
I could only imagine how confused she was. Here was a pleasant young man, a handsome mestizo, her best friend’s brother no less, and he wanted to marry her. But she wanted to devote her life to the Lord. What was a young woman of the 1950s supposed to do?
Maybe because I grew up attending many funerals in Iligan, I've developed a rather strange fascination with how people cope with the death of a loved one. Eventually, one masters the do's and don'ts of attending funerals. In doing so, I have realized that while the pain and grief over the loss of someone close is natural, a certain set of rituals, stories, and superstitions can help salve the wounds of those who have been left behind. Even if it involves removing the dead's shoes.
Pops tells us that, back then, Pasay shared a long coastal area with Manila and Paranaque – often a site for swimming or witnessing a scenic setting sun by the bay to mark the end of the day. Before Dasmarinas and Forbes, Pasay housed a community of un-gated villages and walled properties with no condominiums.
No matter where we went, the eating continued throughout the day. Halo-halo from the restaurant by the bay, or peanuts that had been freshly steamed, the shells still caked with dirt that would get stuck beneath our fingernails. When we’d get home, it was typical for Mama Lola to open her giant refrigerator, asking us what we wanted for dinner.
“Every Pista Minatay, our dearly departed come back to visit us, the living. It is during Tigkalalag, All Souls’ Day, that the spirits of our ancestors come back and roam the earth,” she said, her hands busy with the spatula, stirring the rice constantly.
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