Showing posts with label the daddy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the daddy. Show all posts

Monday, April 21, 2014


If you were physically separated from your significant other, for whatever reason, would you still want to get back with him or her after a year? Five years? Thirty?

About a month after the Only and Older Bionic Brother was born, the Daddy, a naturalized U.S. citizen, returned to the United States. He realized that there would be more and better opportunities for his children in America than in the Philippines. This was in the late 1940s. He worked hard and within a year, he made enough money to book ship passage for the Mama and their son. The Mama did not want to leave her home and family. The Mama's mother told her that once she married, her life was with her husband's. She, the Mama, no longer belonged to the Grandmother. Thirteen months after the Daddy left, he and the Mama were reunited in their new home in California.

The stories of my two ninangs (godmothers) were different from the Mama.  They waited much, much longer to reunite with their spouses. The story of the ninongs (godfathers) and the Daddy, were similar, and to put the godparents' separation in context, I'll tell you a bit of that history. In the 1920s, the Philippines was a U.S. territory, which probably made it easier for Filipinos to travel as U.S. nationals. Throughout that decade, many of the young Filipino men, from all over the country, decided to go to Hawaii and the United States for the many jobs and good pay they were promised by agricultural recruiters and bragged about by friends and relatives who were already abroad. Most of the young men planned to work for a few years then return home with plenty of money to marry and start a family, if they had not one already. The Great Depression foiled their plans.

Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano

She was 21 years old and he was nearly 24 when they married in 1924.  A son was born two years later. In 1928, Ninong Mariano and his brother sailed for the United States where they worked the farms for meager wages. Said Ninong Mariano, "The first time I came here, the wages were 35 cents an hour. During Depression, fifteen cents an hour. That was the best I could get. Some places it was twelve-and-a-half cents an hour."

He sent money home when he could. Ninang Deling made money for the family by taking vegetables from the province where she lived and selling them in Manila, then before returning home, purchased products to sell back home. She also made a living for her and son by sewing clothes. She said, "I was a seamstress. I sold clothes when I could. Sometimes I make five dresses for someone to buy. They used to pay me three pesos."

Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano reunited in 1950. She was 47 years old. She had no conflict about leaving her home when her husband told her to come. Her son and her brothers were already in the United States. Ninang Deling said, "This is where my family was, so I come here. . . I (have) a good feeling."

Ninang Maxima and Ninong Vicente

They married in 1925 when she was 19 years old and he was 27. They had two children before he took off for America in 1929.  Over the years, he found jobs as a farm laborer and house boy. For 10 years, he worked in a Navy yard in California. Ninong Vicente said, "I liked to go back to Philippines, but no money. So I stay here. If you go there, you need lots of money to spend for the plane."

With the money her husband sent and the earnings she made from her sari-sari store, Ninang Maxima  managed to make a living for her family and send her son and daughter to school. Ninang Maxima said, "I am homesick to see my husband. When wartime, about five years, he didn’t write us. (There was) no mail to the Philippines."

Ninang Maxima finally reunited with her husband in 1959. "I didn’t recognize him when I came here. I didn’t know his face because it’s different. When he came here, he was young yet. When we got together, he’s old. I (was) 53. He was 60."

I'll do the math for you: Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano were separated for about 22 years, while Ninang Maxima and Ninong Vicente were apart for 30 years. Amazing, isn't it?
I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Knowing the Language

Nearly 35 years ago, a college professor, who hailed from Australia, told me if it weren't for the awkwardness of my writing, I would've got a higher score on my paper. She forgave me for some of my usage and grammar because, according to her, "English is your second language."

For once, I kept my mouth closed rather than enlighten her on how wrong she was.

English is the only language I can read, write, speak, and understand fluently. Proficiently, too, except for the lapses in awkward writing and the proper use of grammar, word choice, and cliches. I'm especially good at forgetting articles (the, a, an, and so on) and getting prepositions mixed up, which, I think is because the Ilocano language has no articles and, as far as I can tell, one preposition.

As I was growing up the parents mostly spoke Ilocano to me while I spoke English to them. I still do that with the Mama, and the Husband finds it very strange. It's really not unusual with immigrant parents and their American-born children. Once, I tried talking to the parents in Ilocano, but they couldn't figure out what I was saying. "Your accent is funny," said the Mama, after she and the Daddy stopped laughing.

When I was a kid, many Filipinos who just immigrated to the U.S. thought I couldn't understand Ilocano. After all, I greeted them in English when they came to visit the Mama and the Daddy. It was inevitable when the parents weren't around that a visitor would say in front of me, but in Ilocano, "My, the daughter is fat!" Another visitor would respond, "She probably can eat a whole pig by herself." And, they would all snicker.

I pretended that I didn't understand, although when I became a teenager, it was very difficult not to put them in their place. But that was okay. I just waited for the moment when the Mama would ask me to serve refreshments. In Ilocano. Then, one of the visitors would ask awkwardly, "She can understand the language."

