Born in 1905, our Lola Beatriz had a long productive life. She was an elementary school teacher in Pampanga (two of her daughters would later have teaching careers). She bore four daughters and a son (who died as in infant in WWII). She survived the last war and helped her family relocate to Cotabato City and later to Dadiangas (old municipal name of General Santos City). In Gensan, she had a sari-sari store and later ran a boardinghouse.
She was among my first mentors. She was an avid Reader's Digest subscriber and would pass me each month's issue after she's done reading it. I still have in my library the Reader's Digest books she especially ordered for my birthdays and high school graduation.
In the 90s, after she had a fall and broke her hipbone, Lola was confined mostly to her bedroom. She had her radio nearby which was on the whole day until her favorite radio station signed off. She had failing eyesight but her hearing was acute. Most of her day was spent praying the Rosary with one ear tuned to the radio.
One of the reasons I learned how to cook was Lola. On payday weekends, I would cook her favorite dish, sinigang. I would bring her the whole casserole of sinigang I cooked which she would apportion to last her until Sunday dinner. I would alternate pork, bangus (milkfish) and shrimps as main ingredient.
As was our custom, Saturday lunch would be personally served by me. I would let her catch a waft of the sinigang I cooked and ask her to guess what the main ingredient was. 99% of the time, her guess was right. I would ladle the translucent broth on the rice on her plate and she would mix them up with her fingers. I would then give her sips of the broth. She would close her eyes and savor the taste of it. That sight of her and the sound of her smacking lips after each spoonful of broth made me feel like a 5-star restaurant chef. I would also shred the pork, debone the milkfish, or peel the shrimps for her.
After her lunch, I would hand her the plastic tabo to wash her hands. I would help her up from her rattan reading chair and on to her bed for her afternoon siesta. I would kiss her forehead mottled by liver spots and say my goodbye. As I closed her bedroom door, the Richard Clayderman piano music theme of an afternoon radio drama program she listened to would accompany me as I went down the stairs of her home.