Holy Week 2012 reflections

At the start of Holy Week 2012, I decided that I would visit two people very dear to me:  73 year old fellow aesthete “Cong Albert” Albert Salgado Paloma [ cousin of my Gonzalez-Salgado cousins ] and my great grandaunt, nearly 102 years old “Imang Bets” Beatriz Tiamson Rodriguez [ Rodriguez first cousin of my paternal great grandmother Florencia Rodriguez Sioco-Gonzalez, o 1860 – + 1925 ], both living in San Fernando, Pampanga…

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Cong Albert was in great spirits despite his kidney ailment.  His kidney treatment actually allowed him to eat anything, so we shared a luxurious “Bacalao ala Vizcaina” and a decadent “Lamb Shank Caldereta,” both unforgettably delicious.  Bishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas in Dagupan, a good friend and client of his, had just sent him a bag of king prawns, so he was thinking of making a nice “Sinigang”…

Illness had barely dampened Cong Albert’s spirits and he was his usual acerb, comic self.  We talked about the latest goings-on of our relatives and friends and as always, it made for very interesting conversation.

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Dear ol’ Imang Bets was seated upright on her bed, propped up on several pillows.  There was a lunchtime variety show on the TV, but she was looking blankly into space, muttering prayers.  I introduced myself, greeted her, and she took both my hands and kissed them.  But she could no longer recognize me.  It was alright, it was enough that I was with her.  There were some dark marks on her arms and legs;  Her assistant Charing explained that she got them during a bad fall some months ago and they had not recovered [ but what can one expect at + 100 years old? ].  Imang Bets told me that “Apung Misericordia” was in the house with her [ an antique wooden image of the Crucified Christ that was the center of Rodriguez family devotion for generations ].  She kept repeating a prayer that sounded like “Dear Jesus, forgive us our sins…”  Charing apologized that there was no big “ensaimada” nor my favorite “mamon tostado” in stock, which they usually served for “merienda” during my visits.  But it was enough, it was really enough, that I was there with dearest Imang Bets for a while.

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Cong Albert and Imang Bets.  Two people who make my world rock.  45 years have taught me not to take anyone or anything for granted.  Because one day…

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In the late afternoon, I stayed in the family burial ground for over an hour, seated on a prewar, precast bench, looking with deep affection at the gravestones and remembering all the people I had loved, and lost, to something we all call “eternity” which is something none of us fully understand…

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