"Yes," the Mama would say. "She was born in the United States. Even though we speak to her in our language, she can only speak English."

The visitors always cringed and fidgeted.

As I write this I wonder if the Mama may have also overhead the visitors say rude things about me, and that was her way of getting back at them. After all, I rarely saw any visitors who talked "behind" my back come to the house again.
I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Zealous Army Volunteer

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The Daddy lived in Honolulu, Hawaii when World War II began. He was getting his hair cut the morning that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. (I write about that here.) In April, 1942, he signed up for the U.S. Army.

It was a Sunday afternoon. The Daddy was hanging out with a friend in Ala Moana Park. 

"Compadre, let's join the army," his friend said, seeing the army recruiting truck parked nearby. "I'm going now."

“You go yourself,” the Daddy answered, thinking about how good the wages had become. He was making a dollar an hour. "I'm working tonight."

“I’m going” his friend said.

“Go ahead.” 

His friend ran to the truck and jumped on. The Daddy watched as more men jumped onto the truck. Soon, another truck stopped and parked. More men ran and jumped onto that truck. Before he realized it, the Daddy ran and jumped on the second truck, too. 

Said the Daddy:  
They took us to the camp. They gave us clothes. After they fed us, they had us exercise in the park.
Every morning, exercise. After a week of exercising, we went to the doctor. 
Then, there was an order from the mayor. All the men from the (sugar cane) plantations had to go back. They took us all to the headquarters. They said, “Everything that we had given you, all clothes and equipment, goes back to  Supply.” We returned everything.
As the Daddy and the other men filed out the door, an army official said, "Wait! Let me call and find out if everyone has to leave." The official soon came back and informed the men that only those living on the plantations had to leave. The residents of Honolulu were required to stay.

Pronounced the Daddy:
 I said to myself when it became hard, “I should’ve run.” The training was hard. Tiring.
The Daddy is sitting in the middle row. He's the third soldier from the left.

Friday, April 26, 2013


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December 7, 1941
Honolulu, Hawaii

Clip. Clip. Clip.

The Daddy's cousin was cutting Daddy's hair in their kitchen. They talked about this and that when suddenly they heard  in the near distance Boom! Boom! Boom!

"Hurry up," said the Daddy. "Something is happening at the harbor. Let's go see what's wrong."

December 8, 1941
Baguio, Philippines

At the same moment, thousands of miles to the east, the Japanese Navy Air pilots were bombarding the U.S. bases in the Philippines,  a U.S. territory. The Mama was staying in Baguio, a mountain town, where the John Hay Air Base was located. The town was immediately evacuated.

The Mama said it took her and her family about a month to walk their way down the mountain to their home in Pangasinan, a province in Central Luzon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Love Story

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I never heard the parents address each other by their names.  They also didn't refer to each other by name when they talked about the other. The Mama would just say lakai which was old man in Ilocano, while the Daddy would say baket for old lady.

For many years, I wondered if they even loved each other. When I became curious about how they met, they said they had an arranged marriage.

The Daddy said, "Your grandmother said she liked the daughter who lived next door for me. 'Okay,' I told her."

The Mama said, "My mother said to marry your daddy. 'He's a good man. You're old. This may be your last chance to marry.'"

Both the Mama and the Daddy lost their fathers at a young age. So, it was their mothers who met and discussed the terms of the dowry. Several weeks later, the Mama and the Daddy were married.

It was not until I went to the Philippines with the Daddy in the early 1970s that I heard the love story.

In 1947, the Daddy, who became a U.S. citizen after serving the U.S. Army, decided to visit the Philippines. It had been 19 years since he left.  He thought about marrying the girlfriend he left behind if she was still single. She was not.

A few days after the Daddy had been home, he went down to the well that bordered his mother's property and that of the Mama's mother's.  It was late in the afternoon. As he approached the well, he saw a young woman.

"It was like a lightening bolt," said the uncle who told me the story. The Daddy was in love with the Mama instantly.

The Daddy went to his mother and said, "I met the neighbor's daughter.  I want to marry her."

Years later, the Mama told me how she had received marriage proposals before the Daddy asked her. Although her mother liked the men, she did not. "They could not make me," the Mama said. One proposal was from the Mayor's son. The Mama did not like his mother. "She would have treated me like a servant."

The Mama's and the Daddy's wedding was a big-to-do. Both of them came from a large family, including siblings, uncles, aunties, cousins, and more cousins. 

"Everyone danced all night," said the Mama about the reception. "The party went on for three days."

I can just imagine. The Daddy loved a good party. So does the Mama, once she's there.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


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A few months after the Daddy died, the Mama needed me to uncover the septic tanks in the back yard so that the service guys could come and clear them out. So, one weekend I drove down from San Francisco, where I lived at the time, to do her bidding. The Older and Only Brother lived a few minutes away from her, but she rarely bothered him with such tasks. "He's busy. He has to work on Saturdays. He has a family." 

