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I had a dream last night (one of those generic opening lines that is a writer's challenge to catch the reader's attention about dreaming).

The NHI marker describing the ambush of Doña Aurora Quezon and company 56 years ago sat in the middle of a Zen garden, raked pebbles, the works. Then the ground started to swallow it, I looked in horror and with my camera I started taking pictures, fighting back my tears to capture what was left of the marker. I woke up on a pillow drenched in tears and sweat, catching my first breath before it strayed into the morning window.

I was trying to remember the past, or what was left of it in vain, as my co-editor jsc interpreted. But why? What was my connection with Doña Aurora except that my hometown is named after her? This NHI marker is planted on a dirt road a few kilometers from the Aurora-Nueva Ecija border, and quite a number of times I have genuflected on this spot when we were stranded somewhere in the Sierra Madre several Novembers back as the mighty mountain range shields the rest of Luzon from Pacific-borne tempests. Although the virginity of the place cannot be denied, it is one picnic from hell as the storm's fists pound on the muddy mountain pass, its crackling sound a death knell for a foolish traveler standing in its way.

I tried to do some research and never found the Ephialtes to this Thermopylae, but realized that the battle between the Huks and the government had been going on since after the war, down to this generation that would make Leonidas' batch shy in comparison. The former were demonized by Magsaysay and Quirino. The latter collected its wage of death via the Quezons.

Was there an Alvarez, a Lopez, a Peñamora or a Guerrero within those bandit ranks? How about the driver, Adiong? I hope there isn't a score that I should settle with MLQ3. I'll never know, and it is an exercise in futility.

There are several histories in our families that need to be reconciled and perhaps this was the message of my dreams. What happened to the Lopez residence in Pasay when Tatay Pedring and Tita Cing walked all the way to Baler via guerilla lines during the outbreak of war, my aunt dressed in man's clothing to fend off attention? Who were Hanring and Natnael, blue-eyed sons of my grandmother who died during the war and were buried in unmarked graves? And why were they blue-eyed in the first place and all the while I am denying any Spanish lineage because our only proof is my brother's aquiline nose and the unusual shade of brown of my mother's eyes which I also have?

What is the story behind my father's mother, who we visited dying at the provincial hospital only to come out walking again the next day, because she has not spat her anting-anting, a spherical matter found in the patella of human skeletons? Is it a form of validation when my grandfather coughed up his at the threshold of death and proceeded anyway?

I have been listening to all these stories but never bothered to ask. Old people know when they will die, and that is when they start to be generous. I was bequeathed with an antique dining set that must have seen the glorious days of copra farming and an unrestorable photograph of the first Peñamora settlers in Baler via Infanta from Mama, a sister of my mother. Tita Cing is giving her properties away even if she can dance the spaghetti song all this time and it leaves me depressed.

I can fathom the relationship between gold and aluminum at the nanoscopic scale but not how my ancestors treated the earth. The proof of their existence have been erased by the war. When they die all their stories jump by batches to their graves rather than rot in this humid tropical weather.

And I am left with mediocre copies.


  1. Anonymous mcvie Says:

    The older I get the more curious and fascinated I am with my ancestors and the past. I keep pestering my mom about who's who and how this relative is related to us, but I immediately forget by the time she speaks her next sentence. Late ADD ba ito? When my dad died we his children wanted to visit Leyte because that's where his ancestors came from. He had said they came from a really, really poor town. Sadly we've yet to set foot in Leyte.

  2. Anonymous slim whale Says:

    you should seriously do research on your own ancestors. you've mentioned some interesting stuff here.

  3. Anonymous sky Says:

    mcvie: better start now or you'll regret it. we're rich in oral traditions and somebody has to write them down.

    slim: agree. especially my blue-eyed uncles.

  4. Anonymous mcvie Says:

    Sky: My oral traditions are best done in private, and with a consenting adult at that. Hwek-hwek-hwek. :-)