No, the gorgeous woman above is not my Auntie Rosie, but model's curls remind me of her. Auntie Rosie sported the same length of hair when when she was young. As she grew older her hair got shorter. I was always fascinated by her thick curly hair, which she absentmindedly twirled on her fingers while she was studying. She was still studying when I went to live with my her, my grandmother and another spinster aunt, Auntie Charing and other cousins and their parents. Yes, Auntie Rosie was a spinster, an old maid....OMG, these terms are not in use anymore. But she did not mind describing herself as such, did not mind other people describing her as such. My other aunt, Auntie Charing, in an effort to discipline us children, would often threaten us to tell on Auntie Rosie about our pranks, in the same manner that a mother would tell her children "Wait 'til you father gets home". So around Auntie Rosie, we tend to be more quiet, better behaved, sort of tiptoeing around her while she was studying. If we were boisterous, she would snap, "silence!", and we won't even giggle. We children made faces at each other but we obeyed Auntie Rosie. If silence
was needed, we gave her that. She did not speak much, but when we showed her our 'works of art', our high grades in school, told her of our accomplishments, she would smile and we knew we made her proud. I think she was in her early 30's then, and I was 9 years old. Yes, she was still studying, pursuing her M.A. in Education, I think. She was a 'working student', sent herself to college while she was employed as one of the junior staff at the Registrar's Office of Philippine Normal College, now Philippine Normal University. She rose to ranks eventually and became the Registrar of the university.
I stayed with them for two years until I felt so homesick I would burst, and went home to my parents in Negros Occidental. I came back to them six years later when I was 16 years old, and studied at the same university where Auntie Rosie was working. Living with them (grandmother, spinster aunts, younger cousins) at my grandmother's house was not that smooth when I was a little girl, and when I was a teenager until I graduated from college and started working. They say I was always a rebel. I say I felt so alone. There was this 'regionalism' issue - I was from the south, a 'Bisaya', actually an llongga, while all of them are 'Tagala', from Metro Manila and Laguna, all speaking Tagalog. My father was from the south, Negros Occidental, so my siblings and I were all born Ilongga. I could speak Tagalog alright, thanks to Liwayway, a Tagalog weekly magazine I faithfully read since I learned how to read - when I was five years old. But Regionalism is big deal here in the Philippines. A young girl could be treated inferior by relatives by the mere fact that she is from the South! It did not help too that I was fiercely proud of being an Ilongga; that I was also stubborn; that I was a smart-aleck kid, that when I was angry I shredded my dress in tiny tiny little pieces with my bare hands; wrote my bitter feelings in seven pages of typewriting paper while I was given the 'sermon' by Auntie Charing! But I am straying from my topic - Auntie Rosie.
Auntie Rosie forgot that I was an Ilongga, etc., when we were together every day - going to the University and coming back home. We had nothing much to say to each other, except for the immediate needs, like "Auntie, I need to borrow this book from the library but the librarian would not allow me as the book is classified 'References'. Auntie Rosie would get the book for me at the end of library hours, having promised the librarian that the book would be returned first thing in the morning. To make the long story short, Auntie Rosie did her best and made my college life easier - she gave me sandwiches at break times; she helped me get employed as a student librarian after my regular classes so I would be financially independent from my parents; she applied for me as a grant-in-aid scholar in the university and was approved too; she helped me in my art classes. Art and books - these are the things we both are passionate with. We borrowed books from each other, gave books as presents to each other too. Auntie Rosie manifested her creativity with her beautiful sculptural works - she fashioned her beautiful busts of the Virgin Mary, child Jesus and other non religious objects from soap, and from clay. She made a grotto, complete with the Virgin Mary at the side 'walls' of the house and at the backyard too. The 'walls' are actually the hilly backyard which she also fashioned like the mini rice terraces.
In my Art classes in college, when I needed an outline to work on, I requested her to draw for me - from paisley prints to logos, etc. Her handwriting was so beautiful, she wrote each name of the student in individual diplomas. Too bad that her family did not believe that an artist could actually flourish and make money. She would have been a great multimedia artist. Everyone was encouraged to have a 'practical' career as a teacher, a librarian, a doctor, etc. Years later, when I became an adult, I always visited her at her office and we became closer. I always invited her to watch a movie or to eat out, etc., but she declined. She was always frugal and did not approve of me spending much for her.l
When I decided to quit working as an employee in an international organization, everybody disapproved. To everyone, my decision to become a full time photographer was not practical at all. And maybe they were right. But I feel fulfilled, I feel freedom in photography. I guess nobody fully understood, except for Auntie Rosie, who also encouraged me to write! For me, photography is almost natural as eating or sleeping but writing? I don't know how...... Auntie Rosie assured me I could do anything, "Ikaw pa!" (no literal translation in English, but that means 'Of course you can'). Two eBooks later (one for hard copies too), I now say - yes, Auntie Rosie, I should believe in me :)) (The books are not in my name, though, I wrote them for a nice and wonderful American client).
Why am I writing about myself and Auntie Rosie now? It's her birthday today. I was thinking about her when I woke up and thought of writing about her until I was sidetracked by requests of photo editing from friends. In the afternoon, I smelled orchids, lots of orchids! The fragrance wafted from our dining room to the living room and to the kitchen. I went out of our front door to check where the fragrance came from. There was nothing outside of our door. I checked at the patio, no fragrance there. Wohooo, I remember this kind of fragrance. The same fragrance, same smell of flowers at Nanay's birthday last February 7. Nanay and Auntie Rosie are sisters, and yes, they are both dead now. I know they are resting in peace, probably tending a garden and smelling the flowers too.
I love you 'Nay, 'Tay and Auntie Rosie. Tell Auntie Charing and Lola and other beloved relatives, they are so loved and sorely missed.