June 22, 2004


This morning, we gathered ourselves up for the Barcelona trip a little too casually... only to find that the buses to get us to BCN before noon were sold out. We have to wait for the bus that will get us there by the time the crit begins a little before three in the afternoon. That blows our plan to shop the art store before the crit, now we will have to shop afterward (the store closes at 8pm) and scuttle out of the post-crit-cocktail session that we anticipate to be extremely pleasurable. Two hours delayed and an optimised social afternoon gone. Yeeesh. Lesson learned: buy the bus tickets days in advance.

But, I get to blog!

The picture above is of my Tito Bomber and Tita Lillian. Bomber recieved his nickname (aka Ben) from the days in his youth in Japanese occupied Manila. Mom tells me of the kids having to wear aprons which had pockets stuffed with food in case they were separated in the bombing raids at that time. I remember from their stories, mental images of debris from bombing raids decapitating people in the street. One of my uncles said my mom always emptied her pockets as soon as they hit the streets. Mom like the candy, still does. She told me of a moment when while standing in the backyard, an American tank crashed through the wall and a soldier popped the hatch to say hello. He dropped below to reemerge with candy to throw to her. She said that whenever she saw a tank in Manila after that, she imagined the interior to be full of candies. Quite an image.

I hadn't seen much of my family since a trip I took to Australia 21 years ago. That visit became legend and a revelation for me. On a winter break in my third year of architecture school, I decided to visit family in Sydney. My first encounter had to be the patriarch, my granfather, Papang. It was a scene straight out of the Godfather: the sun had just set and the bedroom was dark, save a solitary lamp on the nightstand. Papang's face in the shadows, I press his hand to my forehead, in a formal greeting, on my knees. He asked: "What are you doing here?" Slightly puzzeld, I respond: "To be with the family, Papang." Silence, one beat, two. Finally, Papang speaks: "I forgive you for being half American." I was stunned then and I am still a little amazed today. Later, in that visit, Papang layed out two lectures (in royal style, he was a lawyer and a teacher after all), the first in which he rectified the lies of Philippine history (for example: American culture oppressed and erased Philippine culture, oh and by the way, the Filipinos know english and American history better than most Amerricans anyway... oh yea, the battle of Manila Bay was a farce) and in a party, he held forth on a comparison and contrast of the East versus the West, how a society based on the unit of family is superior to one based on the unit of individuals. That was the precise moment when I realised that I was a Westerner after all.

Thoughts from this experience shown a light on a multitude of issues for me afterward, from city planning to politics, to the internecine wars in the art world, many things. What was wonderful was to finally talk to those in my family who were there in Sydney at the time, and to talk about Papang and his ideas, his legacy in the family. That's too big a topic here, right now... Tito Bomber's take was that Papang was testing me, probing like a lawyer would with provocation, to see what I was made of. Interesting, I hadn't considered that before.

That lunch with Tito Bomber and Tita Lillian was wonderful and it lasted all afternoon. Later that night, we dined with my cousin Patricia. Patsy works in humanitarian relief, initally for the Australian government, later for the Japanese and now, she will be doing a project for the World Bank in Kabul, opening up ecotourism in the northern Territories of Afganistan. Beautiful and intellectually precocious, we had a great time comparing notes on Papang and our upbringing in the house of Pacifico Garcia, aka 'Pang.

Posted by Dennis at June 22, 2004 4:11 AM

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