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'Everything I Learned From My War Veteran Lolo'

Lasting wisdom from a man who has been to war and back
by John Paulo Aguilera | Apr 9, 2018
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Denise Rei fondly remembers how her Lolo Nestor personally brought her to preschool in her younger years.

You can say that being the granddaughter of a war veteran gave her a pass from being picked on by classmates until she reached elementary. She says, "Nalalaman lang nila (classmates) pag nagtatanong yung teachers kung sino sa'min ang may kamag-anak na sundalo. Siyempre matatakot sila. Minsan, ayaw na nila akong awayin o kausapin, kasi baka gulpihin daw sila, ha ha!"

It's not surprising that Denise is closer to her grandfather (mother's father), who once served in Vietnam and is now in his '70s, than her actual parents. When she was still seven years old, her family visited their ancestral house in Cebu for vacation and Denise chose to stay with her grandparents, even studying there for some time. She would eventually return to her folks, but the bond with her temporary guardians, particularly her Papa (who she calls her lolo), proved to be permanent.

The 20-year-old economics student first learned about her Lolo Nestor being a former soldier after seeing his uniforms and medals in their Cebu home. But it was when he told them some of his war stories to teach her and her siblings a lesson that she got a clearer picture of how he has become the man he is today.

"Dati daw nung may giyera pa, kumakain lang sila ng dagang bukid. Kasi mapili ako sa pagkain," she narrates. "Sasabihin niya, 'Pati ipis,' kasi no choice na pagdating sa giyera, kung ano lang ang pwedeng kainin. 'Natutulog kami sa damuhan.' (Sabi din ni Mama), 'Si Papa nga tumatalun-talon sa eroplano eh.'"

Hard on the outside, but soft on the inside is how Denise describes her grandfather. He could be very strict, only when there's a valid reason to be. He is also the typical lolo who longs for his apos. Denise reveals, "Nung buhay pa si Mama (grandmother), sinasabi niya, 'Hindi ka na tumatawag dito, nami-miss ka na ni Papa mo.' Kaya dati sila yung nagpapa-load sa'kin, kasi hindi na ako nakakapunta sa kanila."

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In some way, Denise feels fortunate that her Lolo Nestor had an early retirement from service, which allowed him to spend more time with the family. Although that didn't take anything away from her childhood dream of following in his footsteps, especially with her mother's side having a strong military background. She admits that even though she is about to graduate this year, there have been moments when she asked herself, "What if I entered the military?"

Her desire to become a soldier only meant that Denise saw her grandfather as an exemplary figure in her life. The war hero's premature discharge despite having 35 years of service may have ended his duty to the country, but also made it possible for him to fulfill his other role as a doting lolo. And since today is Araw ng Kagitingan, Denise shares some nuggets of wisdom from her Lolo Nestor, lessons that have stayed with her since.


On being grateful with what you have and being snappy:

"Huwag magiging maarte, kasi hindi talaga madali ang buhay. Yung iba naghihirap, tapos kami nag-iinarte. Yung simpleng, 'Ew,' ayaw niya ng ganun, kasi sila nga naghirap dati eh. [Sinabi niya din], 'Hindi ka pwede sa Army, ang lamya-lamya mo kumilos.' Ayaw nila mabagal kasi talaga. Kunwari maliligo, aabutin ng 10 minutes, galit na siya. Kailangan saglit ka lang dapat sa CR."

On respecting everyone else's time and being meticulous:

"Tapos gusto niya, kung ganitong oras yung sinabi mo, dapat ganung oras pupunta. Kasi pag sundalo, hindi sila pwedeng ma-late. Kailangan sundin nila agad. Tapos pag may inutos, huwag ka nang sasagot. Kahit sa mga kasambahay nila, medyo strict din siya. Gusto niya thoroughly naaayos, ayaw niya yung pabara-bara. Kasi daw pag pabara-bara, may mali."

On sustaining one's productivity and staying modest:

"Siya pa rin yung naglilinis ng bahay, Ayaw niya nang nakaupo lang kasi nabo-bore daw siya. Kaya kahit nawalisan na, wawalisan niya ulit. Gigising nang maaga. Tapos kahit konting kaluskos lang, tatayo agad siya. 'Ano yun?' Siya pa rin yung naglalaba ng sarili niyang damit kahit may yaya na. Tapos gusto niya minsan saging lang ang kinakain. May ulam naman, siguro nakasanayan niya na."

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On choosing your battles:

"Sabi niya lang huwag akong pala-away. 'Kasi hindi mo kilala yung mga tao sa paligid. Bigla kang tambangan niyan.' Huwag sugod nang sugod, kaillangan pag-isipan. Kasi baka may masamang mangyari o hindi sa'yo yung favor. Yung latest na kinuwento sa kanya nangyari sa FX, ang reaksyon niya, 'Huwag kang ganyan! Mamaya magalit (yung inaaway mo), bigla kang anuhin eh.'"

On making decisions and standing by them:

"Pag-isipan ng maigi yung mga bagay bago mag-desisyon. Parehas sila ng advice ng tatay ko, actually, pero parang huwag daw payag nang payag sa mga bagay. Learn to say no. 'Tingin mo ba tama? Okay lang yan, basta feeling mo tama.' Maniwala lang daw sa sarili. As long as wala akong tinatapakang iba."

On not letting anyone cause harm to your family:

"Nung Grade 1 ako, may tumulak kasi sa'kin sa hagdanan, tapos yung pinag-landing-an ko batuhan talaga. Gustong sugurin ni Papa. Ang kumausap na lang yung yaya ko, kasi siyempre pag siya yung sumugod, yari na, eh bata pa lang yung tumulak sa'kin. Gusto niya talagang sugurin, 'Abangan natin yan!' Ayaw niyang naabala, pero ayaw niya ring nakakaabala."

On valuing a relationship and being the ideal lover:

"Sweet talaga sila (ni Mama). Sasamahan niya kumain si Mama sa Jollibee. Yung last commercial, same story nila. Eh ngayon, since wala na si Mama, kami na lang yung kasama niya. Tapos hanggang ngayon, every other day, dadalhan niya ng bagong bulaklak (si Mama). Yung lola ko kasi yung nagsabi sa kanya na, 'Mag-retire ka na,' nag-retire siya."

On keeping friends and responsible drinking:

"Parang katulad lang din natin, madaldal tapos mahilig silang mag-inom. Pero ngayon, siyempre wine na lang daw siya, pag may events o pag di siya makatulog. Yung friends niya kasi nasa province, o yung iba patay na."

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On making career choices and being a support system:

"Kung saan daw ako masaya. Sabi niya, 'Sure ka ba diyan (on pursuing economics)?' Magiging Gloria (Macapagal Arroyo) daw ako. Pinush ko pa rin kasi nandito na ko. Pag may achievements naman kami, support siya o sobrang proud. Kunwari mapasa mo lang yung exam, manlilibre siya ng ice cream."

On her biggest takeaway from Lolo Nestor:

"Huwag magiging maarte sa bagay-bagay. Baka dumating din yung point na tayo rin yung mahihirapan. Paano pag no choice ka na ito na lang yung pagkain mo? Kainin mo pa rin. Meron ka pa ring blessings, hindi nga lang yun yung gusto mo."


Photography Eve Baswel

 

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