She is courageous, she is inspirational, she is loved. As Nanay Rosa turns 95, her daughters profess their gratitude for a mother whose unconditional love knows no bounds.
Our Nanay (mother) turned 95 years old on the first of April. She is an amazing woman who cared for our Ama (father) at home for one year - from the time he was discharged from hospital where he was a cancer patient when nothing could be done for him anymore. I remember she was nearly skin and bones then, as she also was sleep-deprived and lost appetite to eat.
Nanay Rosa, the writer's mother, celebrated her 95th birthday on 1 April.
Three years after his death, Nanay agreed to migrate to Australia with my sister Ellen. Although she was 59 years of age by then, she adjusted well into the Australian life and ways. While she was left to her own devices during the day when were working, she undertook English class to improve her conversation skills. She took great joy telling us at dinner conversation how much discount she haggled from the Italian fruiterer and the Chinese fishmonger.
She is no stranger to going on adventures and is the tenth child of 11 - eight boys and three girls. From an early age, she helped her parents in selling produce from the farm. Unlike a lot of young women in their town who got married in their teens, she packed up to go to Manila when she was in her mid-twenties. She wanted to explore what challenges the ‘big smoke’ would offer her.
As fate would have it, she met Ama who was also from her town and seeking his destiny. Nanay was 28 when they got married. She disobeyed my father’s wish for her to stay home but was determined to contribute to the family’s meagre income. She learned to sew and worked as a seamstress, even after Ellen and I came along. She behaved even back then like a modern-day independent woman who wants to work, not just for financial reasons.
With daughters Ellen (left) and Violi (right).
Nanay has impressed upon us that we could achieve what we set our sights to, through good education, hard work and passion. We were poor but never felt envious of those who were better off than us as she inculcated in us contentment with what material things we have. She has continually surprised us with her energy and drive. She insisted that we went back to work when our sons turned one-year-old and superbly looked after all her five grandsons.
Now that Nanay is approaching the twilight of her life, she speaks of her happiness with the life she has had despite some trials. She also speaks of being ready to join our Ama. I promise to be good in exchange for more years to have her around - for our turn to care and serve her with love.
* 'Let Me Love You, Nanay Rosa' is a group song arranged by family friends Bob and Cynthia Alipalo, sang at Nanay's 95th birthday lunch.