When my son was little, he used to tag along with me for my quick dashes to the grocery to buy his Papa’s extra crisp starch sprays for his shirts. While lining up at the cashier’s, Enzo left my side. Just when it was my turn to pay, he pulled me and led me to a corner to show me this. If it doesn’t melt a mother’s heart?
Never mind if I have to go to the end of the line again.
Here, his father is asking Enzo what he wants to eat for snacks while waiting for the stable boy prepare the horses for the afternoon ride. His Papa is the first person he looks for in the morning (not me). And they share a lot of secrets between them. I love it that way!
This farm house on top of a hill is also a home on the range where the horses, goats and chickens feed in harmony
But the goats keep to themselves
The same island has many beaches. Here Enzo prepares to drive from a diving plank
Enzo and Mahal, one of the more than ten horses in the farm
When my son was in kindergarten, I made it a policy not to give him any money on weekends as there were no classes. However, one Saturday, he was unsettled because he had a few friends coming over to visit. He wanted to buy them snacks. I stood firm and did not give him any. Instead, I told him to check what he could come up with, with whatever he found in the refrigerator.
A few minutes after, he came up with this: upended Jellyace (mango gelatin) over chocolate covered biscuit wrapped in foil.
In his sweet and proud voice he asked ‘Do you like the Yellow Chocolate Hills‘ I made, Mama?
I was one proud Mama!
Mary breastfed her baby even at work. She never ceased to amaze me with her stories that transcended race, creed and continents. And this is the ‘safest’ representation of breasts I can show in this post.
I first met Mary in England. Back then, she was on the last few months of her PhD in Nutrition while I was sent by an international NGO or a not for profit group for Aging for a conference on account of my volunteer work and the Older Persons’ program I enhanced in Payatas, which at the time was a world renowned garbage site. It was the time when segregation was unheard of and cranes and dump trucks would unload trash every day that made for hills and mountains of garbage. People around Payatas (most especially Payatas B) would wait and scamper about and scavenge in these mountains of trash for recyclables to sell at junk shops.
We were introduced by the unit director Suraiya and when she, Mary learned that I was from Southeast Asia, specifically, the Philippines, Mary talked to me at length over tea and biscuits for a project she wanted me to collaborate with.
Mary, as I fixed my gaze on her face was the usual white woman I would see, often with freckles on her face, pinkish skin only hers with a lot of brownish spots which she got from staying too long in the sun in Nepal. She married a Nepalese who owned a hotel in Kathmandu and she would shuttle her way from the UK to the Himalayas
What she wanted me to help her with, was to become the field testing coordinator for Southeast Asia for her book, the assessment of nutritional status of older persons using anthropometric measurements.
‘If you could do this for me please. I’ve no one from Southeast Asia. I’ve got a lot from Africa and other former territories of the UK. There’s Dottie from Malawi, Sandra from Antigua, Dominique from Montenegro, Nelia from Angola, the Carribean. We got them covered except Asia.’
Now, I am an easy person to talk with when it comes to projects for older persons so I said yes right away.
And this was how I found my way in the university in central London in a room full of people working for older persons’ nutrition – Oxfam, PhD students, doctors working with the ministry of health from their home countries, UN representatives for refugees etc.
Mary presided the workshops. Every two hours or so, I was wondering why she would excuse herself and disappear. Apparently, she would go out to breastfeed her baby, who at the time was about eight months old. And after that, she would proceed where she had left off.
After a flurry of e-mail exchanges and after sending to me anthropometric measurements like calipers, stadio-meters from Camden, she arrived in my country.
I took her to the dump site where she was warmly welcomed by everyone. For someone from the UK, she did not show any tinge of condescension, snootiness nor did she complain about the heat, the stench that clings to you like second skin. I toured her around the area – from the dump site itself, to Area 1 up to Empire. You see, even in the slums, there is a semblance of hierarchy. Those from Area 1 are better off than the succeeding areas. People lived by the roadside, near the water source, near the dump site while those farthest, in this case Empire, were the poorest of them all.
To many families, scavenging in Payatas is a matter of survival . This woman is wearing the typical scavenging gear – wide brimmed hat, layered, long sleeved clothing and boots, sometimes a mini-crowbar to extricate what could be a gem of garbage.
(Payatas dumpsite photos by Nana Buxani)
She stayed in a very modest hotel where I would pick her up and ride the bus and get off corner of the street leading to Payatas. To get there, we have to squeeze ourselves in a jeepney from Litex, which the driver almost always would have overloaded by placing a plank of wood in between the jeepney entrance to accommodate one more passenger.
In the many trips we took together, riding public transport from her very spartan hotel to Payatas, Mary shared many stories about being an English woman married to a rich Nepalese and many things in between that showed much of her heart for the poor and uplifting their situation, her conversion to Buddhism and her vocation as a mother.
(To be continued)
My four year old niece, Andrea, here for a visit for the first time from Canada relishes the splash of pool water that makes her a delightful poster girl for summer.
Alex loves sunning herself as she tells stories about the cruel winters she grew up with in Ontario.
Summer can mean many things to many people. But for these kids – it means the sun, splash in the pool and ice cream cone.
Enzo my son styles his hair using his Papa’s styling gel. I don’t know how he does it or where he gets it from but he’s always enjoyed some degree of independence, hairstyle included. He must have gotten this hair inspiration from one of the macaws in the bird show.
1. ‘We do not feel the passing of years, but we sense the impressions of old age – Ibanag proverb
2. ‘If you want to enjoy life, look, hear and listen’ - Chavacano proverb
3.The body weakens but love never changes’ – Ibanag proverb
4. ‘Even if your hair turns gray and your face is wrinkled, your happy heart will make you young’ – Iloko proverb
5. The glory of young men is their strength and the beauty of old men is their gray hair’ – Hiligaynon proverb
6. ‘Enjoy the present hour, be mindful of the past and neither fear nor wish the approach of the end’ Maguindanao proverb
7. ‘Strength and bravery make life progress – Kinaray-a proverb
(Photos by: Edward Gerolock, Senior Advocacy Officer Coalition of Services of the Elderly or
COSE, a regional affiliate of Help Age International. Visit their website http://www.cosephil.org.ph)