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Dear 12-Year Old Me

Dear 12 year old me,

Girl, you haven't recovered yet from the loss of your mother. Can't blame you coz it was just two years ago when the most important person in the world left without saying goodbye. You were orphaned at 10 years old, when Nanay Tacing (Mother Tacing/Anastacia) dared to cross the river in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro despite the inclement weather. You were told that she was taken away by the whirlpool. She dared because she wanted to celebrate your 10th birthday even belatedly. You were expecting her on July 12th but Typhoon Yoling kept her from visiting you. Yet, she insisted to come on July 22nd. Your world crumbled upon hearing the tragedy that befell your mother. At a very young age, without your parents, I was wondering, how did you manage to stay focused, continue on your studies and graduate?

Was it Nanay's constant nagging when she was alive that kept you on your toes? How you hated it when she hollered "Paulina, wake up" every morning during school days. She'll give her commands from the kitchen while busy making rice cakes. How embarrassed you were going to school everyday with rice cakes for snacks and you didn't have the money (just like your classmates) to buy sweets. And how your classmates envied you because you have rice cakes everyday. Smart as you were, you traded rice cakes with candies or ice cream.

What kept you going then? Oh the memory of your disciplinarian, hardworking, enterprising, adventurous, smart and beautiful mother. It was like she was with you and prompting you at the top of her voice everyday. The scent of baby powder under her arm. How she shuttles from the kitchen to her store to attend to her rice cakes and customers, respectively. How you pretended to read a book by reciting the verses aloud so you can avoid washing the dishes. How she made you kneel on coarse salt with arms outstretched and books on both hands upon learning that you bullied your classmate. How you travelled together for days at sea to visit the big city.

At a very young age, you were trained on business by selling, yes, you guessed it... rice cakes or fried bananas/plantain on stick (bananaque) around town on weekends and holidays. And roscas (rusk bread) during town fiestas. You can only smile recalling how you dared to break the rules and the punishments that went with it. When you played with Nanay's stamp album and tore them into pieces as play money, you were spanked and made to kneel before the altar. When you ate on your own because Nanay was busy attending to the store, you were excited to use the fork and spoon for adults. How you loudly wept on the way to school because you were wearing your own fork and spoon as a necklace. These were the happy memories that kept you going. This is the movie that was playing in your mind while you sit on the jerry cans queuing for water which you will bring to and from the house of your step grandparents, your daily chore after school.

At 12 years old, you were already thinking about what you will be. You were making the game plan for your future. You were a day dreamer with thought bubbles floating while washing clothes not your own. The more water you fetched and the heavier the jerry cans, the more resolute you became to go to school. After all, attending school was a respite from the house and water work.

Without you knowing it, Nanay Tacing, during those ten (10) short years with you, she was training you to become an independent, brave and smart girl.

  • Girl Power
  • Education
  • Moments of Hope
  • South and Central Asia
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