Flashback: Jho at Age 3

15 Jan

One of my aunts has recently started culling her impressive photo collection and gave my siblings and I each a packet of family photos for Christmas. They range from true oldies, like the one you’ll see below, to almost recent ones to flashbacks from the glorious 1980s and 1990s, when bold prints, big hair, and truly ginormous glasses reigned supreme.

As the last of our extended family to leave the Philippines, my aunt has a treasure trove of old photos that most of us have never even seen. Even my mom was stumped by this photo, taken on the occasion of my third birthday.

I’m the one standing. My littler sister is in the straw hammock that served as our crib. I’m guessing that my father took this photo. He owned a photo shop in the Philippines and I can always detect a certain craftsmanship in his early photos, a delicate framing of the subject and background, that gives the photo a little more drama and tension than all the bad, too far away, or too blurry, or just blah photographs we’ve taken at family gatherings.

Notice the balloons printed with my nickname, Jeng-Jeng, which only this aunt still calls me by. I’ll be sharing some other old photos when the mood hits me, but this one is so fantastic, so special for its never having been handled and admired within my family, a cherished memento of a time that I no longer remember: our fabled, pre-immigrant past.

Back then, our neighbors were all cousins and siblings and parents of my parents. Everyone was someone’s Tita or Tito, Ninang or Ate. My older siblings left the house each morning to play all day wherever they wanted and came home only at dusk, to be hosed down outside in the yard before my mother would let them enter her clean kitchen. Where we all still look back, even if we don’t remember what we are missing.

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