Three Photos and a Toddler

Among the earliest images that piqued my curiosity were those of three men of our own, obviously revered for their photos to merit being framed and hung on the otherwise bare walls of our provincial living room. Their pictures had been cut-out from some glossy calendars and mounted on inexpensive wooden frames such as could be found on the walls of classrooms of the time.

Evidently from the same time period but also unmistakably different in their own way from each other, these men clearly stood out, a notch above the rest, equal in their own individual greatness.

One was the picture of a stern-looking man with a drooping hairstyle. He holds out a doctor’s looking instrument and peers into the eyes of a seated elderly woman.

The other was of a sickly-looking man with a meek profile sitting idly by, almost looking bored, on a rattan chair. A thick blanket covers his lower limbs from the waist to the ground.

The third was of a kindly-looking man, fresh of face and, strange as it seemed to me at the time, holding on the handle of a holstered machete and stands with his legs wide apart.

As if a clue to the identity of the three men was a fourth frame. It was a distant photograph of a monument, also from the glossy calendar, planked on both sides by a long line of street lamps. The man at the center of the monument, who was proudly clasping a book to his chest, was not recognizable that far off but I soon found out he was also that stern-looking man with the drooping hairstyle.

Bit by tiny bit, the stories of these three men had been revealed to me as an eager young boy. The details were vividly captured and committed to memory by my intent listening as more and more elderly family, relatives and visitors contributed their kusing‘s worth as they could not help but notice the images of the well-respected subjects.

It turned out these three men were among the great ones in our history from a more distant time. Crammed in between sixty years of our history were a national revolution, a guerilla war against an emerging world power and two world wars, the last one of which our country paid for in blood generously.

The wheels of history had been busy churning out great men for us we made do with remembering the older ones until a more recent reckoning.

The three men on our walls gave to La Patria Adorada their lives and loves, katiisa’t pagod, because of the urge of conscience—the voice of God in every person—everything they had in their struggle against a western colonial master.

Oddly, at the bequest of the new, also western colonial master, the three gentlemen were, as if in a vain popularity contest, made to contend with each other for the right to occupy the fourth frame with the street lights.

The stern-looking man with the hairstyle won, hands-down, with the new self-declared benevolent rulers—because he was the only one among the three who did not advocate an armed struggle and because he also stood for education. And educating the ignorant brown people, little brown brothers with tails they called us, in their own fashion was a top project of the English-speaking colonizers during those times.

The rest is, well, more history.

I consider it among the fortunes of timeliness that my parents made the effort to save those photos, have them framed up and displayed on our walls at probably the most sensitive time in the development of my young mind.

I choose to regard this experience of consciousness as the moment when tabula rasa had been called, perhaps with a little bit more of an energy. In our own home, as it should be—the first truth called love of country had been etched in memory.




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