It’s been raining quite often these past few weeks. Rain, no matter what time of day, I sometimes find beauty in. It brings with it both melancholy and nostaligia, and takes me back to memories that although are long gone, are never forgotten.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my grandparents — from both my parents’ sides. How great it would have been if my lolo Vicente and lola Maria from my dad’s side had not passed on so early in life, and I had the chance to spend wonderful time with them. How great it would be to go back in time, be a kid again, and re-live the moments I had with my Mama Marina and Papa Prudencio from my mom’s side. Coincidentally, it’s my Mama and Papa’s wedding anniversary on the 29th. It would have been their 71st.
I am often reminded of the mid-mornings I spent watching in awe as my Mama meticulously put on her make-up and set her hair for the day. This made me both wish and plan ahead that someday, I’m going to put on make-up and have my hair put up just like my Mama. My Mama was a gorgeous woman, always well-put and impeccably dressed. In fact, one lesson she passed on to mom, and later on mom passed on to me, was to never, ever leave the house looking like a rag; brush your hair, clean your face, and be well-dressed. Her nails were always manicured; Her hands were soft and supple to the touch. She was strict — very strict, but she was also the kind of grandma you can always run to whenever you did something ‘makulit’ and get scolded for it by your parents. There was only one instance where I truly felt scared of her. The time when my older brother blurted out a bad word, which she unfortunately heard. My brother’s punishment was to eat raw chili. I pretty much only cursed again later on in high school when Mama had already gone back to the States.
I spent many afternoons with Mama watering the plants in our garden, playing with our dog, White, and posing for some pictures that are now neatly kept in our family photo albums. One significant memory I have of her though happened during the last few days before her death. The days when mom and I would play her favorite Kundiman CD, and she would gamely move a finger and foot, as if she was conducting an orchestra, giving her momentary relief from Dementia.
I didn’t really get the chance to spend as much time with my Papa. Nonetheless, we had our moments, too. I miss the times my Papa would take me to the sari-sari store a block away from our house to buy my favorite Big Boy bubble gum after he had gone home from a writing gig at PIA or a prayer meeting at church. And how could I forget those afternoons during my teenage years when I would tune in to MTV, and he would give me lessons on grammar and long lectures on how incorrectly the video jocks used the language. I used to dread those because I never did get the chance to enjoy MTV shows when he was around. My most significant memory of him was the last afternoon I got to spend time with him playing the Inquirer crossword puzzle — I read the items to him while he gave me the answers — before he passed on.
Their lives, separately and together, would be something people nowadays might refer to as ‘telenovela-worthy’.
My grandparents never had the chance to finish school — Mama only reached Grade Four, and Papa, sophomore year in high school. Both of them spent their youth working and helping their younger siblings finish their own education. Mama painted ‘bakyas’ or wooden shoes, one of the primary means of livelihood in Paete back in the day, and Papa became one of the many who provided extra help in their small town, tending horses and calesas in Sta. Mesa.
Their paths crossed during the war when Papa was enlisted in the army and assigned in Paete. They made a life for themselves and their kids in Vietnam where Papa worked as a writer and director. They were never well-off, and they relied on hard work, guts, perseverance, and talent for most of their lives.
Theirs was a far from perfect lives, but they managed and have left ‘treasures’ — memories and lessons — that to me, are far more valuable than anything one can imagine.
It’s raining, and once again it’s taking me back for a ride to old memories. The same memories that are teaching me valuable lessons year after year.
Happy 71st anniversary in heaven, Mama and Papa.
I love you.
*Photo of my grandparents (with my mom and three siblings) in Luneta, circa late 1950’s.