IV. Family Grandparent's house in Gitlangan We got to my grandparents house after dark and again I felt the hot lowland air temperature. We unloaded our things and sent off the van and driver. There were already people in the backyard cooking meat over open fires in preparation for the big send-off meal for my aunt, uncle and cousin that were leaving with us for the United States. I grabbed my painting stuff I brought with and did a quick oil painting under distant light from the front porch. Later on, Dave said he saw grandpa take off walking down the road. I started walking down the road to find him at the little store a couple houses down, counting out his change to buy something. He was dropping his money on the ground and looking for it so I picked it up for him and he bought batteries. Then he asked for San Miguel and the lady told him it was more that the money he had left over. So I walked back to the house with him and sat down in the living room and talked with Dave some. All was quiet for a while when all of a sudden we heard loud Philippino Pop Music blaring from my grandpa’s room. I went in and found out he had gotten the batteries for his radio and was trying to listen to something. I realized why my grandma wanted them to have separate rooms. I turned it down some as not to wake up my grandma (who was having an “old lady slumber party” in her room- A bunch of 80+ year old women camped out on her floor staying up late to talk about things). My grandpa finally fell asleep to static on the radio and I turned it off. Then I went to bed, with windows open trying to stay cool. Now if ever you need a sound to wake up in the morning… a sound that would break the deepest sleep… that sound is called “pig slaughter”. If we had a “pig slaughter” sound setting for alarm clocks in America, no one would ever be late for work or school again. If you haven’t ever heard the screams of incoming death by a pig, then lets just say it’s a good thing. Part of you wishes it would just shut up and die while the other part sympathizes with how it would feel to be killed in a slow manner and bled to death. Either way, I was wide awake soon after they started to kill it and it was still squealing some by the time I slowly got up, walked around the house, and went outside to the far corner of the yard where they were at. Many people were preparing food for all the people who were going to be there that afternoon. The local town council also had a meeting that was also a farewell meeting for my uncle Esteban. He was one of the higher officials in the area and has much respect from all the people. Despite this, being a man of good position in society in the Philippines holds less financial opportunities than working as a janitor in the United States. This was the sacrifice he was going to make by leaving his position and most of his children and grandchildren to work for my mom’s cleaning business with us here in Spokane. The town and all of our family in the area came to the house for the big feast. The entire yard was packed full of men, women and children of all ages. Traditional food was served the traditional way with pieces of bamboo bark used in the same manner as we would use “paper plates”. As the afternoon wore down, people returned home, leaving mostly just the relatives with us at the family houses. I went for a while and visited with my uncle Remegio and his family and discussed a few things with his wife Marivic (a school teacher). My dad had always told me how confusing the English language can be to those who are not raised using it. Though it was the only fluent language my dad spoke, he pointed out the inconsistencies of English that we all use and understand in America… but can be difficult to grasp for others. This is why whenever I spoke with any relatives over there, I would speak slowly and articulate my words; I also refrained from using contractions and tried to speak English as they spoke English so that they could understand me. In my visit with my uncle Remegio and aunt Marivic, I also learned at least two native words… a dog is an “aso” and “manong” is a word of family relation… almost like a brother. Their one year old son Lee held my hand and looked at me and called me “manong Allan”. My mom told me that people I had spoke to were able to understand what I was saying but the same people couldn’t understand what Mike or Dave were talking about because they spoke as if speaking to any other English speaking person. I was glad I was able to communicate some with my relatives and talk about things and get to know them some. Though I never had really met them before, I felt a familiarity with them as if I did know them somehow even though I hadn’t been there for 21 years. I showed more videos and pictures to people on my laptop, and played some more spider solitaire on my own. I also had my cousin Sheryl help me write out a family tree listing all the family members. There were