She was not actually my grandmother—rather, she was a distant cousin of my mother’s late mother, and had come to help my parents out when my mother had unexpectedly given birth to twins, resulting in a household graced or cursed with no less than four rambunctious boys under the age of five. The principal of the school in which Lola then worked had strenuously objected to her abrupt midterm departure, but my mother was her favorite not-quite-niece and Lola Ging would not be dissuaded. She had not been particularly concerned over the administrator’s “You’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again” wrath, since she and her sister had inherited a flourishing tobacco plantation in their home province, and could thus actually live in perfect comfort without pulling in a salary. (Which Lola Den-den did, unless you counted running mah jong games out of her lanai six nights a week.)
Not long after the twins’ surprising birth, however, some uncouth rebel soldiers expanded their territory to quite impolitely include Lola Ging’s ancestral lands. Abruptly bereft of both home and income, Lola nevertheless offered to move in with her sister once acceptable yayas had been secured for all the boys, but of course my parents would not hear of it. So by the time I was conceived (once again surprising my over-amorous parents, but utterly delighting Lola: “We will have a full team!” she cried), she had firmly established herself as the family authority on all matters spiritual, logistical, and dietary.
When the five of us kids had exams at school, we were forbidden to eat eggs in any form, as the Holy Spirit had pointed out to her that the oval shape of eggs, when taken into our bodies, would naturally result in a test score of zero across the board. She tyrannically decreed that our beds were never to be arranged pointing toward our bedroom doors, since this would provide a clear path that was certain to be followed by the insatiable Angel of Death, who apparently would have liked nothing better than to populate paradise with the pure souls of more-or-less innocent children. And she sternly compelled me to eat every last spoonful of rice on my plate, as neglecting a single grain would be a sinful excess that might just induce God to punish me by forcing me to endure my next life as a chicken—pathetically scratching at the ground for any stray bit of rice thoughtlessly discarded by wastrel girls like me.
That reincarnation was hardly a tenet of Roman Catholic doctrine bothered neither Lola nor me one iota. She was convinced that her peculiar blend of folk remedies, superstitious dread, and pseudo-Christian dogma was precisely what the Lord Jesus had intended when He set His omniscient hand upon St. Peter and declared him the rock of His Church. “We are Christ’s followers,” she said repeatedly. “He can walk on water just to show off; why should we not also exercise faith to make our lives better?”
(to be continued next Tuesday!)
Check out the rest of the posse!