The Former Things Have Passed Away/Installment #2: “The Holy Guardian Angel”

(Word-for-Word Transcription: Interview of Manuel/Manny by his daughter Tina)
Tina: Can you tell me about your experience when you were young, during the war?
Papa: Well, I must have been…ten or eleven…closer to ten, ten and a half I’d say.
Because this was in 1944, 45 during the Second World War. The bombings, the
American bombings, in the different islands were going on, and this is one of
the causes of why those high voltage electrical wires are dangling. And so as
uh, a little boy, and those quite a few little boys my age, we kind of daring each
other. Like for example a kid would say, “I dare you to do this, I dare you to
do that.” And so…the daring went, I don’t know what the word to use…went
crazy I guess, if that’s the right word. So that the kids were daring each other –
who touches the live wire.
Tina: Mmhmm…Where was it?
Papa: It was electrical wire. Philippine’s voltage is 220.
Tina: I mean, in Cebu?
Papa: Yeah the island of Cebu…
Tina: You don’t remember where exactly?
Papa: Well, this is close to where I’m at…
Tina: Where? Your home?
Papa: Yeah, probably, oh about a mile or two away from my home.
Tina: Okay.
Papa: And so I don’t know what came into me. I was dared and I said, “Yeah, I will
touch it.”
Tina: You don’t remember who dared you? Just one of the kids?
Papa: One of the kids. Some were dead wires, some were live wires.
Tina: And this was…
Papa: This was, you have to take a chance…
Tina: Oh, you didn’t know which one it was…
Papa: Exactly.
Tina: Mmhmm…
Papa: In fact my cousin, he’s more than a brother to me, he’s the one who always
protects me, you know. Anybody kind of pick on me. His name is Wilfredo
Valencia. That’s his real name.
Tina: Wilfredo Valencia?
Papa: Yeah, but we call him Pedo.
Tina: What?
Papa: Pedo.
Tina: Pedo. How old was he?
Papa: Oh, he’s about a year or two older than me. Maybe a little more. But anyways,
he says, “No, don’t do that!” I said, naah, I’ll prove it to them you know, that I
can do it. And so the first wire that I touched, nothing happens, you see. I don’t
know exactly…after that, the second or third wire I guess, and boy, you know, I
didn’t remember anything.
Tina: What do you remember?
Papa: I remembered that…I…
Tina: You touched it?
Papa: Yeah, I remember that I touched it and I…I was really electrocuted. My cousin
don’t know what to do. And so, this is what I’m saying…it is a miracle how I
managed to let go of that…220 volts man, that’s a lot of voltage. But anyhow, I…after that, after I let go of it. I was able to let go of it. My cousin was telling me I was screaming. I screamed, but I don’t remember it either. And so, that’s about it.
Tina: But did you ever have any reactions after that, like your body? Did it…
Papa: No, not nothing really. It was so long ago, I don’t really know what happened
after that. In fact, when we got home, he told my mom and my dad. I was
scolded. “You’re so stupid, why did you do that?” What else do you want to
Tina: So you take it…it was like a miracle?
Papa: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. It’s a miracle to me. Going back, rethink every
now and then. I recall, it was a miracle. How could I manage? That’s why I
told you, the holy guardian angel was really watching over me, that’s all I can
think of. And that’s not the only time that happens to me, electrical thing. I was
working for somebody too. I don’t know if you want me to discuss this to you
Tina: If you want to, yeah.
Papa: Yeah. This must have been like, I was a teenager. And I…this was after the war of course. I was working part time with my uncle. He works like a junkyard,
taking old things and, parts of a vehicle and all that. One time I was drilling
something with electrical drill. And again, I was careless I guess. I didn’t
realize that if you step on water, that would really, you know…
Tina: Oh (giggling)
Papa: (laughing) I was in the water drilling, and I couldn’t let go of the electrical drill.
I want to say something, but I couldn’t scream for help.
But somehow I managed to let go of that.
Tina: Hmmm…
Papa: It’s not as bad as the one when I was a little boy.
Tina: (jokingly) Do you think that kind of explains your insanity? The two experiences?
Papa: (laughing)
Tina: You’re done?
Papa: Yeah. What else you wanna know?
* * *
Square, rectangular, narrow, wide – these gravestones pretty much look the same to me. I chose the blue-green shade for hers, a border of black, white and gray marble. The first time I visited with Papa I knocked on the slab while he was busy trimming the grass. I thought it would be hard like cement, but instead it felt light and sounded hollow. And then I watched as Papa sprayed the old t-shirt with WD-40, wiped the surface of the marker in circular motions, and then around the edges with great care, applying heavy pressure to make sure to shine and polish it just right. He handed me the flowers in the grocery bag, the spring bouquet on sale from Vons, which he had appointed me to choose. My job was to cut the stems, arrange the flowers in the removable vase and make sure to feed the water with flower food. When the flowers were arranged neatly, Papa got up from his squatting position, stood on the newly trimmed grass, admiring his work. Breathing heavily and nudging his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, he said, “Okay Mama, all done for now.” Without turning to me, still staring at the gravestone, he said, “Those words you chose baby – they’re beautiful. My, how I can’t wait to see your mother again. I know I’ll see her again.” Baby – his nickname for me after all these years. I’m still his Baby. Out of all six of us children, I was chosen to create the epitaph. After careful thought, this is what I came up with: In our hearts forever, the resurrection we await.
I meant it when I wrote it. But can anything remain in the heart forever?

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