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Mother’s Day: Why good food always reminds us of our mother

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Motherâs Day: Why good food always reminds us of our mother
Rina Go with daughters Madison (left) and Nicole.
Photo from Rina Go’s Instagram

Why is it that when we think of our mothers (welcome back to Manila, Mommy), we think of their recipes — not just for the best dishes but for a happy home. Yes, to me, Mother’s Day is a gut issue.

The smell of apple pie and pumpkin pie, especially in December, always reminds me of the days when my mom Sonia Reyes Mayor was very active in the kitchen and we would run our finger down her mixing bowl for a pre-taste of her concoctions. When we have kare-kare and chicken adobo, I always miss my late mother-in-law Lutgarda Quintans Ramirez.

My Assumption Convent classmate Rina Go shifted from the fashion business to the food business (she established Nic’s in 2001, and Nic’s Café later) and I personally think it’s because of the nurturing and nourishing nature she inherited from her late mother, Aurora Silayan-Go. Tita Au was mother not just to her and husband Henry’s five children (Jeff, Rina, Maggie, Kenneth and Francis) but also to their legion of friends.

“In order to keep her children at bay, Mom had all our friends gather in her homes.  She provided unlimited food, drinks, and her precious company,” recalls Rina. “She and my father opened their doors to all our friends, who have shared memories of our homes feeling like Grand Central Station because of their generosity. Five children each had troupes and troops of five different sets of friends. Each of them with the fondest memories of their Tita Au as cool, kalog, experimental and more importantly, a friend they could easily talk to and confide their inner secrets …”

I was especially fond of Tita Au, whose presence, like the dawn, was always uplifting. A magna cum laude graduate of Assumption College, and later Fordham University, she cared for people beyond her privileged circle, and was so hands-on with her advocacies, tirelessly following up on press releases she sent me on the Foundation for Adolescent Development (FAD) and Dial-a-Friend, even if she could let her staff, or her own daughter Rina, follow them up with me. Rina and I were batchmates since our grade school days, but Tita Au would call and text me directly, like we were the batchmates.

“Her career was focused on helping the marginalized through her devotion to family planning programs, which started during the ‘60s when it was controversial,” says Rina.

“She was an intellectual, feminist, social scientist, patron of the arts, classical pianist.  Her shoes frighten me,” adds Rina.

The late Aurora Silayan-Go.

***

Perhaps it is because of what she saw in her mother, who always would feed the “flock,” that Rina decided to shift from the fashion business to the food business.

“A mother’s love is the purest form of love you can ever find on this earth.  She is life’s manual, the superhero that manages to always pull a rabbit out of a hat,” says Rina.

I see this nurturing part of Rina, inherited from her mom, whenever I eat at Nic’s or order food from there. You just taste the love.

Rina remembers how her mother walked the tightrope of marriage, motherhood and career and kept her balance.

“I still marvel at her ability to juggle her career, run her various households, chart her children’s schooling, look like a fashion plate, while holding the full attention of her husband,” says Rina.

Tita Au passed away in December 2021, 13 years after she suffered a massive stroke. After her stroke, which confined her to her home in a peaceful “world of her own,” she lost her daughter Maggie to cancer. After Maggie’s death, Tita Au’s beloved husband Henry passed away.

And yet she held on, probably because as one of her sons Francis said, she was the “glue that held the family together.”

Her granddaughter Nicole Aurora says her Grandma “had so much more to give” had she not suffered that massive stroke.

Tita Au was not a kitchen wiz herself, “but when she ate anywhere and a particular dish was outstanding, she would figure the recipe out.  So she had signature hits like her Caesar Salad dressing, milkfish spring rolls, sauces like bolognese and carbonara, buko pandan, barbecue, sotanghon,” reveals Rina. These hits are mostly all available at Nic’s Cafe, named after Tita Au’s eldest granddaughter Nicole, Rina’s eldest.

What was her mom’s favorite dish? “The stuffing of our turkey,” smiles Rina, adding, “I think she was particularly good in dipping sauces — if the dish came with that, hers was always distinct.”

Rina is a single mom, juggling motherhood and career as well.  What does she strive to be for her daughters?

Nic’s Lemon Cheesecake, Heart of Palm Spring Rolls and Tinapa Salted Egg Pasta.

“To be a good provider.  I want to be an example of a person who knows what is valuable and not — that I am not swayed, pressured or influenced to keep up with anyone, that I have found my place in the sun and pray they do, that I remember the values of my parents, that it is good to have hobbies, that a woman should be able to do her share. And more importantly, that no matter how hard, I want to be a mom who is dependable and will always be there for them no matter what.”

“My mother suffered undeserved physical pain for 13 long years,” recalls Rina. “I don’t exactly know how my daughters and I will ever get used to not having morning prayers, breakfast, lunch and dinner with Mom. But I also know that it was much better this way; that Dad went ahead — otherwise he would not be able to take it.”

But to her children, grandchildren, and their friends whom she mothered as well, to artists like Lea Salonga whom she took under her wing, to the youth she guided with her advocacies, Aurora Silayan-Go lives on.

And with every bite of that turkey stuffing that was her favorite, and whiff of her Caesar Salad dressing (passed on to Rina and available at Nic’s), the memories will keep on coming, and warming up not just the bellies but the hearts of those she loved.

(Nic’s Café is located in Park Terraces, Makati City.)

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

MOTHERS DAY

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