by Marilou Monet-Solidum
Years ago, I was introduced to a dear old lady named Manay Alita Torralba-Lish, who was in her late 70’s then. She’s a dear aunt of my fellow dentist, Dr. Winona Torralba Bernas-Amante.
As in any normal introduction, my friend mentioned my name to her. What followed was the usual follow-up question, “Kanin-o ba kaw anak, Ne?” I replied that my father was Juanito Monet. And she immediately asked, “Monet? Ono mo ba si Joaquin Monet?” I told her that he was my grandfather. Upon hearing my reply, her eyes just widened all of a sudden and she became teary eyed.
She excitedly told me that she could never forget my grandfather because he saved her from drowning in the Agusan River when she was a little girl. She remembered that during her struggle to save herself, a tall teenager pulled her out from the water and saved her. And that tall teenager was Joaquin, my grandfather.
I grew up knowing that the Agusan River has always been synonymous with my home city of Butuan. My father used to tell me stories of his childhood when they would spend their free time jumping off from the bridge into the river below.
I could not imagine anyone doing the same today until I computed the years and realized that the bridge he was talking about was the old wooden bridge that spanned the river before the Magsaysay Bridge was constructed. Perhaps that was the advantage of someone whose house was just a stone’s throw away from the water. Until now, our ancestral house still sits on a lot at the corner of Del Pilar and Silongan Streets.
Earlier today, I again met Manay Alita Torralba-Lish. She is now 85 years old. And of course, she could no longer remember me. She just had this polite look on her face as she looked at me while I was talking to her niece, Dr. Weng.
However, when she was reminded about my name and who my grandfather was, her face lit up like the sun, and she excitedly told us once again about that momentous incident when she almost died in the river. And of course, my lolo Joaquin was again, her hero.
Time passes quickly but stories like these make unforgettable memories about our river.