Monday, April 8, 2013

Remembering One's Roots

There was once a famous novel written by Alex Haley made for television. This series titled "Roots" was also featured in Readers Digest and garnered numerous Emmy Awards. Despite the controversies about the author's plagiarism, copying some chapters to be precise from the book  "The African, " his personal journey on how he was able to finally find his roots was one story that I will always remember as long as I live.

It was year 1977 when my dad encouraged us to watch the series. Being young there were scenes that I found boring simply because there were topics I found hard to understand as it touched on historical topics like slavery and discrimination which was something very alien to my nine year old self. The author's story started way back in 1750 from Gambia, West Africa where his teen age ancestor Mandinka warrior Kunta Kinte was captured by black collaborators under the direction of white men,  while fetching wood outside his village to make a drum for his brother. Along with other Negroes Kunta boarded the ship to America so they can be sold as slaves to their masters. From there the famous "whipping" could be seen as discipline and punishment each time a slave struggled to escape and refused to follow or give in to what was required, ordered and told, including denouncing his African name. Thus all of the slaves original names where changed to American ones.

From then on these "colored people" painfully adjusted with  their lives, tilling the soils, doing household work, having their lives controlled, never having to experience justice nor freedom yet continued to struggle and keep their heritage and traditions  until Lincoln became President and declared the emancipation of their rights. Though it took many years for them to be fully recognized and accepted in an American society, there is no denying that discrimination still live until now.The ending story takes back the author from the same place where his ancestors came from, even finding a cousin before left.

Last  Good Friday marked another historical event in our family as my Californian nephew Alex finally visits his roots in Lubao, Pampanga. Together with his girlfriend Miakka, both got to meet the people who perhaps Alex only had heard from stories his grandpa and grandma had lovingly told. Sadly I was not there to join any of them since I have to work that day. So I just told my daughter Selena to take some pictures . Below were some them.

Alex with my kids, Selena, Kyle, Kookie and cousin Denzell Joshua

Miakka Lim with my kids, sister in law Janice Mallari and kids, LJ and Joshua

With my  brother Dean

With my eldest daughter Sam

Alex and Miakka 

When I shared my first post about Alex with his family in CA, her Auntie Marilyn sent me a long letter and admitted how she was not able to control her tears which only made her miss him more. She told how his parents would sing lullabys to their grandkids in Kapampangan (Pampango dialect) and how Alex as a kid would ask some of the dialect's English translations. Both my uncle and aunt (who was also my godmother) hail from Lubao. Some family members were not really that surprise when Alex decided to pursue his dream of playing basketball professionally in the Philippines. Even his dad told me that the only sad thing with Alex's decision was that he will not be able to watch any of his games live. He also thanked us for making him feel home just by watching and cheering every time my kids and I watch his games.

There were a lot of pictures taken on that day with our other relatives who perhaps Alex only knew from stories told to him. And staring at these pictures made me look back of that awarded mini series.There really must be something undefinable in tracing one's roots and making the stories heard and re told come alive. Perhaps it is not just acknowledging that our lives are connected but more of accepting the past and our future which is the best way for us to move on with our lives.

I may not have been there to see and talk to Alex again but I was sure glad and thankful he had time to visit his roots. It only proved that the man know how to look back where he came from and more enough reason for us to love him more.

1 comment:

  1. Knowing one's roots is one of the paths to discovering a lot about one's self. It gives you a certain sense of belonging to something greater, particularly when you see that those humble beginnings are something to be proud of. Somehow, it is also finding your identity, specially when you're a migrant.