Lola Menang is my maternal grandmother’s sister-in-law (her brother’s wife), but I always forget this detail since I’ve always felt that she is a blood relative. Right now she’s like the family matriarch, being the oldest living member of the clan. Lola Menang is very much adored because of her happy disposition and the way she relates with everyone. She has such a great memory for a lady in her 90s. She knows the name of almost every single grandchild, even great-grandchildren – yes, even second degree grandchildren. Our side of the clan is always amazed by this since she rarely sees us (sometimes a couple of years or so would pass before we get to see her).

Recently, I witnessed again how well-loved Lola Menang is. Her daughter passed away (she has outlived 2 or 3 children already) recently, and when my dad and I went to the wake, we were surprised at just how many people were present. It was like a politician or VIP’s wake. Since we couldn’t see the banner, we even had doubts at first as to whether we came to right wake.

We stayed with Lola Menang for most of the evening, and we realized that all those people came for her. There was a steady stream of people approaching her throughout the evening. However, I enjoyed our chat in-between. I once again confirmed what a very kind heart she has. When my dad commented about the number of people present, how she’s friends with all of them, she said, “Alam mo, walang masamang tinapay sa akin (There’s no bad seed to me).” She said that she just takes people as they are because she discovered that when reaching out to people, they respond more when you accept them without judgment. That’s exactly how she lives her life and it shows in her physical appearance (she could pass for a 70 or 80-year-old) and her demeanor.  I could see that she moves through life with a certain lightness.

I also had a lesson in generosity. She was telling stories about my lolo and lola, and she told me how they and their children moved in with her family in their Antipolo farm during World War II (so that was why she is very close to our side of the clan). Since it was a farm and food was scarce during that time, there were people who came asking for food. She said that she never turned down any of them. She would give them kamote, or anything else that the farm produced. She said, “Bakit ko naman ipagdadamot yun? (Why should I be selfish with it?)” It was a remarkable deed because that farm was not an hacienda by any means, just a modest spread, and she had many other relatives to feed (those who evacuated to the place).

That evening, I felt so proud of my Lola Menang every time a person a would approach us and greet her so affectionately. I thought to myself that this is one old lady who is truly well-loved and respected not because of her age, but because she earned and truly deserves it.