Friday, August 23, 2013

Palmer's Paradise

Right now, I'm sitting at Starbucks. It's almost 10 am, and my mother dropped me off early again, so while waiting for camp to start, I've decided to finish this one last "reflection". No, this does not mean this is the last post EVER, but it will be my last "personal" reflections of the tour.

A few of my mother's friends from Southern Luzon Colleges
Just so you know, I'm not in the Philippines anymore. Today is the 22nd of August, which officially marks the one-month anniversary of our Rondalla Rocks Tour. Although I've had a month to acclimate to America, I find it weird calling this place my "home". I've spent all my life living in suburbia, USA, born and raised as a Filipino-American, and I can say that I'm proud to be a part of the US of A; however, every time I travel to the Philippines, I come back thinking differently about where my true home actually is. The last day of touring allowed me to ponder this question...

On the 21st of July, we returned to San Pablo City - my mother's hometown - to be reunited with my mother's friends from high school and our relatives. My mother's advisor, Dr. Sanchez, who had sponsored our performance at UPLB, Tita Dory and Tito Romy were the first to greet us. Next were my cousins, Ethel, Justin, and (later) JR, my aunt, Tita Mely (Tita Naty drove with us there), and then my mother's friends from high school. Even our family friend and driver, Kuya Ver, stopped by to welcome us back home and my Tito Pete Luya flew all the way from Saudi Arabia to see me. What a distance! Soon enough, the second-floor dining room was filled with the din of laughter and tears.

I took a selfie with Ethel after our 10 minute jog around Sampaloc Lake.
We look completely soaked!
One side of Sampaloc Lake. Ethel and I ran from this spot
around the circumference to the white and  red church in the distance.

While my mother chit-chatted with her friends at home, the morning continued with Kuya Don, Kuya Jun, Kuya Ver, Tita Naty, Ethel, JR my dad and I taking a journey to three (of the seven lakes) of Laguna, racing around Sampaloc Lake, returning the SM San Pablo Mall, where the IP Rondalla performed, and taking a walk through the Palengke (wet market) in flip-flops and shorts. Each little experience reconnected to a memory I had truly missed. Although I was gone for five years, I felt like nothing had changed around me, except for maybe a new restaurant down the corner or the fewer internet cafés in the area. The Philippines was still the Philippines, overheated, congested, but homely and strangely enough familiar.

Our short trip to San Pablo sadly came to an end by the time the clock struck three. While my mother's friends were starting to trickle in number around the house, my cousins and I said our parting words. Before we left, however, we had one more important task left at hand. Some of you might have questioned why my mother's home is even named Palmer's Paradise. Perhaps, the first thing you'll notice below the title is, "A Place for Events," which could insinuate that we just so happened to name the place conveniently for advertising purposes. You would only be half right. In fact, Palmer is my cousin, the oldest of Tita Mely's kids and the brother of Ethel and Justin. A few months ago, Palmer passed away from what Filipinos know as Bangungot (a medical mystery that only seems to afflict Asians).  He was only 22 years-old, and it happened the week his mother was visiting us in the United States.


Palmer John R. Luya's gravestone. We will always be thinking of you.

Our last and final stop in San Pablo City was the cemetery. My cousin, Palmer, my uncle, Tito Gene, my grandma and grandpa, and the whole Rubico-Mendoza side rested within one section of the cemetery - within the earth where they sleep soundly, and within our hearts where they will always stay. While I'm sitting here in the shop, writing this piece, I can't help but cry as I did when I stood next to your grave that day, Palmer. My image of you has so vividly been trapped in these short clips: scolding you for silly reasons as children, watching Ranma 1/2 and pretending to be Pokémon upstairs, playing charades in the attic until the next morning, writing random facebook messages with lots of smiley faces, traveling to Macau, greeting each other happy birthday on the same day (we were both born on September 2nd!), and crying in front of my counsellor the day that you passed away. I'm trying to soak up the sadness behind my fold-up iPad and drink, thinking this is what you've become - a long, lost character in these short but sweet vignettes that I think of constantly.

But Palmer, I guess it was destined to happen, di ba, Pare? I remember you told us that you wanted to become a priest. Probably you pushed the idea aside as you grew older, but for some reason, it stuck to me. While I stood looking down on your engraved name that day, I thought of how the IP Rondalla tour was in fact connected to you. While you were alive, you became a lifeline and an inspiration for many young children as you spent your time counseling them through life. Thus, when the IP came, we decided to do the same, even choosing the school Paaralang Pagibig at Pagasa (a school just a mile away from you!). We did it in remembrance of you.

The teachers at PPP teaching a few of the IP Rondalla Members
sign language. 
Children of PPP taking a look at their stuff toys given to them by
 IP Rondalla Members

Isn't it sad that we cherish the things we have only when they're already gone? Palmer, one of my deepest regrets was that we couldn't see you sooner, but you taught us not take this mental tribulation too seriously. Instead, you taught us to cherish one another, in spite of our anger, frustration, or jealousy. Life is transitory, so the fact is we don't have time to wallow in our ill-feelings. I came to realize that even more on this tour as tension fluctuated once in a while. But no matter the animosity, we must respect one another, not take for granted what we have, and most importantly, love our families, whether our own or IP.

Palmer, though you couldn't watch your youngest cousin perform and though we never expected you to leave us so soon, I think you'd be proud to know that this trip, nonetheless, was a success. You made me love home. You made me cherish my Filipino heritage, and more than anything, you made me proud to have a cousin like you. You have taught me more about myself than I could ever imagine.

A kuya, a cousin, a birthday buddy, and my Pare,
Palmer Luya, we love you and will always be thinking of you.
Rest in Peace, Palmer. You're in paradise.

Till we meet again,
Sierra Jamir

p.s. Our birthday's only in 10 more days! Hope to get a REALLY fancy one this year because I'm turning 18! Of course your name'll be there too. ;)

The Rubico cousins at Palmer's House: (right to left) Justin, JR, Sierra, Ethel, (front) Tita Naty

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sierra,

    Happy, happy birthday in advance. I'm suppose to greet you on your birthday, September 2, but reading this article today made me cry remembering Palmer so very vividly his life and death. We will visit his tomb on Sunday, Sept. 1, and maybe eat out to celebrate his 23rd birthday and yours. His death was so painful as he left so soon at a very tender age. But God has better plans for him and He knows better when time is up in this temporary life of ours on earth. We are comforted by the fact that Palmer is truly in paradise and at home with the Lord. He will be always be missed and will be in our hearts forever.

    As for you, you are one fine lady and raised properly by your parents. I thank God that He blessed your parents with a very beautiful, humble, dutiful,intelligent, diligent, caring, compassionate, loving and sweet daughter. You have imbibed Filipino traits very uncommon for other Fil-Ams born and raised in the USA. Always take care of yourself and your parents.


    Tita Naty