When my grandsons are adults, their lifestyle will be vastly different from mine and that of my own father. But I’m also sure that they can’t resist the pull of their ancestors’ memory.
When their car stops in front of our house, the little baby will pucker his little mouth in the shape of an O and say “Woo woo.” The W stands for an L. “Woo woo” means Lolo. He is my youngest apo, Julian, one-and-a-half years old.
He can relate my house to Lolo’s identity, which is his greatest achievement this year. Last year, he achieved big by being able to take my hand and bring it to his forehead when I say “Mano!” He was barely a year old. Ang bilis ng pick-up!
Months ago, Julian loved to crawl around our shiny narra floor. Nowadays, he can walk and run all over, his yaya trailing behind him. When he sees me, he grabs my hand and quickly lets it touch his forehead for his mano po. The kid’s got talent.
With him is my other grandson, his brother Benito, nicknamed Toby, a tall and lightly built five-year-old. Toby is moody, picky with food, has lots of plastic toys and is crazy about fast cars. For some unknown reason, he likes to eat only fish heads (sinisipsip pa!) with his rice. I worry about his nutrition, and he would only accept popcorn from me. His little brother Julian will gobble up anything.
The brothers play rough, giggling and screaming, their noises filling our house with happiness on Sundays. They even have pasalubong, pancit palabok from Little Quiapo bought by their mom, Claudine, my youngest daughter.
The visits of my apos never fail to uplift my spirit.
The day they were born, the moment I saw them behind the glass window of the nursery room, was the day my spirit soared to high heavens. I literally saw miracles. The miracle of life. That’s how I felt when I saw and met Julian and Toby the day they were born. Seeing them bundled and cuddled, soft and cherubic, fascinated me no end. When they opened their eyes to meet mine, they took my breath away.
My two other grandsons are the children of Karen, my eldest daughter. They are Carlos, age 13, and Pablo, age 15, whiz kids of modernity, so different in outlook from me when I was growing up during the struggle of the early postwar years (circa 1949-1954).
Carlos is unique, a born gourmet. He uses his nose as his eyes, and his taste buds to judge food. At three years old, his sharp sense of taste was expressed at the dining table at home or in restaurants. He can describe the taste of foods in detail, and praise its appetite points. He is a kitchen habitué, watching his mom cook step by step.
He cooks his own breakfast. He comes along on trips to the wet market to ogle fresh fish, and Santi’s Delicatessen to learn steak cuts, various sausages, kinds of cheeses and salad dressings.
Carlos watches food channels to enrich his cuisine aptitude on a global scale.
Recently, according to Karen, Carlos whipped up a succulent Tandoori chicken, as spicy hot, herbal and aromatic as any Indian dish can be.
Carlos is keen on the class act of cuisine and food presentations at five-star hotels, including the impeccable service of the chief waiter in a black suit. He envisions himself, according to his mom, as a future restaurateur, a chef known for exclusive cuisine he himself created.
But first, he wants to study in a culinary school in Switzerland, and while at it, he will taste the hundreds of kinds of cheeses and sip all the wines the world can offer. Wow! I’m very impressed. Apo ko ’yan!
His elder brother Pablo is another original, an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) creature.
Pablo is exceptionally focused on martial arts. He passionately studies the disciplines of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Judo and boxing. He prioritizes his regimen in perfect balance with his school subjects.
Pablo is goal-oriented. He transformed himself from a plump, baby fat-loaded seven-year-old into a bone-strong, muscle-bound six-footer. His physical fitness and combat-ready power come from a program followed religiously.
Pablo’s tournament harvest is impressive: an orange belt gold medalist in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu national competitions, Pan Asian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu international championship, and a silver medalist in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) no gi international qualifying championship.
Pablo is a builder of discipline and cool values, reminiscent of “grasshopper,” the American Kung Fu master on television played by David Carradine. Pablo is mild-mannered, soft-spoken and endearing with his words.
When asked what the future is for him, he says he’ll probably be a teacher of martial arts with his own gym and school. Meantime, he’s into tournaments to collect as many medals and trophies as possible.
In spite of his strength and power, Pablo maintains the innocence of an old-fashioned youth, unaffected by the trendiness of the mall and rock-hip-hop culture. His MMA is his passion. It keeps him off the street. Sure, Pablo’s got crushes on pretty girls in school, but his mom tells me that when there’s a tournament coming up, it’s martial arts first before girls. Ang tinik!
Pablo is a rare gem. He has achieved sports excellence that existed only in my dreams.
I take advantage of my grandson’s presence to enjoy fully our kinship of blood relationship, our ancestral ties, our chumminess and affections.
The generation gap in modern times widens fast and furious because of communications breakthroughs in technology, covering both software and hardware.
My father and grandfather of the turn-of-the-century generation (1900-1940) shared the same values, lifestyle and tools of the trade. They could predict the sameness of their lifestyles, from fatherhood to grandfatherhood.
Me and my grandsons are different. By the time my grandsons are adults, computer use and content will be even more fast-tracked. Our gap will be wider.
Today, I can only be the oral historian of our family tree, our rites of passages, our Christian faith, and our victories and defeats that shaped our values and pushed our dreams, to keep our spirits vibrant and secure.
When I have the chance, I visit my hometown with my grandsons, Majayjay at the foot of Mount Banahaw. Out there we can retrace our humble origin and experience the simplicity of life in a misty nook, where the bounty and beauty of unspoiled nature still abound.
I’m sure that when my grandsons are adults, their lifestyle will be vastly different from mine and that of my own father. But I’m also sure they can’t resist the pull of their ancestor’s memory. After all, grandsons intuitively gravitate to their grandfathers.
There’s something in our gray hairs, wrinkled skin, twinkling eyes, cracked voice and worry-free laughter that speaks volumes. Wisdom is the word.