I grew up in Mindanao, a Southern region of the Philippine Island. The Philippine Islands are comprised of three major regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (Top, Middle, Bottom respectively). The city is called Butuan City and the province it belongs to is Agusan del Norte.
Butuan (pronounced as boot-one) is one of the cities in the Philippines that show strong Spanish influence that ranges from churches, plazas, and even including but not limited to our native tongue. The name Agusan del Norte alone is a combination of the Butuanon language: (1) Agusan meaning flowing and (2) del Norte meaning from or originating the North.
The Butuanon dialect is a variation of the Visayan dialect that people from Cebu (referred to as Cebuanons) speak. Butuanons are able to understand the Visayan dialect but a Cebuanon would be easily confused on the other hand when a Butuanon speaks.
For example: The word cat is translated as:
- apik (in Butuanon)
- iring (in Visaya)
The Butuanon will understand what an iring is, but the Cebuanon will almost always looked confused when encountering the word apik.
There are five kids in the family. I am the third child. Our father left us at a very young age that even at this point is still a big mystery to us. The younger ones--including me--could hardly remember how he was as a father. Our mother raised five kids and suffices to say, we were no ordinary kids.
I came to the United States on the eve of Dec 7, 1985 together with my brother Daniel. I was only thirteen-years old and my brother was sixteen. When we arrived at the airport we had our first experience of Minnesota's arctic weather.
It was so cold that looking at the snow on the side of the road from the car the window sent a deep and cold shiver down my spine. Minnesota was very flat and if you add snow on top of that all you see is white. I never knew your eyes could burn from just looking at the snow all day.
Before we got to Minnesota we boarded the plane in Manila with the weather probably around ninety degrees Fahrenheit outside and landed in Japan, then Seattle, and eventually in Minneapolis with the temperature around the twenties--there was snow everywhere. We picked the most cold-perfect season to come to Minnesota. As we stepped out of Minneapolis International Airport, I could feel the cold wind and all I could think of was "How did I end up here?" Our father had brought us winter coats and even then Old Man Winter showed no mercy to a couple of tropical foreigners like us. As we walked to the car reality hit me hard and realized that there was no turning back and my life in the United States had just started.
As we disembarked from the plane we saw our father in the crowd. He looked a lot older than we had expected. It must have been over six years at least since we saw him. He was so happy to see us and gave us both a big hug. While he was hugging both of us I couldn't help but notice the big woman next to us. Not to disrespect all the big women out there but I've never seen anyone come this big up until that point. Growing up in Butuan our culture and tradition had always taught us not to question elders because in our culture elders are known to be wise and it would be a sign of disrespect to question them. Having said that, I did not ask any question on who this person was. Keeping things to myself I just could get my mind off it and kept wondering who this person was.
We got out of the airport and there were snow on the side of the road and the flat fields of Minnesota were just covered with the white stuff. The first restaurant our father brought us was KFC. Yes, everyone; Kentucky Fried Chicken. Tonight, we Feast! (A famous Klingon expression). We feasted on a bucket of chicken. It was nighttime and afterwards we drove South of I-35W down to Northfield, Minnesota. It was very strange ride home and I kept wondering who this woman was. As young and naive as I was back then I just though that she was just a good friend of my father. I was so preoccupied that I didn't even glance at Daniel's facial expression or take note on how he was reacting--maybe he already knew even before we arrived.
I vaguely remembered what happened next but I believe we came in to our new home and was shown our new room--my brother and I were placed on the same room. While we were in our new room our father had "the talk" and told us about the mysteriously large woman that came with us. When he explained her relation with her he never actually said that he was his wife because at that age you pretty much had to spell everything out to me.
All I could remember is that he said “This is your Auntie Linda.” In the Philippines a significant other of a relative is called a name like “Auntie.” For instance if your a Father remarries, he would introduce his new wife to his kids as “Auntie.” What a strange culture. Isn’t it?
So I was starting to picture things and thought why would my father have another wife? He’s not Mormon ;-). In addition, I had it in my head that my mother and my father were still married. So after hearing him explain I still had some questions.
We started to make ourselves feel at home and later on went downstairs. We were then introduced to a five-year-old kid. And so another shocking story in my life was that I had a little brother. As we got to know this kid, he was such a brat I wanted to give him a good ass kickin', but he grew out of it and turned out fine. His name is Shannon Anthony Lagnada. The naming convention is a break from the mold I got to tell you. All the males in our family are named Antonio but “Anthony” was slightly different…I guess it’s the English version.
December 8, 1985 was a Sunday. Monday came and we went to the local high school to register; then the next day we were students at a small-town American high school. What a total nightmare the first day became. But, that’s another story.