The Family Extant

I would learn of them

when the holiday nights grew

long and the cans and bottles emptied

of Bud Light and Heineken.

In languid Ilocano, my elders disagreed

on the count of their siblings.

Does one number among those who died

infants or were stillborn?

I am one of three name bearers,

it is my duty to carry it forward

toward the future. However, as a leaf

I wonder about the roots of our family

tree. Over the horizon, our lineage was lost.

The trunk severed, branches trimmed

in the islands and lands distant:

Philippines, the States, and neverwhere.

I tracked the oral accounts of flight

plans back to Luzon. To the province of Ilocos

Norte. To the municipality of San Nicolas.

The fire that razed the hospital and its birth

records was the first erasure. This roadblock

on the dendritic highway halted all

progress until the information superhighway

and entry to the archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.

With family, first, and maiden names

scrawled on envelope backs and receipts,

I searched scans of church baptismal

records. I dove through the decades.

Past the latest as typewritten text

on Rolodex cards. Further were the earliest

in century-old calligraphy and not written

in Tagalog nor in Ilocano, but in Spanish.

My four years of high school foreign

language reading and comprehension

was adequate to confirm rumor as

fact: our great-grandfather was born

out of wedlock and assumed


maiden name as his own, now

our family’s to bear.

His baptismal record did not name

a father. There was no record extant

of great-great-grandmother having married.

One surname was passed down, shadowing

our own. The given name had doubled,

tripled in the telling: Valentino, Victorino, Vincente.

Of the three, none led further past


Am I naïve to believe that by unraveling

this weave of lives I can cast

strands beyond the horizon and hope

to spin a web around the world,

bind those branches and trunk

to our ancestral roots, and make

whole once more our family?

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