Time is gold

As a kid, I didn’t know what she meant.

Lola(grandma) had a calm and soft voice, and she was a religious woman.
She would walk slowly behind our backs while we were playing her weaving stuff, and we would just be shocked if suddenly she pinched our legs for not being good. She was a woman of her word. She would repeat, “I said, ‘Don’t touch my things.” Once she said that she stood by it. She was a short lady with a height of five feet and one inch, a slim body like a Korean’s. She was clean and neat when it came to her stuff, especially in the kitchen. Everything must be arranged in its proper place, either in the kitchen, bedroom or living room. In a word, it must be well organized. This was one of her characteristics.

We lived in a small village outside the town of Leon, 29km from the city of Iloilo, Philippines. When I was a kid, I remember my grandma always weaving a patadyong (pa-tad-jong) wraparound skirt worn by both men and women of the Visayas Islands. All-day she was weaving when she was done with her other household work. She lived with my grandpa and uncle in their own house. I was living with my parents nearby. Sometimes I and my siblings went there to visit them.

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Being kind of a naughty kid, I always played with her things and that was the reason why I got pinched in my legs most of the time. When my siblings and I saw the colourful threads, we couldn’t resist ‘help’ her with her weaving. She would bring the rectangular skirts to the town during the market day to sell. This was one of her daily routines to earn money to help my grandfather.

At six o’clock in the evening, as we heard on the radio the Angelus prayer, if we were with her, we needed to stop whatever we were doing. We would stand to do the sign of the cross and say the Angelus prayer. After that, we would hold our elders’ hands as we said, “Mano Po” or “Pagmamano” or simply “Mano” as this was a gesture to honor and greet our elders in the Philippines. A younger person asks, “Mano Po,” which means ‘Your hands please’ and then we proceed to place the back of the elders’ hands lightly on our forehead. “God bless you,” they would say, and we would reply, “Amen.” And we could go back to play or whatever we were doing previously.

At night, after dinner, it was mandatory to recite the Holy Rosary prayer and ask for the elders’ blessings before going to bed. Every Sunday we had to attend the Holy Mass and receive Holy communion. These are rituals that we followed as we were raised as Roman Catholics. As a kid, we were obliged to do all that if we were sleeping over at their house. In the morning we needed to get up at four o’clock for the morning prayer. Even if our eyes were still closed because we were still sleepy, we must join her to pray. After the prayer was done, we, the kids, could go back to sleep and she would go to prepare for breakfast. Now I miss this kind of routine now that I am here working in Hong Kong as a helper, especially in this time of the pandemic. I can’t go to church, but I do not forget to say a prayer before going to bed.

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In our village, we had a yearly celebration, on January 18th, to commemorate our patron saint. Our relatives and visitors came to visit us. We celebrated by preparing a lot of food. We slaughtered pigs or chickens and bought meat in the town market. In the morning we had the Holy Mass in the chapel. When the mass ended, we would go home to have lunch and entertain the relatives and visitors. At night there would be a disco party celebration in the village plaza. You could dance and enjoy the festival until dawn, with the dance beat from sound systems.

Aside from that, November 25th was the town’s annual patronal fiesta celebration. On the day before the occasion, we would go to the house of our close relatives to join them in the celebration. We would sleep over there for one night. At night we would go to the plaza to ride on the Ferris wheel and merry go round, or we would play games with our friends. On the morning of the celebration, we would go to church to attend the Holy Mass as we did in the village.

As a kid, I really enjoyed the rides, especially the Ferris wheel because not all village kids could go there and have a ride. When I go home, I tell my village friends how I felt during my Ferris wheel ride. How when it was going up I felt so happy, and on top, I could see the highest houses in the town and when I looked down, people below were like small babies. I also told them that the Ferris wheel is round, so tall, and had twelve seats, where every seat could fit two people, and that it turned three times and stopped so that others could enjoy the ride. My greatest memory with my grandma was when we were riding together on the Ferris wheel we’re shouting while it was going down.

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Through her, I knew our relatives who lived in distant places because I was always with her. We would go to a nearby town, or to our relatives in other villages. We were there to help them to harvest their dark eye beans. As a kid, I enjoyed doing it for a couple of hours and I would go back home to wait for my grandma there. At lunchtime, they would be home as well. I can say that I was a lucky grandchild because every place she went, I was her companion.

Now I understand her words, that “time is gold.” It is important because if time is gone it won’t be back again, so we should use it properly and wisely. If there’s a good opportunity we should grab it. The lessons she kept telling us is don’t forget to pray always, be honest to your parents about where we go, so they know where to find us in case of trouble. Be polite. She taught us to study well because knowledge is the only treasure, we have that nobody can steal from us.

With her I saw the so-called city of love, “Iloilo City,” as one time when she had spare money, she took me there. How beautiful and noisy it was. Beautiful because of the tallest buildings that I couldn’t see in the village. Noisy because of the beeping of the horns from cars both private and public. I still remember the mall where you could see sales ladies in their uniforms with makeup and breathe the cool smell from the perfume shop.

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Now you can take a walk safely on Iloilo Promenade and have a seat while waiting for the sunset and watch the city lights at night. There is a newly constructed Festive Walk Mall, where there is an outdoor park and open space with roof gardens and greeneries. I have savings for my vacation from being a foreign domestic helper, but I can’t share with her the happiness that she gave me when I was a kid. She passed away already, eight years before my flight here in Hong Kong. Still, somehow, I know she is happy and smiling looking at me now; I want to tell you a Happy mother’s Day!

The post is submitted by Cornelia Camiring, dedicated to her lovely grandmother!