Monday, January 24, 2011

Laguna

If there’s any place in the Philippines where I felt most at home next to UP Diliman, it would be Laguna, a province southeast of Manila. My mother's side came from a town there called Los Baños, famous for hot springs, buko pie and other things. Even if I was the only one among my siblings who wasn't born there, I felt an attachment to Laguna just the same. We have so much family history in that province going back generations, at least as far as my mother can remember.


Mt. Makiling, partly in Los Banos, was a big part of our family history. (pic from liveinthephilippines.com)


My parents' love story began there. I have blogged about this in the past, but a condensed version may be worth repeating here. My father, an Ilocano from the province in Isabela, moved to Manila to live with relatives, and joined the USAFFE during WWII. After the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, he found a job in Los Banos. Every afternoon, he walked home from work, and passed by my grandfather's house. He would then hear someone singing inside but did not see her or know who she was. Intrigued, he asked a co-worker about the girl behind the beautiful voice. Fortunately, this co-worker knew her. Thus began nights of harana (serenade), which was how young men those days got to know and befriend young women under the watchful eye of her parents.

When thieves started stealing the produce of my grandfather's homestead in nearby Mt. Makiling, my father offered to stay there and guard the property while also tending it. There was no formal courtship between my father and mother, but this was his way of making his intent known. He served her family in the tradition of paninilbihan, a prolonged period of service to win his ladylove, or rather, her parents. My father endeared himself to my grandparents because he was very hardworking and was such a nice guy. Napakasipag at mabait talaga, in the words of my mother. The end, obviously, was that they got married after a year of separation without any communication or certainty of getting back together. More on this in my Love Letters series. Beautiful story that lasted 59 years.

The story of my grandparents was more complicated. I learned about it not too long ago when I started digging more into my family history for a course I attended at our church. The module on generational blessings and curses required me to look into our family's past because this can shed some light into how I did or do life and why. It was also to embrace my generational blessings--which are many--and pass them on to my children, while renouncing what needed to be cleansed from my spiritual line by the blood of Jesus Christ. (Sorry, this sounds a little heavy, and indeed it was.)

So who were my grandparents? What was their story?

To be continued...

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