I was told the following story one night while sitting with the elders at a birthday party. Marc Mausisia was the son of the person who this story is with regards to. Lolo Tenyada the cousin of Marc’s father. The accounts are from the time Japan occupied the Philippine’s. Both Marc Mausisa and Lolo Tenyada have passed on and I have no way of placing the timeframe in which this story occurred or where in the Philippines it took place. The words in this story Lolo and Lola mean Grandfather and Grandmother. I present it here to you, in their words. “A Fish For Papa”.
I was a just young boy when the Japanese came to our province, my papa was in the Army not far from where we lived when the Japanese came. They capture the army and took them to a place over a day’s walk away, they took most of the men from our town too. Mama [he’s talking of his mother] took care of all of us by herself she was a strong woman back then. One day mama told me that someone saw my papa and that he was alive. The Japanese would make the men go out of the prison camp during the day and collect bamboo for firewood.
We didn’t have much food or rice to eat, most of the food those Japanese took it. Mama cooked a fish and she wrapped it up in a banana leaves. She told me that my papa and the other men in the camp have no food to eat. And she told me to take the fish to the camp and wait outside until my saw my papa come out to work and to give it to him so he could eat.
I walked too far and I got to the camp it was dark so I sleep on the side of the road, I don’t have food but I don’t eat the fish because it’s for papa. The next day I see men come out of the camp to go work my papa is not in the group, later more come out and he is not there too. I ask if they see my papa when the men walks by but they just shake their head no, I wait all day and still I don’t see my papa. Again I sleep on the road again I only leave so I can drink water at night so I don’t miss to see my papa and give him the fish.
The next day is the same the men come out and go in and I don’t see my papa. I am there for three days and still I don’t find him, people say they don’t know him. I’m very hungry and I cry because I can’t find papa I open the fish and there are those worms in fish [I ask maggots?] Yes, maggots the fish is good no more and I cry, man I cry I just throw the fish down and I walk home.
I see my house and it is already dark, I start to cry again because I know mama will be upset too. I go in the house and mama looks at me I think she already knows I don’t find papa, I crying and tell mama I don’t find papa and the fish it get spoiled and I have to come back. Mama don’t say anything except it’s okay and she gives me food.
It’s a long time we don’t see papa I think he might be dead, I think everyone thinks so but nobody say that. The Americans come, war it’s over! and the men come home and papa comes home too he is too skinny and sick but we are all happy papa is home; mama she cried.
[I ask what happened when he was home]
He died because he was too sick and tired. One day I go and buy a big papaya, I remember how much he like that one and I get a big one for him. That day I go to his house with the papaya and your Lola [his wife] Lola Rosa [Marc’s Mama] your Lolo and me we sit at the table and talk Rosa she cuts the papaya but he only eats a little. We are talking and making some jokes but he gets tired and tell us that he will rest.
Me and your Lola we go home we live only across the road. Not long I hear yelling, Rosa is calling for us to come and we run there. Your Lolo is sick and needs the hospital so I go back and get the jeep I pick him up, he is too light, he dies in my arms, I was holding him and he’s dies.
[it’s quite for a while in the room and we don’t talk about it anymore, instead the conversation turns to current time and family things]