The day of digging was the same day that the Mama went to Reno with the local Filipino club. Her friends had convinced her to go. It would be a good change for her, they told her. I was very relieved that she would not be home. Back then we were always on tense terms. And, if I was doing physical work, it was best to leave me alone.

There were two septic tanks in the Mama's backyard. I had no idea. I thought there was only one and I knew where it was. I dug out the tank just like that. 

The Mama had a hazy idea of where the second tank was. "Someplace by the bittermelon."

So I dug a hole in the vegetable garden. Nothing.

I tried another spot and dug. Nothing.

Ninong Danny, one of the godfathers of mine, dropped by, as I started a third hole. I hoped he would pick up a shovel and help me. Or, at least pretend to dig. Nope. He laughed at all the holes in the yard, watched me dig for a bit, then left. I head him laughing all the way to the garage.

With dumb luck I found the second septic tank on the fourth digging. Did I say it was a hot summer day? 

I covered all the holes just before the Mama returned home that evening.

She had won $300 at the slot machines. "I think your daddy was guiding me," she said. She gave me $20 and set aside $30 for the Older and Only Brother.

"Why does he get more?" I asked.

"He's a boy." The Mama said.

"I dug holes all afternoon looking for that damn second tank. He didn't do a thing."

But I knew she was not giving me money for doing the work. She was sharing her winnings with her children. 

The Mama is of a generation and a culture in which females are short changed a lot. That day many years ago, as usual, I felt slapped in the face for being a girl rather than a boy. 

Has the Mama's attitude changed over the years? Some. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Daddy, the Carpenter

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"My dad was a carpenter."

That phrase is frozen in my memory.  It was spoken by the Older and Only Brother. I don't recall what the event was or when it happened when I heard him say that.

The Brother's choice of memory about the Daddy surprised me, because I don't think of the Daddy as a carpenter. The Daddy did build things. He built the tool shed and the shelters for the chickens, pigeons, pigs, goats, and occasional cow or two that he raised and butchered for our food at the far end of the backyard. We lived in the county, a couple miles away from the city limits, so he could do that. 

But, the buildings that the Daddy constructed were not of the quality of ones built by professional carpenters.  I don't know if the Older and Only Brother ever helped him construct the buildings in the backyard. When we moved to that house, he was a teenager and always doing stuff for school or working part-time.

When the Daddy died, the Mama decided to tear down the chicken and pigeon coops as well as the goat and pig pens. So, that's what I did. Yanked out nails. Tugged at planks. Made noise and more noise. I enjoyed myself. It was a good way to get through the grieving.

Tearing down the Daddy's handiwork was not straightforward. In some places, it was like a crazy patchwork quilt. Boards were put up every which way. The Daddy used fresh lumber as well as old scrappy boards. In some places, he nailed boards over each other. And the nails. Oh, man. The Daddy hammered some nails in as far as he wanted, then bent them down. Whatever works seemed to be his motto. Why not?

As I write this, I realize now that even though the quality of the Daddy's handiwork may not be precise, neat, or organized, the structures he built were sturdy. They would have lasted many years. So, yeah, the Older and Only Brother was and is right. 

The Daddy was a carpenter.

The Daddy and the Older and Only Brother

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Aunties

 Today's post starts the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I'll be going through the alphabet during the month of April. No posts on Sundays though. 

The challenge was founded by Arlee Bird. Thank you, Arlee! You can check out  A to Z participants  by clicking here.

Now, on with the first post.... The Aunties.

"Iago?! Iago! Iago! It's Iago!"

The Daddy jumped out of the Filipino tricycle (a motorcycle cab) and strode up to the house, as the Aunties came tumbling out of it. The grey-haired women cried as they hugged the brother they had not seen in nearly 25 years. 

Then they saw me standing by the tricycle and they came running and pulled me into their arms. "Susie! Susie!"

They had never seen me before, but they knew it was me. I had never before felt so much unconditional love from strangers. Immediately, I understood what it meant to be part of an extended family. And, it turned out I was related to a lot of people in the barrio of my parents. 

The house that we stood in front of belonged to Auntie Masa, which was short for Tomasa. It was one of the more modern houses in the barrio, made of wood and hollow blocks. In 1974, many families still lived in the bamboo houses on stilts.

I don't know if it was just good fortune that two other sisters were visiting that day—Auntie Luciene, the oldest sister, and Auntie Pacia (short for Bonifacia)—or if they hung out together every day. Someone must've runned over to another sister's house to tell her that Iago was home because in a short while another Auntie stood in the living room, crying and shyly hugging the Daddy.

Everyone around me chattered in Ilocano. None of the Aunties spoke English. I understood Ilocano, but could not speak it. That's for another tale.

I'm sure some of my cousins and other people were there, but my memory of that afternoon was the interaction between the Daddy and the Aunties.

Then came the moment the Daddy opened the suitcase full of gifts. It mostly held dresses, blouses, and skirts that the Mama had packed for the Aunties.

The Aunties were young in glee as they held up one item after the other. The Brother who returned was quickly forgotten. The Aunties tugged and grabbed and argued over each piece of clothing.

