Monday, April 07, 2008

day of valor

After going to the hospital today to have lunch with Dad and family, I drove to run some errands around Katipunan. I suddenly felt drawn to go to Loyola Memorial Park, remembering that the holiday today was because of Araw ng Kagitingan, which actually falls on April 9, my lola's birthday.

So off I went to brave the Marikina traffic and to pay a visit to, not just one, but 3 of my lolas at the park. I said my prayers, gave flowers I bought, and sat on the lawn in front of the tombstones. And I thanked them.

I thanked my birthday girl Lola Ima for showing us what valor truly meant, when she walked the Death March on her 18th birthday, alone, facing burnt remnants of where her home once stood in Cupang, Balanga, Bataan, and to rebuild it with her own hands, taking over the reins of her parents, and succeed in sending her brothers, including my maternal grandfather, to college and law school. She never stopped caring for her nieces and nephews (including my mom) as though they were own children even in her early 80s, for she never married or had kids. I remembered her displaying courage despite her senility in the last months of her life, and thanked her for teaching all of us how it is to serve, to love, to be selfless, to be family.

I thanked my grandmother Lola Letty for giving birth to my mom. My lola was like my mom, radiantly exuding beauty, poise and grace even when no one was looking. I prayed to her to look after my mom, because she has been staying at the hospital nonstop, fixing everything Dad needs, eating only after everyone has, and forgetting her own pain so she could soothe Dad's. I thanked her for the gift of music -- she and her sisters were the original showbiz singers in the family, having their own show on the radio. I admired her brave heart as she struggled to fight cancer while still faithfully attending my kuya's boys' choir concerts in her last days, and thanked her for instilling in her children her devotion to the Catholic faith, which has always been Mommy's source of strength.

Finally, I drove near the exit of the park and stopped by to greet Lola Bella. I failed to visit her on her birthday last month, and it was a bit early for her husband's birthday, the oft-mentioned Lolo Cenon. I thanked her for the time I shared with her at her house, when she'd ask me if I had eaten already and if I had a ride home. I prayed in gratitude for the warmth of her daughter's continued concern for me and my family. And I thanked her for the gift of a great love that I will never forget. Her life has inspired me to embrace loss -- not to be crippled, but to allow room to give more.

I left the park and saw a familiar tree with yellow hanging blooms. April showers, my Dad called them. I smiled, knowing those three great women are smiling back at me as I pick up the pieces and rebuild my life. Tomorrow, we will begin preparing as Daddy's return to our home will be, hopefully, sometime this week already.

Truly, this day is a day of valor.

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