A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 9-15, 2015
Thankfulness and National Grandparents’ Day
We have so much to be thankful for! First, I am thankful because the column I wrote a month ago, “Pistahan notes: Bataan Legacy, our history (vol. 26 no. 32; Aug. 12-18, 2015, page A5),” encouraged three readers to write me, and so I forwarded their emails to Ms. Cecilia I. Gaerlan, the founder of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. I want to help Tita Cecilia by drumming up support for the upcoming opening of an important exhibit at the Main San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) this coming Sept. 12, called “World War II in the Philippines: The Legacy of Two Nations,” An Exhibition and Conference. For this reason, allow me to clear this writing space for Ms. Gaerlan who wrote the following press release:
“In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Bataan Legacy Historical Society, Memorare Manila 1945, the San Francisco Public Library and the Philippine Consulate General present “World War II in the Philippines – The Legacy of Two Nations,” an exhibition and a conference. The four-month exhibition will open on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 10:30AM at the San Francisco Main Public Library (Third Floor) located at 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. The Conference will take place on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 10AM at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Main Public Library. Both events are open to the public. Admission is Free but Registration through Eventbrite (Bataan Legacy) is recommended for the Conference. The Exhibition from September 12, 2015 to January 9, 2016 will depict the story of World War II in the Philippines, a seminal piece of history that has been mostly forgotten. The exhibition will present a compelling story of the sacrifices of Filipino, American and Allied soldiers and civilians. One million civilians perished in the Philippines during WWII and its capital Manila became the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw. It will depict the Bataan Death March, one of the most horrific events during WWII. Keynote speaker will be Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, U.S. Coast Guard Commander of the Pacific Area and Defense Force West. The Conference on October 24 will feature speakers from different perspectives of the war. WWII veterans Chief Johnny Johnson of the USS San Francisco, the most decorated carrier during WWII and Maj. General Richard Keith of the 511th Parachute Infantry will be among the speakers. Veterans and survivors of the war will also act as panelists. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson of the California Department of Education will give the opening keynote speech while Congressman Mike Honda will give recognition to the WWII veterans. For further information, please visit our website at http://www.bataanlegacy.org.”
Like I said at the start, we have so much to be thankful for. Did you know that in 1978, then President Jimmy Carter declared the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day? So this year, we’re celebrating this special day on Sept. 13 (Sunday), which is just a day after the opening of the World War II exhibit at the main SFPL sponsored by the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been talking about gratitude, thankfulness, “pagtanaw ng utang na loob” (paying back a debt of gratitude). Nothing exemplifies these concepts more fully than the way we love and respect our elders. I hope you make sure that you spend quality time with your grandparents in the next couple of days. Actually, the ideal scenario is that it should be Grandparents’ day every day. Why? Because most of them (I’m saying most of them) are fun to be around, oozing with gravity yet not above bribing you with a sweet or a cookie. And even if your grandpa or grandma is a little bit feisty or forgetful or a terror, you still cannot deny the fact that without them, your parents wouldn’t have been alive and you wouldn’t even have been born. So this life that you’ve been taking for granted is actually rooted in years of shared and valuable family history, securing your place firmly on earth and under the skies to continue the legacy of your blessings. Many people spend a lot of money tracing their ancestry, but you and I can actually hold and embrace our grandpa and grandma right here and now, if they’re still living. What’s keeping us from doing so?
Here’s my mini-tribute to my grandparents. My Mom’s father, Prudente Ragasa, was a law student who became a high-ranking guerilla officer in the boondocks of Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur. Lolo Puding was killed in action so my Mom didn’t even grow up with a father. My Lola Remedios (Meding) Lazam-Ragasa, my Mom’s mother, was a brave and enterprising Aries woman who raised my Uncle Jess and my Mom Aida by teaching grade school and making clothes through her Singer sewing machine which is “de-padyak.” Lola Meding remarried, and it was to Lolo Juan (Johnny) Santos, a good-looking Virgo teacher-administrator who was so generous to us kids with presents and coins. Imagine, this was in the early 1970s, and he would give me 25 centavos per single white hair that I plucked from his head! With Lolo Johnny, my Lola Meding Santos had three more children, my two aunts and only uncle– all of whom later had their respective partners and children. Lola Meding had a younger sister, Lola Tomasa (Chata) Lazam, who in turn had a BFF, my Lola Candelaria (Andie) Manarang. Lola Chata has passed on; Lola Andie is still alive. They are my grand-aunts.
On my father Ron’s side, I have another “Lolo Johnny,” my Dad’s dad, Juan Carmona, a solid Taurus who worked as a city engineer for Gattaran, Cagayan, and actually has a small bridge named after him in the area. My Lolo Johnny was a US WWII veteran, having served in the USAFFE. My Lola Margarita (Margie) Sumabat-Carmona, or Lola Mamang for short, is a bubbly Gemini who made a home for my Lolo Johnny, Dad, and his brothers and sisters. Lola Margie likes reading suspense novels and dancing. Of my immediate grandparents, only Lola Mamang is still alive today, and we cherish her as our family treasure. Lola Mamang, at 88 years old, still has the sharp wit, the wisdom, and that wonderful quality of being appreciative of the people who are helping her now.
So segue upon segue upon segue… are we really surprised that gratitude, thankfulness, World War II, the Bataan Death March, and (this week’s) National Grandparents’ Day are all somehow interconnected?! So here are the takeaways from this week’s column:
1. On Sept. 12 (Sat.), please attend the opening of the exhibit: “World War II in the Philippines” at the San Francisco Main Public Library.
2. On Sept. 13 (Sun.), honor your grandparents, grand-aunts, and grand-uncles. Respect.
3. From last week’s column, heed a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Give us, O Lord, thankful hearts which never forget Your goodness to us. Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which do not waste time complaining.”
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