The Daddy took only a few minutes of it. He grumbled, "I've only been here a short while and already you are all fighting." He slowly stood up and walked out the room.

Silenced, the Aunties looked at each other. "We made Manong (older brother) mad," said one Auntie. "You started it," said another.

I tried not to laugh. I had seen the Daddy's smile.

A very young Su-sieee! Mac with three of her Aunties.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lively Spirit—The Daddy Was

The Daddy and I were both born in the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac. Sssssssssss. 2013 is the year of the Snake. May it be a great run around the sun for us all!

Today, I'm sharing an edited post that I published on February 25, 2011 on my former blog This and That. Here and There. Now, Sometimes Then. The post is about the day the Daddy died.  (That blog is still up if you're interested in reading other posts later.  Here's the link.)

The Daddy died from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Maybe he didn't pick how or where he died, but I think he was happy it wasn't at home where the Mama would've come home to find him after a long, tiring day at work. He was always protective of her.

That day the Daddy decided to go to lunch at the senior center with his good friend Danny, one of the godfathers of mine. The Daddy hadn't been there for quite a long while. He hadn't been feeling well, but those last three days, I was told, he'd been going strong, visiting, babysitting, doing so many of the things he liked to do.

So, there he was sitting at the lunch table. He was bending down for a spoon on the floor, I was told. He was there longer than he should have been.  "Hey, 'Pare (short for compadre), what you doing down there?" called a friend. Then, a scramble to get help for the Daddy. That was it.

While the Daddy was dying, I was sitting in a restaurant over 100 miles away with my new colleagues. It was a lunch to greet the new editors, another woman and myself. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver and a flush go through my body. A feeling of sadness, then relief, then joy. I figured at the time it was just the emotion of having finally been hired to my dream job. Nothing more. 

Back at the office, I was told by the company president that the Daddy had died. Later, when I thought back at that moment, I knew it was the Daddy floating by to say good-bye one last time.

Today, the husband and I bought a pot of gardenias for the Mama. She has been a widow for too many years. Flowers are nice for graves. They are so much nicer for the living. 

The spirit of Daddy, I am sure, is having himself a ball right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Love Story that (Thank Goodness!) was Not to Be

I am very fortunate that I have met not one, but two gentle men, both of whom I married. Of course, not at the same time. When I met the current husband,  I told him that I didn't date. I went on adventures, but not dates. I rarely dated before the first husband, so why begin then.

But, today is not a story of either husband. Instead, my ramble is about the man who would not be my husband. He was the first—and last—man that the Mama and the Daddy dared try to match me with. Yes, I know. So old country. At least, they did not attempt to do an arranged marriage for me. 

I was in my late 20s, an old age to still be unmarried, according to the old ways. I lived alone in San Francisco, over 100 miles from the parents, which were two other no-no's for young women.

The man in question had a name that some women would think romantic. I thought it was just sappy. Other women would've described him as very dreamy. I saw him as looking superficially slick. One who would have nothing to do with me in the old country, unless I happened to be rich. Yes, he was a young man from the old country. To protect the sappy, superficially slick man, I shall use a fictitious name to talk about him. Let's see. Hmmm, I shall call him Jacques Ash. (No, the parents did not immigrate from France.)

I first met Jacques Ash when I visited the parents on the Thanksgiving weekend. The Daddy was butchering a pig in the back yard, and Jacques Ash was there helping him. "Hello. Glad to meet you." That was the extent of our conversation.

A few weeks later, the parents, the brother and his wife, and Jacques Ash came up to San Francisco for a birthday party that a friend was giving me. Let's just say, I was very surprised. About Jacques Ash, that is. I also figured out what was going on. Gotta love the parents.

Because the brother wanted to wander around the science museum in Golden Gate Park, we all wandered with him. Jacques Ash walked beside me, but we barely spoke. I pretty much ignored him. He could work for my hand, if he really wanted it. He had already wooed the parents by painting the outside of their house for free.

At my birthday party, Jacques Ash sat silently. He didn't talk to my friends, unless they spoke to him. Then, it was time to go home. The parents decided to ride back to my apartment in the brother's car. I have to say the parents were so damn cute together. As, I started the car, Jacques Ash suddenly spoke. "Where is Sheila from? How long has she been married? What kind of work does she do? How long have you known her?"

Jacques Ash wanted to know everything about the friend who threw the party for me. What a Jacques Ash!

A few days later, Jacques Ash called me up for a date. Are you fucking kidding me?  I didn't say that. But, I did say something like this, "No, thank you. You can go find someone else for a green card."

"What?" I could tell he was taken aback.

"I know you're only interested in me so you can marry me and get a green card."

"I am not," he protested.

"Oh, yes, you are. We have nothing in common. You didn't even try to talk to me. You thought because I'm not pretty I would just accept you. Ha! The joke is on you."

"Your parents want us to get together," Jacques Ash said, quite forcefully. "I painted their house for you."

