Tuesday, March 20, 2007

1. FREEZE FRAMES OF REFERENCES

Say Cheese---and Freeze! This 40-year plus picture of the Castro family was once used as a main visual for a Pfizer corporate print ad. Talk about our family’s claim to 15 minutes of fame!

Snapshots from a tattered album are a catalyst for memory; stirring the mind to relive a moment past, to remember muddled details, to reconnect fragments of events and make them whole again. Old pictures, in all their nostalgic freeze-framed sepia or black and white tones, have a special way of inciting story-telling, opening our floodgate of memories about a world younger and more naïve, thus, moving the interest from the visual to the verbal and back.

Take for instance, this Castro-Morales family picture of ours taken on 4 October 1959 to celebrate the joint birthday and baptismal party of my Ingkung Dando and my younger brother Ronald. Under the canopy of a narra tree in the sprawling courtyard of Don Rafael Morales’s mansion (my Ingkung’s brother-in-law and next-door neighbor), the whole clan gathered for this souvenir photo shoot. As Morales relatives, we’ve always had access to this grand house, long vacated by Ingkung Paeng’s family, and here, especially during summers, we used to race down the long stairway or play piku or tambubung on the spacious, cemented grounds.

I don’t even recall posing for this picture, but there I am, right smack at the center, two years old going on three, looking a wee bit glum, with my Ingkung Dando’s two hands over my chest. Was he restraining me from bolting out of my pose? Or was he propping me up after tiring myself out from all the running and chasing with my cousins? I wonder. What I do now remember is my snazzy polo shirt, sewn by Ma. It’s the same pale blue shirt I wore to my first formal portrait sitting, with sea lion prints and floppy white collars.

My Ingkung, all of 65 years, is beaming in this picture, perhaps at the thought that he has raised his 4 children well. From an escribano in the municipio earning 30 pesos a month to a landowner, he had indeed, come a long way. All his children were settled and independent: Mang Elsie had a thriving canteen in Herran, Tatang Titong was running a Shell station in Balibago, Tatang Matt was a highly-regarded university professor in Baguio, and my own father Dong was helping manage the sugarcane lands. Ingkung stayed with us in our Sta. Ines house for the rest of his life, and for awhile became my room mate. He had a big antique cabinet where he kept all those polo shirts and pairs of white pants which he favored wearing with his two-toned shoes. A close scrutiny of the photo shows him wearing a wide band gold ring that I remember had a unique grapevine design. With a hat and a walking cane in hand, he would cut a smart, dashing figure when he went strolling to church. For sure though, my Ingkung would have been happier if Apung Tiri were still around (she passed on 7 years earlier) so they could sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors, including their 14 grandchildren shown here.

And where have all the people in this picture gone?
Apparently it seems, the ties that bound the family have become looser through the years, with some lives scattered, some claimed by time. Only daughter of my Ingkung, and the eldest—Mang Elsie (that’s her, seated to his left), is the only one around today, with my father and his two brothers having departed earlier, almost in quick succession. My super-achiever cousin and college classmate Marlene Sheryl (on the lap of Mang Auring Castro-Samson, extreme right), was but a young mother when she passed away in 1984, at age 24, a most sad, unfortunate day for the family. First cousins Cynthia (wife of Atty. Eddie Rivera) and Beng (now California-based), were my eternal prom dates in high school while their brother Alvin was the third of our secret triumvirate kiddie club called 3-M (for Magnificent!), that included me and my brother Gregg. Ronald, the 3-week old baptismal celebrant, would grow up to be a bank manager and a father of a gaggle of 4 giggly girls. And yes, he now wears Ingkung’s grapevine ring, albeit a little worn with age. My Mom would still give birth to 4 more children, the youngest being Froilan. He was barely a month old when my Ingkung Dando departed this earthly life in December of ‘68.

Pictures do paint a thousand words, and so much more. They compose memorable portrait references of people we have known, siblings we grew up with, of fathers and grandfathers, and of forebears we now miss and honor. They just don’t document life events but they capture the nuances of close familial relationships, by illuminating what time has dimmed. Look closely: you are sure to find significance in a frozen moment, be it in the hint of a smile…a beaming face..or a mother’s tight embrace.

