Friday, April 9, 2010


She was born on April Fool's Day but she is certainly no fool.

Kumareng Nene or Florida S. Camitan Alberto, my best friend forever, is two years my junior. We were childhood neighbors and playmates. We went to the same public elementary school in our barangay. Unfortunately for her, her parents could not afford to send her to school for her secondary and college education. Like most parents of post war Philippines, they argued that she is a girl, anyway, so she didn't need to go for further studies. Instead of sulking over her parents' decision, she studied sewing by apprenticing at the shops of seamstresses and tailors in our community. That gave her an opportunity to earn a living.

Her lack of education motivated her to go beyond her powers so that her own children will be educated. She worked odd jobs- as a sewer, as a laundrywoman, as a house help. She allotted a very minimal budget for fancy food and clothing so that her children could spend for what they needed in school. To her credit, three of her five children got their bachelor's degrees and are now living their own lives.

My BFF's life is one for the books. Once, during her most trying moment- when she had a falling out with her only son who prioritized some other person over her, I told the son, " If I had been your mother, I don't think you could have finished school. Because I could not have done all the sacrifices that your mother did." My words fell on deaf ears. Today, the son is having the most difficult time of his life, living in debt and disarray, all because he took his mother for granted and completely ignored her in making life-changing decisions. All I could say was- what comes around, goes around.

Kumareng Nene is poor- materially poor. But she is very rich in values and virtues., hence, she has such a rich spirit. This is perhaps the reason why my husband allows me to go anywhere as long as she is my companion. He knows I am in very good company with my kumare around. But the most admirable thing about her is that despite living in dire poverty, she can always put food on the table for her family. She has no debt of whatever amount. Her husband's social security retirement pension of just a couple of thousand pesos goes a long, long way. Most of the time, it is kept intact as their savings and would only be spent for urgent needs. If she had a business of her own, it would surely grow and multiply with the way she handles money.

Her sense of community with other people is also worth emulating. She would condole with grieving families. She would volunteer to accompany a neighbor to the hospital in times of emergencies. She would seek assistance for a neighbor in need. She would always lend a hand to her orphaned nephews and nieces, her brothers and sisters, as if she were the eldest in her family. Indeed, my BFF renders more help than anyone better situated than her.

Today, she is my constant companion, my nurse, my confidante. When I get sick and immobile, she is the first person my husband would call for help. All my children care for her. Whatever they give their titas, they also give my BFF. Most of the time, when Tim and Tj would treat me out or would just go out malling, they would tell me to bring my bff along. She has become such a significant member of my family through the years.

We are now both in our twilight years. I cannot imagine a life without a friend like her. As I always tell her, should I go ahead of her, she's free to tell my family my innermost thoughts- my fears, my anger, my concerns, my thrills and delights and all my secrets. I have a most wonderful husband and amazing children, but still, there are things which I can only entrust to a friend like Kumareng Nene. I have so many friends from everywhere. And I truly and sincerely treasure my friendships with them- developed at different points in time and in different places, under different circumstances. But my BFF is in a plane different from all the rest.

She is a living proof of how blessed I am.

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