On March 24, 1980, Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador, was assassinated while saying Mass and consecrating the Eucharist.
Romero symbolized part of Latin America’s “liberation theology” movement, and his death still resonates to this day.
Whenever we think of Romero, we always think of the gorgeous tribute Rubén Blades makes in his classic song, “El Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés.”
via LatinoRebels.com http://bit.ly/14n0Ivo
My family had me asked to deliver the eulogy at the funeral for my grandmother, Amelia Raymundo. This is one of the most personal and emotional pieces I’ve ever written. I hope it gives justice to the extraordinary life my lola lived.
Today, we come together as one family, one community, to celebrate the life of our beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, and friend, Amelia Raymundo. Our family has been overwhelmed and blessed by the outpouring of love and support for our loved one, and we thank you all from the bottoms of our hearts. Many of us knew her by a few names, Amelia, Mely, Tita, Mommy, but to me and the rest of her grandchildren, we knew her simply as Mima. Being her first grandchild, that is what I grew up calling her, as with growing up calling her husband, our grandfather Dida, and it stuck with the rest of her grandchildren.
When those she loved first heard from us of when The Lord has called her home, there were many questions. The most recurring question was “How did she die?” Instead, I will tell you the extraordinary life she lived. A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing her as part of my doctoral research on Immigration and Forced Displacement. She shared with me not just her migration story, but also the stories of Dida, her sons my Tito Reny, Tito Ben, Tito Reuel, Tito Rex, and her daughter, my mother Lourdes. To her it was important to include them in her migration story because of her love and devotion to Dida and her children. She was a teacher in the Philippines, and Dida was a war hero and an engineer. They were able to build a comfortable life together in the Philippines and were able to provide their children a good education. It seemed that their life was picture perfect, but that picture perfect life became uncertain with the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. At the time, President Marcos amassed huge foreign debt from developing the country and was facing growing opposition from the masses. Martial Law was declared to brutally silence the growing anti-Marcos movement. At the same time, in order to alleviate the foreign debt and keep the fractured economy afloat, working abroad and remitting back earnings to the Philippines was encouraged by the government, a policy that continues to this day. Mima and Dida had to make a decision, stay in the Philippines and live an uncertain future or migrate to the US in search for greener pastures. Dida first migrated in 1974, yet despite having multiple engineering degrees was only able to find a job as a repairman. Mima and her children soon followed in 1978, having already been college educated and were able to find jobs. Mima shared with me that in the Philippines, she was awarded Teacher of the Year, but when she came to the US, she found a job as a teacher’s aide. This upset me a little bit, to know that my grandparents were far more qualified for better jobs than they were given here in the US. But being the humble and hardworking people they were, they made the best of it and were able to provide for their family and build a home together in Los Angeles.
When I was born a few years later, Mima and Dida helped to raise me. This continued over the years with my sister Rachel and cousins Michelle, Shawn, Austin, Joshua, and Jaden. I learned from Dida how to work with tools, and more importantly how to protect my family. Being the teacher she was, Mima taught us how to count, read, write, and pray. Whenever we stayed with her and Dida, she made sure we were well fed and prayed before we go to sleep.
One of the things I remember about Mima is that she can not sit still. She always has to go somewhere and do something. So whenever we stayed with her, she always took us with her everywhere she went on the bus, throughout the streets of LA, shopping even if we returned home with nothing. It didn’t just stop there, she wanted to see the world. Her and Dida would make yearly travels to different places around the world, throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. Dida was the same way, not wanted to sit still and go out and see the world. Even when he got sick with liver cancer in 1997, he stubbornly wanted to go through with their trip to Paris, which was the very last place he would see. His passing shook our family hard, being the pillar of strength for all of us. It was especially hard for me to see him go, because I was especially close to him. At his funeral, I made a promise to him that I would honor him by helping take care of Mima. Mima’s love for Dida never ended, as she would sign my birthday and Christmas cards, “Love, Mima and Dida.”
Mima would continue to live on having adventures throughout the world, traveling to Jerusalem, Greece, Singapore, Italy, and of course annual trips back to the Philippines. I think I get my love for traveling from Mima and Dida. Even though she left the Philippines in order to provide a better future for her family, she still carried a deep love for the Philippines and our family there. Like all Filipinos working and living abroad, she would send money back home to our relatives along with balikbayan boxes filled with goods. When I told her I would be going back to the Philippines in 2004 as part of my graduate studies to integrate with Muslim and tribal communities in Mindanao, she was at first scared for my life, given the negative media attention Mindanao have gotten over the years. But she came to accept and support my travels to the Philippines and made sure I visited our relatives there and give them money and balikbayan boxes.
