Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Letter to Luisa

Dear L,

Co-mothers Luisa A. Igloria and Brookside Babe (what my husband calls me now and then) Photo by Nash Tysmans

With her writing family in the Philippines (from left): Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta, J. Neil Garcia and Nerissa del Carmen Guevara Photo by Babeth Lolarga

You had been away 16 years. That long? It seems not too long ago when we sat and exchanged stories at the porch of your former home, now also gone, on City Camp Alley while chickens crossed the road or came in and out of the green gate that was almost always open.

Even though we were so close geographically when I found myself in the state of Virginia twice (in '08 and '09), all we could manage were marathon phone chats while I was being hosted by my cousins Erline Valdellon and Rudy Mendoza. We didn't see one another, didn't hug and kick off our shoes, didn't put up our feet and sip wine while giggling over the past.

And then someone nudged me to say you were in Baguio to visit daughter, her partner, mother, sister, etc., and dine with Del Tolentino and Ben Tapang in the Mirador Hill abode with Vickie present, Vickie Rico Costina who presence has been scarce and who makes me wonder if she has turned recluse after her retirement from the University. I can imagine the hagalpakan and laughter that shook the walls. How you managed that trip I could only credit your innate courage and chutzpah for undertaking that risk.

Gabriela "Brie" Igloria, Nash and Luisa on the front row of La Salle's European Documentation Center while waiting for the room to fill up. This was where Luisa gave her craft talk on "The 3-D Printer Builds the Bridge as It Goes: Poetry and the Task of Lyric Making," read her poems and answered questions during a short open forum.

Nash takes a selfie with her Tita Sylvia Mayuga. When she entered the room, Sylvia said only Luisa could make her leave her house on a Monday morning with the traffic and all. Only Luisa, she stressed. In turn, Luisa introduced Sylvia to her youngest child Brie as a legend, possibly a babaylan/diwata (priestess and goddess).

I was too ill and weak then to make a trip to Baguio for that dinner. In order to see you again after that 16-year gap, I had to gather and increase my strength at home. Post-hospitalization, I recovered in a dimly lit room with just the transistor radio's dial tuned in to DZFE.FM and did self-imposed homework of reviewing the 59 years of my life that had gone by. When the five days of that unusual solitude (unusual because it was spent with company, but the Pasig family let me be) were over, I felt that it was time to take down books from the shelves to read again, this time with the Masters' music as mere background.

With Alice Sun Cua, poet, essayist, OB-GYN

My hands went for the pile of unread books and I took down at random Holly Thompson's novel in verse Orchards followed by Alexander Fuller's memoir of her parents' life in Africa, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, then your poetry collections: your Juan Luna's Revolver (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009) and Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014). Re-reading you felt like summoning your physical form. Your poems have also been, to me, fine examples of poetry that inform, console, expand the soul. In them our Camelot that is Baguio makes not just a cameo but a major appearance.

Brie, a poet and violinist, just stepped into high school.

Kudos to Shirley Lua, director of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (standing, wearing a deep pink top), for organizing the author meet-up/reunion

Luisa and Brie (backs to camera) with poets Mookie, Allan Pastrana, Nerissa and Neil

When Ronald Baytan, BNSCWC associate for literary studies, made ready to take our group pic, Luisa said, "Mga beauty queens!" Something Luisa would say to relax and make us look less stiff. In the picture are Luisa's Brie, Nash, Karla Delgado (in green tunic) with her daughter Kai, the visiting poet and a baggage handler. When Luisa saw the books I was showing off for the photo, she quipped, "Buy two books, get one turon free." Yes, that's a three-fourths eaten, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-inside turon that Brookside Babe is holding.

And then there you were in a summery dress with geometric prints and black flats, painted toenails peeking out. You were the first to open your arms wide while I struggled to put down purse, bag, gift books and Philippine-designed and -made stationery for you and your youngest child Brie who's equally precocious as her three ate: Jenny, Trixie and Ina.

Like I earlier wrote to you after you landed back in VA, I will write longer. Not on this space anymore. You deserve a full aria, dearest. The Luisa who left 16 years ago is the same Luisa I reunited with just this Monday. No blue Monday that day was. Thank you, you who loves the soup of words we swim or paddle in.

Always with affection,
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