I remember when I was about 3 years old when she taught me the poem “Once I Saw A Little Bird” and she’d show me how to say the poem with actions and feelings. Until now, I could still imagine how she’d wave her hands in the lines “… and he shook his little tail, and far away he flew..”.
I was four when I started going to her class at a public elementary school. She’d fetch me at home and we’d walk to school together. She always let me sit in front of the class and she’d often call me to answer her questions. I was just a “visitor” then but she’d put me in charge of the class when she went to meetings, which I enjoyed a lot. =)
When I turned five, I was officially enrolled as a grade 1 student in her class and she was always proud of me for getting better grades than her other “older” students. That is why when I turned six and was a kindergarten student at John Bosco, she was so upset that I didn’t get into the honor’s list. Once, when we were at a party, she saw my kindergarten teacher and asked her why I was not on the honor’s list. She said that I was a good student and performed well when I was in her class. She indirectly accused my kinder teacher of “favoritism”. I got mad at her because my kindergarten teacher humiliated me the next day in class because of that incident.
But somehow, that incident also motivated me to do better at school because she believed in me so much that I didn’t want to disappoint her again…
I remember a lot of things about her. She was great at the kitchen and would call me from her window when it’s time to eat. She made the weirdest – but delicious “kakanins”, salads and juices (fresh pipino, guyabano, ..). She also brought me to prayer meetings, Bible sharing, and masses. I was oftentimes reluctant to come with her but always ended up enjoying and having a great time.
She went to my high school graduation and promised to attend my college graduation too. She was already old by then but she was still energetic and full of life. I looked forward to that day when she will be proud of me and see me receive my college diploma and medal.
But it didn’t happen because she was brought to Cebu and was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before my college graduation.
She was never the same again after the chemotherapy, medications, and tests. She was not able to make the delicious salads and juices like she used to. But she was still able to teach me about other poems and prayers that she memorized. We’d sing Christian songs together and she’d tell me about verses and stories from the Bible. She’d tell me stories about her life as a teenager, how she brought up her children, and how she managed to raise all eight of them to become professionals.
It was painful to see how she suffered from cancer and how she grew weaker and weaker each day. Even at her weakest, my first teacher taught me about the important things in life – God, family, … love. She died on February 14, Valentines Day. I will always be grateful to her for being proud of me and believing in me. To my first teacher, my friend, my fan, my grandmother, Happy Birthday Nanay! We miss you and we know that you are somewhere in heaven watching over us…