It’s November 1 once again. How did you spend the first day of November?
Ours was spent beside the grave of my grandmother. She was the mother of my Dad. Since I didn’t get to know my Dad until I was 19 years old, it was unfortunate that I didn’t get to meet her. My Dad has lost his photos of her too so I don’t know what she looks like.
But good thing our uncle arrived because he and my dad regaled us with stories of their youth. They said our grandmother was a very workaholic woman. She was unfortunate enough to have husbands who didn’t support her so with kids to feed she had no choice but to work and work. She would get up early in the morning and won’t arrive home until 9pm. Even at home she brought home some work. If you know the “pampatigas ng kwelyo” that’s what she will bring home. After dinner her kids – my dad and my uncle – would help with the cutting and the shaping. They would do this every single night. My uncle said he even developed “kalyo” after all the cutting that he had done.
My uncle, who was 15 years older than my dad, was the one who took care of his younger brothers. He said he would give my dad milk. But formula milk was expensive back then so my dad drank condensed milk! We had such a laugh after hearing that.
Being from poor backgrounds and even with a workaholic mom they were still poor. They appreciated help from their relatives. They have an uncle they fondly remember. They said he was the second brother of our lola who was the youngest child. Now their uncle was a little well off because he was able to graduate from UP and had a job as a chief accountant for the Americans at Clark Airbase. Every Saturday they would wait for their uncle at the train station. Their uncle has some “goods” for them. Now it was just some imported cigarette but to his nephews it was precious. They would sell it to the market and the profits they would use as “baon” in school.
They said their uncle has only one arm. He survived a bomb attack during World War 2. That’s why he was wearing a prosthetics arm. With his one remaining arm he continued to exercise and was physically fit. Even he had only one arm he was able to help so many of his relatives. One of them was my uncle, my dad’s brother. He was studying at Mapua first year college. Because he was so poor and couldn’t continue, he decided to go to Cebu to seek help from his Chinese father. His father was able to help him but after one year he suddenly died.
That was the time their mother implored her brother to help him continue his education. Fortunately, he agreed and helped my uncle graduate. Every time his report card was released he would go to his benefactor uncle to show his grades. His uncle would be delighted and would ask for their picture be taken, with the report card showing his outstanding grades.
Well, whatever money my granduncle spent for my uncle’s education was surely well spent. Because Uncle Eddie, who is now 74, has successfully built himself a factory of chocolates and marshmallows that supplies all over the country.
I’m sure some of you will recognize some of his products. I know I ate Dutch Treat when I was a little kid and didn’t know my dad’s side of the family yet.
Hearing the stories we heard yesterday was so inspiring. This was the first time I heard stories about this side of our family and I appreciate it because now I know more about my roots and I know that I am part of this larger family. This way I can understand myself better – why I’m this way and not that way.
Of course, our uncle did not leave without giving out some advice about business. At his age, he’s already tired, he said, it’s surely a lot of hard work putting up his own business. He wants to retire but he can’t. I said I can relate. I also feel that way at age 32! haha
It was already night time when we regretfully said our goodbyes. It was only a few hours spent together but for us younger generation it was a day full of insights and revelations.