21 October 2011

this is all about him

Ever had one of those moments where you couldn't decide if a scene you remember from your childhood is real or not, if that scene really did happen or not? I have. One of those scenes, one I actually like recalling, involves my lolo, or my grandfather, my father's father.

I remember a street in the province (his, in a town called Burgos somewhere in Pangasinan, where most of the Cantors came from, they say) and I remember a big, wooden house (a two-storey one where, if you look outside the higher
windows, you can see the street down below) and like a true student of cinema, I remember this shot in a faded sepia tone. Just like the rest of my childhood.

A picture of a picture. That's me and my lolo,
in front of their house, where I grew up, in Quezon City.

I guess memories do fade like old photographs -- the colors fade out
layer by layer, edges are torn, creases are more pronounced.

In Burgos, people spoke in Ilocano, except for me. I
remember being small, maybe as young as I was in the photo above. Somewhere between seven and nine, perhaps. Or even ten, who knows. I am 38 years old right now so scenes from decades ago could falter a bit when recalled. Like this one.

We went there riding a bus, maybe a good five or six hours away from Manila. It was just the two of us, but I don't remember the bus trip much. What I do remember, though, is when we got there, there were several kids who were curious of me, this mestiza from Manila, they said in both Ilocano and Tagalog. Since my Ilocano was limited to saying wen! (yes!) and Ania ti
nagan mo? (What is your name? Did I even spell that right?), my conversation with these fellow kids, after this brief Ilocano exchange, remained in the level of smiles, head-jerking signals and hand gestures. As kids, we don't rely heavily on the currency of words, as the currency of gestures was enough for them to communicate that they wanted me to come with them, run with them towards a field where a huge and lone fruit-bearing tree was standing. It was duhat, that thumb-sized purple fruit that stains your shirt when its skin touches the cloth. I remember wearing light-colored clothes then, so I steered clear of the ones that fell on the ground, as my new-found temporary friends climbed up to pick more. I remember the brittle texture of the light brown-colored tree bark, and I remember zooming in on the huge red ants we call hantik, curious but at the same time afraid of them, for I think I have never seen ants as big as that, during that time (things in nature looked bigger and better in the provinces, as that usual impression goes here in this country, or maybe only in Manila). I remember the kids laughing, their eyes twinkling with each successful picking, and I remember laughing with them, looking up at them, wishing that I could show them how this Manila kid was also an expert in climbing trees, only I wouldn't because my lolo might call me anytime to leave. Plus that purple stain.

The adults were also curious of me, since it was rare for the pr
ovince-based Cantors to meet the ones who migrated (and their respective families) long ago. I don't know why there was such a curiosity with my looks since I got this heritage from this side of the family anyway, since my lolo had Spanish blood in his family. But you know how Filipinos are generally receptive of non-brown skinned light-skinned entities. When I was born, people actually thought I was an American baby because of my hair and skin (plus my lola swears I had blue eyes initially, hmm). I remember sitting with them, being fed some kind of snack since it was merienda time, until my lolo said it was time for us to go.

Anyway, that was the scene, however brief, only snatches of shots remain in my mind now, like an old celluloid film already faded or discolored in parts. I'd like to believe that this scene from my childhood really existed, an
d that it's not a scene from someone else's story I just vividly conjured in my mind. Or worse, a scene from a film or TV show I saw that got etched on my brain as mine. You know these things happen sometime. But I want to be sure that the image is originally mine...for him.

Anyway, why am I writing about him? Lolo's birthday was last July 25. He was born in 1921, a good 90 years ago. Imagine that. And he just died, about nine hours ago. Hence this post.

