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This was all I had of my grandmother — vague memories and pieces of her life strung together in a fairy tale narrative that could no longer discern between fact and fiction. I stayed with my cousins, the children and grandchildren of my grandmother’s siblings, who, like my grandmother, had passed away years before.
That night I rode back from El Hospicio de San Jose to my cousins’ house on a bus the locals call a jeepney.
I opened the book and flipped to C, hoping to find her there, Belén Calma De la Rosa. It was naïve to think I could find any remnants of my grandmother here; history had been turned to ashes by Japanese flames long ago. All my life I thought my grandmother was orphaned at the age of 8.
But as I ran my finger across the pages of the index, the faded parchment smooth beneath my skin, I realized the entries were organized by first name. This was the first anyone in my family had heard of her being in the orphanage before then. I stared at it and thought about the last time she was here.
The building stood, as it had for over two centuries, on Isla de Convalecencia, a small island within the Pasig River on the eastern edge of the city.
Down a shaded path of malaanonan trees, I arrived at a large brick archway where a small woman waited for me.