Friday, June 10, 2011

The Red Cup

Once upon a time, in a … Have you heard this one before?

The story behind the Red Cup goes back a number of years ago. It all begins with a young woman – this full-of-life yet sensitive, quite edgy young woman, who decides to spend the summer of her eighteenth birthday in a small town called Magallanes, situated in the beautiful province of Cavite, Philippines. Although she had never resided in Magallanes, she had been to this familiar place countless times before: it was, after allthe hometown. But little did the young woman know  that this stay was not going to be quite the usual. In fact, everything about her whole world was about to make a little more sense
The ingredients of that summer were very simple: waking up every morning at five a.m., feeding the poultry, working in the bukid, time to read or/and watch a little television, lunchtime, afternoons were spent visiting relatives and neighbours, going for a walk in the bayan; and/or the siesta always worked magic. five p.m. was again the time to feed the poultry; followed by dinner while watching the evening news. Finally, it was straight to bed…. very early. Every day the same, every day… the same. Although one would agree that this vacation was not filled with the most exciting activities, which, in fairness, was the case, this 18 year-old had the best of time simply being in the company of her favorite person on earth, her idol and mentor, the woman of her life: none other than her beloved grand-mother. Indeed, there were no spectacular occasions and none was actually needed, the young woman found peace and serenity just by participating in her grand-mother's everyday life.
It was between (and during) all these activities that something quite marvelous happened. As soon as the young woman, Nicole, and her grand-mother were about to share a cup of coffee, she would hear all about her grand-mother's experiences. They didn't follow a specific chronological order: some stories were hilarious, other made her shed a tear or two. A few of them she had heard before, on the other hand,  new details were added to those already known  stories; and there was always something new that made this young woman smile deep, deep inside. Talking and listening carefully to the stories of her grand-mother, retracing her steps was like walking in history.
Every time they reached for a cup of coffee would also be a lesson for Nicole to remember. And more than  often, it was the most simple and frank, yet best advice one could ever get -- on life, love, failure, health, money, pride, family values, fear and what one should strive for in life. So when her grand-mother fell in love with the Nescafé red cup they saw on television, young Nicole knew right there and then, that she needed to get it for her. For no reason. For all the reasons.
Unfortunately, the cup her grand-mother desired did not exist anymore and was not going to be reproduced in the future… So they said. Nicole could not believe it. Her grand-mother then told her that it was no problem, that it was okay. But it wasn't: it was out of the question for Nicole to give up. How could she? She then promised her grand-mother that whatever it takes, she will find the red cup, and bring it back to her.  Nicole promised.

A few years went by and every place Nicole visited and lived in, from Stockholm to Berlin passing by Vilnius and Tallinn, it became very difficult as she could not find it... anywhere. Frustration was taking over slowly,  the shops kept closing their doors as well as Nicole's hopes. They always sold red cups, never Nescafé red cups.  Could they make one especially for us? No, of course not. 

It was only while visiting Rome again that fate would strike. She ordered coffee -- yes, as usual, but to Nicole's biggest surprise, they served it in the infamous Nescafé red cup: the one she spent years looking for, the one her grand-mother wanted! She could not believe it. But it was true, Nicole was holding it tightly in her hands. She inquired, and requested where she could get exactly this one. Luckily enough, Rome still loved Nescafé red cups, and the smile her grand-mother gave her the second she received it turned into one of the greatest highlights in Nicole's life, and that image will remain in her head as vivid as ever. In the Red Cup history was written, in the Red Cup  history awaits. The Red Cup symbolizes the reason why the present is a gift and it is a token to the bright  future Nicole could -- and will -- never give up on, the future her grand-mother promised her. The Red Cup is love and joy. The Red Cup is hers... and mine.
Now every time I set foot in my grand-mother “Lola”’s house – which in this case, has been more than four years (that is way too long, undoubtedly)— but every single time I do, something quite marvelous happens. It's nothing fancy really, but it is the one place in the world where I feel totally secure and whole, where everything makes a little more sense. For one, I know that if I ever feel lost or broken, I know that her life experiences and  lessons can keep me grounded. And more importantly, I know why retracing her steps -- not only by remembering them -- but actually walking in history with her marks why  the story of our lives is so important to understand our own, my very own identity. All paths of my life lead back to where I come from: where my roots are. Lola, I never forget the Red Cup, I will always hold it tightly. Wherever I've been and the next destinations I will get to, the incredible and strong person that you are, your awe-inspiring life, your wise words and unconditional love: our Red Cup is forevermore my most precious possession. Pour me a little more coffee, will you? Salamat po, Lola.