Stories of my Mother
My mom Rolinda at her graduation from UP Medicine in 1952.
Stories of my Mother
CITY SENSE - Paulo Alcazaren (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Last week, I featured snippets of pre-war life written by my father, with my mother’s help, over a decade ago. My mother, Rolinda Gonzalez Alcazaren, passed away shortly after that. She did tell us stories of her pre-war teen years over dinner as we grew up. She also wrote the little essay below about the life of her widower father Jose Gonzalez or lolo Pepe.

My mom entitled the piece “My Father Remained a Widower for 45 Years,” to let us know why we never met our grandmother. It was also to make us siblings aware of our grandfather’s sacrifices and accomplishments.

“When I was 12, going on 13 (about 1939), I became aware of, among other awakenings, relationships between men and women. My mother had passed away a year before and I observed that my father had no female adult company that we knew of.  I decided to watch discreetly, not telling any of my sisters or my brother. The stories I am relating now were perceived by the eyes and mind of an adolescent girl, who was perhaps afraid of the prospect of a stepmother.

My grandfatherwith my mom on his right, and siblings (clockwise from my mom’s right) Emy, Gamaliel, Esmeralda, Delia and Imelda.

“The first possible one was a secretary he hired for the business (Gonzalez Laboratories, a pharmacy). She was petite, with long hair, lips too red, and a voice too artificial. I didn’t like her. They dated, but it did not last long. Sigh of relief.

“The next lady was a pharmacist. She was the quiet type, in her late twenties and modest in dress and manners. This time, my father was serious in courting her. He would bring my brother or me with them when they went out to dinner (the Great Eastern Hotel) or the movies (on Avenida Rizal). He told my mother’s sister, tia Pancha, that he would invite her to Gumaca (Quezon) to meet them and seek approval for a second marriage.

Sometimes he would treat us to a fancy meal at the Great Eastern Hotel near Plaza Miranda.

“But it was not to be. The war broke out. Paternal concerns took priority. He attended to our evacuation, first to Gumaca, then to Santa Rosa. The family of the lady also had to flee Manila. Communication then was not as it is today. So, after a few months, she returned but things were not the same. She also had met someone else — a bachelor with no encumbrances.

My grandfatherwould go on movie dates on Rizal Avenue with my mom as chaperone.

“A third woman appeared during the early months of the Japanese occupation. Since schools were closed, we children were sent to Santa Rosa, to stay in the ancestral home. We learned later that this woman was a town mate, widowed, with children. She was patient, but became a frequent visitor in our absence. But when we came back to start school, there was no trace of this relationship and my father did not seem to be affected. Perhaps at this point, he decided to concentrate on his obligations as a father.

“He encouraged us in our studies, sending us to good schools and providing adequate logistics. He made sure that the environment of the home was conducive to learning. We had a big rectangular table at the center of the sala, with a ceiling lamp overhead, and bookcases all around. We had a humongous dictionary with its own stand. I developed a love for books and everyone acquired good study habits. We also were required to help in the family business when our studies permitted.

“Father did not neglect his medical profession. He took up a course in radiology and bought an x-ray machine. At this time too, he expanded his business by building a new Gonzalez Laboratories in a big lot he owned in Grace Park (Caloocan).

My lolo Pepe ran the family business on Rizal Avenue opposite San Lazaro Hospital. Their residence was on the second fl oor.

“When we started to get married and move away, he must have been lonely. About this time we had a new neighbor, a middle-aged Visayan mestiza, a spinster. She tried to befriend our family by sending food and gifts. But my father didn’t want to complicate his peaceful, orderly life.

“He turned to the arts. He had been writing Tagalong stories and novels, which were being published in Liwayway and other vernacular magazines. After he transferred his business to his only son, he wrote fulltime and even had one movie made by Doña Sisang de Leon of LVN. The title was ‘Panagimpan,’ meaning dream and aspiration. His other stories, like this novel, were of the romantic genre. I now realize that he might have been reliving his memories — his lost paradise.

“He also went into painting, self taught. We called him ‘Grandpa Moses’ (after the famous American fold painter Grandma Moses) and he was prolific in his artworks. He gave them to his children and set them all up in his residence.

“Thus did my father remain unmarried for nearly 45 years. With God’s grace, he was able to sublimate his own physical and emotional needs to fulfill his role as a father and to later nurture and explore his creativity and his passion for the arts.”

My grandfather was quite an accomplished gentleman, and our mom’s stories shored up our fond memories of him after he passed away in the 1970s. His greatest accomplishment, of course, was raising our mother and her siblings to be principled, studious, and hard working. That rubbed over into us grandkids. I also got what modest writing skills I have from my mother and my grandfather. I miss them both.

* * *

Feedback is welcome. Please email the writer at paulo.alcazaren@gmail.com or PM me at my FB page.

ROLINDA GONZALEZ ALCAZAREN
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