our dear lola lolit finally breathe her last breath last february 1, a friday, after more than a decade of battling with alzheimer’s disease.
she was just at home with us, and it was just like her to make everything so easy for all of us to process documents and arrangements for her last week on earth. needless to say, that week was a flurry of guests coming in and out to pay their final respects to a teacher, friend and sister, cooking up a storm for family and relatives, and reminiscing who she was to people who know her. and well, as they say, you have more chances of gathering families together during a loved one’s death than say, a birthday or any other celebration. all her seven children and 17 grandchildren (except for one, i forget, the one who studies in manila cannot come home) were there to be with her and we just knew how happy she must be to see everyone just being there for each other.
this post is for her, my brave Lola who conquered and sacrificed everything for love.
All Consolacion girls should come with a disclaimer: our grandmother was an Ilocana. Anger at your own risk.
It’s bit hard to refer to our feisty Lola in the past tense. I guess it’s like that for anyone who has been a fixture in your life ever since. I would say we, my sisters and our cousins, are quite lucky to have had experienced what was it like to be pampered and adored and spoiled by a grandmother. Lola Lolit may have been strict. Well, she was strict. But listening to a former student of hers tell how she would give baon to her pupils who didn’t have snacks affirmed my memory of her being generous, not only to her family, but to other people, as well.
Whenever people would notice how I would speak Tagalog without that tell-tale Ilonggo accent, I would always explain how our Lola would talk to us in Tagalog sometimes. Especially when she was mad. “Ay naku, naku” and “Ewan ko ba” were some of her favorite expressions.
During late afternoons, after watering all the plants in our garden, Lola would play the piano and I would sit beside her, marveling at how quick her fingers would jump from one key to another. Of all the songs she would play, I liked “How Great Thou Art,” “By the Sweet By and By,” and “Onward Christian Solders.” Before I had formal piano lessons, she taught me the basics. But the child in me wanted to play outside more than dedicate more time learning the piano. One thing I regret now, especially when I think how Lola would’ve loved her grandchildren to use the family piano.
I have learned to appreciate Sundays, even if it meant having school the next day, because Sundays always meant a sumptuous lunch with the family. Lola would spend the whole morning bustling around the kitchen, cooking either chicken tinola with atay, beef nilaga, beef pochero, chicken with white beans and meat torta that resembled a big pie. I can seriously taste Lola’s distinct cooking, making my taste buds quite choosy and hard-to-please whenever I would eat the same dishes now.
Lola would make me write her presentations and tests on manila paper, and for a time I liked the thought of being a teacher. I only changed my mind one time when I went with her to school and saw how the veins on her neck would pop up while giving lectures and at the same time scolding pupils.
It seemed that she had wanted me to become a doctor as we didn’t have one in the family yet. She would tell me how we’d both go to Manila together and how she’d take care of me while I would be studying. I am sorry that it didn’t happen. Or that I didn’t become a doctor for that matter.
We had lived with her for 11 years and I would never trade those 11 years for anything. If I will try to tell you all of my memories of her, we should have started earlier. That’s why seeing her being frail and not being able to talk and saunter, yes, she doesn’t walk, she saunters, had been very painful. It’s very difficult to imagine that the once on-the- go and healthy grandmother I knew had been reduced to a very thin and pale-looking woman on the bed. Yet her cheekbones and chin remained the same, looking strong and proud even up to her last minute.
I can’t remember being scolded by Lola ever, despite how angry she would seem at times. She may not be as doting as other grandmothers, but she showed her affection in other ways. Like letting me sit beside her when she makes her lesson plans, no matter how annoying and distracting a five-year old can get. Preparing her own special concoction of burnt onions to be applied on my throat whenever I had cough. Making me drink a raw egg whenever I wasn’t feeling well. Giving me weekly baon when I finally went to high school. Fondly calling me apo.
I wish I had been more curious before and asked about her childhood when she still had her memory intact. It wasn’t until 3 years ago when I learned that she was an orphan who took the chance with an Ilonggo, venturing into an almost foreign land, raising 7 children and only finishing college when her youngest child was old enough. It would’ve been great to hear her own thoughts, knowing how candid she can get. Nothing like an interesting narrative told in the first person. Not by someone who claimed to be a close relative of the Marcoses. Must be where she got her eloquence, as the former President was such a charming talker.
Lola may be a lot of things, but she will always be this headstrong, thoughtful, generous, kindhearted person whom I will be forever thankful for being my grandmother. She is a survivor, in more ways than one and getting at least half of her strength in facing all of life’s challenges is something I fervently wish.
I seldom dream of her but the few times I did when she was still alive, she looked happy and contented. And there’s nothing more I hope and pray for now than for her to be reunited with our Lolo, in a happy place. She deserves peace and happiness, wherever she may be.
I will miss seeing her inside her room during the few times I would take a peek at how she’s doing. The only consolation for us now is that she’s not in pain anymore. That’s enough to comfort all the bereaved she left behind.
Rest in peace, La.