"My parents know I do what I want to do. Be with someone I want to be with. So, go find someone else for a green card." Then I did a classic Mama, and slammed the phone receiver down.

A couple hours later, the Daddy called.

"Jacques Ash is going to call you," Daddy said. To warn me, I liked to think; but, most like the man cried to the Daddy and asked him to smooth things over with me.

"He already called," I said, and then I told the Daddy everything I said to him.

The Daddy laughed. When he could talk again, he said, "Just be nice."

"He's the one that's not nice."

Daddy chuckled. "Be good," he said, and hung up the phone.

I still like to think that the parents (with their newly painted house) were proud of me for turning down a so-called dreamy looking man with a romantic name. I may have been single, old, and living on my own, but far from desperate for love or marriage.

Happy Valentine's Day, dear gentle readers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Going to Church with the Daddy


One of the last times I went to church with the Daddy was to a Good Friday service. The Mama scored big that day as she not only got the Daddy to go with her, but me. I don't know how she did it. Maybe I didn't even sulk as I drove them to church. More than likely I did daydream through the service. That is, until the Daddy caught my attention.

It was a struggle for his old bones to do all the physical activity that takes place during a Catholic mass, especially at the longer Good Friday service. You stand, sit, and kneel a lot.  I don't think the Daddy realized he was protesting out loud. I still wonder if God and I were the only ones who heard him.



"God damn."

"Shit. Fuck. God damn."

The Husband loves this story. After all, what's not to like: An old man swears in church.

How I miss the Daddy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Personal Holiday

The other day I was doing research about Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.  Interesting fellow that Dr. Goddard. Quite a visionary. A lot of people thought he was a crackpot. That all changed when the space program began. Ah, then the adulation and the awards came left and right for the man. Unfortunately, Dr. Goddard was dead by then. I hadn't planned on telling you that, but there it is.

What I did want to mention was that Dr. Goddard had a personal holiday that he called his anniversary day.  He celebrated the day he was a kid sitting in a tree and looked up into the sky and had an epiphany about rockets and space. Yes, I know. Pretty cool. Not to worry though. I'm not going to go into the technical stuff about rockets and space. Not like I could. The important part here is that I decided that I need a personal holiday.

When I was in my early 20s, I was influenced by the unbirthday idea and did that for a year or so. I chose July 15 because that was my dad's birthday. But, we always celebrated his birthday on the 25th. He even used July 25 as his official birth date. The reason was very simple.

As far as I know, Daddy had only one formal document to "prove" he was ever born and that was his baptismal record which was written in Spanish. Daddy—and probably many in his family—did not read Spanish. I can only speculate that Spanish was still the official language of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines when he was born in 1905. Anyway, his baptism was on July 25 which was the same day as the celebration of  Santiago Apostol (St. James), the patron saint of his hometown Santiago, Ilocos Sur. I have no idea if his parents decided to name him after the patron saint because that was the day of his baptism or if they waited for the feast day to baptize him. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if they were hedging their bets for good fortune for their baby boy.

According to the Spanish baptismal record, the baby boy being baptized that day--July 25--was born 10 days ago. So, there you go. July 15. Daddy's birth date. My unbirthday. Now, my personal holiday.

Back to Dr. Goddard, please. On his Anniversary Day in 1913, he wrote in his diary a list of things he needed to do. Some of them were complete patent applications for his inventions, research meteors, study Darwin's theory about lunar motion, and "try a jet".  Thank goodness for Dr. Goddard.

I doubt that I will be as ambitious as Dr. G. on my personal holiday, which shall be this Sunday. Maybe I'll go read a book under a tree in the backyard. And, maybe I'll bring a notebook and pen in the event I get a revelation about something grand.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Remembering Daddy

In 1975, he worked part-time "to earn pocket money
and get a little bit of exercise".
When I was 19, I visited the Philippines with Daddy. I saw where both Daddy and Mama came from—the barrio of Bactad in the province of Pangasinan. I, who was born in the United States, did not feel like I finally found home.

Ten years later, I visited Hawaii for the first time. Immediately, I knew I was home. The smell. The feel. The taste.

Hawaii was where Daddy lived for a quarter of his century. His youth, his coming into middle-age, his single life. There, in Hawaii, in the sugarcane fields, the streets of Honolulu. There, he lived away from family, independent and free.

Daddy was one of the many young Filipino men who signed a three-year contract to work on Hawaiian plantations. His year to leave home was 1928. A young, handsome man of 23 years. What was it like for him? I cannot even begin to imagine.

His plan was to go back home after his contract was up. But he had made little money after three years. Also, he said, his girlfriend had married someone else. There was no use to go back home. Yet.

Thirty-five years after Daddy finally left Hawaii,  I took my first trip there. As I stood in the sugarcane fields on the Big Island, I thought of my father.  I could sense Daddy and his compadres bending low with their machetes, grabbing the sugarcane, and whacking away at their ends.  As I drove by houses with corrugated tin roofs, I realized where Daddy's choice of building materials came from. Not the Philippines, but Hawaii. Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui. Those are the only islands I heard him mention as I was growing up.

