|Red caught Mamang's playful energy in this snap. Her smile, the glint in her eye|
A little over three years ago, one of my proudest endeavors was to reconnect and rediscover my paternal family. Central to that narrative is Mamang, my paternal grandmother.
When I started reaching out to family in Zamboanga, I didn’t know what to expect. It had been 26 years since I last saw the family. With the reverberating drama from my parents’ divorce, I wasn’t certain how welcome I would be. Previous attempts to reach out to each other ended up as tales of missed connections. I’ve grown up not expecting much of anything, and always ready to move on, a defence mechanism, a protective shell that had served me well. I told myself, if I wasn’t welcome, I would have been happy enough to drive by the homes we used to live in, and simply take photos to bring home to my kids -- not very different from the tourist snaps I share with them from my other trips.
First contact was through a phone call. While working in Manila, I received a call from an unknown number. It was Mamang, calling from Zamboanga. She asked me how I had been, confirmed the details of my trip, inquired why I’d be staying for only a few days, and assured me that they were looking forward to see me. She sounded pleased from hearing that I’d done reasonably well in life, and I loved the singsong way she spoke. She urged me not to waste money, and simply stay with her instead. I was too afraid to accept, and felt tears and a childlike sense of wonder after we dropped the line. Had to catch my breath with a walk around the office grounds. Time blurred and I was a 5-year old child again. The hope that I could share my paternal family with my kids grew in my heart. We were not going to be outsiders looking in. We’d be part of the photograph, part of a story that's been missing in my life for so long.