“What the heck is that?”
We had driven the next day to the family farm, so I could see how it was doing. Really, I had seen a picture the day before, where my Uncle was playing with the baby goat kids. I wanted to see them.
Another unbeaten path that my family and the driver knew by heart. We passed a party in the middle of the road. A white plastic round table was set up with an overcrowded round of 12. There were children just coming home from school… I assumed… or wherever they were coming from. The party had to move the white table held with poker hands off the road so the SUV could pass. The children playfully ran after the car. So simple life can be, yes?
We had stopped to what we looked like the middle of nowhere. I could see how land was divided because of the different crops. This horrendous machine, that looked out of place, caught my eye. It was old and rusty, with a old red John Deere mini tractor like body and long lego like arms and claw. I could tell it hadn’t been used in years.
“Uncle, what is that?”
“That’s your great-grandfathers. It’s for the sugar cane.” La Union is known for Sugar Cane as one of their main imports. My great-grandpa had used his land for mostly for sugar cane. Then the Americans came with their sales of the better life, if he would join them, work on their plantations, go to war with them. One of the more well off in the province, their house, in Agoo, still had an Japanese flag on the roof. Our family home would be taken over during the Japanese commonwealth, used as a regional headquarter for the Japanese. America, thought, great-grandfather, it was. To fight in this war.
My family had left it there, why? For memories? As a reminder where we came from? Because no one wanted to move it out of the way? As a turned, I could see how the lots of the Lopez clan were divided, starting from that era. The had separated the land to more relatives. Grandma, said Uncle, practically gave it away. I imagined it was her tactic to get all my relative from San Diego, Los Angeles, Edmonton, SF to visit them as much as possible.
Uncle Carlito and the Eguilos’ Family lot was to the left. Grandpa had saved a sugar cane lot for us to the right. Our relatives from Canada had lots in the middle. Where’s mine? Why is it sooooo far up this hill?
We trekked further up and I found myself in this lovely grove. This must be it. What Daddy had been working on. We hd made our help a hut that sat neatly on the grounds. We had passed him while he was off for the day. He took his white plastic chair with him every day up and down to this farm where he watched for squatters. I asked him why he took his chair with him all the time? Why not leave it? And he told me he didn’t want anyone to steal it, and laughed, and walked down the hill to his family. Steal it? Oh yes, squatters and such. I understand. Thank you for helping my family!
Lush fresh trees surrounded me. May would soon come and ripe mangoes will fall off the ground. Their big branches and leaves created shade as I walked through this grove. There must be more than 30 trees here. I suddenly felt disappointed I wouldn’t be there for Mango Season. Mental note to self: Try to plan a trip in May for this. To the right were Uncles Papayas. I had had one for breakfast that morning. I exclaimed to him it was the freshest papaya I had ever had. It really was! It beat the ones in Hawaii badly. One day, I will scheme to bring back these fruits with me to California. Just to say I did. ha!
When I was done asking a million questions to our company, I found the mother goat and her two kids. I scooped both up and the mother goat began to BBbbaaa.. It was a desperate baaaa. I heard her loud and clear. She was scared of her new kids and this foreigner who picked them up. I said sorry to her, swiftly took the picture, and placed the baby goats back down. I went to the mother next, beckoning for her to come towards me, that I meant no harm. She was hesitant at first. This caretaker she had never seen before. Curious, she came closer, and I was able to feed her kibble. She baa’ed again. This time, I knew it was a calming one. I had made a new friend.
Trust is a big thing. Even when it comes to animals and farmland. Whom we let take care of our family. Whom we are able to trust with land and ourselves. Carefully, we choose whom we let in. What history they have to offer and what we can learn from them. Another value re-learned on this trip: trust.