Tuesday, October 17, 2006


by Mahros Abaño

I don’t know if you would agree with me that the most noted Filipino tradition that is by far the most hated by any kid age 5 to 12, is the siesta. Okay, some do-gooder will raise his hand and say that siesta was a Spanish tradition and was just passed on to us Pinoys; then again, it as important as a Filipino quirk as say, calling toothpaste of any brand, Colgate.

When I was a kid, I absolutely hated siestas. I would prefer watching television rather than taking a nap. Since I went to a public elementary school, I only have classes in the morning. My grandmother and our yaya would be the ones watching my sister and I, since both of our parents work. So after I got my lunch and the final credits for Eat Bulaga (they still have credits streaming up the television then) appear on the screen, it could only mean one thing, its time to take a nap. My sister would immediately follow our yaya to our room. I surmise this was because she’s still a baby at that time.

Now, being the argumentative kid that I was, I never took it quite lightly. My grandmother, a feisty woman of Waray descent, never took to tantrums well. Every afternoon, neighbors would hear our arguments on the issue of my taking a nap. Our debates would usually sound like this:

“Ok, Eat Bulaga is now through. It’s time for you to sleep,” Lola would say.

“Can I just stay for Agila?” I would plea.

“No, you have to sleep now.”

“Could I stay until “Ang Nakaraan”?”


“Why do we need to sleep?”

“It is because kids need to sleep to grow.”

“Can I just stay for Agila?”


“Why don’t you take a nap as well?”

“When you grow old, you cannot get as much sleep as you wanted. So you go and sleep now.”

“Can I just stay for Agila?”

“No.” By this time, she would begin to stand and slowly walk to the kitchen. “If you don’t get to your room, I am coming back with the walis tingting.”

When this comes on cue, I would immediately run to my room. I would then feign sleeping for a few minutes but I keep my ears open as I listen intently as the theme song of the then-popular afternoon soap, Agila, was playing. As soon as the commercials were over, I would slowly stand up and pretend that I was sleeping for awhile and head for the living room.

By this time, my grandmother was usually sleeping on the sofa, but my yaya was usually up watching television. She would then begin the usual banter that usually sounds like this:

“Oi, oi, why are you up already?”

“Umm, I need to go to the bathroom.” I would say.

“Then go to the bathroom.”

“I’ll just watch until the commercial.”

“Ok, only after this commercial, ha. Your lola wants you to go to islip (she pronounces it that way).” My yaya is not as terse as my grandmother who was now snoring at the couch. By the third commercial (not necessarily always but jut in the middle of the program), my grandmother would stir and find me awake and watching television.

“Why are you up already?”

“I’m going to the bathroom.”

“Then go to the bathroom.” Unlike my yaya, she would watch and wait until I get into my room again. Usually, she would go back to sleep but there are times she would watch the programs. During these times that she would go back to sleep, I would again do my “going to the bathroom routine” to be able to watch TV.

After a few months, my parents got worried because my yaya told them I would go to the bathroom often. They took me to the doctor and had several tests. It was horrible. After that, I never tried that trick again.

Years later, my grandmother moved to my aunt’s house to help when aunt had my cousin. We also got a more lenient yaya who lets us watch TV and drink soft drinks in the afternoons until my father fired her because my sister got sick. After that, things got back to the same routine when my grandmother moved back in with us.

After my grandmother died two years ago, my sister and I were talking about how we tried to avoid taking siestas when we were kids. We laughed at how we tried all the palusot in the book just to not take them.

It was ironic that we are now clamoring for a few more minutes of sleep that as kids we totally threw away. I, for one, could now look back to those days with fondness, for they were not just fun times but times well spent with my grandmother; and bit of regret, because if I have just listened to my grandmother when she made me take siestas then, I should have been tall by now.

Mahros Abaño is a part-time eccentric, full-time neurotic. She currently scratches her gray matter for the uses of punctuation marks she learned in elementary school as she is an English Editor for HDI. She is also on a Holy Grail pursuit for the best hopia on earth.

Painting: The Siesta, Vincent van Gogh

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