• Yes,Virginia, there are good Americans, but there are ugly Filipinos, too



    First of 2 parts
    TIYA Clemen was in the prime of her years when she began working as a nanny for the Rosse family in Virginia, USA. She particularly attended to Lesley, the family’s eldest child, who was just a tot at the time. Lesley grew up to be a lady, with Tiya Clemen virtually parenting her, and when she began raising her own family (she married a Foster), Tiya Clemen was still there, this time as a doting nanny to Lesley’s kids. Over the past couple of years, Tiya Clemen, now aged 93, has had to undergo critical surgeries, first on her heart, then on her brain which was seized with some degree of bleeding when she suffered a stroke in 2013. Of late, Tiya Clemen has been urging to come home to the Philippines, to our hometown of Calolbon, Catanduanes, to finally retire. It is in light of this urgent desire of Tiya Clemen that Lesley wrote a message to my sister Violeta, who passed it on to me.

    Crybaby at 76
    The incurable cry baby that I am, no matter that I am 76, Ican’t help turning jelly at Lesley’s words.

    Lesley wrote:
    “Dear Violy, Hello and Happy New Year! All is well with Lala (that’s how Lesley and family have grown to fondly call Tiya Clemen), but I wanted you to know that when I spoke with her on the phone today, she said she wants to go to the Philippines for several months to coincide with Holy Week this year. My daughter Meg was on the call too so I decided not to get into an awkward conversation with Lala about why she should not go. I plan to have that conversation with her the next time she is visiting Colin and Andrea, which will be in 10 days or so. I thought you and the family should be aware of what Lala is thinking in case she brings it up in conversation with you. I have spoken with Lala a number of times about why travel to the Philippines is no longer in her best interest, but I think she either cannot remember those conversations or is choosing to ignore them. I know she does not understand the extent of her heart disease and risk for stroke, and that a long, arduous trip puts her at further risk. Since 2013, she has suffered a heart attack, a stroke, and two brain bleeds. Miraculously, she has recovered from all of them, but we just don’t know what the future holds for her. She tires very easily now (though she will not admit it) and her memory and comprehension are continuing to decline. It makes having conversations with her about these important matters very difficult. It is heartbreaking to suggest that she no longer travel to the Philippines, but I think that is the point we have reached. I know everyone had thought she might move to the Philippines to be cared for there in her declining health, and yet as we know from her last visit she did not choose to stay. Please communicate this message to your other family members whom she might speak with so that everyone is aware of the situation. I have already been in touch with Lolita and Jun to update them as well. I think if everyone can convey the same message that a trip to the Philippines is not good for her health, that might make it easier for her to accept.”

    In short, Lesley would rather keep Tiya Clemen in their Virginia home if she can help it. That just is something marvelous for an American, that is, speaking from the standpoint of my incurable bias. If America is the haven of world capitalism, then its people must be a showcase of what capitalists are: oppressive, exploitative, inhuman and uncaring of the working class, or in any case, the great mass of small, defenseless guys. And a distinct mark of capitalism is its heartlessness in throwing to the ravages of poverty those workers who have already outlived their usefulness to the capitalistic enterprise.

    How nice of Lesley and her folks not to have that attitude toward Tiya Clemen. I expressed this sentiment in reacting to one post in Lesley’s Facebook account in which Tiya Clemen, shown enjoying an outing with Lesley and daughters, evidently being treated as one of them. In local colloquial, we say “Sounds family.”

    Can’t deny history
    Quite conscious of history, I can never deny that America has been the one single ogre that has trampled upon the Philippines so as to stunt the country’s growth. True, the Spaniards conquered us first, but that was to be given at a time when the country was merely a smattering of disparate villages, scattered over the archipelago with nary a sense of being one. In fact, for all the evil things that might be said of the Spanish conquest, what cannot be denied is that Spanish colonization put the scattered communities in the archipelago under one single administration which, though economic in nature in the beginning, became the mechanism for the evolution of the political entity that was the Filipino nation. What I cannot swallow as a historical necessity was the deceit US Navy Admiral George Dewey used against the Katipunan revolutionaries in order to rob the nascent Filipino nation of victory against Spain. That traitorous gambit completely frustrated the establishment by the Filipino people of the first democratic republic in Asia – antedating by almost 20 years the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), born of the October Revolution in 1917 and by a long period as well the Republic of China established by Dr. Sun Yat Sen in 1912.

    Give it to me then that I should nurse this utter hatred for America. Though many of my comrades in the revolutionary movement have ultimately found themselves trooping to the “land of the free” after all, well into my fading years, I have stuck to this resolve of not partaking of the great American dream, whatever that is.

    Lesley’s attitude toward Tiya Clemen must take exception from such resolve of mine. Here is a nonagenarian, long outlasting her usefulness to a family that is not her own but which, for having been served by her over of period of many years, now wouldn’t wish to let her go. In the United States, it has become a tradition that when parents grow old, they are committed by their children to nursing homes – like passing on the responsibility of being taken care of by children other than their own. By insisting on holding on to Tiya Clemen rather than subject her to the rigors of travel—which has the great potential of damaging further her already frail health—Lesley is truly a rarity.

    Yes, Virginia, you have a daughter out there that does America proud.

    (To be continued tomorrow)


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