“People say that when you die and come back, you receive a gift. Either you can heal people by laying hands on them, or you get the gift of prophesy. My father got prophesy.”
We were still sitting around the Christmas dinner table, with our after-dinner coffee. I’d coaxed some ghost stories and family legends from Mom and Dad, mostly ones I’d heard before, but a new one, too. Dad had just repeated the story of his father’s near-death experience. I’d always heard that Lolo was supposed to be psychic. Apparently, I was about to learn why.
“He could look at a person and tell them things about their past, and their future,” Dad said.
“At first, he told me, the visions were chaotic, and hard to make sense of. But then he started doing prayers and meditations to help him control the visions, to control when and how he got them, and to understand what he saw.”
As I write this now, I wonder where my grandfather learned these “prayers and meditations.” After all, he was a priest (with the Philippine Independent Church), and I doubt they teach this kind of thing in Seminary. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to ask at the time. I poured Dad another cup of coffee as he went on.
Chester Nez, the last of the original WWII Navajo code talkers, just passed away.
Here’s an interview with him, from 2013:
Code talkers, for those not familiar with them, are speakers of rare or obscure languages who are used to transmit sensitive information over possibly unsecured communication lines. The combination of an obscure language and a (usually simple) code are enough to keep the messages secure. The most famous code talkers are the Navajo code talkers of WWII, but there have been code talkers in other Native American languages, as well as in Basque and Welsh.
I got curious about code talkers about a month ago, thanks to Eagle-Eyed Editor’s post on Mr. Nez’s memoir (co-authored by Judith Avila), Code Talker. As I poked around the internet after reading EEE’s post, I found the interview above, and (somewhere) a casual mention of code talking using other Native American languages. I made a note to myself to look that up, someday.
And that day was the day before yesterday, the day before Mr. Nez passed away. One of life’s odd juxtapositions….
Photo: Nina Zumel
“When a house is empty for a long time, the enkanto — the fairies — come to live there.”
Dad was warming to our ghost story conversation.
“I know this is true, because it happened to our house in Saraat, during the War.”
He meant World War II. The Philippines was not a happy place, during that war, but my father’s memories of that time are surprisingly pleasant. He was only about eight or nine years old when the Japanese occupation began, the youngest of his siblings, by far — what they call an “afterthought child”. When the Japanese came, I think some of my uncles ran to the mountains, to join the resistance, and much of the town evacuated as well. My grandfather chose to stay.