AUNT Louisa Gulian Fianza, 91, has been bedridden for quite a long while like my mom. They were born in the same year in 1932 although months apart, but mom passed on ahead two years ago. Then I learned of Aunt Louisa’s passing on a sad morning last Tuesday as the sun was partly blocked by an early fog.
As far as I can recall, the first time I met Aunt Louisa was when uncle Daniel invited me to a trip to their house at Paykek which was also the first time I stepped foot on Kapangan soil. I was yet to enroll in Grade One.
Since I was not enrolled, attending school was the least of my worries. But I recall that Aunt Louisa left me and Uncle Daniel every morning which gave me the impression that she was a school teacher.
In the back of my mind, she was the lady who taught little kids how to read their ABCs and count 1-2-3. As I wrote this piece, I realized that my first encounter with a teacher was not when I first stepped into a classroom but when Aunt Louisa said goodbye then walked to Paykek Elementary School beside her home.
It was not so often that Aunt Louisa and I crossed paths because she was a public school teacher and we know how busy teachers are. They have just enough time to squeeze house chores and barely have extra time for themselves or to bond with family and friends.
As for Aunt Louisa, the only chance that I got to see her was when people all over celebrated Christmas, and when we dropped by houses to greet relatives and friends. Other than that, I did not see her often because she was one who was very dedicated to her job in school.
Her seriousness in the performance of her duties as a school teacher is the element that is lacking in other teachers. Surely her memory will remain in the hearts of her immediate family; to John, Julie, Demet, Debbie and grandchildren; relatives, friends, co-teachers, parents and the schoolchildren whom she had touched.
Most religions believe that while death comes to all things, it is in a way a celebration of life. But it also sparks signals for those left behind to muster enough strength and move on. That is what my farmer-friend from Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya believed. Life is a mystery and so with death, he said.
My friend’s farm was from time to time visited by “nice people around” or NPA.
So I asked the guy if he needed my flashlight so he could go home. He declined my offer as he told a story.
The trail even at night time was familiar as it was his usual route. On several occasions he met armed bandits but not a single unfortunate incident ever happened.
He would just sit silently by the side of the trail and give way. He often heard the bandits say “lumabas kami apo.” So there seemed to be an unwritten understanding between them that the armed men were only passing through.
When I asked if he was ever afraid for his life, he said: if it is not the person’s time to die then he will have a longer life. He continued on saying, “as soon as one is born, God has already sentenced him to die at a definite time.
He explained, “That is the only reason why some die right away or a few hours after birth while others do not die even when they meet with accidents several times because it is not their time to die.”
He said, the death sentence by the Almighty for each living thing on earth explains why the life of one is shorter or longer than others. But although that is what he believes, he said he does not forget to pray for good health and safety. As the guy walked away and disappeared in the dark, unlit fields; he reminded me that life is a mystery, and so with death.
When my cousins and I drove to Aunt Louisa’s wake last week, I could not avoid reminiscing about the old appearance of the house in Paykek and its surroundings. But one thing I can remember was the ground covered with very green grass and nameless trees surrounding the house.
Then I sat beside one of the elderly citizens outside the kitchen and told her that I was “here as a young boy before I entered grade school.” That struck a conversation between us as we introduced ourselves, only to find out that she knew my father because they were cousins.
I told my new found Aunt Elsie Aglolo Bantas that I could not recognize Paykek as it was the first time I visited again and the roads were now paved and cemented, compared to when the roads were dirt and gravel, and no cars or jeepneys could pass that route.
My memory rolled back to the time when Uncle Daniel and I had to pass a hanging footbridge before reaching the house. And it looked like there were not so many trees around the house now.
Aunt Elsie and the other elderly ladies confirmed what I noticed about the place. They said trees around the houses were being cut for domestic use and need for wider space, but disagreed that the cutting was the reason why the weather was hotter now.
They observed that the climate has been constantly changing ever since even when the tree stands were still thicker. In that passing conversation, they seemed to accept that the irregular climate condition was not caused by the cutting of a few trees. Climate change is not new. The weather has been constantly changing ever since.