I will never forget the moment I met you. Really met you. It was just 2 ½ years ago. I was 22 years old and although I had visited you when I was three and again when I was sixteen… I really never met you until I was 22. I had just returned from Mindanao… we weren’t sure if I’d make it – time was tight and the weather was uncertain. But it was important to me and Aunty Sis and Uncle To knew. We left around four in the afternoon from Cavite. We drove through thrashing rain and overly bumpy roads and the winding journey seemed as if it was never going to end. Thanks to Uncle To’s amazing driving skills though – we made it to you around two in the morning. I will never forget it. Seeing the front of the ancestral house for the first time. Entering and being overcome with a feeling of familiarity… I could feel my mom’s energy. I imagined her as a young girl. Everyone was asleep. It was a lot to take in and I was just so happy to know we had finally arrived… and there you were (oh I almost left out the part where Aunty Sis didn’t tell anyone we were coming – it was a surprise and you didn’t know I was coming… or maybe you did…) You asked who was there and some part of me thought you might not recognize me – the visitor who you had not seen in seven years. But you knew me. And I knew you. Instantly. I walked into your room for the very first time in my lifetime. I will never forget looking into your eyes – and seeing my mom. I will never forget looking into your sweet, sweet eyes and finding my own reflection. You smiled so big. And I returned with a big hug and kiss… and of course a “mano po.” I wish I could have hugged you an hour for every year we did not visit. I was so, so, so happy to see you. To finally be in the presence of the great Lola Cion my mom always speaks so highly of – from the stories of loving discipline to the stories of strength and sacrifice only the strongest of mothers could endure. To hug my lola. To call you “lola.” Tears filled my eyes but I didn’t want to cry in front of you. I thought you might think I was ridiculous if I started bawling like a baby… sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been if I had met you when I was a baby. If I was as lucky as my cousins to be raised by you. To live in the same household as you and not have to be an ocean and an international call away from you for my now 24 years on this earth.
This past July, I visited a priest who told me I had to learn my grandmother’s language so I could better communicate with her and learn our stories, learn more about my ancestors. I would have never expected you would become an ancestor in the four months to follow…
I am so grateful for the time I was given to be with you – during those three days of me being 22, those two weeks when we witnessed you open your eyes and fully awaken while all praying the rosary on Grandparent’s Day just last month… and even the days we were together that I cannot remember.
That even though I did not get the privilege of growing up under Lola Cion’s pretty wings – that through my mother, Yolanda Peñaflor Dizon, it is without question that I have inherited my Lola Cion’s strength, resilience, and my favorite – her being “magayon.” That even though I did not learn Bikol in time to talk story with you Lola… somehow someway I know you will continue to teach me and pass down all the knowledge you wanted to share with me. That even though I do not get to look forward to seeing your deep knowing eyes and incredibly beautiful smile when I come home to Bikol again – I know you are with me everywhere I walk. Everywhere I dance. Every time I sing. Every time I cry. You are with me in the very moment. And you have been since even before I was a baby. I know that now.
I will love you forever.
And I will be listening for you.
Your Favorite Apo from the States
Samantha Peñaflor Dizon
(the S is for Salvacion)