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Yaya

TACKED THOUGHTS - Nancy Toledo (The Freeman) - March 17, 2019 - 12:00am

My yaya came to live with us when I was six months old. Even before I began to form memories, she was already part of my life. I did not think of her as a surrogate parent because my parents were central to my life. But she was always there and I just naturally concluded that she was as much a part of my family as my grandparents and cousins. In fact, I thought everyone had his version of my yaya. My cousins certainly did. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I began to realize that what I had was something rare and special.

 

In high school, when I became more independent, my yaya’s role morphed as well. As she no longer had to manage me, she managed the major housekeeping activities in our household. She knew where all the Christmas decorations were stored and where all the linens were kept. She knew exactly how my dad wanted his blanket folded and how my mom wanted her shirts washed. She was efficient and carried a personal vendetta against dirt and clutter.

Which meant that I must have been a cross to her. I was always comfortable in my mess. The moments when I had a surge of orderliness were few and far between. We would argue about that too. She nagging me to put my toys and books away and me… pretending I didn’t hear her. But we were fiercely loyal to each other. Some years ago, my parents left to visit my sister in the States. I was already an adult then but every night while my parents were away, she would put her mattress outside my door and sleep there. I asked her several times to sleep in my room instead or in my sister’s room which was empty. She repeatedly declined.

She was fiercer than any guard dog, my yaya. But was generous to a fault. Her sister-in-law told me that whenever she went home to her town in the south of Cebu, she would have rice and food for all her relatives and neighbors. She was always the one they ran to when their finances got too tight. And my yaya never turned them away. She never turned me away either. Never once got angry when I was younger and would wake her up because I was hungry or not feeling well.

She stayed with our family until she passed away couple of weeks ago. By then, she had been with us for 38 years. Even as I expected her passing, I still feel her loss very deeply. But more than her loss, I feel deep gratitude for the life that she spent with us.

I don’t think my yaya ever got past third grade but she taught me some of the most valuable lessons in life: 1) No one is ever too poor to give; 2) Sometimes wits and instinct are worth far more than a diploma; 3) Single women are fierce; 4) Family isn’t always determined by blood; and 5) When one has faith, love overcomes death.

YAYA
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