A couple of weeks back I was with my grandparents in Caloocan. Pretty much the whole clan was there, cramped in a pretty small space, playfully jostling over who gets to each lunch first, something determined by who gets to the house first - in this case, we were first, so I got to enjoy my grandmother's batchoy first.
"Ano to, 'la? Dugo?
" I asked.
"Oo, dugo yan,
" she answered, and I just chowed down.
That day my grandfather decided to get many of his old photos and compile them into one photo album. I thought it was an odd decision, because the photos were stored nicely in many other photo albums. He was a photographer when he was much younger - I'm not sure if he ran a photo studio, but he definitely knew his way around the lens, judging from how well he framed things. I borrowed his SLR for photography class, for one.
Anyway, I've seen those photos before, but that day I decided to look at those again. They were mostly shot in the 1960s and 1970s, and pretty much told the family's whole story. There was a photo of my grandparents, then newly-married - I figured my grandfather did not take that photograph, because it had somebody else's name on it. But everything else was his - photos of my uncles and aunt when they were little, posing outside their home (the very same home in Caloocan) or around many places in Manila. Ahh, Manila in those times had lots of parks. They definitely had their options.
My grandparents weren't exactly the richest. My grandfather worked at a nearby paper factory, a thing he did for the longest time, since I remember being a grade schooler and getting extra crepe paper from him. My grandmother, on the other hand, worked in a factory, and at one point tended to a sari-sari
store in front of her home. I remember this one photo where she was holding a placard with some other women. A strike, I was told.
I don't think she spent a lot of time working, because most of the photos I was flicking through featured her and my uncles and aunt - and, if you're asking, eventually, my dad, the youngest in the bunch. He was squirming in the camera like a little boy always does. This family photo I liked? He wasn't looking straight.
When my grandparents renewed their marriage vows a few years back, my dad told this story. He is, technically, the fifth child: my grandparents had a fourth, a daughter, who passed away a few days after birth. They wanted four kids, so they tried again, and here I am.
Early this year the whole Dela Cruz clan - that's my grandmother's side of the family - had a reunion. One of her sisters, my Nana Crising, returned from Washington DC and we all had this pretty big party at a restaurant nearby. She was the only one among all six siblings to get to college and get a good job, and when she recalled that she couldn't help but cry. It was really hard for them, she said, so us little kids should never take for granted what comfort we have in life now.
My grandmother certainly took it in stride. She's a jolly fellow, perhaps loud-mouthed, but definitely jolly. I remember when I was at her place, just me and my dad, after bringing her to the hospital to have her foot checked. We bought lunch from Chowking
and we realized it wasn't going to be enough - no, that's not the story... I'm not really sure what happened, but I was at her home, helping her out by slicing vegetables for the lumpiang hubad
she was going to cook for lunch that day. Yeah, that was another family reunion. It's a step, because I would've loved to watch her cook dinuguan
Yesterday she was rushed to the hospital. She was nursing a high fever the past couple of days. Not sure what exactly happened. An infection that got to the brain, the doctors figured. Early this morning she flatlined. I woke up today to my mom telling the news that my Lola Pining has passed away.
On Grandparents' Day, no less.