Here’s to ‘Lola Afric’
She was the only senior citizen I knew who wore a solid gold necklace or a long string of pearls when entertaining visitors at home, and whose Jack Russell responded to her call of “Spotless!” And she was the only person I knew named Africa.
I was part of a team that was commissioned to do the biography of Sizzling Plate founder Africa Valdes Reynoso, titled “The Reynoso Flair, 80 Years of Lola Afric’s Cooking.” She showed us what good quality of life was, one punctuated by a generosity of spirit that I still find unmatched.
During the summer of 2005, we’d leave her Forbes Park townhouse always groaning from satiation (she always laid out a buffet of dishes made from her recipes) and loaded with gifts as if she weren’t paying us enough already.
She was moving toward her 88th jubilee that year. Before I knew it, she hit 90 with more than flair — I heard that an old flame had returned to her life. Then another 10 years were added to an already long life. Sometime during her 100th-plus year, she came down with the big C. But the wise doctors advised her children that what was important was to allow her to enjoy the quality of life she was used to.
Daughter Edna R. Anton described her Mama’s routine before she weakened and made the ICU her home: “She makes pasyal everywhere. She not only went to 168 in Divisoria but even ate at the fast food there. She loves going to Market! Market!, Tesda and shopping at SM Makati. She can now have mocha frappuccino and bottomless Coke to her heart’s content, but we make sure her hearing aid is turned off when we discuss her big C. We pray to God the end will be painless and easy. Meanwhile, she must be wondering why all restrictions were lifted. Apay ngay (what gives)?”
Edna continued: “She still loves life. Let’s copy that.”
Lola Afric’s recent death at age 102 brought a tide of remembrances.
Edna, who commutes between her Baguio and Hawaii families and is herself a cancer survivor, said: “Even at a hundred years, Mama wanted to be cremated because she did not want mourners to comment on how good or bad her makeup was. Mama read the obituaries daily and sadly said, ‘All my friends are dead or dying. There will be nobody to go to my wake.’ Hence, she wanted an immediate interment. ‘Baka walang pumunta o magpadala ng bulaklak (No one might come or send flowers).’”
But there was an outpouring of love from all her adopted children, friends of her nine offspring, and hundreds of Valdes and Reynoso relatives. The Capilla in San Antonio Church in Forbes Park was filled with lovely flowers.
If there was a fiesta atmosphere at the short wake, that was how Lola Afric wanted to be remembered. Overflowing was the food from the caterer and from friends: balut, doughnuts, puto bumbong, dim sum, raisin bread, lechon and all kinds of junk food. This was typical of Lola Afric’s table.
Her house was an oasis where everyone was always welcome to partake of whatever her cook Narsing had prepared.
Granddaughter Marcia sent her reminiscences from Hawaii, writing how she learned from Lola Afric “that the most beautiful word to a person is their name, say it often and never forget somebody’s name. Always give a sincere compliment to everyone you meet, how beautiful their smile is, how stunning their earrings are, how well dressed they are, how lovely their hair, to make them feel acknowledged and appreciated.”
Marcia recalled the summer she spent with her grandma when she was 14 and they entered a baking contest. “We made luscious mango Magnolia cream cheese cake every day until we got it right. I won the grand prize. She was a perfectionist. She always quoted Napoleon Hill, ‘If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.’ She preached and mastered Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ She was a motivational guru before anyone knew what that meant.”
Lola Afric’s son Tito quoted the mourners as saying of his mother when she was alive: “When she would see guests, she would always instruct (nurse) Juliet or Narsing, ‘Ipaghanda mo ng pagkain sila at kung may sobra, pabaunin mo ang sobra (Prepare food for them and when there’s extra, let them bring the extra food home).’”
Here’s to you, Lola Afric, who had much to give even in death. May Spotless, who was put to sleep due to failing health in December, be there to meet you in the place beyond pain.
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Elizabeth Lolarga is a grandmother of one, a freelance writer, and a painter.
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