balikbayan.


dad went "home" for ten days. with his brother, tim, he flew first class. in tagalog, my mom made us laugh in the car: "you'll be flying first class. what if your boxes and suitcases burst open? everyone will see that you're carrying toilet paper and vienna sausages." norman was there to greet my dad. norman has been working for philippine airlines since the early 90's, which is nothing compared to how long my aunt has been working there: 47 years.

there wasn't much else to the airport run. afterwards, my mom and i met up with tita inday at godzilla sushi. my aunt kept talking like i lived in the area. it was really, really bizarre. "we might run into you guys here," she said. and then, "are you trying to set rich up with any of the girls here?" i had no idea what the hell she was talking about.

on the drive home, my mom was in one of her storytelling moods. she told me about how tita bubut had a fake i.d. and tried to get into dance clubs. i asked where she could have gotten a fake i.d. "probably beng," my mom said. my mom told me about the day lolo died, and how he called the house seven times that morning. apparently, lola was getting a cold, and he wanted my dad to take her to the hospital. "you know how pops is in the morning," she continued, "he's really slow." she said that when bia, their katulong (helper/housemaid), called to say lolo had a heart attack, she knew immediately he was dead. when she got to the rosemont house with uncle rebel, the paramedics were already there, and manang, the other katulong, didn't know what to do with herself. she was pacing the hallway. "i could see it on her face," my mom recounted, "she probably thought that they would blame her for what happened." but there was really nobody to blame, except maybe c&h sugar factory. my grandpa was a diabetic with heart problems, and on january 27, 1992, he died of a heart attack.

my mom continued. she and uncle rebel got lost on the way to the uc davis hospital. when they arrived, they were told to wait in the smaller waiting room. "somebody told me that that's when you know that the person is dead," she said. "when they tell you to wait in the smaller waiting area and that a social worker will be talking to you." when they found out, uncle rebel called everyone. when news reached uncle mike, he started smashing dishware in his apartment. luckily, uncle sisoy (lolo's son, but from a different wife) was there, trying to calm him down. ate, my aunt geraldine, received news in san francisco, but only that lolo had been hospitalized and was in critical condition, not that he was dead. when she arrived at the rosemont house in sacramento, tita lorna, uncle mike's wife, ran out to tell her that lolo was gone. ate sat in her car for a long time, unable to move.

it's hard to imagine these dramatic moments, knowing who these people are. their actions sound like fiction.

my mom told me about uncle ramon, her deceased sister's husband. he led quite a life as a pilot and real estate entrepreneur. news reel: on april 7, 1976, a bac 1-11 was hijacked by muslim rebels for seven days, demanding money and the release of imprisoned rebels. the aircraft ended up in benhazi, libya. he was the pilot on that flight. also, in flight school, he survived a crash that killed his co-pilot. "did he ever think that he wasn't going to make it?" i asked my mom. "yeah, he talks about one time. he said that something in the system had malfunctioned, and they were all expecting to die. they even started collecting his ring, his watch, and the medals from his uniform. i guess that's what they do when they're expecting a crash." "how did he figure out what was wrong?" i asked. "he had presence of mind," she said. "he was able to solve it." another time, he turned ghost-white when a giant, unidentifiable object flew past the cockpit.

yes, my uncle has seen a fucking u.f.o.

sometimes i forget that there's all these crazy stories kept in the family. but accounts keep shifting, and no one seems to be certain about what. i'd like to interview everyone and document the truth. i just want to know what happened to jojo, uncle angel, and i want to know about affairs with canadian women, and abuse, and starting over in a new country, and all of that.

i wish someone else would start talking about hard times for a change.

3 comments:

ms.meggie said...

please, james, write a book already.

Pretty In Black said...

You should write a book about your family history or make a documentary. I'd love to see it. Mysteries and stories within family's and communities are very interesting to me. Much like my favorite documentary about the deep south "Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus."

I find pictures of Alison Mosshart on flickr, google and the live journal groups community.livejournal.com/pull_a_u and community.livejournal.com/vvmosshart

claire said...

yeah, you're a good writer, but dude, why do I have to be Lisa Turtle?