My Not So Ordinary Grandparents

Each of us is born with two pairs of grandparents. Some are blessed to grow up with both pairs of maternal and paternal grandparents around. Some were unfortunate of not even knowing their grandparents.

I grew up with both of my maternal and paternal grandparents still alive. However, I must admit that I was more attached with my paternal grandparents. My family lived within the compound of my paternal grandparents for more than 10 years. Our house then was literally a door away from my paternal grandparents’ house. Our house has a backdoor that directly connects to the kitchen of my Lola (grandmother). Of those 10 years in my life, my day would never end without ever having a conversation with Lola.  

 Lola was no doubt a part of me. The pages of my own storybook will never be complete without Lola. I have endless stories of adventures and misadventures to relate about her. Though Lola was a part of my life, her tough traits never become a part of me. I never inherited Lola’s strength, courage and the confidence to ignore detractors. She doesn’t care and never became affected of other people’s destructive criticisms. She possessed the willingness, strength and patience to raise two more kids even in her old age years. Instead of retiring and enjoying life after becoming parents to our parents, Lola, together with Lolo (grandfather), whole-heartedly accepted the responsibility of rearing two more kids. These two kids are my cousins who lost their mother at an early age. My older cousin was less than five years old and his sister was less than a month old when they lost their mom. Lola willingly embraced the selfless duty of becoming a mother. Lolo was playing the role of a second father to my cousins. Despite his old age, Lolo continued to work as a school bus operator and driver to support the household finances. It was only ulcer and arthritis that forced Lolo to stop working.

To this day, the only grandparent that I have is my paternal Lolo. Lola died early this year because of aneurism. Wherever my Lola is today, I know she is more than happy and fulfilled. I thank her for depicting to me the picture of how to live life to the fullest.  

My story with my maternal grandparents is different.  I only see my maternal grandparents twice a year, during Christmas and the on the month of May. My maternal grandparents are living miles away from the city where I grew up. If I am not mistaken, it’s my mother’s decision to spend Christmas in the province because we are already spending the entire year in the city. The month of May on the other hand is when the town fiesta is celebrated. In Philippine provinces, town fiestas almost equate to Christmas. It’s one of the most awaited events in the place.

Though I only had limited moments spent with my maternal grandparents, my respect and admiration to them could never be underrated. Similar to my paternal grandparents, my maternal grandparents never gave up the responsibility of being supportive parents. My paternal Lolo was a retired employee of the Philippine Postal Corporation. He never spent his retirement pay for retirement. He rather shared his meager money to his grandchildren. He augmented the allowances of my cousins who are exerting their best efforts just to finish school.

My maternal Lola was another heroine that I personally knew. Lola owns and operates a fruit store at a public market in Pampanga. At the age of 80, my Lola is still working in the scorching and crowded market place. Retirement never inched in my Lola’s mind. She loves my cousins so much and her only wish was for all of us to finish our studies. She continuously worked because she wanted to ensure that no financial hindrances would ever prevent my cousins from schooling. Unfortunately, my Lola wasn’t able to see the fulfillment of her ultimate dream. She died 14 years ago, months before I graduated from elementary.

As you could see, my grandparents were never the stereotype grandparents that you see in movies and TV shows. My grandparents were not spoilers who would always treat and splurge their grandchildren with food and toys. My grandparents were not the grandparents who always smile, hug and kiss their grandchildren. They were not the affectionate type. My grandparents were not the grandparents who project the “I never get mad” personality to their grandchildren. What I rather have are grandparents who never retired to become parents.

 Perhaps, the reason why are they named grandparents is because they are the grandest of all parents. After rearing their own children, they just never retire from the idea of becoming parents.   

To my maternal Lolo and Lola, thank you for those limited but happy moments in the province. Thank you Lola for taking care of us. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for preparing my favorite suman and sending me the best ripe mangoes in the world!