Daddy told me a story about one early morning in December of 1941. His cousin was cutting his hair in their kitchen. In the quiet of the morning, he heard the far away sound of airplanes growing louder. Then  Boom! Boom! Boom! Daddy urged his cousin to finish up quickly so they could go see what all the noise was near the harbor.

A few months later, Daddy told me, he was hanging out with a friend in a park. "Bye and bye," he said, "many Filipino men were running towards some trucks and jumping on. They were all joining the army. My friend sad, 'Hurry, Hurry." So, Daddy ran and jumped into the U.S. Army.

His cousin, the one who cut his hair that December 7th, had no idea whether Daddy was dead or alive.  Twenty-five years later, Daddy reunited with his cousin during our visit to the Philippines. His cousin said ,as he wiped away his tears, "Why didn't you write?"

After Daddy got out of the army, now a U.S. citizen, he had saved enough money to go to the mainland and live with his younger brother, Uncle Frank, in Hollister. Daddy was homesick for family. About a year later, Daddy decided to go to the Philippines. I don't know whether it was just to visit or to return permanently. A few days into his stay, he met and fell instantly in love with Mama. They married. A year later, they had a son. Daddy realized before the baby was born that he had to return to the United States. Opportunities in the U.S. would be much better for his family  than in the Philippines. So, a few weeks after my brother was born, Daddy was on his way back to United States. It took him several months to earn passage for Mama and Junior.

In all that he did, Daddy never looked back. At least, he made it seem that way.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Clip. Clip. Clip.

It happens.

A loved one gets too old to cut her (or his) toenails. That same elderly loved one who can still drag a nine-foot ladder across the backyard and prune a lemon tree, when no one is looking.

In my case, that is the Mama.

I could take the Mama down to a nail salon. But, the idea of a stranger touching one's toesies is creepy. And, you never know if the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money really changes her gloves after each customer. That protection is more for the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money than for the customers. Forget about trying to convince me otherwise. Then, there is the matter of the strong smell of chemicals. I've walked passed open doors of nail salons and been hit with a big wham of oppressive odors.  The stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money also wears a face mask, which makes me wonder why customers don't wear them either. Heaven knows what breathing in the toxins for even one minute does to your health.

Of course, there is the Mama's reason. She'd rather buy a 50-pound bag of wild birdseed. I agree. More value for the money.

So, yes, I cut the Mama's toenails.

The first time was last summer. I happened to come across her sitting on the patio, with her foot up on a stool. Her various nail clipping tools spread out beside her. She was muttering frustrated curses at her toes.

I offered to cut her toenails.  At first, she resisted.

"It's no problem," I said, hovering over her.

"It's this big toe. The cuu-coo hurts at night," she said. Cuu-coo (I don't know how it's spelled) is the Ilocano word for toenail—and fingernail, for that matter. It's pronounced like cuckoo in cuckoo bird.

"I can do it," the Mama said, quite plaintively.

At that point, I could've left her alone and gone back upstairs to work. But,  my concentration would be interrupted by wondering how she was doing. The Mama has difficulty asking for help. My difficulty is gauging whether to leave her alone or ignore her and start pitching in. That afternoon, I pulled a chair in front of her and picked up a nail clipper.

"Just the big cuu-coo," she said, with what sounded like relief in her voice. Of course, I ignored her. I trimmed them all.

"I can cut your toenails for you," the Mama said, as I clipped slowly away at a particular thick cuu-coo.

"That's okay," I said. Clip. Clip. Clip.

"I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time."

The Daddy had a cataract in one eye and during his last several years, he no longer drove after dusk.  It should not have surprised me that the Mama trimmed his nails. But, it did. I wonder if the Daddy came up to her one day with the nail clippers and asked her. Or, like me, she happened upon him being frustrated at not seeing the fine details.

I also wonder if she chitchats about things, especially stuff that happened in the Philippines long ago, while she clipped the Daddy's cuuu-coo just as she chatters away while I clip hers today. The Mama isn't much of a talker, so her yakkity-yakking was quite surprising. But, then, I recall being 18 years old and one of my godfather's and his niece had just left after a long visit. The mama said to me, quite surprised, "I did not know you could talk a lot."

Every six weeks, more or less, the Mama asks me to trim her toenails. I can count on her saying, "Would you like me to do your cuu-coo? I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time." As I clip away, I can also be sure of her telling me stories about stuff that happened to her in the Philippines long ago.

I enjoy clipping the Mama's toenails. I think she does, too.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

So Sayeth Mr. L. Gatto Cat. Perhaps.

Last week, I began the tale of Mr. L. Gatto Cat, "our" cat for a very brief while.  Here are the links to  the prequel and Mr. Cat's first appearance.

I was just minding my own business. In the late afternoon, I liked to hang out under the old lady's rose bushes to grab some of the last of the sun's bubbles before it scooted over the rooftops. The old lady had a very pleasant and tidy garden. No leaves to muss me up. No rocks to dig into my body. The plants and her house protected me from the wind. And, best of all, the birds flocked to the bird feeders on the tree in the middle of the yard.