He now joins my lola in heaven, in Canadian heaven pe
rhaps (if ever there was also a migratory distinction of the afterlife that way -- or I'd like to invent it right now). They already migrated there since being petitioned by my tita back when I was still in second year at the university, I think, around 1992 or 1993 maybe. They've always wanted me to go there as well, to live there with them perhaps, since I am the firstborn Cantor grandchild in our family, and I also spent majority of my childhood growing up in lolo and lola's house (I was the proverbial lola's girl). Stubborn me, I wanted to find my own way into the world, without any sort of connection or help, and I knew that if I went there, I will be dependent on them at first, even though I know I will also make it on my own. But I decided to make it on my own here, in Manila.

Of course, as with living life, one thing led to another and before you know it, it was already 2000, and two days since that new year ushered in, my lola said goodbye. I never even had the chance of saying goodbye. Those days, I was already contemplating on trying my luck there in Ontario, maybe study again, or even just visit and see my lola again. But no such luck. I have
n't even visited her grave yet, to this day.

We were taken aback by the sudden death of our lola, but with lolo, somehow, he kinda knew it was coming, and I think he communicated that with my two titas there. That's why my third tita went there to be with him before his last birthday, and good thing she's still there to see this through. I was supposed
to go with her but financial and other personal constraints prevented me from doing that, like with my lola. Don't you just wish that money grew on trees, or that some people should move on from the past? Well...

But if these things didn't exist, I was still actually having a dilemma, if I actually wanted to go there and see him that way -- really old, ready to reti
re from life, a medical condition threatening to snatch him away from us any time. That's not how I remember him, or that's not how I want to remember him. Whichever.

This is how I still remember him:

taken in Intramuros in 2005 when
our Canadian family went here for a vacation

That dapper-looking ol' guy, with the beret (my curiosity with berets and hat-wearing/head gear actually came from him), whom people said was still good-looking even in his older age, that was why women were still drawn to him (and hmm, the Cantors in Pangasinan said that this is a very "Cantor trait" -- women being drawn to them; hmm, maybe I got that from him, too? Chos! But that's just me lightening things up).

My friends told me that still, it's better to see him alive, somehow, no matter the circumstance. I guess it's too late for that now, huh. Well...

I guess it's also good that undas or all soul's/all saints day is just around the corner. A good time to contemplate on things, on life, and death, but also on living. Like a good friend said when she called earlier, it's better to think of his life well lived and stuff, and not to focus on the loss or something like that. (You have to run this by me again girl, as my mind was choppy earlier. But again, thank you for calling. Means a lot.)

I guess that is true. It's not about sustaining a loss, but it's mostly about cherishing memories. Yeah, I guess that' a better way of coping. Now if somebody could only recommend something about the sadness that comes with the package... Well, I'll just deal with that later. All things pass, eventually. This, too.

I don't know how to end this post, so I'll just put an excerpt of a full-length film script I actually wrote a long time ago, based on my childhood. It was based on my life growing up in their house, and the characterization is not much of a stretch from reel to real.

Wherever you are lolo, this film is for you, and lola. I love you both. And thank you.


(an excerpt)


Malawak ang sala na kahilera ng kusina kung saan naroon ang malaking narra na 6-seater dining table. Halatang kakatapos lang mag-almusal ng mga tao sa hitsura ng mesa, na ang iba’y nakaupo pa rin doon. Nakaupo sa isang dulo ng mesa si LOLA, 60 years old, katamtaman ang tangkad pero medyo chubby ng kaunti, katamtaman ang kulay ng kutis, hindi mestisa o kayumanggi. Nakatingin siya sa TV sa sala habang nagkakape. Mapapanood sa TV ang balita tungkol sa mga nagra-rally sa Makati.

CHARI (older VO)
Ito ang Lola ko, ang nagsilbing second mom ko nung
lumalaki ako. First apo niya ako, kaya eto, Lola’s girl
ang kinalabasan. Spoiled pero na-outgrow ko naman iyon.
Matriarchal ang family namin dahil kay Lola – matapang,
Batanggenya kasi. Headstrong din siya at maabilidad
kahit hindi nakatungtong ng college. Mahal na mahal
ko ang Lola kong ‘yan. Siya lang kasi ang naabutan
kong Lola nang nagkamalay na ‘ko.

