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Lolo the unforgettable

/ 09:09 PM February 03, 2012

I remember the times I would run to granny’s room every time he came home drunk at night. As a child, I couldn’t understand then why he was acting the way he did. And I was afraid every time I saw him in that state. But despite my fear of him, I learned to respect him.

Lolo has always been good to his grandchildren. When he was younger, he would bring us fruits fresh from his farm and he loved to play with us and carry us in his arms. My childhood memories of him are still so vivid. And though there’s still that fear of him, I remember him as a very caring grandfather.

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My father would tell us stories about how a disciplinarian Lolo was—the spanking, and the kneeling on grains of salt. He would recall in a funny way how he felt when Lolo would come home drunk, which was exactly my feeling too. My father would tell me how he would dance and sing in front of my drunken Lolo. He said he did those funny “foolish” things because he was afraid of Lolo. But through it all, my father still saw in Lolo things he believed he ought to emulate.

Lolo Temio, as we call him, was indisputably a respected leader in our place. A barangay captain for quite a time, he was respected for his accomplishments. This, I believe, was what pushed his sons to continue his legacy of public service.

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I remember how big Lolo’s and granny’s smiles were when all of us, their grandchildren, were gathered in their house. We were all unruly, but they never showed a trace of exasperation with our presence. And Lolo, being a good listener, patiently paid attention to my stories no matter how impossible they seemed.

Lolo has only three grandsons (all others are granddaughters), and I’m the closest to him. When I was a small, I loved to sleep with him. He would tell me various things like the war, the flood and many other stories I can’t recall anymore. I played solitaire with him and he always reminded me to be a good son to my parents. I didn’t understand then, but I would tell him, straight up with all innocence, to stop getting drunk because I was afraid of him when he was. And he would just burst into boisterous laughter.

I see how the years have formed wrinkles on Lolo’s face. His hair has turned grey, and his skin is now all creased. But he has not changed, not a bit. He still drinks. He still tends the fruit trees, the fish pond and the house. He still plays the solitaire. But he does these all alone now. Granny died 15 years ago, and all his children now have their own families, and his grandchildren are all grown-up, and we don’t play with him anymore; and, sadly, gathering all of us is next to impossible.

At the age of 85, Lolo is still in good health and a bottle of liquor is still his best friend. “We would all be leaving this world, of course. We all will,” he would say.

Yes, Lolo is old now. But I still see the strength that I always saw in him during my younger days. I still see it now, even through his wrinkled skin.

Mike Ariel Plaza, 19, is currently the editor in chief of Mindanao Varsitarian, the campus’ official student publication.

Made in Camp Crame

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By Hiyas Maria Sergia Matilac Lacaba

I have a secret to tell: I was made in Crame—Camp Crame.

I was conceived inside a prison, during a dark moment in my family’s history.

It is not easy to live behind bars, it is dark, cold and scary. It is lonely because you are away from the people you love, and you have nothing but the four walls and a small window that allows only a small view of the sky and the world outside. The place offers no comfort and peace, as unfamiliar faces surround you, though this is not always the case. Because the prison can still be a home, depending on how you make it.

When my father and mother became political prisoners in Camp Crame, they turned the prison into a home. A happy home.

I did not get to live there. I just imagine how it was then from the anecdotes I’ve heard, and in every line I read from the magazine story about my family’s imprisonment. I can see the events unfolding with every story that I hear, told again and again. Everything is clear. I can feel the emotions, the distress—and the heartaches.

“Bakit kayo nakulong, anong ginawa ninyo?” I asked.

When I was a child, stories about my family getting jailed in 1991 were so confusing to me. I envied my two older sisters because they had funny stories to tell about life in prison. How I wished I had been there with them. But come to think of it, I was also there with my family, floating in my mother’s womb. So I would tell them, “Nandoon din ako! Nakakulong sa tiyan ni Nanay.” (I was also there, jailed in Nanay’s womb.) And they would laugh.

My father was arrested because he was suspected of being a rebel.  With no evidence to pin him down, they raided our house, also arresting Nanay with my sisters who were just four and eight years old then. It would have been traumatic for any child to see 30 men with high-powered rifles raiding the house, but my sisters were strong and they even defended my mother. That was a tough act, considering that they were just children. Nanay was the toughest, of course. She had to be strong because the whole family depended on her. She did not leave her daughters because she knew it would be better for her children to stay with her. So my mother and sisters stayed in prison for a month and made friends with other people similarly accused. They also made friends with the prison guards. My sisters were the darlings of the jail. They remained innocent and playful just like normal kids. They were exceptional back then because they gave color and joy to the dreary world in prison.

I have seen a drawing made by my eldest sister, Amir, showing Tatay, Nanay, Ate Amir and Ate Mithi with a guard, all of them wearing a big smile on their faces. It’s titled “Ang aming Buhay sa Kulungan.”

My sister Amir missed school, but my mother told her it didn’t matter “if you missed school because what we are experiencing together is a kind of education no training in school can provide.” My sisters were not traumatized by the experience because my parents saw to it that they understood what life is all about. My mother explained that “life is about joy and sorrow, fear and courage, light and darkness, pain and comfort, love and hate.”  There is always the opposite of the darker side of life, we should never lose hope because everything has an end. And a new beginning.

Hiyas Maria Sergia Matilac Lacaba was born about three months after her father was released from prison. She would like to think that she is heaven’s gift to her parents and sisters, after such a challenging experience. After all, she says, she was made in Camp Crame.

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TAGS: Camp Crame, Family, featurd column, Hiyas Maria Sergia Matilac Lacaba, mike ariel plaza, opinion, Political prisoners
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