It’s hard to believe that my mother came from here. We entered the Pangasinan province after a four and a half hour drive from Manila. Driving through typhoon weather, which consisted of hard rain and then light drizzles. We weaved our family van in and out of traffic that was littered with tricycles piled with goods such as rice and wood or live family members. The heavy rains watered the landscape and filled the rice plantation with the water needed for harvesting. Water buffalo’s grazed these plantations, untouched by the rain drops that attacked their naked hides.
Colonized by the Spanish in 1495. Our seaside village is hidden in the dense tropical greenery on the coast of the South China Sea. A strong typhoon in 2010 knocked down the family home, leaving us no choice but to build a home that dreams were made of. “I got all I asked for from G-d” says my thin, frail grandmother. “I wanted all of my children to be successful and then I asked for a big new house” she explains as she smiles up at me looking above of the bifocals that balance from her nose.
The new family house is impressive. White gates with sailor’s anchors decorate the entrance of the new home, commemorating the time my uncles gave to the U.S Navy. As you enter our family home, the extra high ceilings dominate you. The walls are decorated with Neapolitan shades lightly highlighted with trims of red.
My grandmothers’ bedroom is on the first floor with an en suite bathroom that has a door handle that she can reach. At 83 years old, grandmother cannot walk up and down the steep stairs of her new home, so she takes ownership of the first floor only. Where she can still sit on the floor with a straight back, avoiding her frail knees. The second floor is reserved for the endless amount of traffic that 8 living children, 23 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren bring to the new home. Five bedrooms upstairs host hand-made acacia wood benches, bamboo beds and tables made of mango wood. Two large porches overlook the tropical brush that has been revitalized from typhoon season. Already we’ve sat on the benches to watch the buckets of water fall on our burrough of Arnedo, Bolinao.
There is a kitchen in her home, complete with an island. Surviving scraps from the old family home were collected and made into a “dirty kitchen”. This is where we kindle the fire and where most of the cooking is done by the help, Beth. Beth has already been briefed on our laws of kashrut and displays the different kinds of fresh fish she has fetched for us to eat. “Do you have any eggs?” I ask my mother as she is walking through the kitchen. Within minutes the other help Tine Tine, walks in with a bag of fresh eggs, hastily picked up from a neighbor with a chicken coop.
My Navy retired uncle took most of the responsibility for the building of this house. A pool of savings was collected by all of my mother’s siblings to afford such a grand structure. Even so, there are plans for more carpentry. “These benches were made from the tree that felled from the typhoon” my mother points out. The pieces of patio furniture have layers of multi-colored tints swaying in and out of the bark. “In my youth, to help put food on the table, we sold rope at the market” she explains, “We’ve come a long way from those days”….
….To be continue’d
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