Malate -- Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I am here on vacation for the first time after taking responsibility for this thing called KAPISANAN. Grinding it out for the last 2 years in Kensington Market blindly just to make it sustainable…totally lost track of why I have been working so hard. And then, I stepped off the plane, I was overcome with this…insane urge to fall apart. Walking the ramp to the immigration counter with my little wheelie carry-on. I was choking back tears, inhaling that all familiar smell of tropical humidity trapped inside cement walls—essence of mildew. And really it surprised me, because God knows I am not the most sentimental heart. I was thinking, is this really how stressed I have been? Damn. But really, it is about the work I have been doing. And the direct connection I need to the homeland to continue this work.
Kuwentuhan with my great friend and cousin, Ria inevitably winds into some historical discussion about the legacy of our ancestors. Ria is my 5th cousin or something. We met in 2001 at the Limjap clan reunion. There were about 500 people there. That’s the thing about family here. There’s generally lots of you, and if you are from the landed class, like my family is, they have the means to be organized to have these big reunions, paint a big family tree on some wall of some place important, publish a book with sepia portraits of dignified, stoic Filipinos in traditional dress. Though my growing up outside of the homeland separates me a bit, I still know some things like, all those 500 folks eating Nestle ice cream (the reunion was sponsored, because some head honcho at Nestle is a Limjap) are all descendants of Lim Kong Yap from some southern province in China (these details fall through the cracks for me...). Mr. Lim then married some lady who could be Spanish or could be some native Spanish mix and changed his name to make it sound more Spanish. Limjap. The J pronounced with an H sound. And from there our great great grandparents were born and so on and so forth. The chismis/legacy that Ria told me this time was that Mariano Limjap, formerly known as Lim Kong Yap was one of the patrons of the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish in 1898. Important people commissioned a marble (?) bust of his likeness (along with his wife Maria Limjap, she did some cool stuff too, but I need to do more research), and is collecting dust at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila here in Malate. Apparently -here’s the good chismis- he laundered money, daw, and gave it to the rebel army. So he’s been recognized for that (the busts were unveiled in 2006) He just had a lot of money, and I guess political interest. Whatever it is, I definitely find it inspiring that my predecessors found some way of doing something significant with their privilege. Because you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, I still believe that. All I am saying is that money thereafter definitely got wined, women’d, and sang away, because I sure never saw it. My papa was self-made.