The Atlantic’s cover story by Alex Tizon – who unfortunately passed away in March, prior to the publication of his story – seems to be getting mixed emotions from the American public but you seem most of the reactions are negative. It seems people don’t realize that the author is writing from his perspective and recounting the moments from his memories and not Lola’s.
Read Alex Tizon’s story, from The Atlantic…
One twitter handle went as far as to call the the author a coward, not fully understanding the emotion that went into writing the piece itself.
I read the story on my phone early this morning while drinking my morning coffee. I brought tears to my eyes and tugged at my heart strings.
Alex Tizon’s family is not the only Filipino family that has ancestral history of what is socially called “katulong” living in their home, who – in proper definition, is characterized as a servant and someones falling on slavery. There are many aristocratic families in the Philippines who still have a “Lola” of their home who stays with them, looks after everything and everyone in the home, despite mistreatment and abuse.
Alex’s account is coming from a man who grew up slowly recognizing the truth with his family’s relationship with Lola, and then battling with the guilt on defining it. In fact, in one line he admits, “Admitting the truth would have meant exposing us all. We spent our first decade in the country learning the ways of the new land and trying to fit in. Having a slave did not fit. Having a slave gave me grave doubts about what kind of people we were, what kind of place we came from. Whether we deserved to be accepted. I was ashamed of it all, including my complicity. Didn’t I eat the food she cooked, and wear the clothes she washed and ironed and hung in the closet? But losing her would have been devastating.”
The internet is buzzing with both reactions. There are people who are appalled that he would write about something like this and not include Lola’s views, or speak more about Lola rather than himself. Then there are those who praise him for speaking up and admitting to his family’s secret.
I grew up most of my life living in the shelter and the within the rights and freedom of Canada. My parents went through hard times to be able to provide a good life for me. But I’ve visited the Philippines a couple times and I remember seeing people in the home who was not family, but did everything in the house. Sometimes I would try to converse with them with whatever little vocabulary I had in my dialect, and they would just smile or nod, but never actually look up. Breakfast would be ready in the morning before everyone was awake
It’s not uncommon for people to have help. The difference is the human respect that should be given when that help is provided. In Alex’s story, he didn’t see Lola as the help. She was family to him – and because she raised him and was present through all the different stages in his life. As he grew older and he his knowledge of the world around him grew, he started to see the signs of mistreatment.
According to NPR, One of the reasons it’s so hard to get this story out was he had to confront the true nature of his mother and the true nature of his father and this terrible and terrifying arrangement that they had acquiesced to — that they benefited from for decades. And so imagine you’re the writer and you want to tell this story of the woman who essentially raised you and you realize that in telling this story, you’re telling another story about his mother and her acute moral failings.
So read the story. Read it with careful consideration and with an open mind. Lola wasn’t able to give us her personal account of things. She’s gone now and and we only have Alex’s account, who also passed away in March of this year. So read it with respect and with consideration.
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