My Yaya Flora came to work for our family before I was born. I’m the youngest of two, so she first took care of my brother. It was merely a year and 8 months before my brother was upstaged by the new star in the family hahaha. Yaya took care of us. She couldn’t stop our countless fights, but she would be there to comfort me. Because my parents both worked, she was my constant companion. Come to think of it, I don’t know how she juggled her time and energy between me and my brother. She was in her 50s when she became our nanny. All I know is when I needed her, she was there.
I didn’t like taking the plane when I was a kid, so my parents would let me ride the boat (Negros Navigation) instead. Summers were spent either in Cagayan de Oro or Iloilo, and sometimes without the rents. My brother would fly with one or both parents, or alone. I would take the boat with my dad but mostly just with Yaya. I remember even staying in the economy section, sleeping on yellow hammock-like beds with hundreds of other people, no air-conditioning, no privacy. It used to take 24 hours to get to Iloilo and 48 to Cagayan de Oro. We would have numerous bags with us (no wheels in our luggage — that’s how Yaya rolled), and we would bring adobo for our food. Other times we stayed in a room with 6 other strangers, with air-conditioning, and we had food stubs. There was some privacy, but bathrooms were for common use outside our quarters. I had pretty cool adventures as a kid. And I had a pretty cool and strong yaya.
I remember she would always set aside mangoes for me. She knew they were my favorite. She would tap my butt so I could fall sleep when I was little. She would sleep with me in my room. She would feed me. She would take me to school with the tricycle service. She interviewed the little boy who said he loved me, asked him if he was ready to marry me, hahaha. She would tell me stories about the children she took care of before us. I would ask her about her husband and if she had any kids, and she would always be coy about it. I never knew the real story. She would even buy clothes for me in the palengke, bring me pasalubong from the province. She did everything to help my parents take care of us while my parents pursued their careers. And I was not the easiest child (or teenager haha) to take care of! She was so patient. She loved me even through my outbursts and tantrums. She stayed with us for over 20 years.
I remember she broke her arm in my cousin’s house because she slipped on wet cement. That probably happened because she was protecting me. I might have been around 7 or 8 then, she was 65 or 66. Her body never fully recovered from that. She would complain to me about it as she/we got older. I may have asked for one massage too many hehehe (I liked massages even as a kid — my dad always massaged us too). I remember when she would heave deep breaths and would lay down to rest. I was in my teens then, her in her 70s. Maybe I was afraid that she would die soon. I remember asking her if she wanted to go to heaven when she died. She told me of course she did. I asked her if she believed in Jesus. She told me she did. I remember leading her in prayer to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. I was not a practicing Christian then (I only became one at 24). Maybe I was on one of my highs after a retreat or something. Thank God she didn’t judge me and my rebelliousness, but accepted my words. The seeds of the Gospel that was sown in my heart since I was a child were at work somehow.
I remember when she got sick. I was the one taking her to the doctor to figure out what was wrong. She was in pain and I distinctly remember two doctors. One was a christian doctor who did not charge us for the consultation. The other was too rough handling her. My poor yaya yelped in pain, but I was not able to help her. I still remember that doctor’s face and his built, but not his name. I guess Yaya also couldn’t explain what she was feeling. She was already around 80 then. I don’t think there was any diagnosis. I don’t remember anymore. But I know that we decided it was better for her to go home to San Carlos, Negros Occidental, where her sister and daughter could take care of her and where she would not feel obliged to work. We felt that even though we told her to stop working, she would still do chores at our house.
The next time I saw Yaya was when we visited San Carlos in 2007, around 5 years later. I was married and Danae turned 2 then. Yaya was 88 and doing well! I made sure I got some clothes for her and that she met King and Danae. She was after all a huge part of my childhood. It was such a happy reunion. Amazing that she got to hold Danae in her arms, the way she held me in hers! Funny that I think every year before that, she would call the house and remind us of her birthday hahaha. She had the same birthday as Jose Rizal, June 19. It would be so hard to talk to her because she couldn’t hear well, but we assured her that her birthday cash (c/o my brother and mom) would be given to her. My parents honored their promise to take care of her financially in her old age as she had honored her promise to stay with us and take care of us kids.
The next time I saw her was in 2009. King was not with us, but I had Danae and Noelle with me, along with my mom. Noelle never met Yaya because Yaya was sick in the hospital. I did not want to bring my kids there. I went alone with my cousin. It was heart breaking. She could barely open her eyes. I don’t know what was wrong then. All I know is it was hard for me to see her like that. I just caressed her hip, said hi. I didn’t want to add to her pain. I don’t even remember if I prayed for her. I hope I did.
I thought that was the last year Yaya would be alive. But to my amazement, it wasn’t! God extended her life a few more years. We haven’t been able to visit San Carlos again and so that was the year I last saw and talked to her. She passed away last Friday, peacefully in her sleep, at age 96. She was buried yesterday. Her sister and daughter were there. I wish she could have met all my girls. I wish she could have met my brothers’ boys. She would have been thrilled. I wish I was able to hug her and say goodbye. I am sad that she is gone but I am happy that she is finally able to rest, to truly rest.
Thank you Lord for my Yaya. Thank you for the sacrifices she made for us. Thank you for the opportunity you gave us to love her back and appreciate her, though words and financial support I know are not enough. Thank you Lord because you are the one who loves her perfectly and completely. Thank you that her service was worth it. She had a hand at how my brother and I turned out. She was one of the channels of Your love and care. Thank you because she is now at peace with You.