It was only right that I politely said "Thanks" whenever the old lady, the bushy-haired tall guy, or the younger old lady walked by. The guy always petted me and said kind things to me. I didn't get much of human talk until evening. As for the women—they ignored me. I think the old lady was hard  of hearing.  The younger old lady sometimes glanced at me and said rather firmly, "Stay away from the birds." Or, "You better not be pooping there." Honestly, I didn't. At least, not after she mentioned it.

The days were getting shorter—and cooler—when it all of a sudden happened. My relationship with those three humans changed.  I had just stretched myself out of a nap. Sitting on the old lady's walkway, I was pondering where I might find a morsel. The front door creaked open and the old lady walked out. She held a piece of chicken. Of course, I walked towards her, but I stopped a few feet away. She put the food on the cement and walked back to the steps. It was delicious!

The next day, it happened again around the same time. The day after that, I came by earlier, and she came out with food. Then one day, I found a plate full of human food. It was okay. You had to be hungry to like it. I ate a little bit to be polite. After awhile, I noticed the younger old lady sometimes put food out for me. She still said, "Stay away from the birds." But in a nice, friendly way. She also began to pet me.

I came by another day and found a bed on the front stoop. It was a towel on a piece of cardboard, which was replaced by a blanket tucked into a cardboard box a few days later. I went to sleep there before dawn and wouldn't you know it when the front door opened a few hours after sunset, the old lady had breakfast for me.

Eventually, the younger old lady moved the bed and my food dish and drinking bowl into the backyard. She also hung out with me. At first, it was for a very short while. I had to teach her not to leave so quickly. She actually let me sit on her lap. I learned that I could not swipe at her with my claws. She didn't like that at all. She also didn't like me to jump up on the table where they kept the canned and boxed food for me.

Yes, I was finally allowed inside the house. They brought my meal dishes into the house because the other cats were eating from them. "You can hang out here," the younger old lady said. "But, don't bring other cats here." One evening, I even chased a buddy away because he was freaking her out.

It was a great life I had with the three of them. They had made me a little shelter that kept me quite warm during the chilly nights. Indoors, I had my own chair with a warm pillow to sleep on. Sometimes, the old lady laid on the couch next to my chair and she let me nap alongside her.

The old lady didn't like me to leave. When it was time for me to go, I asked the guy or the younger old lady to let me out. Usually, I found them upstairs working in their office. Going upstairs was like walking through a mine field in the dark. The stairs, the hallways, and their office were lined with piles of books, papers, boxes, and stuff. I would've enjoyed exploring their territory but it was not my place to do so.

With each day, I was going over to their house more often and staying longer each time. The last few weeks, I got into a pattern of heading over there at 10 or 11 a.m. I slept for an hour or so, left, came back around 2 or 3 p.m., and slept until 5 or 6 p.m.  I found myself heading to my shelter anywhere between midnight and 3 a.m. just so I could be there when the old lady opened the sliding door in the morning.

One especially cold night, the sliding door opened, and the young old lady stuck her head out and invited me indoors. I ate a little then flopped onto my chair. She and the guy sat next to me and took turns petting me until I had almost fallen asleep. I say "almost" because I heard them try to quietly get up and walk away. From that night onward, I slept in the house. It didn't matter what time I returned, she was there to open the door and they were there to lull me to sleep.


I really didn't want to leave them.

The tale of Mr. L. Gatto Cat continues on Thursday.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Name is Death

This is my rough sketch for the cartoon
that I want the Husband
to draw
for my future obituary. Death is sporting
a Hawaiian shirt. Me, a flouncy skirt.

"Hello. What's your name?" asked the young man.

"Death," said 18-year-old me. It was a late afternoon nearly 50 years ago. My answer, of course, gave him a start.

To this day, I have no idea why he even walked over to the swings where I was sitting, the only person in the park until he and his friends drove in and parked near the bathroom.  Our paths crossed once before when I was in first grade and he in second. In high school, I perceived him as being one of the "wild and tumble" guys. And, wouldn't you know it, he eventually would become a pastor.

Instead of making a quick getaway, the future pastor sat on the other swing next to me. Not really what I wanted. He seemed sincerely concerned that I had called myself Death. He probably thought I was suicidal or maybe psychotic. Far from either.  I was just going through a period of finding a name that suited me. I just didn't feel like a Susie. I truly thought the word Death sounded calm, peaceful, and pretty. I recall telling the future pastor that, but I doubt he believed me. Who would?

Death was certainly not a stranger to me. I was the Mama's third baby. Her second one died at birth. My younger sister was born almost three years later. Baby girl lived about 29 months.  She died in the Mama's lap as the Mama was feeding her lunch. I can still hear the Mama shouting, "Shirley! Shirley! What's wrong!" The Daddy ran from the kitchen, gathered the baby in his arms, and ran out the door to the car. The Mama was right behind him. She got into the car, the Daddy handed Shirley to her, then he raced around the car to the driver's side. As he turned to back out the car, he finally saw me standing beside it. "Go next door," the Daddy commanded. I stepped away from the car and watched as they sped off to town.

