Thursday, August 23, 2007


This sampaguita vendor's wide-faced smile and overall physical features remind me of Tia Inez -- my second mother, my yaya.

Tia Inez was the sister of my father's sister's husband. She enjoyed her simply appointed, though airy, two storey house in Subic across the street from our house next to my aunt's. She lived there alone after her husband had left her for another woman.

She wasn't embittered by it nor whined about it. She simply went on her life making dresses and smoking those dark cigarettes with the lit end inside her mouth. She never had any child. If anything, I was the closest to being her own child.
She came to Manila to live with us when I was born to help my mother with my rearing right until I started school.

There were times my parents would send me off to Subic for a few days with Tia Inez. Now, although Tia Inez despised alcohol and claimed it to be the devil's invention, in the evenings, she often hosted a small group of barrio folks for a game of cards. Unfortunately, there were times when they were interrupted by my screaming from my aunt's balcony, "Tia Ineeeeez! Tia Ineeeeez!" I would relentlessly call out for her until I hear her scream back, "Ukinana di ubing!"

And just like clockwork, as I craned my neck from the balcony across the street, I'd see each of her friends march out of her house disgruntled as she was. Moments later, after locking up her house, Tia Inez would come over to pick me up from my aunt's and take me to our house. By then she wouldn't be angry anymore. As she helped me change into my pajamas, she'd ask me how my day was, or if there were any picnics planned for the next day. Right after that, we'd share the same bed -- scaring the bedbugs away with our boisterous snoring.

Tia Inez and I were not to be deprived of exciting adventures. Being a sickly child, she regularly took me to Luneta in the early morning and let me run around; invigorated by the air of Manila Bay. Afterwards, we would get on a boat that circled the bay for about 15 minutes or so.

Regrettably, we had to stop riding those boats after a nearly disastrous incident. All that I could remember was that I kept eating those saltine crackers as people screamed when the boat we were on started taking in water at quite an alarming rate. Had it not been for those alert seamen aboard a nearby anchored ship, we would have been the headlines of the next day's papers.

There were also the afternoons when she would drag me to Cine Noli to watch a double feature of local films. However, I'd come out of the theater with the back of my thighs littered with welts from the surot bites. She'd make me wear my pajamas so that my father wouldn't notice them, though it worried him just the same upon seeing me in my bedtime outfit when arriving home from work; fearing I might be once again ill. Nevertheless, I'm sure it sometimes intrigued my father how his four-year-old could be so knowledgeable with the faces of local film stars -- Rosa Mia, Leopoldo Salcedo, Cesar Ramirez, Paraluman, Rogelio de la Rosa, and etc.

Although my mother intensely craved for bananas when she was pregnant with me, Tia Inez would rather starve to death than eat one. During the war, while holed up in some cave up in the mountain and surviving on a mostly banana diet, she may have suffered the perils of potassium or fiber overdose. Be that as it may, it was only Tia Inez who'd know for sure why she hated this fruit with a passion.

Incidentally, speaking of the war, Tia Inez proved her quickness with her feet when she outran and thereby escaped getting raped by a Japanese soldier at the start of the war and by a sex-starved American G.I. at the end of the war. Ironically, she ended up chasing away the man she chose to cozy up with for life. C'est la vie.

During my final two years of high school, whenever in Subic, I'd spend an hour or two visiting with Tia Inez. She remained occupied with dressmaking, smoking her cigarettes, and hosting evening card games at her house. Our times alone together needn't be laced with smart conversations. I'd usually browse through her collection of local magazines or read a pocket book I've brought along with me, while she worked that manual Singer sewing machine of hers with amazing precision -- just the two of us hanging out together at her house.

And before leaving her to join my cousins to Baloy or White Rock Beach,
just like with my mother, I'd bug her for a buck or two. But just like my mother, her initial reaction would always be tinged with overt annoyance; however, in the end she would give me even more than I asked for. Kids can be manipulative all right, and perhaps, my acting like one somehow actualized their wish for me not to grow up too fast too soon.