Tatayo sa upuan niya ang mestisuhing si LOLO, 62 years old, katamtaman ang tangkad at pangangatawan. Saglit siyang hihinto sa harap ng TV sa sala bago tuluyang lumabas ng pintuan.

CHARI (older VO)
Ito ang Lolo ko. Meek, mild-mannered, pero matinik sa
chicks! Noong kabataan daw niya, sa Pangasinan. Pero
ander naman sa Lola ko nang mag-asawa. Minsan naaawa
ako sa kanya, pero di ko alam kung bakit. Basta lang.
Mabait siya sa ‘kin kaya mahal ko siya. Pero parang
di siya mahal ng iba niyang anak minsan. Pero pakiramdam
ko lang ‘yun.

Ang mestisahing si CHARI, 11 years old na payat na batang babae, ay nakaupo sa sahig, titig na titig sa TV, umiinom ng Chocovim. Madadaanan siya ni Lolo palabas ng sala.

CHARI (older VO)
At ‘yan ako, nung 11 years old ako. Payatot, di tulad
ngayon, may cellulite na. Maikli pa rin ang buhok;
‘di yata ako nagpahaba talaga ng buhok. Bata pa ako,
medyo tomboyin na kasi ang dating ko – di ako mahilig
magpalda, laging naka-shorts, at malikot! Parang lalaki,
sabi nila. As if lalaki lang ang puwedeng maging
malikot, ‘no? Excuse me!

SEQ. 4. INT. TERRACE – UMAGA (cont’d.)

Si Lolo ay nakaupo sa kanyang rattan na rocking chair. May sinusulat siya sa ilang maliit na piraso ng papel.

CHARI (older VO)
'Yan ang hobby ni Lolo, ang mag-calculate para sa
jai alai. Sobrang di ko naiintindihan ‘yung
calculations niya, pero sobrang absorbed siya tuwing
gagawin niya iyan. Lawyer kasi by profession si Lolo,
pero parang di ko naman nakitang nag-practice siya nun.
Ang alam ko lang noon, pumapasok siya araw-araw sa
isang opisina sa Escolta.

Patakbong lalabas sa terrace si Chari at lalapit kay Lolo.

CHARI (sweet)
‘Lo, penge pong barya. Bib’li lang ako
ng chiz curls sa tindahan.

LOLO (mabait)
Ang aga-aga neneng, magmimiryenda ka na agad.
(sisigaw) Emma! Emma! Parine ka muna!

Ngingiti si Lolo habang tumatango. Hihinto siya sa pagsusulat at kukuha ng barya sa bulsa ng corduroy shorts niya. Aabutan niya si Chari ng tatlong piso.

CHARI (older VO)
Ewan lang kung may koneksyon ang pagiging lawyer niya
sa mga calculations niya, pero sige lang… Tuwing nananalo
naman siya sa jai alai, binabalatuan niya ako e hehehe.
Pero secret lang namin ito kasi ayaw niyang ipaalam
kay Lola na tumataya siya sa jai alai. Ewan ko rin
kung bakit…

Patakbong lalabas si Emma sa terrace.

Apay, apong? [Bakit, Lolo?]

O, samahan mo muna si Chari sa may tindahan, ha.

EMMA (kay Chari)
E ano ba’ng bibil-hin mo?

Chiz curls!

Eee sa may grocery la-ang meyron nun, apong!

Ha’mo na. Sige, samahan mo na lang, ha.

Tuwang-tuwang tatakbo si Chari sa may gate. Bakas ang pagkabahala sa mukha ni Emma. Susunod siya kay Chari. Agad niyang hahabulin ang bata at hahawakan sa kamay. Sabay silang maglalakad palabas sa kalye.

(©1996, this revision ©2010)


  1. I wish you were here. If you find a way to get here you can live in my house :)

    - Christian

  2. thanks,chris. wish i were there, too. i will hold on to that offer :) salamat.