My romance with the Word began when I dusted my grandfather’s books during summer school break in the seventies.
I would always visit my grandmother in their home tucked far down the main street beyond the trees at the end of a narrow dirt road – much like a scene plucked out from Little Red Riding Hood’s tale. Only my grandma was the really kind one who loved to pick the young, unripe Indian mango fruits dropped on the ground by the wind when I visited, knowing that I loved the acrid taste and crunchiness of the fruit. After cleaning her harvest with water, she’d offer them to me and I’d gobble them with gusto, certain that they were poison-free, of course.
After filling my stomach with all the sourness and saltiness of freshly-salvaged mangoes dipped in rock salt, I’d go up the old house to browse through my grandfather’s modest collection of precious books – from Rizal’s “The Reign of Greed” to Tressler and Shannon’s 1932 Philippine edition of “English in Action,” including some books on a variety of subjects, such as nursing, medicine, art and engineering.
As I knelt on the wooden floor, I’d take the books one by one, leafed through them carefully, dusted and replaced covers with manila paper, if needed. I still have in my care the English book and a very mangled dictionary of the same language with badly torn jacket and pages that still contain a comprehensive collection of words whose light and power have never waned.
I’d read and re-read the artfully inscribed quatrain on every first page, which I still remember word for word to this day:
“By him who bought me for his own, I’m lent for reading leaf by leaf. If honest you’ll return the loan; if you retain me, you’re a thief.” Signed by him, Vicente Bernardo Estrada.
To my grandfather I credit in part my love for the magical word.
The other half I heap the credit to my mother who deserves a separate blog-tribute next time.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”