This week I will be writing daily lisayus in honor of my grandmother. She was not Catholic and neither am I, so these are meant to be expressions of my love for her and gratitude that I got to know her and learn from her.
Fine'nina na Lisayu for Elizabeth De Leon Flores Lujan
December 15, 2013
You cannot understand who my grandmother was
without knowing her mother. So many of the stories that I was told by my
grandmother came from this woman, my great-grandmother Rita Pangelinan
De Leon who married Guillermo Sablan
Flores. My grandmother’s eyes would sparkle when she would share the
stories of her mother’s life. For years she would narrate the story of
her mother like it was a daily soap opera. The stories usually began
with my great-great-great grandfather who was in charge of the kitchen
in the Spanish Governor’s palace.
After those in
the palace had been fed leftovers would be scraped from huge metal pots
onto plates, wrapped and placed into baskets and taken around Hagatna
as gifts to family friends and relatives. My great-grandmother was the
eldest of the grandchildren and raised by her grandparents, Jose and
Lauriana in relative luxury compared to the rest of her siblings. She
wore nice dresses from the Philippines and Spain. She had Spanish
jewelry and even a chest of Spanish coins meant to be her dowry. All of
this before she was even 10 years old.
In adulthood, I learned
about the suitors she had. The drama with her siblings. The deals she
made in World War II to protect her children. The crisis of faith she
had that led her and her husband to change their religion twice over the
course of their lives. The fights between Protestants and Catholics,
that sometimes came to blows. She had collected so many stories of her
parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. As she grew older she felt
compelled to pass on her stories, the sum of the complicated life that
she had lived, and grandma was willing to listen and to remember.
My great-grandmother died the same month that I was born. One day while
grandma was talking to me, telling me more stories of our family, she
asked me why I liked listening to her. I said, I just liked listening
and collecting stories. She smiled and told me that sometimes she felt
like part of her mother’s spirit had gone into me.