DIA DE LOS MUERTES
Every year on Nov. 1 we go to Cavite to visit the grave of my maternal grandfather. My paternal grandfather we usually visit in the late evening of Oct. 31, or the really early morning of the next day, to be more specific. I still have both my grandmothers, thank Goodness. My Lolo Inocencio (maternal) died when I was 7. It was my first “major” death, so to speak, where an actual relative I knew and saw often passed away. He was a great guy, always pushing us to read and ever willing to slake and stir our thirst for knowledge. He was a marine biologist among other professions, and was in the Who’s Who annual book several times (it lists the most important people in the world, according to politics, popular entertainment, science, etc.). He was the discoverer of the pandaka pygmea, which was the world’s smallest fish (and can only be found in the Philippines) until they found a smaller one recently. Still, for a while, he held the record. Cool. He was fun and jolly and strict but fair and I miss him a lot. He would put some dry ice in a pan and amaze us with his “magic smoke.” Even before I knew it, he noticed that I liked movies because I’d play The Never-Ending Story every time I was at their house. He had a great big garden in the back because he loved plants, too, and grew orchids. In the same year, my first dog died, Carla. She was my first bitch, a fine German Shepherd. We think someone poisoned her because out of the blue, she got sick and died, within hours. Poor girl. We buried her in the yard, which is now covered by our garage. My current dog is also a bitch, also a German Shepherd, and her name’s Marla, after the character in Fight Club (played by Helena Bonham Carter). The fact it’s close to Carla is a bonus advantage.
On the other hand, my paternal grandfather, Lolo Ramon (after whom I was named), died when he was kind of young. My dad was only 16 or 17 when Lolo Ramon died. It was lung cancer. So even my mom didn’t get to meet him. I sometimes wonder if this is why my dad is the way he is. He’s got his strengths, and he has his faults. He’s been an excellent provider, but is not emotionally expressive, doesn’t really share himself with us, his kids. I don’t want to say he’s a bad father; it’s more like I don’t think he knows how, because he didn’t have a proper example, or there was some residual trauma from losing his dad so young. You’d think it would be the opposite, though: he’d be doting on us, spend more time with us, etc. Sad. He’s an “absentee father” type: doesn’t really become involved in your life until you fuck up, do something wrong. This could be getting bad grades, getting caught with drugs, crashing the car, etc. In a lot of families, what happens is the children subconsciously realize this is the only way to get attention and become problem kids. The need for attention = cry for help kind of thing. But I’d already read about it even then. My paternal grandmother, Amparo, is still alive. She’s about 98 or 99 now. Imagine that.
Whenever I’m at boring family things, I tend to get a lot of reading done. Today I finished half of the entire After The Quake by Haruki Murakami (it’s terrific, by the way). Last Christmas, stranded in Baguio with my family, I finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (big book, Pulitzer Prize winner, and one of the most amazing books I have ever enjoyed from cover to cover; truly inspiring and awe-inducing [he’s also writing Spider-Man 2]). Last year’s Holy Week, again stranded with my family in Samar, I finished Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell (also a big book, and one of the best, most important graphic novels EVER. Read this book!). It seems I accomplish things when I’m bored. In senior year, I was so bored during my Theology classes I’d write the most scripts during those time periods. So I guess I have to wait for the next family vacation to get a crack at Mark Z. Danielewski’s The House of Leaves (not only a big book, but metafiction as well).