Last week I began 52/52 with the story of Virgilio (Gil) Besabe who immigrated to the United States more than 15 years ago under the Immigration Act of 1990. As a World War II Filipino veteran, he served as a First Sergeant in the Commonwealth Army for three years to fight against the Japanese following the bombing of Manila. Losing many close friends to the war, he made his way to the US to reunite with his first family already living in Washington and California thanks to the tremendous financial support he provided for his children's American educations. Three years ago, with the arrival in Seattle of his second wife Anita, together they now share a small apartment in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood.
Nearing his 86th birthday, Gil remains active, dividing his time every week between visits to Chinatown's Legacy House for their Adult Day Services on Mondays and Wednesdays, socializing at the Filipino Community Center on Thursdays, and a visit to the International Drop-in Center in Renton where he advises the local Filipino Veterans Association. Suffering from many debilitating diseases including diabetes, and arthritis, he takes a variety of 26 drugs in the mornings and evenings to alleviate these ailments, and prevent another massive heart failure. Following his doctor's orders, he always appears to dance, teetering in place from left to right with a cane in his hand, his name taped on its side. Move. 'Just move,' his doctor instructs him. Between labored breaths, and boistrous laughter, Gil poetically explains his acceptance of life's mortality. His four bibles from his Catholic upbringing, and his carefree attitude and determination to "take it easy" in his later years may guarantee his hope to reach 100.
One early morning in his warm apartment, I listened as he confessed between tears his wish to return to his children, to home sweet home, to the place they call the roots. There he built his retirement, his home where tilapia swim in ponds within the courtyard, and the grass he planted now grows to the height of his hip. Sometimes he cries because he's happy. Though the philosophy he believes is, "if you weep, you weep alone. If you laugh, the world laughs with you." So he laughs, he laughs at the ailments he cannot dispose of and he laughs at life that one day will come to an end when he has fulfilled his purpose. Though until this moment arrives, Gil will keep dancing in small steps, left to right, left to right.
These images were taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.
Check back again next week Wednesday for the 52/52 picture of the week!