Our love for the Philippines was a special bond we shared. She was always supportive of my several integrations there, as if she was living vicariously through me when she became no longer physically healthy to travel. I would make it a point to see her before I left and as soon as I returned to the states. Our conversations started developing into more Tagalog, which I didn’t grow up speaking and had to learn on my own. Before I left for the Philippines in 2010 for a 3-month integration, Mima had to go to the hospital because of heart problems and needed surgery for a pacemaker. I spent the whole day at the hospital with her the day before I left, talking about what I would be doing, visiting Dida’s family in the province of Isabela, what to give our family there, and how much she really wanted to go with me. It was hard to start my integration knowing her health was deteriorating. When I returned, I shared with her stories of my adventures there, mostly in Tagalog. She told me, “Ayos na! Pilipino ka na!” (You’re a Filipino now!) This was comforting for me, because now I know and feel the kind of disorientation and figurative dismemberment Filipino migrants experience whenever they leave the Philippines. She was instrumental in processing my “culture re-shock” upon returning to the US. Mima and I shared Filipino movies, Filipino music, and watched Filipino shows whenever I would come to visit.
The last time I was with her was when I visited home this past Labor Day weekend. She didn’t have the same energy as before. She walked without balance and needed me to help her walk. She spoke softly and moved slowly. That was when reality set in for me. I needed to make the most of my time with her because her time with us won’t be for much longer. My family looked seriously into finding a caretaker for her, and knowing that I’m a community organizer in San Francisco with Filipino migrants and caregivers, my family especially looked to me for help. Mima was not keen to the idea of having someone she doesn’t know live with her and take care of her, being the stubbornly independent person she was. I told my mom that if it really has to come down to it, I will quit my job and move back home to LA to be Mima’s full time caregiver and just do my doctorate part time.
I was looking forward to coming home to LA to spend Christmas with Mima and the family. But the pain of her health complications was just too much for her to bear any longer, and The Lord called her home two days before Christmas. Hearing this from my mom the day before I was to come home was indescribable. I really wanted to see Mima for Christmas, hug her and kiss her one last time. But knowing the very giving and compassionate person she was, she would have wanted us to go through with our Christmas plans. Christmas was filled with lots of food, laughs, and sharing stories about Mima. While I was happy that our family is happy to be together for Christmas and I’m sure Mima is happy we’re all together, I couldn’t help but miss her terribly. I had to excuse myself to just go to my room and cry. When my mom found me in my room, she held me in her arms and told me Mima wants us to be happy, and we should be happy for her that she’s no longer in pain and reunited with Dida to watch over us. This is where I take comfort in, that’s she’s not really gone. She lives on in the laughs we share together and the way we take care of each other and pray for one another.
Missing her will be inescapable. There will not be a day when we don’t think about her. But a very good friend of mine gave me one of the greatest advices I carry with me, and that is to “Miss less, remember more.” So I choose to remember Mima. I choose to remember that she raised a very loving and caring family. I choose to remember the sacrifices she made so that we could have a better life. I choose to remember all the values she and Dida taught me. I choose to remember her sheer love of freedom, freedom to see the world and experience all that it has to offer. I choose to remember our shared love for our home country, the Philippines, and the reasons why our family had to leave. I choose to remember that she, like all Filipino migrants, hope for a better homeland free from poverty and where we don’t have to make the choice to leave just to survive. Most of all, I choose to remember Mima’s migration story, like the stories of all migrants, as the main inspiration for why I fight to defend the rights and welfare of all migrants. Through remembering, Mima will never truly be gone, but will watch over us and guide us in how we love and care for one another, our community, and our world.
In Tagalog, the closest translation for goodbye is “Paalam.” But even then, there is no direct translation for goodbye in Tagalog. “Paalam” means I’m just letting you know I’m leaving for a while, with the intention of seeing each other again. This is the value that resonates in the hearts and minds of all Filipino migrants, in that we will see our homeland again. And this also extends to how we regard our loved ones who have passed away, in that we will see each other again.
Mima, we love you so much and miss you. We know you are reunited with Dida in heaven and now watching over us and taking care of us like we have done for you. Today also being the 12th year anniversary of my dad’s passing, please give him a hug for us. Please also give Tita Norma and all of our loved ones who you are now reunited with a big hug for all of us. Maraming salamat sa lahat ng iyong pag-ibig, sa lahat na ginawa mo, at sa lahat ng itinuro mo sa amin. Miss na miss kita, at hindi kita malilimutan. Hanggang sa ang panahon na magkikita tayo ulit. Mahal na mahal namin sa inyo, at paalam.