When I was a young child I thought my Mom had a twin -- Titay. I remember getting confused at times on who my Mom was. I have many memories of Titay growing up. Singing the US National Anthem and the theme song of Mr. Roger's (neighborhood TV show something) in her living room when I was 4. Learning to cross the street in Chicago when I was just 4 years old. I almost stayed behind with her in Chicago then, but I strangely decided I wanted to grow up in Manila.
Our home was never without balikbayan boxes either from Titay or Mama Lola's trips back and forth to the US. We always looked forward to Titay's homecoming because chocolates were bottomless and she'd always cook her yummy lengua. When I was born Titay was already living in the US. It was only in the last few years I found out how she ended up there. She originally wanted to be a cloistered contemplative nun (pink sister), but she wasn't allowed to since she's the eldest. She eventually found a job in the US and left (amidst a lot of protests). My aunt was a very headstrong woman (this stubbornness is apparent in all of us I think).
Titay was very generous and she always knew what you need. I'm not one to buy jewelry, but Titay always makes sure I'm well accessorized and scolds me when I dress up too simply (I got multiple sermons after a TV interview). All of us, her nieces and nephews, got showered with Titay's generosity. Titay had bailed me out of MBA tuition debt after Mom collected some money for her. I would always remember Titay as my most generous Tita.
She moved back home about a decade ago and that was when I got to know a bit more about Titay. At that time I didn't have a boyfriend and Titay always encouraged me to just go out and date! Dad was still so strict then, but Titay always reminded him that I was old enough to go out and date. If not for Titay I would probably have ended up single until now since my Dad had declared then that he will live forever to take care of me (my Dad is so adorable!).
The last few years have been difficult for Titay especially last year when she had a stroke twice. Mom was away the second time it happened, so I went home from Singapore to check on her. We were so worried since at that time Tito Ben was very sick as well. Eventually Titay was discharged from the hospital, but a few weeks later Tito Ben passed away. We didn't know how to tell her, but she surprised all of us by telling us that Tito Ben had visited her and told her it was his time. She took the news very well and eventually got better and was strong enough to walk around and would insist going to the mall at least once a week.
Last Christmas, Titay insisted she dress up nicely for my Mom's birthday celebration/family reunion (balidosa pa rin!). We just couldn't afford to buy the PhP6,000 sandals she wanted, but she was very happy to see all of us, her nephews and nieces she dotted on throughout the years. Every time I was there she would hug me and tell me she loved me and she'd always give reminders to take care of myself especially when I'm away traveling.
Titay, I know I was the cause of the huge row you and Dad had because you really wanted me to find the right one. You didn't want me to grow old alone. You eventually patched things up and the goal was met -- Sweetie found me! You even threw an amazing despedida de soltera for me just before my wedding. Thank you so much for being my most awesome Tita and for being a pillar in our family. I love you and I will miss you so much.