recollections pt.4

coming to manila

Coming to Manila for the first time, mommy and daddy realized that life would be much more expensive. With three children and yet another on the way, mommy thought of augmenting the household income by selling doughnuts and pudding cooked in a makeshift oven of large biscuit cans. This was the time when Lally was born. We'd all have a good laugh when mommy would recount how my sister Lally developed a nasty skin disease because mom was busy with her small enterprise, making Lally the self-proclaimed black sheep of the brood. Then came Mercy, May and me and mommy had to stop the work to look after all seven of us. She got pregnant for the last time in 1974 but lost the baby, our only boy and daddy's junior as she was then diagnosed with diabetes. Some things just aren't meant to be.

A funny anecdote when Junior died is told over and over by my dad. Dad took the kids except me to the morgue to see Junior before the wake, now I don't know what the hospital rules were those days but while daddy parked the car he told the girls to go ahead to the morgue where their dead brother awaited embalming. So the girls get there and see a dead child and start weeping. As daddy would tell it, the scene was pretty dramatic with all the kids standing around the dead baby. Only problem was the girls were crying over the wrong baby, they did not notice the other baby in another part of the morgue. So daddy shooed them to the right baby and they sort of said among themselves, “No wonder the other child looked a bit older...”


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Life was kind to us, we did not have much but it was always more than enough. Being a big family, its always been in our nature to share what we have. My sisters and I have common quirks, for example, we all thumb-sucked. My mom thought then that its some failure on her part to take good care of us, she would feel vindicated later on after seeing several studies indicating that children who thumb-sucked, contrary to being neglected, are actually too attached to their parents. This attachment would be very evident all our lives, married sisters would insist on living near mom and dad and the sisters never flew the coop.

My mom wore motherhood well, during those days, every child needs to have a skill other than their academics. Everyone was enrolled in either musical instrument lessons or dance and song, all these extra courses are available in Concordia for a fee. Or it could be that this was mommy's way of getting us out of her hair for a few hours. The result was that all of us can play the guitar, some better than others. We could all carry a decent tune and we could all dance. I took two courses myself, hawaiian and ballet. Its some relief that my mom wasn't into command performances for house guests, she preferred watching us at recitals and school performances where there are more people and the humiliation is tenfold. She is also a stricter for decorum, we cannot join in on adult conversations, in fact we have to be upstairs when they have guests over. We cannot eat in parties unless all the guests have eaten. There'll be hell to pay if you throw a tantrum in front of guests. She believes in corporal punishment, the pinching, whipping with daddy's belt or her slippers. She has put the fear of the almighty in us just by her glare. Observing holy days of obligation is done every year without fail, holy week, all saints' day and all soul's day. We all know the rosary by heart.


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She balances her strictness with trips to Makati Supermart or Shoe Mart. When I was young, I thought Makati referred only to the commercial center and I thought that Good Earth emporium and Quiapo were one and the same. When mommy says we're going to Makati, the vision I conjure is Makati Supermart and when she says we're going to Quiapo, I see Good Earth. Oftentimes the trip will start with attending mass at Santa Cruz church, lunch at Good Earth, we would then buy hopia under the Ayala bridge, ride the bus to the Makati Commercial Center, have merienda at Cafe Elyssee in Shoe Mart then shop shop shop until its time for daddy to meet us at the supermarket to buy groceries. During weekends we would sometimes watch a movie at the Quad or the Rizal theater (now Shangrila Hotel) or free concert at the Glorietta, which used to be an open space with a square stage at the middle surrounded by stone steps that doubles as benches. Glorietta then was surrounded by the North Mall, Sulo restaurant, Quad cinemas and the Makati Supermart. On the other side of the supermarket was Anson's arcade, where a lights and sounds show is done during the holidays yearly.

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