Posts Tagged ‘Filipino’

Speechless and humbled and filled with joy, I am. Stumbling upon this on this great and bountiful holiday, time stopped.


by my daughter, Ana-Maria


I am thankful for this sturdy table,
worked by hand, and cloaked in handworked linen
to mask the stains and gouges left
by the feasts and frolics of many generations.
Lost legacies, stowed away in cupboards,
in antique pots on piano-tops,
deathless witnesses of time, recalling
memories of those who made us.

I am thankful for the feast that fills us,
the enduring gifts of Eden — God’s plentitude
thinly veiled by the toil of mankind;
for my father’s tirelessness,
my mother’s generosity,
for these two, who have taught me, by the fierceness of their love,
Love’s gentleness.

For my brothers and sisters, my best friends,
who have kept me, all my life,
or all of theirs,
from ever being lonely,
I am thankful.

For this home that we have built together,
this cradle of idealism, nest of dreams;
For the things it has taught us, and taught us to be:
Defenders of Truth, Men of Integrity,
Ladies Chivalrous and Bountiful,
All who know the value of kindness,
and the validity of faith;

For the Church that has held me,
sustained me from birth,
saved me from my stumbling feet and blindness;
For the hope of heaven that has given me
a wellspring of joy, a lamp and unerring compass,
I am thankful.

I am thankful for this string of peaceful days and restful nights.
I am thankful for solitude unbroken
but by the contented companionate rumble of my kitty’s purr.
I am thankful for friends who, with patient hands and steady,
have held for me a mirror to my life,
shown me my heart as I couldn’t see it alone.
My friends who have tamed me, understood my thorns.

I am thankful for undying dreams
distant worlds and lifetimes,
intimately loved,
cherished and known, though yet unseen.
For the breath that fills my lungs
the melody that fills my ears,
I am grateful to God,
who has given me voice and a song to sing.


For the honest work that fills my table,
for the hearty food that fills my hunger,
for the holy love that fills my heart,
and the kindred souls who fill my hearth
I am thankful every day.

But every day is filled of little things
that fill my life with wonder —
moments, fleeting, subtle,
that register in my soul with the reverence of glory
but often I neglect to register with conscious thanks.

Today, therefore, on this feast of Thanksgiving
with these greater gifts encompassing me,
enshrined in gratefulness, but set aside:
Today, in a pool of firelight,
A pool of warm remembrances:

For whispered whiskered caresses,
For watercolor vistas on an evening wall;
For swaths of melted gold that caulk the crevices of a maple trunk;
For the intoxicating antique tendrils
that waft up from between marbled bookcovers;

For the glistening dewdrop that rests
within the delicate funnel of a lily-leaf,
enshrouded by an emerald thicket,
sparkling through the darkness, though no wandering eyes may ever behold it
in the immortal flower’s lifetime;

For the delicate choreography of the butterfly,
for the touch of a ladybug on a fingertip,
for the patchwork in a glinting spiderweb;
For the modest stars that shine behind the constellations,
silver specks behind the brilliant lanterns;

For the gentle gilt that floats around the aeries
of cloverpatches,
catching the farewell light of summer dusk;
For the prismatic feathers that gleam against the silver sky–
rainbow pockets, brilliant, subtle, cool;

For the diamond shards that melt against my windowpane with every rainfall;
For the dappled screens that dance over my eyelids
when I rest beneath the sun;
For the whisper of the rosegold shadows
that welcome me to wakefulness at dawn;

For the sound of a hummingbird’s flight,
for the harmony it creates with the woodpecker,
for the cicadas’ August lullaby;
For the plumed plumpness of little sparrows,
who trust enough in their tiny hearts to take from me my crumbs;

For the salty air that tumbles over ocean waves,
which, entangled in my hair, follows me for hours;
For the sweetness that coats my tongue,
redolent, fragrant, fruitlike,
extracted by the sun over strawberry fields;

For snowflakes that hold their shape in a bank that overwhelms a city,
tinkling out their joy when recognized amongst the multitude;
For the beautiful tenacity of the withered leaf
which, exposed and thrashed about by the bold, ungoverned wind,
clings to its branch,

And for its graceful descent, after its graceful, trusting surrender
to the immutable currents of life;
For the little things that reveal to me how little I control,
and how much I have been given, in the depth of this richness;
For the moments that reveal the depth of your care,

I thank you.

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So many things happen, yet so many things stay the same. I have been preoccupied with reading all the World War II memoirs that I can find. I reach back into my own memory, hanging on snippets of conversation I overheard.

Because, dear readers, when you are a child in the Philippines and are sitting around a big table eating with all your relatives, you had better listen. I have children who don’t listen, but it is good that I am a mother who writes, because it will all be here for them, like the memoir my grandfather wrote for us.

I remember that someone said that Lola Mercy’s Spanish grandfather was Basque. There was also something about Barcelona – that he came from Barcelona. When people are in transit between the first country and the second, the port they sail from may go down in family lore as a birthplace, rather than a departure point.

This happened with my Burkhalter family, and for years we thought we were German, and then we thought we were Dutch because one of the accounts had the Burkhalters sailing from Leiden in the Netherlands. Yes, Leiden was a Dutch port that sent forth the European diaspora to the New World. All Bud’s Mayflower folks were at Leiden for a spell.

The Burkhalters were in Leiden for a few years, but they were not Dutch, they were Swiss! From the sweet Emmental Valley village of Lutzelfluh. Oh, it looks like Heidi lives there! I always say someone certainly came along and gave them a story in order for them to pack up and leave. It looks almost too pretty to live in!

One branch of the family sailed to Pennsylvania and became Yankee. The other branch, the Georgia branch is interesting and colorful. The first colonial governor of Georgia, John Adam Treutlen was an indentured servant in the home of my ancestor, Michael. Michael was a “Non Conformist” in the colonial record. I am one today. Other people on that ship to Savannah with Gen. Oglethorpe and the founders of the Methodist religion , John and Charles Wesley.

You can tell I spend a lot of time thinking about my ancestors. I turn them over in my head and think about them and how they came to move from the home places, and how they ended up across the sea in America, and how they are still going strong in the Philippines.

I wonder how I ended up across the sea in America sometimes, then I remember, wait a minute, I’m from here.


So yesterday I remembered the transposition trick of the B’s and the V’s in Spanish spelling and looked for my great grandmother’s name. Gavina. Gabina.

Gabina is a Basque name. She was probably named after her father’s mother.

If I could blink and transport myself, I would fly to the island of Marinduque, and walk in the cemetery and see the graves of my ancestors on that island. I hear that the graves are all there. Imagine. I could see people’s names and have so many clues.

Then, I could go and look at the old houses, until my mind was mapped with the airy architecture of the big tropical houses. Then, I would find the relative who takes care of the statues that are paraded during Holy Week.

I would go to the place where my great grandmother lived, and look up at the house were my mother lived after the war.

It would be great. It would be epic. Another chunk of me would fall into place and I would have hundreds more stories to think about.

That is what I would do if I could blink right now and fly away.

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