Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ancient History

Zamboanga City. A hot, blisteringly humid, yet generally sleepy town in the south of the Philippines.

This is where it all begins.

My grandfather and grandmother settled here in Zamboanga having come from the 福建 (Fukkien/Fujian) province of China. They had 8 children, the last of which is my dad, born 林少鵬 (Lim Shao Peng), in 1939. When World War II broke out, apparently the Japanese were searching for my grandfather because he was a Kuomingtang operative for this southern part of the Philippines. They even put a huge reward on his head for it. Grandmother fled with the kiddies, going into hiding in another small town in the outskirts called Ipil. Everyone survived the war, returning to Zamboanga with nary a scratch.

Right now, I'm here at 22 Sevilla St., Zamboanga City. The very house where my grandfather and grandmother lived with their 8 children. I recently visited my dad's high school (Chong Hua Chinese School) and met a couple of his classmates and friends that knew him. There's even a room dedicated to my grandfather at the school. The town is quite small, so it turns out lots of people outside of our family know my dad. I'm always introduced as 少鵬's son, and usually people will light up with recognition. It's kind of cool to be in this house. Lots of memorabilia is hidden here, like my dad's graduation yearbook, class of 1962, some old photos with him and his brothers, and another graduation photo for the class of 1963 where he received his second degree. After graduating Chong Hua here in Zamboanga, he left to attend MIT and graduate with Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering degrees. That's Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila, hee. His graduation photo looks weird to me, mostly because I've never seen my dad look... young. I've pretty much always known him as, well, an old man. Young at heart! My auntie showed me another photo of him and Sah Peh (Hilton's dad) when they were younger.

He's the guy on the right. Look at those glasses!

After spending a few days here, I've met quite a lot of people. Hilton, my cousin traveling with me (he likes to call himself my tour guide... which is totally true because that's essentially what he's doing) has been diligently contacting our relatives in the area and bringing us to eat with them. I'm staying with Hilton's mom and younger brother Anson, both of whom I saw while traveling in Japan two years ago. I also met Hilton's brother Paul, his wife Natalie and their kiddies KimKim, Nika, TaunTaun and Aaron. I've met their dogs too, one of which is white and poofy and so adorable. We've gone by to their house to eat lunch a few times. One thing I definitely love about the Philippines is how people eat. Usually the families are bigger than in the states, so they cook a lot of food. There are like 8 dishes laid out on the Lazy Susan, and if you know me, I take every opportunity to seriously gorge myself. We usually head back home to rest during the early afternoon since it's too blisteringly hot to do anything. Inevitably, a gargantuan food coma magically appears to thoroughly lay waste to all conscious thought, sending me into the unhealthiest 3+ hour nap, prompting my body to convert all the food I just ate into quite possibly the beginning of my late life Asian gut.

Hilton also took me to the the Top Taste Bakery, the owner of which knew my dad (his son is Hilton's friend). I even met my niece Corinne who teaches English at Chong Hua. She's older than I am by a few years. Isn't it strange how family works that way? I later met her brother Mikey who runs the Mr. Bean coffeeshop. I gave them ang pao (red envelope) earlier today, saying that it was technically because I'm their uncle, and Corinne jokingly gave me some flak about setting up the lines of respect and boundaries or something. Haha, my family is awesome! Today I gave Paul and Natalie's kids ang pao. Since they don't work, they got more than Corinne and Mikey, hee.

Other things I did: Went snorkling at the islands of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, a typhoon hit this part of the Philippines a week before we arrived, which I think took out a lot of the marine life in the area. Despite this, I did manage to see a bunch of fish including a big puffer, lots of sea anemones (with accompanying clown fish!), lots and lots of sea urchins, a couple of hermit crabs, some deep blue starfish, and a sea snail. I grabbed the snail off a rock and, after fighting the ridiculously strong current, managed to get the hermit crab to move to shallow enough water to catch it. We dropped them off at Paul's saltwater aquarium. Now there's two hermit crabs and two sea snails (one of which was a big one that Hilton caught). Swimming in the ocean in this area is interesting, mostly because while I was paddling around like an idiot, I kept feeling stinging on various parts of my skin. It turns out there's some very tiny jellyfish in the water. It doesn't sting as bad as Monica from Friends makes it out to be, mostly because these jellyfish are like, microscopic, and because I bet Hilton managed to get the brunt of their poisonous attack (he was the first one to swim around). For me, it felt like an annoying sting that would last for 10-15 minutes.

Visiting my grandfather and grandmother's grave. The burial site makes it appear as if they are buried above ground since there are visible tombs with their names. On my grandfather's grave, it lists the names of all the children. All the sons are named with Shao (少) as first name, and all the daughters with Soh. For our generation, our first names are Ren (仁). In traditional Chinese style, each individual gets three names/characters, the last name and two given names. These names are chosen to try and reflect attributable qualities that the parents want to have bestowed to the child.

For example, my name is 林仁義, following the last name first style and also the generation naming.
Pronunciation: lín rén yì

Any guesses as to what my name's meaning is? I'll give you a starter: 林 means forest.

So, apparently I've run into an interesting dilemma with regards to how I'm going to stay in the Philippines for a long while. The Visa I acquired upon landing gives me at maximum 21 days to spend in the Philippines, but the plan was to stay longer than that. I also had to show that I had an exit ticket before I could check in, which I got by purchasing a fully refundable biz class (which I've already got my refund for, tee hee). Apparently, we're all not certain how I'm going to get the Visa extension, so one of my uncles kept joking that he would see me in jail. He knows of a way to handle this issue though, so he'll take my passport in the meanwhile and... handle it.

Tomorrow I leave for Dipolog, which is a city on the way to Dumagete. I go there to visit my grandma on my mothers side, the one who took care of me when I was a wee baby.

Till next time I find some time and internet access, peace out.

1 comment:

Thinh said...

Keep 'em coming, Chris. Love your China photos, too