July 22, 2024

Mario was the first Chilean I met in the borders of Long-long. He was brewing the Arabica coffee and sells it while he sports his native tattoos to his customers. He has curly hairs, thick mustache and lashes, and kind eyes. When he remembers his mother back in Chile, he says “I am here in the Philippines with the Igorots. They are very similar to us. We have the same colonizers. We inherited words from the colonial tongue, and very much alive with their culture and beliefs.”
“Mother I am surrounded with many mountains here and I made sure that the house I built with my Igorot wife – Wamy, we face the sunset as if in the remaining years of my life I would want ponder on how I got here.
“For 35 years, father hid me from you. We went to Norway and joined the many refugees who run from our country during Chile’s political unrest. But why did you not join us? Father said that you died a long time ago and as I explain my life to these Igorots, I look at Wamy and remember that afternoon the first time I went to Chile, I knock at your door and showed you a picture of me as a baby boy. You did not hug me or said sweet words. You are like the Igorots, foreign to flattery words but flowing with affections. Wamy reminds me of your good cooking – and I feel home here in Longlong.
“I too am trying to be a decent father with Wamy’s children. I made sure that we have the best kubyertos and plates in the house – even food. So that when the children go to high class restaurants somewhere, they won’t feel much the difference. This experience would instill pride to them a sense of pride from the family they came from. It must be that the home would be the one to first introduce to them how it feels like to be treated with highest esteemed both food and love. And I thought that it was beautiful.
“I have a step brother back in Sweden, father married another woman there. This step brother said when I was a baby, he was left to take care of me. Our stepmom came and asked him to choose between dad and her. He chose the mother and asked her to bring me with them to leave. The mother said no and he was devasted at young age. He said, he left me alone crying but he did not forget to think that I might fall from bed so he put loaves of bread around me, not pillows but bread in case I get hungry. It was hard to swallow those bread. Many years after, step bro would see me and cry many times, and tell the story only to ask sorry, sorry and sorry all over again.
“I look at the difficult life of Igorot teenagers, and I remember my step brother who weep at the face of a crying baby. I met boys and girls here with similar situation too – walking out the door from their father, running with the mother, starting life away from home, dining at expensive restos only to have bitter taste of the remembrance of their kitchen at home.”
I sat with Mario and Wamy and watch the sunset. From Latin America to the Philippines, I draw the line to connect the two countries. I draw a circle and made the world a big kitchen where one could just knock and drink the coffee. (RICHARD A. GIYE)