Today is Father’s Day and also
my dad’s birthday. It’s been a little over a month since his
funeral and I’m gonna spend this poignant day with him after
My cozzin Luis had told us about a gathering at Casa del
Abuelos at Associacion Lung Kong. I’m overwhelmed by the warm
welcome of these uncles left behind here by history. They’re all
round my dad’s age… some from the same village area. Amongst
these relics of the bachelor society was an old auntie.
clutched onto my hand like a long lost mother and tells me she’s
from my home county Toishan. She speaks to me in the singsong
dialect while starring at me longingly with happy yet
melancholic eyes. I grew up with Toisanese but rarely get to use
it anymore. It use to be the commonly spoken dialect of overseas
Chinese who came from rural villages, but it’s becoming almost
obsolete with newer immigrants arriving from larger urban
centres of China and Hong Kong.
Alejandro Chiu-Wong runs the old age home. He’s a
seventy-something relic from the leftist Pearl River Production
Company in Hong Kong during the McCarthy era. He is a jovial
character who reminds me of Leung Sing Bor, a Chinese comic
actor from my childhood. I catch some great ambient footage of
him today. My favourite clip is the sequence of him sitting
around with his cronies in his shabby office/storage room
counting the days’ take of Yankee dollars. I love the ambiance.
They look like a bunch of mob bosses settling some score. It was
a scene out of “Days Of Being Wild”. I think Cheuk is convinced
to make him our story.
Alejandro is resisting my idea to interview him in his office
today. Like most folks, he doesn’t want anybody to see his dirty
laundry. “Aiyah…it’s too messy!” But I’m in love with the
sequence from yesterday’s mob heist. I don’t think the best art
department could have given me this. Even though it’s hot,
stuffy and windowless… I’m determined to interview him there. We
wear him down and he gives in to the idea.
We’re hanging out with Alejandro for the day. We start the day
at his house for tea. He shows us old photos from his past and
somehow ends up pouring his heart out about his love life. He
tells us that he’s now 72 and of all the women in his life, he’s
only loved one, a lowly actress at the film studio, and she
broke his heart. There are lots of photos of his sweetheart… all
decked out in big hair, high heels, swinging 50’s fashion. It’s
obvious that he’s been carrying a torch for her all these years.
I don’t know why he started telling us all this. Maybe I’m a
reminder of his youth. I hope I don’t end up telling some kid
how the only one I loved broke my heart when I’m in my 70’s…
That prospect is way too depressing.
I had heard my Great Grandfather talk about buddies who had left
the Americas to escape racism and headed south to places like
Havana and Lima. But I had no idea of the vast amount of history
we have down here. As we tour the various Chinatown associations
like the Freemasons Society that my Great Grandfather belonged
to, it makes me think of what’s happening back home these days
with a lot of history and culture being ignored and destroyed to
make way for everything new in the name of progress. Will our
history only survive then in forgotten far away diasporas like
these in Havana?