It was not until I was 17 that the Mama was finally able to let go of Shirley's death.

The name Death didn't last long, probably a few more weeks after the encounter with the future pastor. My next new new name was Susane, pronounced Su-sane.

Ah, 18-year-olders.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making My First Filipino Dish

The parents liked fresh meat and they believed it was cheaper to purchase a pig (or cow or chicken), slaughter and butcher the animal,  and freeze the parts for when you wanted to cook. Because the cost of purchasing a pig was high, the parents often bought it with one or more friends. They didn't bring the pig to the butcher though, as part of the pig-buying event was the camaraderie among the men as they slaughtered and butchered the pig in our backyard. A bottle, or two, of whiskey also figured into the festivity.

Every part of the pig was used. Everything. For instance, the blood was directly drained from the pig into a pot. The right amount of vinegar was added to the blood and it was beat with a hand mixer until it coagulated into a thick pudding. The blood was used for a pork dish known as dinardaraan, which the Filipinos would call Chocolate Meat as they served it to children or non-Filipinos.

Along with the whiskey, Daddy always  served his compadres a meal of the freshly butchered pig. The rice would be made. Some pieces of pork would go on the makeshift grill in the back yard. And, some chopped pork would be brought into the kitchen for Mama to saute with garbanzo beans, onions, garlic, and pimento (in a jar), and frozen peas (if she had some).

This is one my favorite comfort dishes. Don't ask me what the name is of the dish. I don't know. Even Mama doesn't know the formal name of the dish. At least, not anymore.

It was at one of these butcherings that I made this favorite dish for the first time. Mama was not home, so Daddy called me to the kitchen. He pointed to the meat on the counter,  told me to cook it, and went back outside. There were no if's, and's, but's, or I-don't know-how's with Daddy. So, of course, I prepared it, visualizing how Mama made the dish.

I have no idea how Daddy and his friends liked my first try, whether they actually ate it or chewed it and politely spit it out. Both the parents believed in practice makes perfect. So, Daddy continued to ask me to prepare the dish during these butchering events whenever Mama was not home or she was busy cleaning the pig's guts.

Today, I make this pork and garbanzo bean dish whenever I have a craving for it or when I think Mama would enjoy eating some Filipino food. I know I've done well when she eats all of her meal.

© 2011 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hippie, I'm Not.

This was originally published in November, 2010 at my experimental "Don't Be a Hippie" at The one and only post. Today's version has been slightly revised. I don't know why you need to know.

About 40 years ago, on a particular day, I was getting myself ready to go hang out at school. Not high school. But, community college.

I was 18 or 19 and living at home. The daddy was retired. He happened to be home on this certain day. He may have been getting ready to go out to hang out with his retired buddies.

I was in my bedroom doing whatever, when the daddy stopped at my door.  I looked over at him, and he said, "Don't be a hippie."

Before I could respond, he walked away.

I had no idea he knew there were such things as hippies.

Most of all, I didn't think I had it in me to be a hippie.  I was not very good at being part of a group that had a moniker to it.

Still.  I wonder what may have caused my dad to reach the conclusion that I could possibly become a hippie.

That said, welcome to this blog: Don't Be a Hippie. . .Then and Now.

© 2011 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 25, 2011

29 Years Ago

The Daddy, mid-1970s.
My favorite photo of him.

Twenty-nine years ago on this day, the Daddy died from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Maybe he didn't pick how or where he died, but I think he was happy it wasn't at home where the Mama would've come home to find him after a long, tiring day at work. He was always protective of her.

That day the Daddy decided to go to lunch at the senior center with his good friend Danny, one of the godfathers of mine. The Daddy hadn't been there for quite a long while. He hadn't been feeling well, but those last three days, I was told, he'd been going strong, visiting, babysitting, doing so many of the things he liked to do.

So, there he was sitting at the lunch table. He was bending down for a spoon on the floor, I was told. He was there longer than he should have been.  "Hey, 'Pare (short for compadre), what you doing down there?" called a friend. Then, a scramble to get help for the Daddy. That was it.

While the Daddy was dying, I was sitting in a restaurant over 100 miles away with my new colleagues. It was a lunch to greet the new editors, another woman and myself. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver and a flush go through my body. A feeling of sadness, then relief, then joy. I figured at the time it was just the emotion of having finally been hired to my dream job. Nothing more. 

Back at the office, I was told by the company president that the Daddy had died. Later, when I thought back at that moment, I knew it was the Daddy floating by to say good-bye one last time.

Today, the husband and I bought a pot of gardenias for the Mama. She has been a widow for 29 years. Flowers are nice for graves. They are so much nicer for the living. 

The spirit of Daddy, I am sure, is having himself a ball right now.