My grandfather had a box of old photos in his cabinet, which we unearthed when we were painting his room. It was a mix of his family’s photos, my grandmother’s family’s photos, my dad’s childhood and high school photos. I even saw my godfathers’ graduation photos. Hilarious, but also very sentimental.
There was an album among the photos, just a small one that held a few photos inside. Opening it, my mom said it was my Lola’s older sister, Lola Aurora. She was rather young, and was wearing black. As we went through it, Mama said it was most likely ceremonies for Lola Aurora’s husband, Lolo Condring. He was Captain Condrado Yap, who fought in the Korean War and was killed in action during the Battle of the Yultong Bridge.
The photos were taken in 1951. One of the photos looked like the back view of President Magsaysay, and I’m being presumptuous in thinking that one of the American soldiers shaking my great-aunt’s hand is Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Manang Gaya game in while we were looking them over and she tells us that her brother also served during the Korean War alongside Lolo Condring. He was able to come home safe, and passed on years later at the age of 57. His name was Roldan Eclevia. We’re hoping that we could get photos and books of his from that time.
I’m just glad that there are people around me who can still tell these stories.
Over breakfast, my grandfather was telling me about how his father used to wake up very early in the morning. Like 5 AM early, which to us modern and city folk, is quite unthinkable in most circumstances. Lolo says it was probably because of old age, and he feels that he is experiencing it now that he’s 87.
Lolo then says, “I never really got to spend time with him. After I graduated from Philippine Normal School, I went here to Candelaria. I thought I’d stay here at the most for just two years.” He pauses and pulls his boots on.
“And you never left,” I said.
“No. I’ve seen this town grow. I’ve been here for probably sixty plus years. Before, the only big houses here in Poblacion was this one,” he points to the house my paternal grandmother’s parents built for their big family, the one we call Old House. “Yung kila Manika, Espinosa.” He mentions other names that I can’t remember, but I know these houses. I’ve seen them since I was a little girl.
I asked, “So you spent more time here than you did in Ilocos?” His family was originally from Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
“Ay, oo. I was born in Pasig, and when I was sixteen or so, we went to Laoag [because of the war]. I stayed there for five years, then I went back to Manila to study.”
Soon, he gets up and walks out to the fields. To stretch his legs, he says, and to check on his animals. I watch him walk away. He’s old, but sometimes I don’t see him as anything but the big man that he is. His simple bearing belies a well-read, well-educated (and very opinionated) man who has seen and done so much. If I could live my life as fulfilled as that, as respected and loved, I’m good.