Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Loving Memory

All Saints' Day is coming up. In recent years, I have been amiss in my obligations to my dead loved ones. I light no candles, I offer no flowers and I just stay home the whole day of Nov. 1, while the world is trekking to the cemeteries. It doesn't mean though, that I've forgotten the dead. In fact, I think about them, especially when I am in situations that remind me of them. And those are aplenty. I cannot forget about them and their influences in me and in my life.

My parents, Salvador and Milagros, died 40 years apart, with my mother leaving ahead in 1959. This November, we are commemorating her 50th death anniversary. It's my father's 10th death anniversary last April, 2009. My earlier blogs, Of Mothers and Daughters and Buddy Ferrer, are dedicated to their memories.

My sister Connie died at the very young age of 10, in 1967. She had leukemia. I felt the pain of her death only when I came of age. I was a young girl of 14 when she was afflicted with the disease. I did not know anything about it except that she will surely die at a given time. I am pained when I remember the days and nights she would complain to me, "Ate, ang sakit", pointing to me her arms, her legs, her stomach, every part of her. And all I did was to rub the part with vaporub or that ointment that Tatay brought home one time. She had black and blue spots in every part of her body. She was brought to the hospital in mid-November. Four days before Christmas, she died. As I write this, I cannot control my tears. If given more opportunities then, I could have researched on how I could have eased her pain. My only consolation ( that's her full name, Consolacion) is that she was spared of the harsh realities of adult life with her early passing.

Inang Tale and Amang Juan were my grandparents on my mother's side. Amang Juan died a year after my mother's death. I knew nothing about him except that he used to be the cook of Gen. Malvar, a revolutionary leader. He hailed from either Malolos or Hagonoy. I have no way of knowing exactly where. Inang Tale was from the Visayas. This is the reason why we do not know anyone from her family. She said she was a stow-away. Her story was that she and a companion hid in a ship bound for Manila to escape from paying their sea fares. As soon as they disembarked from the ship, they immediately looked for jobs and eventually ended up in Bulacan where she met Amang Juan. Inang Tale raised me and my brother and sister, together with my mother's siblings in a house built by my father. She died in her sleep when I was in college.

Lolo Otik and Lola Ana, on the other hand, were my grandparents on my father's side. I never knew Lola Ana. I am not sure if my mother met her when she married my father. But I vividly remember Lolo Otik's well-crafted, signature cane. He always walked with it, giving him a Spanish genteel look. He seemed like a very intelligent man, perhaps we got our intelligent genes from him. Lolo Otik and Lola Ana were both from Albay in Bicol. An aunt told me once that Lolo Otik was very, very strict. I thought it had a positive effect on his children because in later years, even if they were scattered all over, they remained very close to and very supportive of each other.

My parents-in-law, Inang Ising and Amang Popoy both died of an illness, Inang in June, 2000 and Amang in January, 2009. Amang Popoy lived a very productive, long life. He is perhaps the most industrious man in this corner of the world. His every movement had a purpose. Living with a man like him will make one guilty of indolence. He did not waste his time. ( On many occasions, he would watch tv while asleep.) He always consciously made himself useful. Amang Popoy"s foremost legacy to his children is his very strong character. He did not let his humble roots define him. He went beyond what people think was a lowly livelihood, being a mambubulok. Out of the hundreds of tons of junk that he traded, all his children were educated. I will forever be grateful to him for being the first to accept me in their family- an acceptance I knew was genuine from day one.

My Ninang Noring or Leonor was my confirmation godmother. We used to be neighbors when I was in elementary up to my high school years. I knew her better than my baptism godmother because she was always around as I grew up. My memories of her include those processions around our town on Good Fridays each year. She taught me to join such church activities and explained to me the importance of being religious. She would buy me candles for those processions and would fetch me for the mass and bring me home afterwards. Since she was a seamstress, every graduation day from 1961 to 1965, she would make me a nice dress to wear for the recognition of honors rites. On my last year in elementary in 1966, she even bought the white, lace cloth which she turned into a very nice graduation dress. Beneath Ninang Noring's very small frame is a ton of determination. In the later part of the 60's, when I was in high school, she continued her college studies at the same time that she kept home for her family. It paid off since not long after, she earned a bachelor's degree that would land her a job in a local bank for years. On Good Friday of 2006, Ninang Noring joined her Creator. She died on duty-while serving the Lord on the last day of the Holy Week.

Years ago, I came across an epitaph which I want to be written on my tombstone. Just like the memories I treasure of my dead loved ones, I would also like to be treasured in the memories of the people I will leave behind. Thus, I want it written- " Here lies a woman who lived in the hope of becoming a memory."

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