MUCH as I like this piece to be akin to the cheery nursery rhyme—clapping softly one two three, celebrating the joy of having two little hands—unfortunately, in this case, I can’t have the best of both worlds.
I have two grannies, the left and the right.
The left is my Nanay, my dad’s mom; on the other hand, is my Ina, my mom’s mom.
Both had consecutively departed these past two years: Nanay, on the 19th of May last year at the age of 84; Ina, during the 19th as well, by the month of June this year, at an early age of 64. It is shocking though, Ina’s death came too early—earlier than what I expected.
Maybe their deaths are just the universe’s way of showing how contrasting my set of grandmas are—of making me realize how I had the best grandmother by having the worst.
Both Nanay and Ina are a product of a broken family. However, their situations are unlikely to each other. Nanay’s mother died few years after giving birth to her. Being the only child, her dad could still afford to have a new family. He left my young Nanay with a relative who cannot have their own offspring. The couple back then was not affluent, financially unready to have another mouth to feed. My Tita once recalled that Nanay was raised with hardly milk on her bottle but frequently fed by “ahm” (rice wash). I figured that this substance might as well had given Nanay her prowess for English language, speaking and writing alike.
After years of striving, she finally reached college. Nanay once told me she wanted to be a lawyer, and mind you, I think she’d be a great one with that kind of mind and tongue. Sadly, her family’s financial status would not permit her to, and her new set of parents were not getting any younger to work thrice as harder for their further years to come. Consequently, Nanay resorted on being a teacher. And she did become a high school English teacher, a Legend, as what I assume she secretly labels herself.
For over 20 years, her dear Alma Mater has been her second home—this was her “Glory
Days.” Back when I was 9, I remember her asking me to accompany her to Santa Cruz for an eye check-up. Her optometrist, unsurprisingly, used to be her student, and in return, Nanay did not pay for her eye services, even medications occasionally. And there in the clinic, even wherever she goes, she is the center of attention—her mouth and her reliving of the Glory Days. Most of them, I assumed, were not fully entertained by her stories, but by how talkative that old woman was. To complete the Santa Cruz trip, we dropped by at what used to be her second home, her
Alma Mater, my dad and his siblings’ Alma Mater, mine and my brother’s Alma Mater—Pedro Guevara Memorial National High School. From the trike drivers who still called her “Ma’am,” the security guards whom I doubted to know her, to the teachers and school principal, she recounts the same stories—for me, it’s a battle between embarrassment and gratefulness.
As a kid growing up with these stories, I already memorized her lines by heart.
Consequently, with Nanay as my very own Lola Basyang, I was invigorated to be an educator as well, realizing how exciting and fulfilling it is to touch people’s lives, plus an enormous anthology of stories to tell to your kids and grandkids someday.
I aspired to be an educator as well, nonetheless being early discouraged knowing its inadequate salary. And yet my Nanay and her husband—a local politician who died a year before I was born— with a lot of Nanay’s sideline and rakets, the couple still were able to raise their six siblings – some are a business administrator, a nurse, a teacher, an engineer, a dentist, to name a few. For her, this is The Treasure they have, and only have.
On the other hand, being another product of a broken family, Ina, along with her siblings, spent their early years from one relative to another until they grew separated from each other. Ina was unfortunate to land on an unlikely set of relatives. They did not mind Ina not reaching college; thus, ending up as a housewife of an OFW-turned-businessman and six kids. Ama, my grandfather, has successfully put up a woodcraft industry since Paete is known to such business.
Luckily, it was a huge hit. The couple was able to send my mom and her siblings to college.
They expanded the workplace as they started to market for SM Malls, bought separated lots and built houses, flew to many places within the country. You might say that they already had it all.
It seems to be, perhaps, it should be rakets but all these material things conceal how gloomy this family is.
They never went to church as a whole family, even during Christmas, my mother recalled. I never saw a family portrait of them ever since. A portrait of them six siblings hangs on their sala but none of them even curved a smile. Only people from black and white photos’ generation do that, but theirs has already colors printed. The look on their faces sucked out all the colors in the portrait.
When I was a kid, I remember always being with Ina and the rest of the extended family.
That time, we would always go to places like Baclaran, Greenhills, even Tagaytay and some amusement parks. Those places are what I mostly remember whenever I think about my childhood; making me distant to my relatives on the other side, to my Nanay’s company rakets “Because they’re not going to these places, because they’re not rich”. Imagine how petty-minded I was to come up with such spiteful reason. The only family outing on my Nanay’s side I remember was on a beach in Quezon: a beach whose sand is grey and not white. The rest of our get-together is spent either in my Nanay’s house or on our farm outside the town—which I hardly enjoy before since there are no toys but my cousins; now I’d never exchange it for any luxurious haven.
All of a sudden, all those material things are gone. Ama was defrauded by colon cancer, and gone with his death was the family’s bread and butter. No more trips to Baclaran, Greenhills, Tagaytay. No more everything. The lots bought before has narrowed down to only one spacious house—spacious as the other hardwood furniture had also been sold.
As a kid that time, it’s no big deal. I somehow managed to cope up with no shopping and trips to amusement parks and all. But Ina . . .
Ina is even more devastated by her loss of everything she barely had before, than the death of Ama. For Ina, her “Glory Days” was over.
Ama’s death resulted in a turning point of events.
It was then that I realized how warm Nanay is to everyone, inside and outside of the family; while Ina has always been neutral to us—neither warm nor cold;
I realized how Nanay tried to befriend and tame Ina but the latter just won’t;
I realized how Ina discouraged my mother to enter college—just like her. While both of my Papa and Nanay encouraged her to pursue a college degree—now, she’s a teacher;
I realized how my mom turns to Nanay when she has a problem with Papa;
I realized how one-sided Ina was—giving attention and appraisal to her well-off sibling’s and my affluent cousins, while the opposite end receives nothing but her presence alone;
I realized how she did not credit my mom’s simple gifts and gestures to her, and in return, Ina would say to the favorable siblings that my mom does not even bother to neither drop by at her nor give her something. Then eventually the siblings would turn to my mom to question her—a domino effect that goes on until the already unsteady bond eventually falters;
I realized how my mom confides to my Tita (my dad’s sister) and Nanay about all these undeserving and hurtful treatment she has been receiving ever since to her own family, to the point that she questions if they are really related by blood—which is unimaginable by looking at their features;
I realized how Nanay evenly distributed something un-material and unconditional among us, her 22 and-still-counting cousins;
I realized how Ina does not even bother to ask how my school was. She did not even know what my course is. While Nanay repeatedly asked me how school was and what course would I take. I kept on reminding her that I am now in college, taking up Communication Arts, in line with her forte. Then the same agenda the next time I visit her. I was forever a high school girl for her, and I like that;
I realized how I never plucked Nanay’s grey hairs since I don’t get a thing out of it, unlike with Ina, before I get P50 for a few minutes of picking grey hairs on her;
I realized how material things are nothing compared to the bond of the family I have;
I realized how material things come and go, and family does not;
I realized how Nanay did not admit to us that she is totally blind—another result of diabetes. Up until now, I have no idea if she had just forgotten to inform us or she’s did not want us to worry for her;
I realized how Ina suffered from
To be continued