Mother’s Day. We celebrate motherhood in all its forms- birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, fur mommies. But I would like to take this time to remember some unsung heroes, who are neither of the above. I would like to write in honor of my yaya for Mother’s Day, as a tribute to our caretakers, our nannies, our help. Those who may not have birthed us, nor formally took us in. But they take care of us as our mothers do, sometimes even more.
Everybody knows I love my mom. She is my best friend, my advisor, my teacher. She worked hard to provide for us financially and still be present for us emotionally and spiritually. Growing up, I was always amazed how this tiny woman would work 6 days a week, come home and cook our dinner, and tutor us after school. She also took the time to talk to us, really listen and know us. However, on those times she works late, we were left in the care of nannies or yayas.
Growing up, me and my 2 bros had the privilege of having the most loving, sweetest yaya in the world. We call her Manang Sili. (Side note: Sili means chili, she might have gotten that nickname because she loves spicy food, and she passed on that love of spicy food to all of us 🙂 Manang is our second mother, I still refer to her as my nanay-nanayan. To this day, my mother has nothing but fond memories of Manang. My mom beams with pride and loves telling me how Manang is a sage. Every time I ask my mom about baby advice, she would refer back to Manang, and would tell me how Manang has the best technique and has the best instinct on how to care and soothe babies. My mother never considered Manang as something less than her, or as her competition. My mother regards her as her partner in crime, her confidante. Manang was family.
My own memories of Manang was just as good. When I was little, my dad had to work late hours to provide for a growing family. But I was oblivious to our financial hardships because of Manang. She gave me a magical childhood. She instilled in me a love of nature, of climbing trees and resting by the waters. My fondest memories of early childhood was waking up at 5-6am, going to the bakery for the first batch of bread, pandesal, and playing by the coconut trees and the rocky shores of Manila Bay. Breakfast with Manang consists of said bread, chicharon doused in vinegar w.sili, and coconut drink or softdrinks (soda) in clear plastic bags. If I’m lucky, I get a balloon in the park before I go home.
As we grew older, we see less of Manang, as she had her own grandchildren to tend to. My youngest sibling, my sister, never got the honor of having her as her yaya, because Manang had a new grandchild at that time. Even though she wasn’t working for us anymore, she would still visit monthly and give us eggs and fruits from her family’s farm. But as I reached my teens, the visits became less and less. I heard that Manang worked in his son’s business full time. I heard that she finally mended her strained relationship with her daughter and lived near her. Much as I was happy that she got to live her life with her biological family, I missed her. And my mom did too. She started asking around her old neighborhood to find out where Manang now resides, but nobody really knew. And because we moved around as well, we lost touch with her. I felt the loss of her deeply. I would have happy dreams of her and her big laughs. I could feel her tight hugs and hear her loving whispers in times of sickness, reminiscent of when I was a sickly child, and her frail arms would cover mine for comfort. I may not be a sickly child or a crying toddler anymore, but I would always long for the sweet pure love of my Manang Sili.
Wherever she is, my only hope is that she is happy where she is, and that she knows how forever grateful we are to have her in our family. I hope she knows that I am beyond honored to call her not simply my yaya, but my beloved one. She was more than our help- she was our protector, she was our friend. She was like a second Mother to us… She was, and always will be, my other Mother.