On August 30, 1962 my Lolo was murdered. He was killed in a robbery in the Philippines. My mother was only 11 years old. A year earlier my Lola died of cancer. I could only imagine how this permanently shaped my mother’s perspective on the world. Both of her parents gone at such an early age. These two events have profoundly shaped my mother’s life. I wonder how this trauma has been passed down to my siblings and me. I know I harbor it in my heart, I know it casts a shadow over my conscious thought–how so exactly is a mystery I have the rest of my life to solve. I could only imagine the ocean of emotions my mother went through. Confusion. Heartbreak. Loneliness. Sadness. And to think that she had to process all of this as a child is beyond my comprehension. For me, part of what it means to be Filipino is persevering despite the hardships you face in this life.
I don’t know much about my Lolo. There are only a few stories my mother tells me about him. I know that he was tall. I know that he had thick eye brows. I know that he’s from Pampanga. He’s more of mythical figure than anything to me. A legend to be recalled that was larger than life, not simply a living breathing human being. Something that I do know about my grandfather was that he survived the Bataan Death March and was a POW of Imperial Japan during WWII. He was imprisoned from May 7, 1942 to February 18, 1945. For almost three years of his life, my Lolo was held captive under hellish conditions that I could only imagine. What I do know about him was that he survived it and had he not, I wouldn’t be here today writing to you.
Perseverance is a romantic word reserved for time travelers. It belongs to your future self to recollect on past hardships and to admire the distance between then and now. Your scars serve as the portal to an entire lifetime of memories. But there’s a difference between going through hell and merely remembering the sulfur and brimstone. While you’re in it, there are no words suitable to accurately describe your experience. It’s just something you endure and at some point you make it out on the other side.
In my 30 years of life, I’ve seen some tough times. I deal with depression. There are moments when my anxiety is so overwhelming it feels as if I’m trapped in a car that’s sinking to the bottom of the Puget Sound. Some days are more difficult than others. What I try to remind myself is that I can get through it. I can make it. That although times may be challenging right now, they won’t always be. This is when I remember my Lolo. This is when I think about my mother. If they can go through all of that, then I know that I can overcome whatever trial I am facing.
Perseverance swims in my blood.