You taught me everything I know, Lola. I exist because you didn’t give up on me. You would get the efficascent oil and Vicks vaporub to massage my belly with love when I was feeling sick. You cooked me all the delicious meals and taught me good values that made me into who I am today. You managed to stick around when I have nobody. You understood me very well. Where do I start? The millions of great things that you have contributed to this family are countless. I couldn’t find the words to describe how great of a person you were. When I left home, you told me to follow my dreams and never look back. I still did in my own little way. I didn’t forget you. I would never forget you. For every dream that I was chasing and opportunities that I was grabbing, you were my inspiration. I wanted to make you proud. I wanted me to be your biggest accomplishment. I knew I made you proud and happy. I always told you how much I love and appreciate everything that you did for me, for us. Your sacrifices for us were impeccable.
I want your good memories to linger. I will continue to chase the stars for you. Now that you’re gone, what am I left with? Your wisdom and constant encouragement were all I have in this world. Without you Lola, I am nothing. We are nothing without you. What happens now?
December 02, 2018. 5:00 AM EST. I woke up suddenly with my heart pounding in my chest. I know something was not right but I couldn’t pinpoint where. I turned to the other side of the bed, and again to the other. I did it several times that I gave up trying to fall back to sleep. I turned my tablet on and continued the Russian show I’ve been watching. Reading the subtitle gave me a little bit of a headache.
Then came 9:00AM. My phone beeped. It was my mother who sent me a text message from the Philippines, “Your lola (grandmother) bade goodbye.” Silence. Numbness wrapped my whole being. I was trying to contemplate as to whether it was real or am I dreaming?
1992. My Lola Soledad/Soling moved swiftly to and fro around the kitchen. She was washing the vegetables and cutting up the pork in the wooden cutting board interchangeably. She looked around with her disheveled hair trying to search for something or someone behind her. Her disheveled hair showed some streaks of grey. Her stained dress with holes were quite wet from splashes of water and sweat. “Anne!” My lola called out my name with such authority and gentleness that it made me flinch. “I’m just here, lola. I will be nearby, ” giving her reassurance. I went and ran energetically like a normal kid would do. “Be careful!,” her voiced echoed in worry and concern.
My grandmother, Soledad, was the 9th child out of 10 children. She grew up in a house that was made of wood with capiz shell windows. Spanish influence. She would tell me stories about her childhood as if it were yesterday. We would lay in bed together and she would take me down to memory lane with her interesting stories. I remember her story about the World War II. She was barely 8 years old. She told me they all left their homes to flee in the mountains and hide inside a hole to hide from the Japanese soldiers. My grandmother’s father, according to her, killed two Japs with their own rifles with bayonets. After the World War II, they went back to their home with some little to rebuild. Together with her siblings and parents, they were able to do so. Life went on.
My grandmother was a brilliant woman. After the war, she continued to study and was eager to learn more. She lived in a time where women were not empowered enough to do what they please. Basilio, her father, unfortunately asked her to stop school at Grade 6. They couldn’t afford it and her father chose to send the older brothers to finish school instead of the girls. I remember when she was telling me that story, I saw the sadness in her eyes, not just that. I saw regret. She would peep outside their window and would see her friends walking to school. She would hide and cry.
“Anne, lunch is ready!” My grandmother’s authoritative voice reverberated throughout the house we were renting at that time. She cooked my favourite adobo. I stood up and went to the dining room. “Don’t forget to wash your hands,” she reminded as she was preparing my plate. I washed my hands and sat on the chair with legs open. “What do you think you’re doing? Sit up like a lady with your legs closed and back straight!” I looked at her in fright and did as I was told. I felt that if I didn’t do what she said, I would suffer a consequence. I look at my grandma and saw the look of exhaustion in her face. She still have some few chores to do. She woke up as early as 5 in the morning to start finishing the chores.
1950s. Soledad gazed upon the heavens and sighed. Her two older sisters left for Manila to work. Now, she was stuck in their home to just exist. She prayed that her sisters would send her to school when they have money saved. She wondered how her future would go. She was frustrated but optimistic. Her other sister, Maria stayed with their mother to help out with the household. She was invited to a dance tonight. She could go if her sister will chaperon her to the dance. That night, her fate changed. She met my grandfather. The rest was history and they had four lovely children, one of them was my mother.
“Try to eat everything on your plate. Some people are starving with nothing to eat. You don’t want to throw that food away. It will be a waste.” She was attentively looking at me while chewing my food and I just answered, “Opo, Lola (Yes, grandma). When lunch was finished, Lola asked me to sit in the living room and play. After she finished washing the dishes, she walked to me with a radio and blank cassette tape on her hands. “What are we doing, Lola?” I couldn’t hide my excitement. She gave her sweetest smile, looked at me with her gentle eyes, “we will record the poems that I taught you. You’ve memorized them all, right?” I nodded and smiled back.
“Ang Munting Inakay”
May isang inakay na ibig lumipad
Ngunit pakpak niya’y di pa maikampay.
“Bayaan mo anak, ikaw ay magsanay.”
Ang sabi ng inang siyang nagbabantay.
Ang munting inakay na nais matuto
Sa gilid ng pugad ay paluksu-lukso!
At isang araw nga pakpak ay gumalaw
At lumipad na siya sya sa malayong lugar.
Like the poems that you taught me, fly away, Lola. You’re at peace now. Fly away with the angels, my dear Lola. Watch over us. I love you. Rest well.