When I finally left Manila for New York, the first package I sent Tia Inez contained genuine Bicycle playing cards, which she loved and raved about. Sadly, I never saw her again; she passed away while I was in the States. But from what I was told, Tia Inez played the cards dealt to her by fate with admirable inner strength and peace until the very end.

* * *

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:36 PM


Blogger  gmirage said...

Oh I never thought that she passed away already. I like the way you told the story, in a manner that though there were depressing times, its still funny and the expression of the woman where she seemed to just laugh off life's daily routines...Ironic ha about Tia Inez running away from impending danger regarding men but then the man she chose ran away from her.

I agree with her about alcohol hehe. Though a glass of wine is good...Again a bible quote: Galatians 5:19-21

Thanks again for sharing!

August 23, 2007 10:23 PM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

it's nice how simple things remind us of the people who made a significant impact in our lives.

...i guess the air from manila bay was really invigorating at that time. unfortunately for us now we have to go to the provinces just to get a whiff of fresh air.


August 24, 2007 9:03 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, G. Mirage, Tia Inez's life was filled with contradictions, yet she managed to live it fully.

She was also very popular with all my siblings who delighted whenever she came to Manila to visit with us for a couple of weeks every now and then.

When my playmates asked who she was, I'd tell them that Tia Inez was a famous dressmaker from Subic who'd come to Manila to make shorts for me and my brothers, and skirts for my sisters out of our old curtains.

August 24, 2007 10:08 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

There were many folks back then, Carla, who'd go to Luneta in the early morning to convalesce. The air from Manila Bay was supposedly healthy and invigorating. However, with pollution and all, its beneficial effects somehow weakened with time.

August 24, 2007 10:15 AM  

Blogger shaz said...

beautiful and funny story of your life. you write like henry james.

August 24, 2007 11:33 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an inspiring piece about your Tia Inez. Constantly, there are certain things that reminds us of someone whom we loved deeply though it may be simple.


I admire how she moved on with her life after her husband left her. She's definitely a strong woman.

As for the air, we won't be able to get a whiff of fresh air if it's in the city. Too polluted to begin with. Meh!

August 24, 2007 11:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Wow! Not sure if I deserved to be likened with Henry James, Shaz, but thank you very much! Just realized that I should have written about Tia Inez long before now. She was indeed a colorful character.

August 24, 2007 2:08 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Unfortunately, Kyels, Manila Bay may not be what it used to be, but it was once a wonderful place to go to, especially in the early mornings.

Yes, quite a strong personality my Tia Inez was :)

Thanks, Kyels!

August 24, 2007 2:13 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to hear about your Tita Ynez. Its good that when we meet other people we can remember and see through them the goodness of our love ones.

August 24, 2007 3:02 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very strong woman, Tia Inez is. That seems to be for certain. I have observed that women who have gone thru the disturbances brought about by the Japanese Occupation have grown an inner strentgh that is so palpable that you could cut it up with a thin knife...

I don't know how to describe it but you know, they have that faraway look--whatever that means.

My mom in law lived thru those war years that's why she is most unique among many old women I've met. Strong willed and forceful.

August 24, 2007 3:13 PM  

Blogger Jerome Herrera said...

I am Jerome Herrera. I am the owner of Pinoy Penster Community, a website for Amateur and Professional Filipino Writers. I was wondering if we could exchange links. This will give your blog/website a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to our hundreds of visitors everyday. If you are interested, please email me at Pinoy Penster Community is located at

August 24, 2007 4:36 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

I don't know what is best. Your pictures or your writings. Good we can enjoy both in your blog.

August 24, 2007 9:14 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing us an intimate memory of your Tia Inez.