quite a few that lived elsewhere and I got the feeling that they weren’t as close (as far as terms of keeping in contact or familiarity) to everyone in the family as we all seemed to be at the town of Gitlangan. The next morning we had planned to go back to Mankayan where Willy lived; to attend the town Fiesta there and watch Willy’s basketball team play. I figured, if we go there and I make a connection with his daughter, it could possibly be a sign of “what’s meant to be”. But if fate turned out we didn’t, then it would probably be just another unreal thought in my mind in the ongoing search for Mrs. Allan. I tend to go for the American look… blonde hair and blue eyes… but she was pretty cute without those qualities. The next day our plans to go to Mankayan were cancelled. That answered that question in my mind. I stayed and played more spider Solitaire and tried to stay out of the sun and heat. Luckily when I did go out in the sun, I had a pair of freebie sunglasses that I brought with me that I found on the dashboard of a ’78 K5 Blazer I bought. I also went and visited Kim’s pet Guinea Pig that was in a cage in the backyard. It seemed to find me familiar after several visits and didn’t act scared of me anymore. Leonora and Dave had already left to visit Leonora’s dad in a town called Lapanto, and they were going to meet back with us in Baguio City. That afternoon after it cooled down, we all hopped on the family “car” (farm equipment driven by my cousin Danny) and sidecar motorcycle and rode out to visit “Allan’s Rice Field”. Now, I didn’t buy it or claim it as mine, but when my mom bought it she put it in my name. I had never seen it before or didn’t know anything about it until just before this trip. We walked around the property, and looked at the rice and the little house (used to stay in during harvest), and petted the goats living there. On the way back we stopped where Bernalyn’s parents live (Danny’s in-laws). I had a glass of Coke and sat around, and realized they were going to talk a while so I started walking back home as it was getting dark. I took a few pictures along the way and got home just moments before they pulled back in. They all wondered where I had went and thought I must have walked really fast to have made it home so quick, even though I wasn’t walking all that fast. I needed the exercise anyway since I hadn’t been doing much. On Sunday I played more computer games and painted more mountain pictures. People were already claiming them as fast as I could make them. My cousin Cynthia came over and heard I was bored (not having my trucks to play with) and she took me to visit their house where my Aunt Helen and uncle Rodolpho live. We then went over to the bridge, and down to the river and got to see where a couple women were working sifting pure sand and gravel out of the riverbed. This sand they would sell for use in concrete. Had it not been so hot, I would have wanted to walk up the mountain to the small village where my mom and aunts and uncles were all born. Everyone had still lived there when I was last in the Philippines in 1985. I still had some very clear short memories from then… including the old bridge across the river, walking up the mountain trail to the village, my cousin Alden (then about 7yrs old) chasing chickens, and my uncle Thomas carrying me up during one rainstorm and having lightning strike right in front of us; close enough it knocked him unconscious and I must have blanked out after that. I remember the strike and the rain, but don’t remember being scared or crying (though I may have). Other memories I clearly had were of my grandparents’ house foundation being laid and my dad helping, a bunch of people up in a big tree picking fruit and me having loads of fun touching little plants that would close up when you touched them. When I saw certain areas again, these memories came back even clearer. I had spread word through the family that I wanted a group photo of all of us. We planned to take photos Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, many of the family did not make it into the picture, and it was even a hard time trying to get my grandma to sit down for it. She kept telling my mom she was too old and ugly to have her picture taken. But I told her she wasn’t and I wanted her there with all the family as a remembrance. Reluctantly, she joined in the family that was there for a few pictures. After the pictures that evening, I tried to pull a “Bob Ross” and whip out an oil painting real quick by the porch. A bunch of people crowded around watching me and it made me a bit nervous being watched by so many eyes. Plus the sun set quickly and my last tree and grass details were done in half darkness, so I wrapped things up and called it a finished painting. Monday March 13th my mom and Mike went into Cervantes to take care of a few things and I stayed at the house painting a couple last paintings to leave with family. It rained