Eulogy

Every Filipino, they say, has a Tito Boy. And I’m one of the many to have two—one on each side of the family.

We don’t call my paternal “Tito Boy” by that moniker, however. We call him “Ninong Boy” instead. He got that nickname when I was growing up, when it seemed he was everybody’s ninong—or godfather—at their baptism. “’Nong Boy,” we called him for short. To this day that’s how we in the family refer to him.

The ironic thing is everyone in the family regards him as kind of stingy—in other words, kuripot, not very ninong-ly. At Christmastime, back in the day, he and a couple of other, shall we say, “like-minded” relatives were the butt of our jokes because they never got anyone—not even their inaanaks—any gifts. But I suppose there are those like them in every Filipino family, too.

As for my Tito Boy on my mom’s side of the family, his name was Carmelito Penaflorida Dominguez. But we called him “Tito Boy Bullshit” because “bullshit” was his favorite expression. I’m not kidding. I guess when it dawned on everyone that we had two uncles referred to as “Boy” we needed a way to distinguish him from our paternal tito, and his favorite cussword made for a perfect appellation. Continue reading Eulogy

Bikol-Batangas blend

CoffeeNothing brings me back to my childhood in Bikol like a nice cup of steaming hot coffee.

It’s true: My family, by which I mean my extended family on my father’s side—my parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, all of whom I grew up with—all loved a cup of good coffee. My grandfather, most of all.

He was born and raised in Lipa, Batangas, and almost always had only coffee made from beans that came straight from his home province, known in those days, and maybe even up to now, as the “Coffee Capital of the Philippines.” Yearly, until he was too weak to travel the bumpy “South Road,” which was what we called the national highway, to Batangas, he visited his relatives in Lipa and always came back with a small sack or two of the beans that turned into the coffee he drank in Legazpi, where he lived and worked until the day he died. Continue reading Bikol-Batangas blend

In America, a glimpse of the home shore

Mount Mayon, an active volcano in Albay, Philippines, got its name from “daragang magayon” or “beautiful maiden,” the unnamed central character in the main legend of Albay province.
Mount Mayon, an active volcano in Albay, Philippines, got its name from “daragang magayon” or “beautiful maiden,” the central character in the main legend of Albay province. (Photo by Miguel Lorenzo Roxas)

One disadvantage of coming over as an adult to live in the U.S. is that it makes adjusting to a different culture just a tad difficult. When you grow up to be a certain age, you get used to doing certain things and dealing with certain people in a certain way. Moving to live in a different country throws everything off. That is why migrating (whether it’s to the U.S. or elsewhere) is not for everyone. It takes a particular breed of people to thrive in new surroundings.

One advantage of coming over as an adult to live in the U.S. is that you don’t miss the Philippines too much. When you grow up to be a certain age, you feel as if you have seen the Philippines. This is how I feel. I came here when I was in my early 30s, and by that time I had done much traveling in the Philippines—though, truthfully, not enough. But the thing is, when it comes to traveling—whether it’s in a different country or the homeland—it’s never enough. I doubt if anyone can visit all the places worth seeing in any one country. Well, maybe if you did that full time, you can—but, tell me, who can afford to do that? Even hosts of travel shows on TV must move on. Continue reading In America, a glimpse of the home shore