Monday, July 19, 2010

The June Bride and other stories of Tatang Louy

Vente-otso! Nagasat nga aldaw dayta!

Twenty-eight! That's a lucky day!

I had heard these words tens of times, perhaps a hundred - each time when my grandfather embarked on his journey back in time, back to the years when he was young, much younger than his 70, 80, 90 years, his actual age depending on the instance when he would enchant me with his stories.

I am the eldest grandchild. I grew up in Ilocos with my grandparents, Tatang Louy and Nanang Atting.

Tatang planted the seeds of storytelling in my being - introducing me to the world of his youth, widening my imagination, urging me to enjoy my own life - so that someday, I will have my own stories to share.

But for tonight, I will share with you some of the stories of my Tatang Louy.

On top of the list would be on that particular day in 1933 when it showered in Vigan.

It was June 28; yes, the lucky day! Tatang Louy said that the number eight signifies good luck, for the last stroke goes up. Thus, he set his wedding date on a day that ends in eight. Tatang and Nanang felt doubly happy, for on the day they became one, the heaven opened its gates to shower on them. A shower, Tatang said, meant blessings from heaven. It may have rained in their parade, Tatang and Nanang may have gotten slightly wet from the brief shower, but this just whet their appetite to build a happy life together.

There was Nanang Atting, the June Bride, too shy to let Tatang have her picture taken even for posterity. There was Tatang Louy, the dashing groom, hopeful that luck and divine blessings will help strengthen the family they are to build in the next decades.

Two Mondays ago, they would have been married for 77 years. Who would have thought that a shy girl from the provincial village of Camangaan will end up being happily married for decades to a poor-boy-turned-debonair-young-man who left his equally provincial village of Naguilian for the pineapple plantations of Hawaii and busy streets of Chicago?

My second story would give you a glimpse on what happened months before that lucky and blessed day.

It was November 1932. A decade or so before, Tatang boarded a ship to Hawaii using his uncle's cedula, for he was too poor to pay for his own. For the next ten years, he had his share of being a waterboy in Hawaii, an unfocused man in the mainland, until becoming a well-appreciated houseboy in Chicago. A thousand dollars richer after, Tatang decided to come home, for good. And his path crossed with that of Nanang, a neighbor whom he hardly noticed in the 1920s, she being five years his junior. Using Nanang's brother as ambassador of his love, Tatang started to write letters to Nanang. The courtship started with a formal letter addressed to Miss Fama, followed by one for Mr. Quitevis; progressing to one for Patring, followed by another for Louy; and further progressing to My Dear Patring, followed by My Dear Louy.

There was Tatang, now a cosmopolitan bachelor with the confident airs of a landing, someone who landed on the pier from an international ship. There was Nanang, still the village girl whose farthest place she traveled to was Mindanao, who initially resisted Tatang's charms but eventually fell for it.

Tomorrow I will air out their love letters. More than any material things, I treasure these as part of my memories of my dear Tatang Louy and my dear Nanang Atting.

My last story would be a memory of a memory, as I remember how Tatang remembered Nanang.

It was February 1985. Tatang and Nanang had been married for more than 51 years. I had been living with them for little over ten years. Tatang was on one of his business trips to Pangasinan. Nanang and I were left behind in Ilocos. With diabetes already affecting her health, Nanang had an episode of low blood pressure, and we had to rush her to the hospital. Two days after Valentine's day, Nanang left us, without Tatang by her side.

There was Tatang, arriving hours after Nanang breathed her last. He kept on saying that day, and on lonely days in the next twelve years, that Nanang slipped away without even saying goodbye. Naglibas. her soul left her body, and she left us just like that. There was Nanang, no longer with us yet will always be in our hearts.

Tonight, I remember Tatang and Nanang once more. By sharing their stories, as told to me by Tatang those countless nights we had together, I am with them again. It is my hope that the seeds of storytelling planted by Tatang in my being will continue to bloom into a passion for learning and for sharing the lessons in life.

Luck in numbers, luck in showers. Love for our dear ones, those with us and those long gone. Lust for learning, with the taste of the BnT life.

If Tatang Louy would have been alive today, he would have exclaimed, "Otso! Nagasat nga aldaw tatta!"

Eight! Today's a lucky day!

The future is bright at Butter N Toast!

- by Faye Q. Flores Melegrito
Basic Speech No. 4: How to Say It; presented on 08 July 2010

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