Tuesday, July 24, 2007


By Calleja, F. S.
December 6, 2004

My mother has always been tightly knit with her family. Even after I was born, Lola, my Lola’s sister, and my cousin continued to live with us.

Nonetheless, I was not that close with my real Lola (my mother’s mother) because she was always drunk and minded her own business. She would often go to the store, stay there the whole day, return by 5:00 pm, and then sleep.

But she was very proud of me, saying it was a miracle for her, a worn-out, dark-skinned, probinsyana-looking Waray to have such a good-looking apo (she said that, not me).

She was also extremely generous and easy to please. Sometimes, she took me to the store and bought me anything I wanted. However, I did not really have quality time to spend with her other than that.

On the other hand, I really bonded with Lala Margie (my mother’s aunt, my Lola’s sister, whom I called this way ever since) because we spent a lot of time together. Mama was working in Makati. Papa was always abroad. My cousin, Ate Rowena, was always in school. It also took a long time before I had a brother. So, it makes sense for me to say she influenced me the most.

Lala did not have a place to live before. None of her children made her permanently stay in their homes. That’s the primary reason why Mama wanted her to live with us.

Lala was quite different from my Lola. She did not indulge in drinking, but was obsessed with gambling. I learned how to play solitaire (animan and pituhan) and jueteng through her.

But I wouldn’t care less! I owe a lot more to her. In my preschool years, she always rode with me in the school bus and patiently waited in the playground of our school until dismissal. She always checked if I had neatly-ironed uniforms. At night, she made sure I was asleep before she slept herself. She was actually my refuge… the person I could always rely on.

She was also my “kakampi.” She always defended me. She never spanked me if I couldn’t bring myself to sleep in the afternoon (for some reason, they all wanted me to sleep after Eat Bulaga) and never forced me to eat ampalaya. I think she did spoil me a bit. That’s why I got super close with her.

I remember when she would take me to Binondo, Tondo, or Quiapo to visit her children. I enjoyed riding antique buses in Manila with Lala (we rode those vehicles because she had no money).

Those experiences I missed dearly when she did not come with us to Naga. She said she couldn’t be too far from her children, and she doesn’t know anyone there. So, she lived with her son in Binondo. I tried to convince her to come with us, but her mind was made up.

But it was okay. We always visited her. And, I always gave her money when we visit (as she had no money as usual, which she termed as “zero-zero balance”). There was even a time when she stayed in Naga for two months for a vacation. The important thing is that we never lost contact.

However, the sad news came in 2003 when I learned she died in a road accident. The jeepney she was riding bumped into a truck, which made her fall from her seat and hit her head causing internal hemorrhage. I was devastated. She was a really healthy lady, so I thought death was far away.

We got the chance to visit her grave when we took a vacation in Las Piñas in the summer of 2004.

I don’t know if she realized it, but she had a lasting impact on me. Who I am now is in a way due to her. Some of my life’s first lessons, joys, and experiences were shared with her. I would always treasure her memories. And I hope that through me, whom she treated like a son, Lala’s legacy lives on…

Biboy Calleja is from Journals. He also is a Storyteller of the Writers Guild.

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