she’s my mum’s ate, the third sibling in a brood of eight. and she died a year ago today.
she’s a spinster who spent her life sewing clothes as a pioneer seamstress in a well-known pabrika. she worked very hard and shunned the educational system because my lolo and lola could not afford to send all eight of them to school. so together with an older sister, they worked day & night, had little luxuries and forgot about getting married so that their five siblings (an uncle died very young due to a congenital disease) can go to school and earn a college degree. that includes my mum, wendy.
when my kuya and myself were growing up, ninang conch and tita vo were the authoritative figures we really looked up to, apart from my lolo and lola. they were both spinsters, and so naturally both were very old world and conservative. in a nutshell, both my aunts will have a say when it pertains to myself and my kuya’s well being, we heeded their advise, we sought their permission and obliged when they plainly said no.
these two aunts loved us without abandon, and this fact was further cemented when my mum suddenly became a very young widow. they gave without asking, offered without being insinuated on. in short, they were our second mothers. and we loved them deeply. we may not see eye to eye all the time, especially when my kuya and I were growing up with teenage angst. but they were there.
our loving tita vo died in 2005, and it was a shattering loneliness having lost her. and not long after, ninang conch died too. she had cancer. I guess ninang conch got very lonely being by herself, even after my mum moved in with her. ninang conch was so used to having tita vo do things together with her like attend mass every day, take care of lolo and lola (when they were still alive), cook together, and bicker at one another at some point for variety. you know how sisters are.
I know how tita vo died, and what time she passed on, because I was with her everyday for 12 days when she was confined at the intensive care unit. but not ninang conch, we never knew exactly when she went away… until TODAY.
november 11, at dawn last year, dear and I were awakened with a startling, fast knocks inside the house. we thought of it as nothing. “maybe those were the cats in the ceiling again,” dear said. “ano’ng oras na ba?”, I gnarled back. “pasado alas-cuatro ata.” and we went back to sleep.
past 6:00 AM same day. my mum was hysterically calling me and my kuya, her voice practically hovering the entire compound where we lived. “mga anak, ang ninang, ang ninang! Diyos ko ang ninang nyo!”. when my mum woke up that morning, she found our ninang conch in her room dead. she died quietly. very typical of her.
we held her, she still had fresh tears on her face. I cried while caressing her hair and all I could say was ninang, ninang. paulit-ulit. my kuya said that ninang conch was still warm, proof that she died just an hour or so ago. we don’t know, really.
it was a long road to babang-luksa, a year to mourn and fully accept her passing. today we celebrate her first death anniversary. finally too, dear and I know what time she died at dawn of november 11, 2007.
because for the second time after a year, we again heard the familiar startling, fast knocks inside the house; this time in the same house where she died in, as we are the new dwellers of the same. and this time dear and I both knew what time it was. beacuse I asked him, because we were supposed to hear mass in honor of ninang conch in a couple of hours. and the time? it was crystal clear: 4:10 AM.
and if you believe in the supernatural, it really does offer some closure to questions left unanswered. it makes a whole lot of difference.
we love you, ninang conch. please look after of all of us.