SOJOURNER’S VIEW: To be a great-grandfather

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Oct) – On 1 October 2013, I went to visit my mother’s grave at the Davao Memorial Park. She died of colon cancer on this date in 1998. That year – 15 years ago – Luningning, her first great-granddaughter (the daughter of her first grandson Romeo, who is the eldest son of our late sister, Beatrice) was only seven years old.

I was to learn later on that while I was at the Memorial Park, Luningning was starting to have her labor pains and she thought she would deliver her first baby on this date which would have been quite remarkable. This reminded me of an American friend whose mother was dying in a hospital room. Her youngest daughter was pregnant at that time and when the doctor informed the members of the family that their mother would die very soon, the daughter and her husband rushed to the hospital. Upon reaching the hospital, she went into labor immediately. Just after she gave birth to a daughter, her mother breathed her last in another room in the same hospital. Naturally, they named the baby after the Lola.

Luningning’s labor lasted throughout the night but the little baby lingered on in the womb. It was only early the following morning of October 2 that the little baby saw the light of day. It still is a remarkable story; just after we celebrated Mama’s life and remembered her with very deep gratitude, her first GREAT-great-grandson is born. Truly the cycles of life on earth is awesome: from life to death to eternal life. An old woman dies, her grand-daughter gets pregnant and soon, a little boy appears to claim his place in the family’s genealogy.

But what made the strongest impression for me was that with this little boy born into our family, I had become a GREAT-GRANDFATHER! True, the little boy is my late sister’s great-grandson. But as I am Tito to Romeo and Lolo to Luningning, I am the little boy’s GREAT-LOLO. Is there a local term for this distinguished position? There is one for the grandchildren (from apo to apo sa tuhod to apo sa… unsa gani sunod?). Me, a great-grandfather? I used to think of them as very, very old. At age 66, I have no problems thinking of myself as old. But with a great-grandson, I am that old! In the pre-conquest era of our islands, very few people reached my age and they did become great-grandfathers/mothers at an earlier age. These thoughts persisted after I had joyfully gazed at the little boy’s angelic face. Pastilan, ingon ani diay ang bation sa usa ka great-Lolo.

If Luningning and her partner, Jay, would have asked me for a suggestion as to the little boy’s name, I would have immediately suggested Jose, in honor of my mother, Josefina. After all their important dates are so closely connected. It is also a wonderful name, very biblical (as in St. Joseph, husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus). There is also Jose Rizal, the national hero, and so many other Joses that I have known who are truly good people like one of my best friends in college. Then we could fondly call the little boy as Joey.

But no, I was not consulted, which was fine with me. After all, it is really the right of parents to think of the names for their children. I asked Luningning what name they had agreed on and when she mentioned the name, I had a great smile on my face. The little boy’s name is GAMALIEL IBRAHIM. I agreed that these are really beautiful names, so very biblical and very post-modern. The names have attitude and the little boy will be very pleased later to write his name (hinaut pa unta!). There are stories behind these names and they make you imagine deserts, wise persons, camels and up there a God who saves the poor! And since he is born in Mindanao, I thought it was best to have the name that would facilitate inter-faith dialogue.

Next came the question what was to be his nickname. This time, I asserted my right to take part in name-making. I thought Ga would be a wonderful nickname, being the first two letters of Gamaliel. It is also the last two letters of the Cebuano word PINALANGGA. And truly, right now on both sides of Ga’s lineage, he is the PINALANGGA sa tanan. So I started calling him Ga. I noticed no one was following me. So perhaps Gamaliel Ibrahim will have a nickname like Him, the last letters of Ibrahim. In his English class, he will be the butt of jokes.

On my way home after my first visit to Gamaliel Ibrahim, I thought – what does the future lie for the children born in the year 2013? When he comes of age in 2030, what will the world be? That will be only 24 years before 2054, which is the time setting of the recent film ELYSIUM. This film that imagines the dystopian world of the future – at least the Los Angeles of 2054 – presents an ugly image of those staying on Planet Earth. Lucky for those who reside in the Elysium with all its conveniences and comfort, including quick treatment to cancer.

Gamaliel Ibrahim will be 41 in the year 2054. Perhaps he will have children by then; who knows, his eldest would be married and have a kid. He will be a Lolo himself by then. If he decides to remain a resident in Davao City, how would the city look? Like the Los Angeles of Elysium? Or by the sheer collaborative efforts of the State, civil society and the citizenry, will it be a place where justice, peace, prosperity and wellness are enjoyed by all?

I went to our chapel as I reached home and lighted a candle for this little boy. No need to worry about the future for now. Dear God, please bless the beasts and the children! May all be well so little babies like my great-grandson will be able to become persons fully alive!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, former head of the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team and author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” and “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)