Song Credit: "Tonight You Belong to Me" by Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs, 2011; "Improv #10 - One Last Thought" by The Daydream Club, Piano Project, 2016; "Jessem" by LUCHS, Totelli, 2016; "Her Eyes the Stars" by LUCHS, Her Eyes the Stars, 2016; "Warm Darkness" by Mia Strass; Warm Darkness, 2017
There are only a handful of instances that I can remember that have defined my Filipino culture. Much of it gets convoluted upon adopting American customs and ideologies. On the other hand, understanding where you’re from can solidify an almost predestined path towards contentment, or at least, a direction towards what is valuable and worthwhile.
For wisdom to be drawn from one’s predecessors, it’s imperative to rekindle an enthusiasm for open-mindedness, discovery, and risk-taking. When my Tita Marina at 90-years-old told me about the atrocities she witnessed during World War II, I was all ears. However, what captivated me the most wasn’t the graphic descriptions of the beheadings carried out by Japanese soldiers or the ditches she and her family used as refuge from aerial dog fights; it was her undeniable resilience gained from withstanding the trials throughout her lifetime.
As the oldest living matriarch on my mother’s side of the family, Marina Gapultos Rativo should be admired. After all, resilience runs through her blood. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1941, her father Memerto Gapultos survived the treacherous Bataan Death March as a prisoner of war, escaped the horrific conditions at the O’Donnell Concentration Camp, and miraculously returned after a three-day long journey back to his childhood home in Camiling.
Her grandfather Don Modesto Gapultos was highly respected among the residents of Camiling. Nicknamed “Thunder”, his presence and voice were robust with authority and prominence. Only someone like Thunder could endure torturous interrogations from Japanese officers who questioned him about his involvement in supplying guerrilla resistance fighters with food and weapons.
And only someone like Marina can inspire curiosity, optimism, and hope to anyone who so chooses to offer their arm for her to hold onto while she walks and shares fond memories and family tree history.
As Marina presses on, she will occasionally recall the invaluable life lessons passed onto her by her late husband Isabello Rativo, as if a wise, old sage with an unorthodox flare has left an imprint on Marina’s spirit, guiding her and consoling her indefinatiely.
At 90, Tita Marina represents more than just longevity; she symbolizes the enduring spirit of family.
What defines Filipino culture better than that?