Catherine Remembers her Lola Pacing

(Catherine originally sent this memoir to her friends on Facebook today. I asked her if I could post it here on her behalf. Too often when we talk about ‘history’, we forget that the best lessons reside with the ones closest to us. Catherine’s memoir is a great example of someone who remembered to ask. What kind of questions would YOU ask if you had the chance — and DO you still have the chance? Don’t let the moment pass you by, that’s all. — Tito Len)

by Catherine Estioko Hernandez

Pomposa Ureta Estioko – Sept 18, 1915 – March 13, 2009

When you finish a book, a great book, you can feel the weight of each word, each moment in your hands as you close its edges together. The spine no longer cracks. It is done. And it is with great pride that we announce that the novel which is Pomposa Ureta Estioko is finally complete.

Her story was both shaped and filled with love.

The daughter of Casimiro Ureta and Felicidad Arboleda, she often assisted in the family catering business. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the Ureta family business continued, but instead of baking cakes for Filipino weddings, their circumstances forced them to serve Japanese officers.

Meanwhile, Sergio Estioko along with 75,000 other prisoners of war were forced by the Japanese army to walk the 97 km Death March from Bataan to Tarlac. Sergio narrowly escaped to Batangas and sailed to Panay where he joined the guerrilla forces. There, he was able to fight the Japanese occupation in plain-clothes and remain amongst other citizens – which included the Ureta family.

The Ureta family had originally suspected that Sergio was smitten for their youngest daughter, Leonora, since Pomposa was considered to be sensible and simple. But when a large catering job was ordered by the Japanese army, his obvious affections towards Pomposa’s stunning beauty were confirmed. She fainted while trying to cook for the party, after which Sergio had the audacity to try and revive her.

Sometime later, Sergio and the guerrilla forces attempted to ambush a Japanese convoy. There was an exchange of fire and Sergio was shot in the leg. The Ureta family took Sergio in and much to their chagrin, found that Pomposa was eager to nurse him to health. But the news was not good. The military doctor gave him a maximum of six months to live.

Amidst bloodshed, tragedy and tears, Pomposa married Sergio while he was still in a wheelchair, facing his imminent death. The doctor died well before Sergio ever did.

We tell this story often, and we tell it now in Pomposa’s passing because she chose love. She chose love and in return was loved by all.

Pomposa became the proud and tireless mother of Teresa, Gerundio, Anunciacion, Cecilia, Alfredo and Mary Aster. She lived long enough to see 23 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren come into this world.

Lola/Mama/Pacing as she was also called, died of old age in the presence of her children. She will always be remembered as a matriarch. A firm believer in the strength of women. A loser of combs and eye glasses. A hearty laugher. A lover of big and raucous parties. The voice at the other end of the phone. A giver of soft kisses to the cheek.

She was magic.

~ by Leonard on March 13, 2009.

One Response to “Catherine Remembers her Lola Pacing”

  1. (Catherine asked me to include this in the post as well – a poem. – Len)


    The First

    I find myself beside you, my wiry frame sinking into your heavy bosom in the back of a crowded mid-century vehicle. The Manila sun makes the leather of the seat too hot to handle, but you, you are soft. Soft everything. A surface softer than my own six-year-old skin. Doe eyes (the same doe eyes I see in my daughter each morning). And mermaid coils of salt and pepper tresses circle your round face. You, the woman who I do not know, reach into your large black leather hand bag and surprise me with a Spanish lace fan.

    “Init ka?” you ask me as I melt in the stand-still traffic.

    You unfold the fan, an enchanting story of beads and black floral and gift me the relief of a cool breeze. I close my eyes and take in the smell of talcum. You are magic.

    The Last

    There are no words. No words to explain your reaction of orphaning your own child again and again, to loosen your clenched fist and let loose pebbles down the canyon. An abyss. An echo.

    You stand, your heavy bosom hunched over the back of a dining room chair. You choke. Your arms shake.

    “Stay here, mama,” your daughter says in tears. A goodbye.

    And with the strength of a woman who raised six kids on her own, with the wisdom of motherhood, and all the mothers before you, with a beauty that is yours and yours alone, you stand and let her go.

    There are no words, Lola. But words are all I can give you.

    I was told once that if I was sad, I just had to dream of the ocean. But I cannot, not when it divides us and keeps me from saying goodbye.
    Instead I am dreaming of the soft skin on your arms, the sound of you sniffing me as you kissed my cheek, and one magic fan.

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