really hard late that afternoon, and I brought out the computer and showed more pictures and videos to those who hadn’t seen them yet. I also got my cousin Danny to play pinball and solitaire on the laptop. I told him and my two other cousins (the twins Randy and Ramil) to keep playing while my mom, Mike and I went to have dinner at my Aunt Helen’s house. When we returned back they were still playing solitaire on the computer. I had gotten him hooked on it. We both played several games switching off. My cousin Ruby also stopped by and watched us play. Since this was the night before we left to go back to Baguio, several family members were at the house until late spending time talking with my mom. This was the last time for them to talk during this trip before we left. I shared a bunch of print pictures I had with the ladies there. Then finally it got late and we all decided to go to bed and I put away the pictures and the laptop. V. The First Goodbye Tuesday morning we got up before sunrise to leave my grandparent’s house for the last time this trip. This was also the last time for my cousin Irishlyn to leave home. I went and said bye to the Guinea Pig, handed out the last paintings, and had it dawn on me that this could be the last time I ever see my grandparents. That thought put a sad feeling over me, and it made it worse to see my aunt Helen, cousin Cynthia and Grandma with tears in their eyes as they hugged me goodbye. I tried to make it a brief goodbye as not to start getting emotional myself. I went up to my grandpa and shook his hand one last time and then loaded up in the Toyota that was giving us a ride. My cousin Irish had a hard time letting go of her oldest sister Erma and they were both crying as we left. We all got in and departed for Baguio City, this time with my mom, Mike, Irish, Rudy and Olive and Kim. My aunt Rosita and uncle Esteban would meet us in Baguio on Thursday. I felt my eyes get wet as we drove away from the house, remembering my grandpa and grandma and all the past. Even though I had it in my mind I would visit back again soon, I had this feeling that I wouldn’t see them again. I felt sad for Irish, who would have to say goodbye to all her home, family and boyfriend to come with us. But at least her mom and dad would be with her too I realized, so she won’t feel all alone. This time there was little fog and we made good time getting back to Baguio before 11am. I moved my stuff back into the house and everyone went out running errands. I went back to my music CD and solitaire again. Wednesday was the same… I stayed in the house or in my room playing computer games listening to music. I painted one last mountain scene with the materials I had left over and left it to dry to be brought to my grandparent’s house when my cousins went back there. We also got Big Mac’s from McDonalds! It was amazing how good a Big Mac tasted. My uncle Remegio and cousin Ruby came down and stayed, and we had a full house again with Ruby, Remegio, Alden, Olive, Kim, my mom, Mike, Leonora, Dave, Irish and Rudy. On Thursday aunt Rosita and uncle Esteban came down along with their son Danny (my cousin and Alden’s brother) and Danny’s son Daniel (5yrs old). My cousin Wilson (Ruby’s brother) also came to the house. Wilson and Ruby’s mom (my aunt Patricia) lives with us in Spokane and had stayed in Spokane working while we were on this trip. Thursday Willy came through and took Dave, Mike and I on a tour of Baguio. We went to a souvenir shop that had wood carvings and hand made things, and then went to visit the Tama-Wan village, which is a native village with original houses reconstructed to mimic a true ancient Philippino village. It was a neat garden area with trails, water and many interesting plants. On a clear day you can also see the South China Sea from there, but it was cloudy during our visit. We then went and stopped to visit Willy’s brother Albert and his family. It was there I finally met Willy’s older “tall” daughter. But there was no connection. We then stopped and picked up two friends of Willy’s wife, who were school teachers from a different region of the country (Mindanao) and they joined us on the tour. We stopped at the park and horse stables, drove past the “Mansion” where the president stays during vacation, walked around some gardens, and then Willy drove us through Camp John Hay… formerly under US ownership but no longer. After that we returned to the middle of the city to a restaurant called the Rose Bowl. Willy bought us all Steak dinners. I ate every last bit of it and was stuffed, but man that was good. Willy also kept bumping into people he knew and talked with them. We joked at the table at how Willy would most likely be the next governor of his town. He dropped us all off home and I went back to my room and played more solitaire then went to sleep. Tomorrow was to be our last day there before returning to Spokane. Home was getting closer. End of part 5.