My two grandmothers were as different from each other as oil and water. 

Lola Rizing@age 40
My paternal grandmother Rizalina Javelona Lopez, died at age 91...a pretty long life. We had our share of long conversations which consisted mostly of her memories and how she would have lived her life if she had the chance to do it all over again. She told me stories no one in the family knew. I am very privileged to share a few of her secrets. Her husband and eventually her children too, looked upon her as a very dependent person, and thus treated her like a child. But the Lola Rizing I knew was someone who was not an intellectual or highly educated, but was very insightful and extremely wise in her old age...someone who outwardly manifested a soft character but inside was a strong, self-sacrificing woman who would do anything for the children and grandchildren she loved. Her opinions did not matter much to her husband so she learned to keep it to herself, deferring to him at all times. Why?  To keep the peace, she said. All she wanted was for her family to be happy and loving with each other. She was very very prayerful, someone who could be described as "devoted" because she had a novena for everything. I remember calling her ahead of time when I had my examinations and she would say the 9 hour novena to the Infant Jesus while I was taking them. It worked because in spite of my aversion to studying, I would pass!  Although not very vain, she avoided looking at the mirror when she reached her 80's, because she said she no longer recognizes the woman that looks back at this sense, yes, she was child-like. Then again, she was in a way right, because as we age, our physical self changes, but our mental self does not really grow old.  Lola also said to me that although she is elderly, she does not feel any different from her 16 year old self.  She was a real beauty inside and out.

Lola Esting@age16
My maternal grandmother, Estrella Guingona MeƱes, on the other hand was a pharmacist and a board topnotcher.  Early on in her life, she developed a strong sense of independence and responsibility. When her parents decided to move to Mindanao from Panay, she stayed behind to live with an aunt who was married to a Sala in Dumangas, Iloilo. She helped send younger siblings to school and took care of her parents in their old age.  She met my grandfather sometime in 1929 or 1930 when she worked a a pharmacist with the Gullas family in Cebu. As a young mother with 6 small children ranging from 10 years old to a newborn infant, she survived WWII but not without consequences. When the war was over, Lola Esting was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis and was sent to the United States to be treated in  the Tuberculosis Institute in Monrovia, the same facility where President Quezon was confined.  Her upper right lung was surgically removed since that was the only known treatment at that time and she was supposed to stay for a year but decided to come home earlier since she missed her family so much.  This was also the time when Streptomycin was started to be used for TB patients and my Lola opted for this so she could come home to the Philippines.  Needless to say, she got well.    She had a dominant personality and was quite opinionated.  She and her husband had a modern relationship in the sense that they both respected and treated each other as partners.  My relationship with her was a perfect example of one with a generational gap. We were not close confidantes, although we cared enough to be thoughtful of each other.  She would see to it that I had my meals on time, would worry when I come home late (I lived with her for a year when I was in school) and I would browse for hours in bookstores looking for nice books that she would like to read, and bring her the food she likes to eat, but won't buy because she thinks that they were too expensive. She disagreed with the way my parents brought me up because I was raised to be outspoken which she was not too happy about.  But in the end, I took care of her when she got very sick, my very independent Lola Esting became dependent on me in the last few weeks of her life. I was by her hospital bed holding her hand when she died at age 82.

I write about my two grandmothers today to celebrate their lives which began on a January on January 2, 1908 and the other on January 23, 1906.  Coincidentally, both passed away also on the same month, Lola Rizing on October 12, 1997 while Lola Esting on October 11, 1990.  Yes, my two Lolas were very different in character, yet very similar in their goals and values in life. I hope that through me, their oldest grandchild, much of their hopes and dreams have been fulfilled.


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