A status on Facebook sometime back went something like this: “There are 179 days left before Christmas.” Christmas in the Philippines is a big thing and which starts much earlier than the rest of the world. The moment the -ber months (i.e. September, October and November) arrive, Christmas songs are played over the radio, in shopping malls, and in supermarkets, and Christmas decorations slowly start to show up on the shelves. But Christmas is not much of the problem – although the traffic snarls and crowded places get on my nerves – as the thought of half of the year being over and the other six months will pass by like a breeze.
The last six months found me walking into memories of the past, of people – some who have long crossed onto the other side – that left me wondering of how things would have been had they stayed a little longer. There was this phase when the memories of my late paternal grandparents – Lolo Manuel and Lola Emma – kept streaming into my consciousness. Lolo means grandfather and Lola is grandmother in Filipino. Lola Emma crossed over first, leaving everyone reeling in shock and sadness. Lolo Manuel joined her several years later. Pictures of their smiling faces flitted in and out of my mind during moments of my spacing out – it is that time when I stare into space without me noticing it unless someone poked me or something to bring me back to the present.
Corn-on-the-cob and my grandparents were like hand in glove. When I was in elementary they’d come and stay at our house almost every month. They made the trip to Manila from Mindoro to stock up on fabric and things a tailor needed because Lolo owned a tailoring shop, but it’s gone now, as none of his children followed in his footsteps. They usually brought with them corn-on-the-cob, ube (sweetened yam pudding), rice, suman (glutinous rice steamed in banana leaves, which dipped in sugar) and panotcha (peanuts caked in dark brown sugar). My favourite items were the corn and the ube – they were special treats for me.
Unlike the fallacious belief that grandparents are stodgy, always believing in the traditional way of a woman’s life, my Lolo and Lola never put pressure on me to get hitched. One conversation I had with Lola, in fact, had her calmly telling me to always do my best and not to be in a rush to get married. Lolo, on the other hand, never pried into my personal affairs although he showed great concern with my academic performance. He was, at one point, greatly dismayed with my endeavour to complete an apron for my sewing class. He took a look at it and sent me off to indulge in my favourite pastime, reading. My Lolo got a high mark for my apron project.
There were moments when I felt that I had let them down, but Angel Reader Audrey – yes, I consulted with an Angel Reader when I was still in Singapore upon the suggestion of a former flatmate – said I needn’t worry because they were both proud of me and, continued Audrey, were smiling at me while pointing to my left shoulder. Audrey said they were on my left when I went to see her for our one-on-one session then.
I am filled with envy whenever friends and students talk about their grandparents and the gathering or reunion they attended or the weekend they spent with them because they, fortunately, can still record new memories with them while I can only rewind them in my mind.