Recently, my mind has been on my Lola Magde, my great-grandmother on my mom's side. Born Magdalena Danque on Sept 10, 1920 in Iloilo, she lived through WWII in the Philippines, immigrated to the U.S./Turtle Island, and eventually passed away in February 2014 at age 83. She met her husband, Cantalicio Cahandig (b. May 10, 1901), at a young age in Manila after winning a beauty pagaent where the prize was a trip to the capital. It was there in 1940 that she gave birth to their first child, my Lola Cely.

A map of an archipelago of islands called the Philippines; the region of Iloilo is highlighted in the middle.
Iloilo is located in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines.
Image from Philippine Republic Stamps

Said to be named after two nose-like islets in the river (ilong-ilong), Iloilo sits on the southeastern part of the island of Panay. Panay was originally inhabited 20,000-30,000 years ago by the Ati people, who, according to legend, sold a portion of the land with Datus fleeing Borneo (see: Maragtas by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro). In the years since, Iloilo has been a site of conflict and resistance throughout Spanish and American colonization, Philippine revolution, and Japanese occupation.

As such, when the Japanese invaded Iloilo during the Second World War, Magde and her family were forced to flee. With her husband enlisted in the U.S. Navy, she and my Lola Cely, who was only a year and a half at the time, went to Cotabato on the island Mindanao. In Cotabato, she gave birth to her second child, my Uncle Frank. From there, they walked east on foot to Davao City, all the while finding places to hide from the Japanese. My Lola says that Magde had a picture of her husband that she had to be careful to hide, because if the Japanese saw that she had a military husband, they'd be killed.

A map of the island of Mindanao.
Cotabato is located roughly 200km west of Davao City.
Image from

Surviving the occupation, she found a house for her and her family to live in in Davao. Lola Cely talks about Magde's generosity during that time in an excerpt from an interview:

C: With my cousins, you know! Because most of my cousins...
L: were the same age?
Ri: Pinsan.
C: ...we lived, we have a house there. And then my mom, those relatives who are struggling, you know, she let them live in our house.
L: So it's like a compound?
C: Yeah, and then she go to market every day, and then she buy food for all the family. That's why when my dad came back from the service... my mom has no money. Because she spent all the money, and my dad was so mad.
Ri: Oh, all the money that he sent?
C: Yeah because, you know, my dad was thinking that she was saving the money.
Ry: Oh like hiding it or...?
C: But she is so generous, my mom too. She is so generous! You know, even she will put [food] in her mouth, if somebody needed it, she will give it. She is so generous, nanay. She is too much.
L: That's why Lola is.

Living through war, taking care of family, I can only imagine the fear and determination to survive that my Lola Magde must've had. I've recently tried connecting with her more intentionally, asking where this familial pattern of generosity, veering on overgiving to the point of depletion, comes from. Although I'm still searching for this answer, I know that she wants me to know that giving will never fill the hole made from guilt or shame. Giving can beget wholeness, but only when it comes from a sense of wholeness in the first place.

This way of giving our body is by keeping and protecting it when the conditions are not right for giving it away. If we cannot give our body with perfect compassion, if there are obstacles, or if the recipient will not greatly benefit from our action, we must on no account give our body away... Therefore, until the time is right to give it away we should practice the generosity of keeping it."
- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Joyful Path of Good Fortune (p. 451)