Losing a Language – Agoo, La Union

IMG_5328.jpgWe spent 4 hours in the car, from Quezon City to Agoo. I made Robin play Fall Together by Pomo at least 5 times on the way there. Maybe 7. The drive was gorgeous of the mountains, the water, the sunset as we headed north towards La Union. The journey helped me meditate.

My cousin and his gentle giant friend, AJ, had told me how La Union and the north was becoming the new place to be. 

A girlfriend of ours had recently opened a smoothie shop in San Juan. The surf there was supposed to be the go to for the locals. We drove by the province area, and I made a mental note to visit her smoothie shop next time around.

It was sunset when we finally got to Agoo. I was the only one left out of the grandchildren who hadn’t visited Grandma and Grandpa since they moved away from San Francisco which was well over 10 years ago. It was tricky to get to the house with no address. I couldn’t depend on Waze. We had to use landmarks and measurements. Make a right at the church… when you pass this street, go down about a football field more….
I’m a fourth generation American. My great grandfather came to San Francisco to fight in the war, be a farmer, have a better life for his family, rags to riches story. Mom’s side on the other hand, was very opposite, being a part of the Marcos Cabinet. Mom and Dad would later meet as teenagers in San Francisco. Two separate lifestyles growing up. Hardly ever, do you find a fourth generation. Very americanized, I can make due with Tagalog and understand but not speak the Spanish like tunes verbally. Ilocano? Sure I got this. I remember I understood Ilocano better than Tagalog because Gramps and Grams raised me. But when Grandpa and Grandma started talking, I was lost. I had lost the language. IMG_5327

They had prepared a meal for me. Fresh prawns, ripe mangoes with bagoong, a shrimp paste married with some national dishes. Gramps had made his famous pulpog, still ignoring the fact, for years, that I was mostly a non-meat eater. I’ll eat it once in a while, but it’s not my preference. But for Grandpa, his old recipe? Yes! I will have some please.  Relatives had come by to see me. Cousins, aunts, I had made the little province stir with the sight of the foreign visitor from California with blonde hair. Pictures were taken and I had the chance to meet some relatives. Thank goodness, Aunty Heidi was there. I needed an interpreter.

The guests left and sighed to be able to decompress. I walked around the spacious layout house. Their polished wooden furniture. I saw furniture accents of weaves from the house in San Francisco. Family pictures hung everywhere.

Grandma stopped talking in Ilocano and switched to English for me.

“You have to come visit me every year. We’re getting old.”

She looked at me intently as I sat back down next to her. Her sight was dimming. Almost a gleaming gray. She looked straight in my eyes, like she was trying to take in as much as she could. I looked at hers too, to give her as much as me as I could. I would only be able to stay for 2 days.

“The next time you visit, you come straight here. You can visit your Mom’s side after. We are getting old,” she repeated.

“Yes, Grams.” I said, filled with guilt.

I’m trying to make it out every year now. It’s very true. What they say about living a busy city life. Trying to make it. They had raised me in SF to do this. This half Marcos child, half northern province American. Put my wits to use. My cleverness, my patience, my aggressive can’t stop won’t stop attitude and my ability to see both sides. Being with my grandparents again, had brought me back to the ground. This would be another example I had been given this trip of how family means the most. Yes, Grams, I’ll be back so soon. I’ll try to bring the rest of my cousins and sisters with me.