By Mina M. Rimando
At a very young age, she worked as a home-based cigarette roller for a local factory. Her educational attainment? She did not reach grade three.
After the war in 1949, armed with mere trust in her husband and faith in God, she travelled the rough roads up to these highlands with my Itay, my kuya who was almost three then, and the six-month-old me. She braved the cold climate of this mountain city, harsh to a lowlander, to help carve a new life of our own. With Itay, she struggled to start a simple business of buying and selling dry goods in the public market of mostly indigenous people.
My first consciousness was about playing and roaming the whole market grounds up to the wide city park with its fenceless lake and, when back in the store, helping to sell. Once there, “ania gatangen yo, Manong? (What are you looking for, Sir?)” was my oft-repeated mantra to people milling around, mimicking my Inay‘s greetings.
Some of the things we sold, she made. She sewed the Inabel cloths into shawls, bags, and swaggers. She sewed some of her own dresses and coats. I watched her draw patterns, straight lines, and curve lines. She used the tape measure and scissors with precise skill. Watching her, I learned how to sew, how to mend, and how to embroider. She opened my young unknowing mind to what was beautiful and pleasing to the eyes.
She taught me how to cook. I stood beside her as she lovingly cooked for us, her family, and I remembered in my adulthood that to learn to cook is to observe and know what I eat. From her, I learned some basic cooking lessons that as an adult, I read to be taught in the school of Le Cordon Bleu. “Kapag ganuong luto, ganito ang hiwa (the cut of the ingredients depend on the dish) .”
She had a shy, soft singing voice. Through her lullabies, I first heard the sweet strains of our kundiman. I repeated after her and learned to sing. I joined the Glee Club in high school and, then again, in college and proceeded to formal voice lessons in adulthood. She was proud that I sang and played the piano and the guitar.
She reveled in the visual arts. She loved paintings and collected reprints and had them framed. She was mindful of her handwriting, practicing in her free time to make it graceful and as perfect as could be. Perhaps it rubbed on me. In grade two, I won a best handwriting certificate. At that time, I started doodling and dabbling in watercolors. In my pre-senior years, I enrolled in a fine arts course, a prescribed therapy after surviving a brain stroke, and also to move forward with my off-on romance with my pencil and drawing book. Like Inay, I loved the recreation of life on canvas and empathized with my artist friends whose works I hung on my walls with pride.
As difficult as life was for Inay, she was able to save up to purchase elegant pieces she took delight in—vintage dinner-and-kitchenware and other decorative artifacts for our home. Gradually, she progressed into her antique furniture business, I am amazed with her knowledge of Spanish terms to call those objects.
She knew by instinct the values of those old woodworks and those items of jewelry and stones whose qualities of four C’s I only came to know in a short gemology course in my late twenties. She loved jewelry from her younger days, an affinity she perhaps inherited from her own mother, my Lolang Malabon, who tirelessly travelled the routes of Meycauayan and Batangas, selling jewelry. My lola’s image comes back to me now as she took me, a little girl just having summer fun, from house to house in the barrio, parting with her collection, piece by piece, in the most lenient forms of payment.
Inay‘s eyes and gut feel served her well until her graying years. I grew up and also grew old, in awe of Inay‘s grit and stamina to overcome life’s obstacles by mere acumen and instinct and faith in God. When motherhood came for me, all that I had learned from Inay flowed into my own children. The eye that sees the beautiful, the values of patience and industry, of caring and compassion, all these I have seen in my own children, who have pursued their passion for the arts and business as well. From Inay to me and thence to my children, the torch has passed. My Inay left me in this world some six years ago.
And so this is what motherhood means to me—it is the core of creation and the channel of continuity. It is the vessel of love from whence spring forth the hopes and dreams of a happy life.
About the author:
Mina M. Rimando designs jewelry at Tawid Crafts and is based in Baguio City. She writes this piece to honor her loving mother, Leonora Maranan.