To my paternal Lola, thank you for becoming a part of my 10 years of childhood. Thank you for cooking the best lumpia and menudo. Thank you for defending me once to a relative who was accusing me of being nasty, dumb and disobedient. Thank you for that one night when we literally knocked the doors of our neighbors, because I don’t have a Filipiniana costume to wear. Thank you for showing me the meaning of selfless love. Thank you for showing me the love in an extraordinary way. Wherever you are right now, I know you are already happy, free from all those pains and worries in life.

To my paternal Lolo, thank you for silently loving me. Thank you for those extra allowances that I receive during school field trips. Thank you for bringing me and my cousins to those kiddy places. Thank you for the Magnolia factory trip and those Antipolo getaways. You’re the only grandparent that I have. Please stay healthy and be with us for more years. Please don’t be sad because Lola left us. I may not be with you there always. But you will always be here with me.

To all the greatest and grandest Lolo and Lola out there, thank you very much. Thank you for giving and raising our parents. Thank you for all the love. Thank you for forever embracing the selfless responsibility of becoming parents.

Please don’t blame my selfish tears

I was stuck in the office after having my evening class when I learned of the August 23, 2010 hostage taking incident at the Qurino Grandstand. Heavy rains came after my class so I was forced to stay in the office and wait until the downpour subsides. Little did I know, a rain of blood and violence was likewise happening in a nearby area.

I logged in my Twitter account and learned of the great threat in the lives of a number of tourists confined in a bus. In a snap, the Philippines earned a spot in CNN, BBC and the rest of the world.  When the unfortunate event was over, I expected the pinpointing and buck passing. Senate hearings and all the discussions of who’s really to blame are not surprising scenes in the Philippines.

Over the next days, I remember once saying to my friend that my upcoming research presentation in the Asia Pacific Management Conference at the University of the Philippines (UP) might be affected. The university partner of UP is a reputable institution of higher learning from Taiwan, which if I am not mistaken is also governed by China. I was thinking that the hostage taking incident could scare and discourage representatives from China and even other countries in the Asia Pacific to visit the country for the annual event.

However, I was convinced with the belief that the conference has long been planned and academic sector is not easily affected by events occurring outside its own governance. I also believe that people in the academe are broad minded and considerate enough to realize that the hostage taking incident was an isolated case. The academe and the event should be spared from something which happened beyond their control.

My intuition came into reality on this day, September 13, 2010. I am now about to believe that the number 13 brings a negative omen. Before having my evening classes, I checked my email and received the most distressing and devastating news. The conference will not push through! It will be rescheduled on November of 2011 in Taiwan and not anymore in the Philippines. What’s worst is that even though my work was already accepted for presentation, there will be another round of screening handled by the university in Taiwan.

After reading the email for the first time, I never felt the any signs of distress, sadness and regret. The message of the email gradually trickled me pains of blame, frustrations, devastations and self-pity.

Before, I was a mere observant of the unfortunate event. The incident became a national concern, but my everyday life was not really affected. Life as a rank and file employee and part time educator continued. I never imagined myself that on the next days, I would be one of the persons who can’t help but blame and pinpoint all those people who have aggravated the incident.

I know my reason is so selfish. I am not in the position to hate because I was not a direct victim in the first place. I did not lose anyone from the incident. Call me self-centered and over acting but this opportunity lost also devastates me.  I know that opportunity could never be equated to the number of lives that were lost and traumatized. I am not comparing their level of devastations to my own little misfortune. The truth is I just wanted to weep. What I have are selfish tears, words and feelings, when combined, would mean nothing.

I am nothing in the literal and figurative sense. I am nothing because I am just a rank and file employee, who saw a rare opportunity that once uplifted her downing spirits.

If someone is listening out there, I never asked for this one but I was more than thankful because you gave me this one great blessing. You made me believe it was mine. You brought me to heaven for some time.  But now, are you taking it away for me? You know I never had the choice but to follow your will. If this is want you planned for me, so be it. But at the end of the day, please don’t blame me for shedding these selfish tears…