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I always thought my eyes looked strange on my face.
But although she lost family, friends, her country and her home, my grandmother survived.
After the war, she left the Philippines and never returned. I found myself wondering more about her, her parents, the nuns and her siblings. I traveled to Manila for the first time last year, during the summer after my sophomore year of college.
“Those were left in the window with the children,” she told me.
“Letters, from their mothers.”As I wandered around the room, I noticed a stack of registers in a bookcase and pulled out one from the time my grandmother was at the orphange.
At just over five feet tall, she was the kind of woman that you saw on the street and knew to move out of her way.
Her demeanor was strict, her hands tied with thick blue veins, crisscrossing over her thin, frail fingers.My father told me that she was orphaned at 8 years old, lived through World War II under Japanese occupation, and in 1946, came to the United States, alone, on a war bride ship.In 1985, she died of cancer before I could meet her, but my father kept her memory alive through stories he would tell me each night before bed.I could almost feel the dust multiplying around me, collecting on old books, photographs and chipped statues of patron saints, the way winter’s first snow blankets the grass.In the far corner of the room stood something that looked like a round mailbox with a doll inside. “Where mothers would leave their children for us.” To the right was a stack of papers filled with scribbled writing.I thought about immigration, about assimilation, and how they require sacrificing certain aspects of heritage in order to embrace the customs of a new and different home.But it is not easy to forget roots that have been planted in faraway places.But my almond-shaped eyes with a slight tilt at the edges say something different.I suppose if eyes can be the window to one’s soul, mine also are the window to my heritage. My grandmother, Belén, was born in 1923 in Manila, Philippines.I looked out the open window, the thick Manila heat whipping against my face, and the eyes my grandmother gave me watched the little moon touch the sea that once guided her east, to a new home. They not only love and protect their grandchildren but also guide and counsel them in every aspect of life. Since both my parents work in the office I spend most of my time with her. Sometimes in the evening she assists me to do my Bengali lessons. Every morning and evening she prays to God for the well-being of our family.