The last but not the least substory to tell today is my finding picture frames in one of the boxes which I was able to check out just yesterday while looking for old clothes.
One of these frames contains an old photo of my father’s immediate family. This was taken in January 1976, most probably on New Year’s Day.
To date, this is the only picture where my father’s siblings are complete.
Except for two persons here, I know the names of the rest. Standing from left to right are Tiyo Ruben (the third in the family hierarchy), Tiyo Jim (the second), my unknown paternal papo (great great grandfather), Papa (the fourth) and Tiyo Jose (the eldest). Seated from left are Tiya Sabel (Tiyo Ruben’s wife), my unknown relative, May Lilay (our father’s grandmother), Tiya Mada (Tiyo Jose’s wife), and Tiya Betty (the youngest and only girl in the family).
My three sisters, two brothers and I are all honored to have met and grown up with the roots of our Lustre and Mediavillo names and genes.
Looking at our May Lilay (real name is Michaela), I could not help but say only good words about this great woman of the Lustre clan. She was an embodiment of kindness, patience, industry, simplicity, and meekness. In my young age, I witnessed her love for all of us, her great grandchildren. Every time we would visit Tiyo Jose’s house in Kimantong, Daraga Albay, I would immediately go to her room and kiss her hand.I had to tell her my name at once for she was already forgetful. Yet, she was still mobile at that time. In fact, I would watch her personally wash her kimona at sayausing Perla soap. I think she was the only one in the household of my Tiyo whom I was comfortable with and could carry innocent conversations.I would love holding her soft hand as I walked with her in going back to her room.Her grace and poise were very evident in every movement that she made. Oh, I also loved her smell. It was a natural scent emanating from her.It lingered more than an expensive eau de cologne.And when it’s time to end our visit, she would bring out a tied handkerchief into a small ball which was kept under her kimona.From her meager savings, she would get a coinand hand it to mewhile telling me in her sweet and calm voice to use it as my baon in school.Young as I was, I would be profuse in my thanks. Now, I regretted not being open to hugging May Lilay. I could have done it every time I would see her.
Today, this picture and the beautiful memories about May Lilay are the ones that I have been treasuring.What qualities I saw in her were the ones that our father had luckily inherited. So with Tiyo Jose and Tiya Betty.
Tiyo Ruben and Tiyo Jim had been known as the tough guys in the family. A former bodybuilder winner and policeman, Tiyo Ruben exercised the “no mercy” rule among criminals. Thus, it was no surprise that he became the target of NPAs (National People’s Army) and had him retiring from the service when he almost got killed in one of his encounters in the mountain and later on made him uproot his family from Bicol and move to Bicutan. He has never returned to being a cop ever since. I think, he opted to live longer and protect himself from the claws of corruption. Ironically, with this toughness is his irresistible sense of humor. This made him the life of any gathering in his irregular visits to Bicol and other places as… DI (dancing instructor)! You see, it’s not surprising to discover that this talent runs in the family. Hehehe.
Tiyo Jim (real name is Jaime) is the Omar Sharif look-alike among my father’s brothers (his all-white hair gave me hope to have this one, too). A certified walking male mannikin (he would always be sputing every time he would pay us a visit for a chat or for a free haircut from Papa), his commanding presence would make us young nieces and nephews be wary of our actions and words. His booming voice and laugh were a regular sound in our house when he was around. An ex-NAPOLCOM/a radio announcer/journalist/teacher, Tiyo Jim was strict but a well loved uncle. Personally, he had influenced me (or maybe my other siblings, too) in my attitude towards reaching a goal. He exhibited to us the never-say-die attitude. More of the spunk. He showed us the benefits of speaking out our mind especially when it is the truth. Without these, we would have never found our place in this universe.
Earlier, I said that Tiyo Jose, Tiya Betty and our father manifested the qualities of May Lilay. For Tiyo Jose, I think I had never witnessed him being angry. The most good-looking brother in the family (after of course my father…hahahahaha), he’s always dashing and cool if you see him. You would never see a strand of hair not in place nor creases on his polo and pants. I guess, this was the training that he got from being a former US Navy. Also a retired teacher from an electronics school in Albay, he was expected to possess that patience. His voice is always calm and the last time we paid him a visit in April 2006, he was still ever ready to give us pieces of advice and reminders. His wisdom is encompassing.
Tiya Betty (real name is Vicenta) is no doubt our favorite aunt. We could always be ourselves whenever she was around. In fact, her house was our usual playground being several meters away from our house in Ilawod Dos. This is also the reason why we are closer to her children than to our other first cousins. Come to think of it. I have no idea what her job was. I had known her to be a domesticated wife ever since. Truly, a wife with a heart. She was very very industrious. I seldom saw her not doing anything in their house. Blessed with eight children, I admired her for being able to manage them when they were in their formative years and supporting my cousins in achieving their respective dream in life. She was always present in special events in our lives making us really liked her for that. In my case, from pamamanhikan down to my wedding in 1997, she made sure she was with me.
Now, I have to make an erratum. Papa was actually a cross between the traits I mentioned about his siblings. A most sought after peacemaker in our street in Daraga, he would show his tough side. He would make a drunk man running in amok be submissive making my mother and us nervous. Partly, his background in judo gave him the courage to face these people.
Well, I had not witnessed him use his martial arts skills though. Maybe, it could be like watching a Bruce Lee or a Chuck Norris fighting scene. Likewise, this tough side of my father made him survive two strokes. He was a living testimony of locus of control. He wanted to be normal again and he did it!
The other reason may be his being a version of Robin Padilla as regards his personality during the nightingales and the low-waist gang era. He was a certified “bad boy” according to my mother when we would find time listening to their stories of those good ol’ days. But you know, love conquers all…I mean, love transforms all. This is what happened to our father just to woo my bratty mother, being an only child. Theirs was a beautiful love story worthy to be made into a Sampaguita movie. Unfortunately, to be famous was not their destiny during that time.
But you know what? Among the four brothers, my father was the only one who was not a degree holder. Clearly, it was his choice. He graduated from Albay Vocational School which became his ticket to be an expert auto mechanic. He seemed to have the Midas touch for broken and damaged cars. He had a good reputation in the kind of service he gave to his clients, paying or not. His being an auto mechanic or euphemistically called automotive technician, plus the values which he got from May Lilay, was the very thing which made him support and inspire us to reach whatever dream we had aspired for against all odds.
Originally, I wanted this entry to be very light. But, I could not help being maudlin in-between as I justify my being a wandering jouster by tracing my lineage, incomplete this may be. I had to retrace my steps and imagine myself again in that far-off epoch of my life.
May Lilay and my father’s family were very influential in what had become of us (Olen, Long, Obet, Nano, Nonoy and me). They all served as our catalyst. Despite the unending trials and challenges we knew we had to fight and move on.
The year of the dragon is about to take its final bow. This is the article that makes me go back and be grateful to these people who made sure that we would achieve whatever they failed to achieve in their lives.
We are missing May Lilay, Tiyo Jim, Tiyo Ruben, and Papa, but whatever lessons they had taught us were never put to waste as they became our weapons in our battle.