Strange and amazing how one picture can stir up remarkable recollections. This one did, one posted by my Auntie Rose Cruz on Facebook as part of her Father’s Day tribute to her father. Wenceslao Manuel Sr., my Lolo (Grandfather) on my mother’s side. Upon seeing his photo, I was immediately transported to another time, another age, just out of the sixth grade.
It was a sultry summer in the farm called Auayan (or Awayan) in the Bicol Region, Philippines. An expansive agricultural land of gentle rolling hills both sides of a railroad track. While the west portion was populated with coconut groves, the eastern areas were heavily spotted with rice fields and orchards bordered by a river whose green waters snake between thin strips of sandy shores. I’m trying to pierce my memory for the reason why that summer stood out for me. For one, I just graduated from elementary, and was taking a respite before gearing up for high school. But no, that wasn’t the reason for that remarkable summer.
I stare at Lolo’s picture again, and memories flood back, almost like a movie reel progressing in spectacular panoramic color. Center of the flashback is Lolo, with Lola at his side, seated at his usual spot in front of the large farmhouse window equipped with panels laden with little squares each framing old, shiny white Capiz shells; the panels, always slid aside to let the breeze flow into the expansive square house of rare, sturdy native wood, some yakal, some molave.
But why, again, was that summer so important to me then, and even now?