The Wheel and Axle

Remembering Manang

by on Apr.26, 2017, under My Life

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I posted this on my personal Facebook account a year ago today. This was my tribute to a woman who helped raise me. It has been a year since she passed away, and I still miss her.


Not half an hour ago, I received a message from my mother telling me that my Manang Carmen, who was my yaya/nanny when I was growing up, has passed away.

Manang Carmen was my second mother. I was always close to my mom, but she was a breadwinner of the family and was always busy at work. So for the times Mama wasn’t around, Manang was always there. She’d always been there since I was literally a baby.

Manang spoiled me so. When I was a child and my parents would not give in to what I wanted for dinner, Manang would cook what I wanted. She always cooked the best sinigang and lomong bistek tagalog and lechon paksiw. She was the only one who could make me eat sayote. And love it. To this day, I love sayote because of Manang.

Manang didn’t really know how to read and write. She barely finished first grade. However, she was always willing to learn. In the 1986 elections, she asked my mother to teach her how to write “Corazon Aquino” just so she could vote for the sake of the country. She did have a knack for numbers, though; she was great when it came to counting change at the market, and when we had a short-lived food business, she was in charge of the money. Lack of education did not mean lack of integrity or heart.

Manang was an old maid. At least, when I was growing up, she was. I think I was the child she never really had. I know she had quite a colorful love life when she was young, and though they never told young innocent Allan these details, I inferred that apparently she had several abortions that she regretted later on when she found out she could no longer have kids. Maybe that’s why she poured her heart into raising me.

At one point, she thought she was pregnant. It turned out to be a tumor. We got it removed, but she still would hold on to the belief that she was pregnant. It broke my heart.

Then, when I was in my early pre-teens, I was shocked to learn she was engaged to someone even much older than she was. I couldn’t believe it. She would be leaving us to move back to Ilocos with her husband, a widower who – if I recall – had his own family who didn’t even want her. The typical telenovela evil step-children and all that.

I cried. I negotiated (“we’ll take care of you instead”). I was callous (“his children hate you!”). I was mean (“when your older-than-dirt husband dies, come back!”). I was hurt.

She didn’t take a little boy’s tantrums seriously, of course.

But still she left.

It was only when I matured that I truly understood why she would want her own family, but I never forgot her. In the last couple of decades, she would occasionally visit us. In fact, her husband did pass away, but except for a brief time she stayed with us, she decided to move in with her blood niece who also has her own family now.

I never backed out on my promise and offer.

I had been planning to ask my own niece – who will soon graduate with a degree in architecture – to design a future house that would have enough rooms for me, my parents, my special-child brother, my 99-year old grandmother, and Manang Carmen.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked my mother how Manang was. I told my mom I want her to move back in with us so we could take care of her this time the way she took care of me for all those years. She is old now, just a few years older than my parents, and I do believe she deserved a comfortable life in her twilight years.

My mother, of course, was open to this. My parents have always treated our household help like family. It’s one of the many good things I learned from them.

I was already thinking of ways on how to prepare myself for supporting Manang on top of the family.

But unfortunately, it will never come to pass.

So tonight, I will probably find a way to eat sinigang and sayote before I cry myself to sleep.

I love you, Manang.

April 26, 2016

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