The Family's Old House
Written on February 11, 2005
As I walked through the dimly lighted hall of this old family house, I could not help but remember my childhood years with my deceased paternal grandfather who had lived the last years of his life in this house. Truly, these memories are worth reminiscing that taking time out from one’s hectic schedule to visit this place is still a wise decision to make.
Through the years, life has changed appreciably as this house has changed significantly. It was in the early 1990s when the number of our visits to this house had begun to decline. Our nuclear family had moved to the adjacent lot of the house from a three-bedroom apartment. Travels between the two places had become faster and more convenient. Nevertheless, these had been reduced because we lived nearer our aunt and grandfather. Our visits were further reduced when a wall had been erected between the two residences. Only after five or more years had plans to build an improvised connecting bridge between the two houses been suggested; nevertheless, still no action was done.
The one place I considered magnificent back then when I was a child still stood with its former green gate now painted red. The backyard of my aunt’s residence had become a depository of old and unwanted furniture and materials that would compose a hill of about one-storey high. This was a big change for a backyard that was then full of plants. It was then a clean and wider backyard where I used to play torn pieces of paper in an Anchor milk can full of water. I had learned earlier that this was one of the processes employed in making paper, or recycled paper at the least. It was also where my grandfather would split a long piece of wood and insert a used tin can of an evaporated or condensed milk to give me a toy. Indeed, my aunt’s former laundry area had changed.
The dining hall of the house also had its share of significant memories. The former big round table is now replaced by a small foldable table where my aunt eats. A new dining hall had been opened at the second floor of the house where a rectangular medium-sized table seating six people became the dining table replacing the big round table at the first floor. What was then a dining hall at the ground level had been the venue of my several birthday celebrations with my grandparents and cousins. It was also the venue of several notable and memorable conversations with my grandfather from whom I learned many things. First, he taught me that to be able to write well, one should make sure that his elbow was sitting flat on the desk. Furthermore, he added that one should be able to control well the movements and forces of his hand. I remember several other conversations regarding Filipino dialects particularly Tagalog, Bicolano and Cebuano. There was also a time when we were eating breakfast and he commented that those who just tore open the pan de sal and who did not slice it using a bread knife were lazy because less effort was exerted.
It was also near this hall where my sister would often play with the puppies and the dogs that lived there several years back. I remember that she was very fond of them. She would even play with them as if she were training them for a circus show; however, the dogs and puppies, tame and shy as they were, neither cooperated well nor did what my sister had expected them to do.
The same hall with a cabinet of books and several pictures witnessed our enthusiasm whenever relatives from abroad would come. My aunt from Taiwan would come for a visit every Chinese New Year season while my aunt from New Zealand would seldom come but would stay for two weeks or so. Our aunt from New Zealand was, so far, our favorite among our paternal aunties; his son, on the other hand, had become a faithful friend and pen pal of mine despite the fact that I seldom wrote back. This auntie of ours would often teach us, most especially my sisters, arts and crafts like paper tolé-making. She was very creative and very friendly.
Moving to the second floor, one sees the new location of the living room and dining room. This is where we eat during certain occasions such as the birthdays and death anniversaries of our deceased grandparents. Oftentimes, we would turn on the new and huge silver television to watch certain channels in Sky Cable, most especially those which were not available with our Home Cable connection. Another change in the second floor was the construction of a wider second floor kitchen to supplement the small old ground floor kitchen. The new one is well equipped with a refrigerator found at the left side of the kitchen as one enters. Opposite the refrigerator are the sinks and faucets for washing the dishes. A range hood, a gas stove and an exhaust fan can be found as one enters the said kitchen.
The third floor was a host to bedrooms. One bedroom was where my aunt slept while another was where my grandfather used to be sleeping. My grandfather’s room did not change much except for the fact that it began to serve as the guestroom for visiting relatives.
As one enters the third floor, one is welcomed by my grandfather’s bedroom and a toilet and bath to one’s right, and another bedroom in front. As one turns left, one beholds a small room with pictures of my deceased grandparents and uncle. In front of these portraits are Chinese incense sticks lighted everyday by my aunt. There are red and yellow ones depending on the number of years that passed since their deaths. These fragrant sticks which many would often attribute to Taoism are erected on sand placed on a small gold-colored bowl with small dragon figures as its handles. My aunt always puts some flowers and food in front of these pictures.
Another door of this small enclosure leads you to the big azotea where my auntie’s plants abound. Orchids are placed on charcoals in small pots with egg shells used to shade part of the plant from the heat of the sun. Pink and thorny bougainvillea and an unidentified vine exist at the balcony where my aunt used to burn symbolical Chinese paper money for the dead during certain occasions. Kuchays were also there. This area becomes a one-stop payless shop where my aunt would cut the kuchays and to cook in omelets for us to eat. The aloe veras in this area are often used for my dad’s hair. It has become a garden in the crowded urban city of Manila.
The fifth floor is what most call “rooftop”. It is an almost roofless part of the house. The roofed area serves as a storage area of old things such as bicycles and furniture. The roofless area, on the other hand, serves as a good place to watch the rising and setting of the sun and to gaze on the star-studded heavens at special nights when fireworks can be seen from afar or when one awaits a predicted passage of a comet or other heavenly bodies. It became a good place where, we, then children, could play under the bright morning sun in the security and convenience similar to that of our own house. The storage area had also become a good hiding place when we were playing “Hide and Seek” several years back.
As I stood on this floor, I saw the tallness of this building. As I walked my way down and out of its red gate, I saw the magnificence and glory of this house, altered and changed as it was, for playing an important role in my life as a prominent figure in my childhood years. This was “The Magnificent”.