September 15, 2006

Something Like Life


IT was just Grandparents’ Day this past Sunday.

Yes, I know. There is such a celebration on the calendar apparently. Of course, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and the other sappy occasions not actually religious in nature, Grandparents’ Day was probably thought up by marketing geniuses to boost consumer sales in the lull before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I only found out about it when my niece Nikka greeted my folks. My mom and dad were surprised as much as I about the existence of this special day.

Nikka, and her older sister Cesca, practically grew up around my parents. I remember when they were still toddlers, my siblings and I would notice how our parents were extraordinarily loving when it came to these two girls. There were lots of hugs, kisses and, of course, gifts. There was a time when I even got a little jealous of the special care and attention that Cesca, the first grandchild in the family, received. For the longest time, I was the baby of the family, being the youngest, and here comes along this young sprout taking away all the pasalubongs from me. Hmmph.

Of course, there is nothing that these creatures would do that would upset my folks. Even if they had done something bad—although this was very rare—they were and still are the grandparents’ little angels! Even though I’ve caught one of them lying a few times, my parents will choose to believe their precious grandchildren as innocent babes, never mind that they’re now in their 20s.

But I suppose things weren’t really all that different from my siblings and me either, in terms of our relationship with our own grandparents.

I for one so loooved my lolo. (Okay, truth to tell, he wasn’t my biological grandfather but actually the “special friend” of my grandmother. But we were close to his wife and family, too, so go figure.) Lolo Ñing would come home to us almost every day, bringing with him lots of yummy treats—candies, chocolates, castañas. I remember playing in the street with my yaya, and as soon as I’d see him turn into our street, I’d rush out to meet him with a kiss and a warm embrace. And then reach into his paper bag of goodies.

The most vivid memory I have of Lolo Ñing is him teaching me how to tell time. I would bring my pale blue plastic clock which had red arms and red buttons for numbers. Underneath the red buttons, which you could remove, were the minute numerals. So every day he would teach me how to read my plastic clock. Of course, I learned the darned thing in just a few days, but it was just so cool hanging out with my lolo that I extended my stupidity for about a week. He was probably thankful we weren’t really related by blood.

My Lola Ding, on the other hand, would come home with my favorite mamon or pianono from Quiapo. She would leave in the morning and then about after lunch, she would come home with bags of my favorite soft and delicious merienda treats.

For those who don’t know what a pianono is, it’s actually like a small roll with cream filling inside and cut up into six pieces of spiral goodness. Of course, as a small child, I thought my pianonos were the best thing ever invented on earth and would constantly nag my lola to buy me more. I don’t know if I would still find pianonos delicious now that I’m older and go gaga over foie gras. (Just an aside about kiddie tastes, when we were children, our favorite dinner treat was Mabuti sardines, which come from Portugal. They are packed in tomato sauce and come in yellow gold rectangular tins. The brand is still very much around but now cost over P100 a tin. Just to satisfy her need for some comfort food, my sister, now older and married, bought a tin and ate the entire contents. She told me later she couldn’t figure out why we loved it so much when we were little. Sigh.)

When I was in grade school, my lola would bring me lunch every day. Lola Ding was a genius in the kitchen (and thank God, we still have some of her recipes) but she was probably frustrated that my request was always fried pork chops and rice. And my banana, which I would eat as a side dish to my main course, instead of dessert.

Now that I think about them, I miss my lolo and lola. It was always just warm and fuzzy when they were around. They were there to listen to me make sumbong when I felt unjustly punished by my mom. Or someone had wronged me at school. I confessed my evil deeds to them, like pushing my playmate once in a pool of water. There would be no judgments, unlike parents. Just calm reassuring love.

Everyone who knew Lolo Ñing and who thought we were actually related used to say I inherited my talent for writing from him, as he, too, was a journalist. I can only wish this were true. But I suppose in a way, he lives within me, or is probably around whispering in my ear a better lead for my story when I’m particularly stumped on how to write it.

As for my Lola Ding, every time I cook in the kitchen and whip up a new dish, I’m sure she’s right beside me watching and probably stopping my hand from dropping in any more salt than the dish needs. While she may not approve of some of the changes I’ve made to her Bacalao à la Vizcaina recipe, I’m pretty sure she approves of it, albeit grudgingly.

So who needs Grandparents’ Day? I guess we all do.

(Published on Sept. 15, 2006. My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror.)

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