Sunday, March 07, 2010

A journey into my roots

My current trip to the Philippines has mostly been to attend my grandmother's (on my father's side) 2nd-year death anniversary. This trip has become a journey into exploring my roots and my ancestry to discover more about my grandparents. I just returned from a journey down to Bicol, the southern region in the Bicol peninsula, by the southeastern region of Luzon.

I was able to visit where my mom grew up, Naga City. I never met my grandfather on my mom's side as he passed away before I was born. I didn't attend my grandmother's funeral when she passed in 1996 and never got a chance to visit either of their graves until now. The day we visited was a good day to go as by coincidence it would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday.

Journeying into the province gave me a glimpse into how people in the rural areas of the Philippines lived. The countryside is filled with rice fields tended by farmers and as expected most of the towns are poor rural communities. As we travelled around Bicol I was able to find out more about my family's story. The details are mostly fuzzy and not entirely accurate because they are mostly told from my parent's memory (and guesswork on details they're unsure of).

All of my grandparents were born in China. Three were born in Amoy, China while one was born somewhere else in the Fujian province (I will have to look it up). All of them moved to the Philippines because of civil unrest in China that lead up to the Chinese Civil War. They first arrived in Manila, then each ended up in adifferent part of the Philippines.

On my mom's side (Lee family):
My grandmother's family ended up with roots in both Manila and Aparri. My grandfather met my grandmother in Manila. They ended up moving to Naga City and starting a rice mill company. That's where they ended up starting their family and most of their kids (including my mom) moved one by one back to Manila. There's more complicated details about my grandfather's family and cousins/step-siblings (though I won't go into it because I don't exactly understand all of it either). My mom's family also has an interesting story of intrigue regarding property disputes and family rivalries. The dispute has already been going on for a long time and is mostly history though still unresolved because of the end result. It's exciting to note that there's still bad blood between the families so that there is a family feud (that I inherit from my mom's family) that I may have a rival family to shake my fist at.

On my dad's side (Qua family):
My grandfather (on my dad's side) was a copra trader. My grandfather's job had him based in Legazpi. His job eventually led him to travel between Daet and Manila. He met my grandmother who was already in Daet and they got married. That's eventually where my father and his siblings grew up.

Though the details of my ancestor's voyage down to the Philippines are vague, I feel that it gives me a better connection to who they are and where I come from. I didn't really know much about this before and I never thought about asking. I wish I had the opportunity to ask my grandparents themselves though that chance is gone. The details about my ancestry doesn't change much about who I am as a person, but it does give me a better perspective on who my parents are.

This picture of my parents and I are at the remnants of the buried town of Cagsawa. The bell tower of the town's church is the only remaining structure of the town which was bombarded with tephra from the an eruption of Mayon Volcano.

1 comment:

Ian said...

great read jeff. :) i love how personal it is.