A love story of a yaya and the child she nurtured.

your sharing is like a time stamp of what was life was like in Manila in those early years :O)

August 24, 2007 11:12 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Nice tribute to your Tia Inez! Meron din akong kagaya ng Tia Inez mo pero masyadong mahaba ang istorya..nasa tiyo Delyo blog ko sa multiply. Dakila sila at dapat isa-puso natin ang mga alala ng pagmamahal nila!

What is this about taking a sick kid to the shores of Manila Bay or Luneta breakwater early in the morning? I remember my Lola or mom would do that for me when I was a kid with a bad cold. Althoug I appreciated the calm, cool mornings in Quiapo. From the church, we'd hop on a Jeepney to Mabini and walk to the waterfront with a bag of hot hopia and pilipit from the Aranque market. The breeze from Manila Bay then was still....ocean fresh, sans the illegal dwellings and murky water that is the Manila Bay of Today?

August 24, 2007 11:37 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

Very beautiful and "juicy" real life story.

August 25, 2007 3:56 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It's quite interesting, Iskoo, that most people who've become very good friends of mine, somehow remind me of my siblings and/or other family members.

August 25, 2007 6:24 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I can only suspect, Major Tom, that the hardships experienced and atrocities witnessed during wartime have lingering effects. Also, the ultimate test of self-preservation could probably strengten one's resolve.

August 25, 2007 6:28 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Interesting website you have, Jerome. I bet it'll benefit many Filipino writers. Kudos!

I trust my regular visitors who enjoy writing will check out your site as well. Best of luck to your wonderful endeavor :)

August 25, 2007 6:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks so much, Sidney! I always appreciate your support and kind words ... :)

August 25, 2007 6:37 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Quite nostalgic, Daisy, since most of the backdrop has changed through the times.

Incidentally, instead of those small boats, they now have a large boat that plies the bay only from the late afternoons until the night. There is also a much bigger one with sumptuous dining.

August 25, 2007 6:40 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I believe it is the inhaling of fresh sea air that somehow benefits one's convalescence, Pete. My aunts in Subic also made it a point to bring the kids to the beach regularly so they could enjoy the water, which is supposedly healthy and facilitate healing, especially skin ailments or "galis."

August 25, 2007 6:44 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Ebb Tide. Glad you enjoyed reading about my Tia Inez :)

August 25, 2007 6:45 AM  

Blogger Trenting said...

That was a wonderful heartfelt story, I really enjoyed reading it..

August 25, 2007 7:22 PM  

Blogger -= dave =- said...

I remember Inez, my dormmate back then. She's also one with a strong personality. She was in first year college while I was in fourth year. Being a bunso, it's quite nice that I have a little sister like her :)

August 26, 2007 12:21 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That was surely sweet, Dave. Nice to have a baby sister. We adopted a girl when I was in high school after my father had died. She bacame the bunso; no longer me :)

August 26, 2007 7:01 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Trenting!

Salamat din sa pag bisita :)

August 26, 2007 7:04 AM  

Blogger Liza on Maui said...

lovingly sentimental ...

August 26, 2007 9:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Liza. Being a sickly child, I should also acknowledge those challenging times when Tia Inez painstakingly cared for me like her very own.

August 26, 2007 10:19 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's like i can see and hear Tita Inez, the way you wrote about hershe seemed to be very much alive--bless her soul!

August 26, 2007 1:40 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Salamat po, Dine :)

August 27, 2007 7:09 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

u've got a nice memories of your tia...senor

August 28, 2007 11:43 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Kite ... I do! I truly appreciate all that TLC she bestowed upon me, which will remain forever etched in my heart :)

August 29, 2007 5:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww! That is such a wonderful tribute to your Tia Inez. Nice vivid memories, Eric.

September 04, 2007 10:49 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Maraming salamat, Irene. Glad to know I never bore you with my childhood memoirs ... hehehe!

September 04, 2007 11:34 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS for this winning post! --TechScribe

September 29, 2008 9:03 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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