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The saga of Alex & Lola

Special to the Manila Mail

By Josie Moralidad Ziman

ARLINGTON, Va. “There is an interest in making the story into a movie,” disclosed Melissa Tizon, the widow of the late Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Alex Tizon, author of the essay “My Family’s Slave”.

The article for The Atlantic told the story of Eudocia Tomas Pulido known as Lola who lived with Alex’s family for 56 years as a virtual slave. “Alex struggled with Lola’s story for 5-6 years because it was very difficult story to write, very painful and required a lot of soul searching for him to understand the complexity of the relationship,” she averred.

And now people in Hollywood and the Philippines have been talking to her about putting his story on the screen but there’s been no final decision yet,” she told the Manila Mail in an exclusive interview.

It’s been seven months since Alex passed, and Melissa still grieves the loss every day. She misses her husband a lot and thinks about him all the time. They have two kids Dylan, 26, from Alex’s earlier marriage and Maya, 17, their biological daughter now in high school.

Recently, the Tizons spread some of Alex’s ashes in one of his favorite beaches in Seattle, Wa. Alex died of natural causes on March 23, 2017. “We were in Seattle and he was in Eugene, Oregon on the day that he died. What happened is that the girls and I would call and text him every day and we realized that we couldn’t get a hold of him, then he wasn’t responding so I finally called the police in Oregon to check on him and they found him in bed and he had died peacefully in his sleep,” Melissa shared with the Manila Mail. Alex died from what Filipinos call “bangungot.”

Melissa described her husband as an amazing person who was so encouraging and had a lot of charm and charisma. “He loves talking to his readers about the stories that he wrote and loves to connect with people. He believes that every person has an important story to tell and even if it’s just meeting someone in a conversation or at the party or at the coffee shop. I wish, he was alive to do this interview with you. People really liked him. He used his God-given talent to the best of his ability, he never compromised and he puts all his energy to being a writer, it’s a risk to be a writer but he managed to do what he wanted in life.

“He was a great dad, husband and friend. I have been very lucky to be married to him for 19 years. I’m just really proud of him for being the kind of person who really cared about other people, who really tried to get to know people. I personally tend to be a little superficial like I mind my own business but Alex really wanted to know people and I think that’s the quality about him that I really admired.”

Melissa recalled that when she was dating Alex he had told her about Lola, that she was a grandmother or a great aunt who raised him and his brothers and sisters but she didn’t know the extent of abuses that Lola suffered from Alex’s parents and grandfather. “I didn’t know all the details of the abuses until I read the draft of the story. She was such an important person in his life. I heard so much about her before I actually met her. Lola was in her late 60’s when they met. Her first meeting with Lola was warm and wonderful. She endured a lot in her life and yet she never let that stop her from being happy and she never let that stop her from caring other people.”

She also remembered one weekend when she went to Alex’s mother house where she was supposed to sleep in Lola’s bedroom. She found it so weird, surprising and strange that a grandmother was supposed to be respected but was kicked out of her bedroom. She ended losing an argument with Alex’s mother.

Melissa believes that her husband will always be remembered for the story that he wrote in the Atlantic. It was a story that he told her, he was born to write and this was his epic story. He loved Lola like his mother and he really wanted to tell her story and this is what he wanted to accomplish in life and he did it. Unfortunately, Alex passed away before his essay was published.

When Alex’s mother died, the Tizon siblings talked to Lola about what she wanted to do next, if she wanted to move back in the Philippines to be with her family or maybe build a house. She chose to be with her and Alex.

“We have a home just a north of Seattle, Washington. She came and moved in with us. When she came with us, we were very clear in not having her as a worker. We don’t want her to work anymore, we just wanted her to relax and enjoy the final years of her life and she did,” Melissa explained.

Alex’s family didn’t anticipate the backlash to the story though 90 percent has been very positive. “I didn’t have any idea that it would be this big and the 2nd most read article in the history of the Atlantic magazine which has been around 150 years. Alex used the word slave in the story because he didn’t want to whitewash anything, he wanted his story to be accurate,” Melissa said. The misery of Lola made him famous and, perhaps denied him in death, the solace of seeing the impact of his work.





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