Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ate Lita and Christmas 2008


Her name is Lita.

She is 66 years old, Filipino, better known as Ate Lita by all of a handful of us Filipino doctors in the hospital. She works as a clerk in the records section.

I met her niece 2 years ago while in my nursery rotation. "so you're Filipino? then you must know my aunt. She can smell any new Filipino on the island. And she acts like she's their mother. "

And she does. She cooks and gets all of us together every possible chance, from the feast of an unknown saint, to thanksgiving dinners, to birthday parties of her relatives.

All the other doctors have since gone. I am the only one left. Since my sister left for Sanfo, i've been left with take out fast food or more often than not, microwaveables. She'd always call me and ask me to eat dinner with them. Dinengdeng, sinigang, pansit, kanin, tinola. I have become a common figure in the house.

***

After the hurricane hit, i was one of the many who went back to the island the first day they opened it to the public. After taking pictures of my house, i decided to drive by her house to see how it fared. She got 4-5ft of water.

Her sons and friends were carrying all the wet debris while she was seated outside on a chair. Her tears were about to fall. I hugged her and she started to sob..."twenty years, t his is twenty years of my life... all gone."

Family pictures, clothes, papers, furniture, appliances, all muddied by the flood. The cat survived.

After many tears shed, she asks me, "kumain ka na ba? hoy, maglabas nga kayo ng pagkain para kay Duke!"

At syempre ang kapal ng mukha ko, inaaraw araw ko sila para sa pagkain kahit alam ko na wala na silang bahay.

She would always collect extra MREs or food from the Red Cross or Salvation Army for me and my friend.

Oo, nag may i bring a friend pa ako. kapal no?




Ate Lita during the Post Hurricane Cleanup.



***

It has been 3 months since the hurricane. Our houses are not yet fixed. She now lives in her son's house in La Marque while i still live on the island. Almost every night, i eat dinner with them still. sukdulan.

When i don't show up for 2-3 consecutive nights, they start to worry. They call my cellphone and leave messages asking if i'm alright, and invite me back to dinner. oh, i do my laundry at their place too. and use their wireless internet. and watch tv.

and witness their family conflicts on the side.

***

They brought me along to spend thanksgiving with all their relatives in Houston. There I was witness to some more private family matters. I excused myself but she told me to stay put. While strong words were thrown about, and tears flowing abundantly, i remained seated, eating my turkey dinner and diet coke.

***

"Saan ka magpasko?"

"Itutulog ko lang po." (nuninuninu...fishing...fishing...)

"Ay hindi, dumito ka, magluluto ako ng dinuguan." (yahooo!)

***

She wanted to buy a cheap plastic kitchen mixer during the last Thanksgiving sale. She couldn't afford the expensive one. We woke up at 5.30am but we still didn't make it in time to get it. Apparently, a gazillion people woke up at 3am.

This Christmas, i bought her a mixer, a good one. When she opened the box, she was ecstatic and teary eyed, and gave me a big hug. She was so happy to receive a gift she really wanted. She kept on thanking me as if i did her a huge favor. Little does she know how thankful i am to have her.

***

It is 2am and i hear her son and daughter-in-law snoring on the living room floor in front of me. I am the only soul awake in her house. The others have long since retired to bed. They know i am here for internet and they let me be. I have just had my second serving of fruit salad from their fridge and am currently having reflux because i'm so full.

After i write this post, i will sneak out the front door to my car and head back to my own place for the night, only to be here again for dinner tomorrow. or maybe lunch.

Please don't worry about me. I am not hungry or cold. I am safe and warm and very much loved.

In all this chaos, I have found family.


Christmas Eve with Ate Lita.

17 Comments:

Blogger dead.fish said...

nothing beats having a family where you feel you really belong (biological or not). and i felt just that when i came home for the holidays!

9:59 PM  
Blogger Ely said...

kakatouch naman to...

Merry Christmas!!!

5:55 AM  
Blogger Lene said...

Awww. :) Iba tlaga pag Filipino ka. Words are not necessary to say you belong. It's definitely felt by the heart. Nice to know you have a 'family' there. Have a wonderful New Year Duke!

Btw, thanks for the greeting. And, uhhmm, how come, I become 'lei'? Typo error, I guess! ha ha

9:03 AM  
Anonymous judy said...

