looking back and looking forward
He who does not look back from where he came will never reach his destination. Traditional Filipino proverb
Stories that Resonate
I've always been interested in family history. It's something that is uniquely my own. Many people try to find their identity in a subculture like goth, hippies, bikers... and all the power to them! And part of that desire to join that subculture is to be able to say, "I own this. This is mine and no one else's." For me, that is how I see family history. This is something that is mine. Uniquely mine, and it is something that no one can take away from me. A legacy comprised of stories. An inheritance of beliefs, hopes, and dreams.
And these stories resonate with me. Just imagining the story of my parents has had such an impact on how I view myself and approach life. Lovers from two cultures. The battle of hatred, racism, and tradition against the trueness of love. Elopement. Migration. A foreigner in a land of opportunity. The American dream.
Expanding outwards and considering the stories of the past four generations, we have even more stories of death and loss, rising above poverty, sexual sin, visions of the dead, multigenerational curses, ancestral homes, illegitimate children, wresling crocodiles (I'm not making this up), broken promises, forgiveness and reconciliation, miracles.
These stories are all here, right now, like low hanging fruit. If only there was someone to ask the right questions and to listen. If only there was someone who loved [writing stories]() and [lists](). Oh wait! That's me!
However, this project is a major undertaking and is under quite a time crunch. My relatives are dying left and right. On average, around one relative every two years. So, I don't have the luxury of setting this project aside for a later time. Either I do it now, or it is lost forever.
Honestly, I'm not sure how to approach this project. It's so largely dependent on the willingness of others to open up to me, and at most, its reception has recieved, at most, mild approval.
This was not the first time I tried starting this project. I tried to start this project a decade ago but received unexpected backlach. The social pressures have not decreased since then, but rather, I've recently gained more of a backbone.
While talking to my aunt, I told her that I was interested in getting the true story. Yes, I wanted to write about the virtues of my grandfather, but just as importantly, I wanted to describe his flaws as well. I don't want to write an advertisemnet showing how 'perfect' my family is. It's unrealistic and superficial and boring.
I understand her perspective though. She felt as if I was trying desecrating the legacy of my grandfather. He's already dead, so why revisit old wounds? Also, a lot of these issues and problems I'm researching about are still being experienced and felt today. Resentment about the actions or inactions of my grandfather's and/or great-grandfather's generation are still inset in family members' hearts.
As a result, I've decided to keep the majority of these stories private, and only when they die will I share it with others. Yes, I know the moral implications of what I am saying. Yes, these are not my stories to tell. Yes, it's a little insensitive to discuss delicate and personal stories without their consent. Yes, I will be directly going against the wishes of a large majority of family members. But for the sake of future generations, I don't mind breaking a tradition or two. Let me be the one to bear that guilt and to suffer the consequences.
There's a belief in my family. which goes something like this, "Whatever happens in my generation, dies in my generation. We do not want to burden our children with personal quarrels." I completely disagree. They are trying to put a bandaid over a wound without cleaning it out first. As a result, the problem will continue to rot and fester. The only way to fix the problem is to remove the bandaid, reopen the wound and clean it out with disinfectant. If not, the problem will only get worse. Yes, reopening the would and disinfecting it will hurt, but it's a necessary first step to true healing.
What I am saying is not just speculative thought. Family politics have inversely hurt my generation as well. AND I don't know why! There are certain family members who were intentionally uninvited to my brother's engagement ceremony. Other family members who refused to attend family reunion because they knew so-and-so would be there. There are some cousins who I have not seen in years. Even if we had the opportunity to meet, it would feel weird because our hangout would be the gossip of uncles and aunts. For many of cousins, we would feel uncomfotable sitting next to each other because we would find ourselves surrounded by an unknown atmosphere of hostility under the looming gaze of politically driven relatives.
For those of you who do not have an extended family or have never had to deal with issues concerning "saving face", some of these issues may seem confusing and foreign to you. You're not alone. It's confusing to me too.
Agenda and Future Posts
If all of this seems confusing, indirect, and vague to you, that's because it is. Honestly, I don't know how to pursue this project, but I do know that I have to watch my steps carefully.