“Maayong aga Lola Oding! Kumusta ka na?...Lola, it’s Amber – your granddaughter from the States. I love you – Palangga ko ekaw.” I don’t know if she can remember me because she’s 100 years old and it’s been 7 years since I last visited her.
I always called my grandmother Lola Oding. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned her actual name is Lourdes Aperocho. She was born on November 5, 1907 in Roxas City, Philippines and immigrated to the US in 1987 to help raise my older sister, Lhotse, and me. I remember how she’d exclaim “Sus - Mari, Josep, Dio Ko!” which means “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, My God!” after any noteworthy event – like seeing snow. Even though she lived with us for 10 years I don’t think she stopped that childish amusement of watching snowfall in the winter – I often just sat and watched in awe of her and the snow. I also remember how gingerly she’d shuffle her feet when walking on the Michigan ice.
Eventually, she became a US citizen through naturalization in 1998. I remember helping her study the pledge of allegiance, singing the Star-Spangled Banner and learning about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln with her. At the same time I learned how to sing “Ang Pasko ang Sumawit” and learned about Lapu-Lapu and José Rizal with the Kalamazoo Filipino community and through stories passed on in my family. The history I learned in my very white-middle class private school never mentioned the Philippine-American War and as a 12 year old growing up Filipina-American meant I grew skeptical of academic textbooks.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Lola Oding to leave her husband, my Lolo Cresencio, and live in a foreign country at the age of 80. My mom was Lola Oding’s ninth and last child and since mom was a menopausal baby that means the other Aperocho grandchildren were already grown up. Lhotse and I were still toddlers and with mom working graveyard shifts at the Cleveland Hospital while Dad studied for the US Medical Board Exam which left me and Lhotse in the care of our Lola Anching and Lola Oding. I am so lucky to have lived with both my Lolas for a while. Lola Anching is the mom of my dad and her real name is Barsiniana Lluch Guerrero. Together my two Lolas helped raise me and my sisters.
Lola Anching spoke English decently because she had at least a college education. Lola Oding didn’t have much formal school education; Mom says she only finished elementary school and so I never really spoke English with her. I didn’t need words to communicate with Lola Oding. She was always singing and praying.
Growing up with my Lolas was the best thing. I miss them a lot.
Note: These excerpts are from the SIP (Senior Individualized Project) of Amber Guerrero at Kalamazoo College, completed on January 25, 2008. Her SIP included research about coral reef preservation at the Olotayan Marine Sanctuary (OLMASA) and the family reunion of the celebration of her grandmother’s centennial birthday.