In celebration of International Women’s Day today, I remember my grandmother, Lola Cion – whom I had always looked up to from as far back as I could remember.
Lola, the Filipino word for grandma, had been my role model on independence, confidence, and perseverance. Though she was born into a wealthy family, at the time, women were treated secondary to men, and education after high school was not a priority. Lola and her sisters were some of the few who pursued their college degrees, and it was this time when she met my lolo, whom she would marry at the age of 19 against the wishes of her parents.
When lolo died at a young age, Lola strived to be able to provide for her children. My aunt and mom would tell me stories of how they never saw my Lola break down at lolo’s funeral. She would always wear the strong facade when she was with her young children, and there was only one time when my aunt saw Lola sobbing silently in the middle of the night. Through the years, Lola would raise her children the best way that she could, and she did this with integrity and grace.
I, too, saw this strong composed front, when I was growing up. I hardly saw Lola cry, save for a few times (since family drama is inevitable) when she would hastily dab away tears. Lola was the one who brought the clan together, and I savor the memories of then regularly getting together with cousins, nephews and niece.
Lola was my constant supporter. I fondly remember waking up to the classic Happy Birthday music she would loudly play on the mornings of my and my brother’s birthdays. I miss the way she smiled as she played on the piano. She encouraged me to mingle during parties, cheered for me at school when I danced, clapped for me when I would sing karaoke with my uncle during family gatherings. She was there when I was sick; gave some sense of wisdom to me when I had rifts with a family member; supported me through tough times at the university (thesis days); and she was one who was most proud of all my successes.
My lola is now in heaven. And I tear up as I write this as I miss her so much. I am grateful for having her in my life, and I know she is watching over me every day.