On lola duty

- Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2015 - 10:00am

SYDNEY — On my first morning in Sydney, I awakened to the familiar voice of Julius Babao reading the news from Manila. My daughter doesn’t have The Filipino Channel in her home but Australian Broadcasting carries news from different countries and at 8:10 in the morning, we get the late night newscast of ABS-CBN.

Did I want to watch the news? I was asked.  No thanks, I said. I’m on vacation.

From the kitchen, I could here snippets on the last day of filing certificates of candidacy, the ridiculous numbers who have filed their candidacies for president, vice-president and senator, but I paid no heed. I was just glad to be away from the toxic political circus back home. Since I got here late last week, I have been on real vacation mode.

First stop when I arrived was Costco — isn’t that so Filipino? — but only to buy pillows for me to use.  Last Sunday, I watched the last performance of Les Miserables in Sydney with my son-in-law and my grandsons. The production was excellent; I was in tears from beginnig to end. The cast had such energy, their performance strong and spirited, and the audience which came to give them a rousing farewell, rewarded them with a standing ovation. A week after watching the show, the songs are still in my head!

I’ve also done the usual malling, shopping, cooking, doing laundry, watching movies on TV, and surfing the world through Facebook. SoI have tried to avoid news about the coming elections, but I kept abreast of Typhoon Lando and how well prepared our government was to respond to its fury. I have also been following the fallout from the Synod at the Vatican where conservative bishops have blocked any attempt by Pope Francis to infuse charity and compassion in the position of the Church regarding divorced Catholics who have remarried, and the plight of gays and lesbians. It is upsetting to read about bishops getting in the way of Christ’s teachings of love, forgiveness and compassion.

Mostly I’ve been on lola duty which, I find, I could enjoy much more if I were a decade younger and quicker on the uptake. The boys have grown so fast. The bathroom I share with them, which used to have only the most basic soap, shampoo and toothpaste, are styling gels, shaving foam, deodorants, anti-acne and body lotions. These are the boys I used to share my bed with when they visited in Manila. Today, I must tread softly around their sensitivities and especially their sense of privacy. Still, mealtimes are usually fun with the conversation going from serious to silly to absurd. And I still get my share of kisses when they leave for school and when they come home. And occasionally, they throw in an “I love you.”

Five-year-old Maya is my constant companion. She is smart, sassy, articulate, demanding but very loving. She has latched herself to me as her preferred playmate, bedtime story reader, and all-around “slave,” which I don’t mind.

I am so surrounded by love, I keep asking myself why I stay away for so long.

I’m not usually in Sydney in October, since it is too close to Christmas, which we like to spend here together as a family. But I am visiting in the off-season to attend to a particular grandmotherly duty. For years, Luis has put me on a guilt-trip saying I have never been in Sydney on his birthday during the 11 years that his family has lived in Australia. Which is true. I came here when his older brother Diego turned five, six months after they emigrated, bringing party decor, favors and candy from Divisoria. I was also here to assist my daughter when Maya was born five years ago. And last year, I was here for their lolo’s birthday, which was followed by Maya’s 4th birthday three days later.

Luis has nagged me about this for so long, and no offer of a hefty present or extra money at Christmas would make him change his mind. I had to be in Sydney on Oct. 25, the day of his birthday, or he would think I don’t love him. It’s a preposterous thought, and he knows it, but Luis knows how to push my buttons, so here I am in Sydney, on an unscheduled visit two months before Christmas, to prove to my second grandson that I love him.

Perhaps because of all the excuses I’ve made in the past, even after I showed him my airline ticket, he said he would not believe that I would be here until the actual day of his birthday. He reasoned that given my erratic travel schedule, I could suddenly be called to a meeting in Nepal or Malaysia or wherever else. Even now that I am already in Sydney, he says he is still not convinced I will be around when he turns 13 tomorrow. It’s a game he plays only half-jokingly.

Given the depressing political climate in the Philippines, I am glad Luis forced the issue and I am back here in my happy place, if only for a while.

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