Posted by: twistsoffeet | April 2, 2010

Se and Cita


When I first met Se and Cita, they lived in a small barangay on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Their modest home was in the process of being remodeled. Cinderblock walls, corrugated tin roofing, windows with shutters and no glass or screening. The kitchen was then, and is still, outside; they cooked over a wood or charcoal fire and also had a gas stove. They parked the extended families autos in what can now be loosely described as the living room.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the karaoke machine? Plumbing was outdoors in a covered pit, but since they had just built a modern septic system, they insisted I use that, as I was the guest of honor in their home.

Se had been on corridor when the Japanese attacked the Philippines. He had been captured and was part of the Bataan death march. Fortunately, he escaped and for several years fought with the resistance as a guerrilla fighter. Se was in the US Army, yet was Philippino. He was immensely proud of his service to the US and the Philippines.

When I met Se and Cita, Se was eighty-eight years of age. Se walked me over his land and was able to tell me when he planted this mahogany tree and that teak tree. He showed me where he farmed dry red rice and showed me his sizable garden, which he watered by hand with a bucket, daily. Se receives a modest U.S. Army pension (very modest) and has worked very hard to provide for his family. He was able to aquire quite a few acres that he has allowed his relatives to build homes on for free.

I was lazing around Se and Cita’s home one day when Se asked me to follow him.  He took me into his and Cita’s bedroom, where he opened an ancient seaman’s trunk.  After burrowing through this trunk, he removed a couple of boxes which he very solemnly opened. In these boxes were his uniform from the US Army, a box of medals, including two bronze stars, one with oak leaf clusters, three purple hearts (he explained his fourth had been stolen), one silver star, a rifleman’s medal, and several expeditionary ribbons.

Se was nearly in tears as he showed me these things.  He smiled with great pride in his service to both the US and the Philippines. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only person to whom he has ever shown these items. Se and Cita love the Philippines, and they also love America. Many may not be able to relate to this, but for me, this was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

I have not seen Se or Cita since 01/01/2004, and I must say that I miss them. All of my best wishes and prayers go out to both of them. Se was, I believe, ninety plus years of age when I last saw him. He had a smile that was infectious, an energy that I am envious of, and was at peace with himself in a way that few people I have met have ever been. Cita is Se’s wife. She is a joyful, strong, loving matriarch of her family. I would like to describe her more fully but seem to be unable. I will say she exhibited the best qualities of my grandmother and my mother and that is the greatest honor I can pay to her.

In December of 2001, I spent Christmas with Se and Cita, as well as with a very extended family, and this was truly a blessing. Except for the karaoke. Imagine over one hundred friends and extended family members partying at your mostly unfinished, open-walled, open-windowed home that could loosely be described as a four bedroom shack under construction. Now if anyone who knows me sees, this please do not be upset with this description as I absolutely loved this experience.

On Christmas Eve, we went through about twenty four cases of San Miguel beer, 10 bottles of Johnny Walker Black, several bottles of Chivas, a couple bottles of tequila and I have no idea how many bottles of a Philippine Gin!  Disgusting stuff, but boy was it good that night. I crashed around 2:00 a.m after being tortured by eight hours of karaoke. My head was swimming as I hung my foot over the bed and placed it onto the floor to stop the room from spinning, only to be oh so rudely frightened out of my turbulent slumber by the sound of a drunken Philippino singing karaoke.

And so the story goes.

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