Earlier this week I went to the funeral of a dear family friend. Growing up in a tight Filipino American community, my generation called him “Lolo” (as we do with all elders of a certain generation). It means “grandfather.”
I was holding back tears throughout the day and I couldn’t help but think back to six years ago, July, when my own maternal grandfather died weeks before my parents were set to travel to the Philippines to see him. He was the only grandfather I knew. My dad’s father died decades before I was born. Yet I probably spent more time with Lolo than I did with my actual grandfather (whom I called Itay which means “father”). It’s not his fault–or anybody’s, really. That’s the nature of a transnational family. People get left behind. Decades pass until you see each other in person. Technology may advance and be readily available but not in every corner of the world.
My fondest memory of my grandfather was in 2006. I had just graduated from college and the family went on a long-awaited trip to the homeland before I had to start my first professional job. By this time, his health had already deteriorated and he was mostly blind. We really couldn’t understand each other. He was a Waray speaker through and through. Me: English. Maybe a little Tagalog.
I was sitting on a bench outside of his house when a stray cat jumped on the table and I screamed in fright. He was sitting across the table and immediately turned towards me and began to ask where the cat was, waving his arm from side to side to dissuade it from returning. This gesture of protection was one of the rare times I felt so loved by a grandparent. Here was this person who didn’t know me that well and could barely see but none of that mattered. I was scared and he was by my side.
armed with truths, we are the new guards of our future
friends and brethren, we govern with a purpose
in this world, we are formidable, independent populations
our towns, though distant, have no boundaries
we are free
present and divine
connected by common trials, rights, and laws
a people invested in justice and consent
a people absolute in their pursuit of happiness
but the powers of the earth and oppression
cause dangers of unparalleled allegiance and invasion
reducing liberty to swarms of bodies without life
a long train of repeated injuries
we are instruments of opinion
of honor and obstruction
may we not be deaf to the voice of justice
and protect and pledge
that we are
a free people
*Found poem: when you take words that resonate with you from another piece of literature and create a poem from those words. This is the poem I “found” in the Declaration of Independence.
Blogging Round 2.
In May I finally let my jennylares.com domain expire. It was about time too since I hadn’t updated the blog in years (that, and I somehow lost access to the blog so I actually couldn’t update it). This time around I’m committed to writing more, sharing more, being more courageous.
The title of the blog is the same as the title of my latest chapbook, first published in 2010. Three Generations is a collection of poems grounded in movement and migration, change and understanding, and in conviction and appreciation. It is an experiment in finding peace with my own history forever intertwined with my family’s and the fates of nations I call “home.” It’s more than an exploration of “generational gaps.” It’s a statement. An assertion of where I’ve come from and a reminder that with everything I do, “I am the one who is fortunate / to even write these words without punishment.”
This blog is, in many ways, an extension of that chapbook and greater than it. It’s also going to be filled with some silly, fun, and hopefully funny things.