So heartwarming. I wish I had an Ate Lita on the island as well. You should tell her there's a (fairly) new Filipino on the island... maybe she can save me from being so miserable in this place. Kidding.

I'm glad you've found people you can "go home to." Galveston is rather lonely when you only have the school and hospital and nothing more.

Oh well. Happy Holidays. And God bless the Ate Litas in the world.

1:59 PM  
Blogger atticus said...

ahem, duke...tumaba ka. hahaha! huwag magalit, plis.

mukhang masarap magluto si ate lita. :)

happy new year, doc duke!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Duke,
May I invite you to please join Filipinos Unite!!!. You may do so by commenting on my blog stating your name, address, name of blog and its url or by sending an email to melalarilla@gmail.com containing the same set of information. Thank you very much. God bless.

6:40 PM  
Blogger jho said...

Merry Christmas and a very happy New year to you and to your new family duke!

Sarap maging Pinoy ano? Kahit saan, andun yung hospitality nila. OK na yung pagiging makapal mo, alam naman ata nila na ganun ka e. hehe.

the best ever material gift i got this xmas is this laptop that I am using. gusto ko sana dslr... e mas pinili niya ito kasi mukha daw akong internet adik. hahaha

ps. tumaba ka nga from you previous photos. mukhang masarap magluto si ate lita

6:45 PM  
Blogger rheiboy17 said...

duke! pwede itong pang maalala mo kaya ofw story. (hikbi) iba talaga ang paskong pilipino.

1:18 AM  
Blogger duke said...

mga hunghang.

nasa camera angle yan! di ako mataba!

*syempre ang word verification ko... hogizedn.

1:44 PM  
Blogger UtakMunggo said...

*sukdulan* haha

it's amazing how people just tend to "connect", regardless of how much DNA is actually involved. the bayanihan spirit is alive and well in texas, i take it.

happy new year, duke!! God bless you, your actual family, and your "adoptive" family.

1:10 AM  
Blogger kero said...

happy new year don! we missed you during our pre-christmas dinner, i.e., supposedly marvin's xmas party. we didn't hold it in marvin's place since only karen, tess and I are available. we just had dinner out. it was fun...pero marami kulang at syemre ikaw ang pinakanararamdaman na kulang.

winner yang si Ate Lita mo ha!

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Jerome aka Bridget said...

this is like straight from a Michael Bay movie with the moving musical score and dramatic cinematography. and the central theme is about the triumph of the human spirit.

happy new year, duke! you are one good person...and a hungry one if i may add--literally.

4:49 PM  
Blogger The Scud said...

wala talagang makakatalo sa mga pinoy. swerte mo duke. happy new year!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous abstabs said...

happy new year doc!

1:16 AM  
Blogger duke said...

dead.fish. yup, blood or not, family is family. eing? may sense ba?

Ely. natats ka? hehe. mewy kwismas.

lene. Lene, o ayan Lene, hindi Lei. maligayang pasko.

judy. she saves everyone.

atticus. langya ka. kaw din. tumaba sana.

mel.avila.alarilla. hindi ko alam ung spam ka o tunay ka.

jho. wahaw! may laftaf ka na! sothial ka! maligayang paskow. langya ka. oo alam ko tumaba ako. ikaw din. heheh.

rheiboy. tamang tama tapos naka maong jacket ako saka mga yung puting twalya sa liig ko. saka lotsa saudi gold sa aking liig at daliri. ayus!

utakmunggo. ay, intelektwal ang iyong comment. may DNA, may bayanihan, at adoptive. you're so deep! hehehe mewy kwismas.

kerooo! miss ko din kayo. si marbin di ko miss. hehehe. maligayang pasko sa inyong lahat. hope to see you soon.

jerome. sino si michael bay. at anong pagkadramatic yan mga pinagsasabi mo. hehehe. merry christmas, pare! ganda mo talaga. gip ko!

TheScud. swerti ako, swerti ka, swerti tayong lahat! meri krismas!

abstabs. wala lang.

4:34 PM  
OpenID utoysaves said...

bloghop lang ako.
touched ako dito sobra. medyo may soft spot pa naman ako sa mga nanay-nanay post. had me teary-eyed and snifling pagkatapos!
God bless and happy new year!

6:41 AM  
Blogger Retro Manila said...

Wow. Ikaw na ba yan? Ang lusog a. :)

3:23 PM  

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