I’ve been terrible, I know, and haven’t posted since I got back from Miami (which btw- was an AMAZING experience that I will write about soon.) At the end of VONA, each participant had to do a reading of one of his/her pieces. I had originally picked something that I’d already written just to play it safe. But my mentor and residency leader, M. Evelina Galang, threw a wrench in my plans. On our last day of the program, we were invited to her home for lunch and a day of writing. It was lovely to sit outside in the Miami sun and have the singular mandate of writing. (Although, I was reprimanded for ‘liking’ my mentor’s pix on FB while i should have been writing.. what can i say – i’m a rebel and stubborn when it comes to my own good.)
She had us do an exercise where we closed our eyes and channeled our ancestors. While doing this, the one person I could think of was my Lolo on my dad’s side. When I sat down to write I started having a conversation with him and what spawned out of that conversation is the piece you see below. When i shared it with my cohort, I was in tears, thinking about and loving and longing for a man whom i never knew. My cohort encouraged me to read this piece instead of the one I had planned b/c the feeling that brought it to life is the source of where my writing comes from. And so.. after the initial writing, I spent the whole afternoon editing it. And when I presented to all of VONA, my cohort was surprised that it was the same piece I had produced earlier. One of them commented, “You edited the shit out of that didn’t you?” Yes, yes I did.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Abraham De La Cruz Acacio.
I hate Werther’s caramel candy. Whenever those commercials came on, I would quickly change the channel. The child in the scene is unable to open a small piece of candy, and the grandfather gently undoes the gold foil and tenderly places it in his mouth. Where was that person to unwrap my candy?
Everyone knew lolo or abuelo. They celebrated mass, birthdays and Christmases with him. I have no such memory, only a lingering feeling that something had been taken from me much too soon.
Lolo, how did you fall in love with lola? How did you comfort a widow who grieved the loss of her first husband? How do you take on a child who is not yours? How do you begin a chapter for this family by adding new life to it? How do you explain to the priest why all the host is gone even before Mass starts, and why your son, the altar server, can’t stop laughing in the back? How do you explain why you risked your life to save stacks of books from the public library, while Manila burned all around you?
All I know of you lolo, are a few stories, good stories. Stories to help me paint who you are. I see you with a chicken in one hand a machete in the other, ready to put dinner on the table for Inocencia and your three boys. I see your hands calloused from corralling the pigs to and from market. The sweetness of smoke and tuba are your daily cologne. Lola hates it when you smoke and drink but she’s still drawn into your kisses.
You wear the same white T shirt. It was always clean because lola made sure of that, but the hole at the nape of your back grew bigger with each typhoon season. Character, you’d call it. Things needed to be worn in, like people. If they didn’t have any holes in them, they’d be less interesting. “This is where the stories are,” you would say. Lolo, I do know you. You and me, we are so like. Because the holes in me, they make me long for you.