To Lola, with love

I’ve been away for a spell as the whole family flew to Bacolod to pay our last respects to my paternal grandmother, Lola Binyang, who passed away last week.

I was too young to remember the death of my paternal grandfather or my maternal grandmother, so losing both remaining grandparents in under two years is painful. Growing up with grandparents make you feel they’ll last forever (because to you they’ve always been old), and no matter how old you get, they still make you feel like a kid again, so losing a grandparent is a bit like a death toll on your own mortality.

Lola always spent part of the year with us when I was younger and she was still mobile. I remember endless summer afternoons playing cards on the bed with her — she was quite the cardshark — paris-paris (“pairs” in Ilonggo), blackjack, and even solitaire, as she’d leave a pack of cards behind to tide me over until she returned to our house the following year.

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Timeless Fun

Good, old-fashioned fun is pretty hard to beat, even with all the technology today’s kids have at their fingertips. Looking back at my childhood, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading, but I did come away from the books long enough to create some awesome memories: making bubble blowing solution from hibiscus; sailing paper boats in the gutter; chasing shadows under the street lamp; and drawing chalk pictures on the pavement.

Nostalgia kicked in when I first saw the hardcover volumes of The Dangerous Book for Boys by Gonn and Hal Iggunen and The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz a couple of years ago at the bookstores. I got The Daring Book for Girls when I swapped a book internationally, and just a few weeks ago, I got The Dangerous Book for Boys in the bargain pile at the Manila International Book Fair.

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Saying Goodbye

There’s been a lull in my blogging in the last couple of weeks, as my maternal grandfather, Lolo Jaime (lolo is grandfather in Filipino), had a massive stroke, and finally passed away last Sunday, at the age of 89.

This is the first death of a grandparent that I’ve experienced (my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother died when I was too young to understand), and there is something about my Lolo’s passing that makes me feel as if I’ve lost a part of my childhood.

Even though I saw my Lolo only once or twice a year (he lives in my parents’ provincial hometown in Isabela, Negros Occidental, a plane ride and two-hour drive away), we talked frequently on the phone, and I had a special bond with him — I inherited his artistic inclinations, and he was my biggest fan.

I had a feeling his time was drawing near when we got the news that he got a stroke two weeks ago, and I was preparing a special picture book roundup for him, except that death got to him first, and for the past few days I couldn’t bring myself to write this piece without breaking down.

But he would have wanted me to keep on writing — he loved my writing as much as my art — so in honor of my Lolo, I’m doing the year’s first picture book roundup, featuring the books Brown Paper Bear by Neil Reed; Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman, illus. by Stephen Gammel; and You’re Only Old Once by Dr. Seuss.

(Will resume working off the 2009 backlog after this post.)

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