Sunday, May 03, 2015


In our family, I am a Cassandra. I can “see” but no one believes me, so I ran the risk of suffering the fate of being slaughtered, as Cassandra did after the Fall of Troy when she—along with the rest of the family—was taken by the winning army of Agamemnon as part of the war booty. Cassandra was the distraught woman standing with Agamemnon at the foot of the stairs, before Agamemnon took the red carpet welcome prepared for him by Clytemnestra upon his arrival home. The red carpet led directly to his death in the poisoned tub.
Unlike Cassandra, I did not wait for the total devastation to come. I escaped to tell the story. My Pa arrived in Mindanao from Capiz as a nine year old boy after the war, when people in the villages of Tum’lalud and Sinunduhan (just across the river), in the town of Mambusao, were talking of migrating to Mindanao to look for better life, or perhaps, a better land. Pa told me this story, sitting on his hospital bed, the dextrose on his left arm, as he emerged seventy years later, trying to make sense of the pain.
He was still a boy when they arrived. What prompted Grandma to bring her children to Mindanao was not really the need to look for better land, but that row between her and Grandpa over the eldest daughter Maria, who ran away with a man not of their choice and went to live with him in Iligan. [[This story seems to be lost now, because Maria died years ago and the only cousin who I knew can link me to her also died the following years.]] But according to Pa, Manang Maria ran off with a man. She was the eldest daughter in the family—engaged to someone important back in Mambusao. As a result of her elopement Grandma and Grandpa had a row, which ended up with Pedro (the name of Grandpa), already drunk, chopping off the leg of their table, which like the house, was made of logs, a sturdy material. As a result of this quarrel, Grandma rushed to migrate to Mindanao, where everybody was heading.  She was a tough, strong-willed woman, and as I imagine, high spirited. Women were not allowed to go to school during her time, so, she only reached up to Grade 2, while her brothers went to Manila to become a priest and a pilot. Yet, she was an intelligent and ingenuous woman, who, during the war, was able to feed some hungry souls straying to her house because she never ran out of supply of rice from her harvests. She immediately secured the money (sold their land? Borrowed? I’m no longer sure) for the trip to Mindanao, where they eventually landed in Davao and came to settle in Binugao, where Pa eventually worked as the encargador of the land of the Gods (Guinoo).
In Binugao, the teacher was distraught when all the Grade six pupils failed to solve the Math problems he had written on the board. When he came upon Pa during lunchtime solving all the problems on the blackboard with ease, he asked, “What grade is this?” and someone answered, “Grade 1V.” Pa suddenly basked at the attention of all those girls (dalaga), most of them Haponesa, regarding him with awe, which slightly embarrassed him, though, he said he felt assured to realize he was wearing his Boy Scout uniform on that day, with the matching shoes at that.  He was also amazed that the lessons in Binugao could be that easy compared to those in Mambusao.

When Mr. Espanol and Mr. Buenaluz, the teachers from Luzon, realized Pa was already tilling the land and planting corn in it, they asked with concern, “Why, where is your father?” Pa blurted out, just like a nine-year-old child, “They kept fighting with each other so they agreed to separate. Mother left him in Mambusao.”  His teachers never let him work in school after this. “Parang Luzon (like Luzon),” they said to describe his farm because they were Ilocanos, and might have missed the land where they came from.

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