Lola Puri

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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Thursday, March 27, 2014


PURIFICACION Patriarca Alamon or Lola Puri has passed on at the remarkable age of 103 years old. She was my grandmother who, because of her long life, painfully buried her husband and all of her children except for one who I am sure will equal or surpass her long life. She will be laid to rest this Saturday, March 29, 2014 in her hometown of Pili, Ajuy, Iloilo.

There is nothing like death that can cause us to stop and reflect about the meaning of family, and life, and the love that connects us all across the distance and the generations. More so in the case of Lola Puri and her long journey home. Most of the Alamon brood has been rendered as orphans with the death of our parents and now the passing on of the grand matriarch of the family marks another episode of the necessary but painful abandonment in our family’s history.

Death indicates a departure that cannot be prevented but it also reveals the ties that bind a family.

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While most of the Alamons stayed near where the roots of the family lay which is in Iloilo, we are part of the branch that was separated owing to the migration of my parents. Thus, we never had the chance to spend time with Lola Puri or listen to her stories and even to care for her. I am filled with gratitude for the other family members who provided her with comfort in her last years. But part of me also feels envy for not being there.

It is sad for me to admit that I only have a few cherished memories of my lola. There were a number of summer vacations that she spent with us while my father was still alive but they were very few and far between. I just remember how my father, military man, stern and stoic, transform into a happy little boy with his mother being around to the discomfort of my own mother.

It was not an easy life for lola I have come to know. They refer to Lolo Dadoy, my grandfather, Lola Puri’s husband as a “kachila” not because he was a peninsulares though whatever ounce of mestizo features we may have we owe it to him. The term “kachila” interestingly referred to his ways, authoritarian and harsh, especially to his wife. Such was the disposition of their generation I presume and Lola Puri personified the suffering of many women of their time.

That is the reason, perhaps, why she was such a warm and loving mother to her sons and daughter. She had to be, to compensate for her husband. And I am glad she did for I saw glimpses of this warmth and love from my own father.

As an apo, I experienced this in the few occasions I spent with her as a child. I remember the warm hugs and how she paired this with a deep sigh as if to express her wish to be close to part of her brood that unfortunately was away from her most of the time.

But she was hardly inarticulate, a teacher and school principal in her prime, I am sure she nurtured generations of the young with the same love and care she showered on her own children. And I am proud to follow in her footsteps as a teacher myself, hopefully matching her eloquence in the language of her Thomasite American education.

The last time I spent good time with her was when she buried her son, my father. She was approaching the age of 90 then but when she told stories about the Japanese occupation to me and my cousins in unbroken English, it was with all the passion and drama of a good communicator aged well by the years.

This flair for drama I think I have imbibed. And I believe it is borne of the sensitivity gained from facing the difficulties of life. If some families have properties as a form of legacy for their heirs, ours I believe is the compassion for others taught to us by our parents who learned this from their own mother, Lola Puri. This I believe is the priceless legacy of our lola.

This is also the stuff that makes up the bonds between us, the remaining brood of the Alamon family. For once, before we were even made by our parents, there was this woman who had this unbounded love for her children. Behind her tight embrace I realize is also a love that encompasses generations. We mourn her passing but we celebrate her legacy of love that we, the Alamons in Saudi, UAE, New Jersey, Illinois, Cagayan de Oro, Manila, Ajuy, Iloilo and elsewhere, now share to each other.

***
(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 28, 2014.

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