Growing up in a very strict and traditional family made me quiet, shy and sad. I was never allowed to go out of our house or make friends with other kids. My opinion on family matters was never heard for the reason that I was the youngest. My family thought I was the weakest link. I rarely spoke up. I never said what I was feeling. I was a lonely and confused child.
I am going to tell you something that made me break out of my shell. I was twelve and it was the summer of 1990. I went to Bicol for a vacation with my grandmother. I call her Mama.
Standing in front of our antique door was a small old lady. She had very long white hair, which was always tied up in a bun. She looked tired, but in her eyes you could see an excitement as her grandchild approached her. I kissed her on the cheek and she let me rest for a while.
A little later in the afternoon me and grandma had a little stroll in our province. Everyone who saw her greeted her with a smile. Some even gave her food or anything they could share with her. By the time we got home, we already had food for dinner and breakfast. Pretty much normal since this is the usual culture in our province even to this day I think. But no! You see, we do not belong to the affluent families in Bicol. Mama in her younger years was a household help and Papa was a fisherman. They lived a very simple life along with their three daughters. But what makes my grandmother so popular with every type of people in our province? Even politicians come to our house just to visit her. I don’t know her secret to her timeless popularity, but that evening, the small old lady whom I called Mama and whom everyone in our province called Nana Unja told me her secrets.
Mama said people will not judge you for what you do in life or what you have in life, but will judge you on how you present yourself to everyone. You see, even if my Mama was a household help in her younger years she did not let her job define her. She was perceived by everyone as one of the wisest people in our town. She was very good with numbers, even if she only finished elementary and had to stop to help her family. She used this skill to help people who were financially challenged resolve their financial problems. She helps them grow a business or have a job. Her opinion matters in our community.
She also said to always believe in people’s capacity for goodness. Mama told me to believe that all people are good and that the only reason why they do wrong things is that people do not trust their own goodness. So, that explains why we have visitors from the New Peoples Army who give Mama food and in return she gives the rebels fruits in our backyard.
I think, every upward line in her face will tell me a story of of Mama’s mirthful and exciting adventures in life. She advises me to live my life to the fullest like there’s no tomorrow. True happiness, as I recalled from her comes from within.
I asked her in the midst of our conversation if with all of these principles in her life, what was the key ingredient to her timeless popularity? She answered: no matter what blessings you receive, always remember that it was God who gave you the blessings and therefore she always keeps her feet on the ground.
The last thing she advised me was to always remember the Golden Rule. In this circle we call life, whatever you do to other people and yourself will greatly affect you and your loved ones.
After that night, her principles became my guide towards my own path in life. I became confident with my inter and intrapersonal relationship with other people. I learned to love and accept my strengths and weaknesses and learned to give back using the blessinsg I received from God. I gained loyal and good friends starting from my childhood up to now.
My family was struck with a financial problem way back in my college years. I was given a Herculean task to keep the family intact. I succeeded. One night my grandma called me. We sat beside my bed, she gave me a rosary and kissed me, she said “You are my greatest blessing”. This rosary is a reminder of my love for you.
Now that I am a grown woman, I’ve received a lot of commendations for chivalry (I am an active volunteer of the search and rescue of the Philippine National Red Cross) and camaraderie (I lead my team to be the top team in our department when I was still working in a prestigious bank). I thanked God every day for giving me one of his angels to guide me through my growing years.
The Angels called mama for her chance to meet with our Creator on September 18, 2015. She died peacefully in her sleep. A lot of people gathered and cried because they will miss her. I said thank you for making me a good person and told her I will always remember and love her for as long as I live.