So go ahead, open your family album and explore further the experience of learning from pictures, of retracing the past and discovering in that faded, dog-eared photograph the key to something in your mind’s eye that are vague and hazy; places, images and events that have been forgotten, ignored or taken for granted. Then perhaps, you can unravel the magic of memory.
(15 June 2002)

6 comments:

Menzi Maru said...

How, where and when to start? My family is also one of the oldest settlers of Pampanga. I'm one hundred percent pure up to the tip of my toes. I have a burning question.. There seems to be a gap in our family tree but I do know a great great grandfather who awas an Augustinian Friar who impregnated a kampampangan he has the family name of Balagtas... Can you help? Dakal pung Salamat Sir.

alex r. castro said...

Mayap a aldo, Menzi:
Thanks for dropping by..
Yes, tracing your family roots can be a daunting task, but take it one "rootlet" at a time. I started with senior members of our family, who have a lot of stored memories and remembrances. Specific to your query, that's a tricky part, because mostly friars who sired offsprings conspired to erase evidence of their indiscretion. In Angeles for instance, a friar entered a fictitious name in the canonical books to give a sense of legitimacy to his child.
If you know the years when this priest served a certain locality, you can check the canonical books available in microfilm at the Family History Center of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Q.C. (Holy Angel University has microfilm copies of the Pampanga towns that date as far back as 1700s, obtained from Family Center). Or, if the books are still extant (usually kept in the church), you may want to check the entries. It's a time consuming job, but someone has to do it!
Hope this helps, Menzi,
Just holler if u need more help.
Alex

joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Greetings, Mr. Alex Castro! As I settled this early morning in my office, I thought of my 10 month old son's upcoming 1st birthday. On July 16, he will be a year old and his aunt would have turned 54. By now, you are probably wondering which character I am and where in the heck is the relevancy of my posted comment? You mentioned a "tiny girl from the 3rd row" - Remedios Macaspac. I happened to be her youngest brother, Ressurreccion (Rex)...named after being born on Sunday of her passing. I would like to sincerely express gratitude for posting the graduation photo. I don't remember seeing this particular one and I would definitely print this posting to show it to my father of 81 years, Tiquio Macaspac. Dakal a salamat pu!

Sincerely,
LT Macaspac, R.J., USN, MPH

Anonymous said...

Greetings, Mr. Alex Castro! As I settled this early morning in my office, I thought of my 10 month old son's upcoming 1st birthday. On July 16, he will be a year old and his aunt would have turned 54. By now, you are probably wondering which character I am and where in the heck is the relevancy of my posted comment? You mentioned a "tiny girl from the 3rd row" - Remedios Macaspac. I happened to be her youngest brother, Ressurreccion...named after being born on Sunday of her passing away. I would like to sincerely express gratitude for posting the graduation photo. I don't remember seeing this particular picture and I would definitely print this posting to show it to my father of 81 years, Tiquio Macaspac. Dakal a salamat pu!

Sincerely,
LT Macaspac, R.J., USN, MPH

alex r. castro said...

Rex:
I was very heartened to get your comment; I havefew memories of Remedios, but the little I know of her are vivid enough for me to recall. Like I do know you live a few houses away from our place in Sta. Ines. She was a small, frail, unassuming girl who was always quick to smile; there were one or two instances when she and I would go home together. She was simple and shy, and would rather stay in the background, but she was amiable esp. to her "ka-barrio"--which was me. I remember your Sta. Ines house had a porch of some sorts, and when I would pass by, I would see her cleaning or sweeping the porch and she would stop to wave at me. I really never knew what happened to Remedios, except one day, I was told by a classmate of her demise. It seemed she left this world as she arrived, quietly, unassumingly--and I will always remember your sister for that. I may not have been very close to her, but just by knowing her, she enriched my young life. My best to you, your family and your father.