IT HAS just suddenly occurred to me that in our family since we were kids growing up, us boys have all grown being surrounded by strong willed women.
Starting with my two lolas, Lola Titang from cebu on my mother’s side and Lola Tonying from Bataan on papa’s ring corner, down to our two aunts, Tita Nen and Ate Pilar, we were raised the old 60s way, while residing in a much simpler Davao, and along Ponciano Reyes street.
We even had another lola, unforgettably-jolly, cigar-smoking Felisa, who on occasion, flew in from Manila to visit and play mahjong at our home.
For someone who had already been around at the time, describing the 60s now as ‘old’ might just as well be how we would naturally picture it, but in comparison to today’s standards, a year or just a few months is already considered old by the new gens.
Ponciano Reyes was rustic in my childhood then, like one of those faded sepia photographs. Houses were still mostly of brown wood, like those near-crumbling roadside buildings one can still see lining the highway when one traveled to the provinces. Only the more affluent families had painted houses then.
So, in this environment, we spent our growing up time, under the wings of these “old” women. Where were the fathers? Unless some were sorbeteros, store owners, carpenters and the like, most of the men in our side of the city left home daily to work elsewhere. (Back then, my father worked at the Coca-Cola plant in Matina as a salesman.)
So for at least most of my grade school, while we all lived there, I was in the direct care of my Ate Pilar who took me as ‘alaga’ or pet or favorite. While the rest of the boys slept in my parents’ room, and my only sister then (before Miyen was born) had a room shared with the help, I had shared with ate Pilar her antique bed.
When the time came for our family to move to an apartment in nearby Mabini, I stayed for a few weeks in Ponciano with my aunt, until I was enticed to reunite with my parents and band of brothers because the fam had finally bought a black and white TV.
My lola Titang passed away in Ponciano, so my Ate Pilar moved in with us. Not a long time after however, during my grade six years I think it was, she too followed. My elder sister, who was already in her late teens, took over supervising us anf directly saw to us boys, assisting mom in every way.
Much later, she had still been big sis, first taking me in to live with her family, when I transferred to Manila in the mid 70s, and later managing affairs when my mother passed away in 07. As the song goes, ‘the years float by like a broken down dam’.
Now, I see that the endowment left by these strong women of old still continues on and mix vibrantly with what the present mothers of the clan proudly possess. From my youngest sister who see to our aging father, to our wives and our young mom-neices, a salute is always in order. The true strength of a pack lies not in the one who leads it, but in the healers and the nurturers who keep it so.
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