My Lola,the ‘plantita’ | Inquirer Opinion

My Lola,the ‘plantita’

Living right along the bustling street that welcomed people to our barrio, I have long since accepted my fate that peace was impossible. With the “palengke” situated within walking distance and commercial buildings lined up on every corner, our whole barangay’s quaint small town façade is seemingly betrayed by the screams of mundane business on a daily basis.

For the most part, at least.


Amid the countless permutations of all there is that could be in a concrete jungle lies an obvious outlier. Across from us, in stark contrast to the pulsating heart of the busy Centro, stood the only building that exuded coziness and warmth in the entire street: my grandmother’s home.

My Lola, the ultimate “plantita,” lived alone with her helper and God-knows-how-many plants in that house she structured to accommodate her love of greenery. Aside from the labyrinth of plants she had displayed in her yard, she also had a plant box built for her largest window (which pretty much defeated the purpose of windows since the plants often obscured one’s view of the outside) and transparent roofs made for her collection of cacti. Not even the limited space stopped her from sparing the small veranda from the transformation of her home to a mini jungle—the tiled flooring of her terrace had literal mounds of soil on it to facilitate her vegetable garden, pumpkins, and all.


My grandmother liked plants, and that is a given fact. But if I were asked to share more about her outside of being the OG plantita, I may be at a loss for words. I knew her all my life, she’s been one of the constant variables—always there, unchanged forever. But how is it that at the same time, I hardly know anything about my grandmother?

It is human nature to hold on to the wrong things and see past the ideals that matter. I realize that I do not know her simply because I never tried to. Her house was across the street from ours, and not once did I ever go there to ask what she’s been up to these days: to complement her impeccable coiffure, to inquire about her plants, to ask for tips on running the sewing machine. Not even to drop by and say the staple “Kamusta ka na, Lola?”

Years went on like this until August 2021. I thought it would just come and go like all those years before—and it did. Of course, it did. Only it took my beloved grandmother with it.

With our municipality having far more space for rice fields than it has for residential houses, the relatively small population of our town easily deluded us into thinking that we were safe from COVID-19. As it turns out though, we weren’t, and it did not take long for my grandmother to catch the virus, too. Old age and COVID-19 weren’t a good match for her frail body—as August bid its bitter farewell, so did she.

The finality of it all hit me like a thousand bricks. I had every chance to know her better, but I didn’t take any. What hurt was that there weren’t even inevitable circumstances that kept us from sitting down and having a proper conversation. She lived across the street, a place I could’ve easily visited even multiple times a day.

I realize it also stings that she didn’t know all that much about me either. She never knew that her quiet grandchild, the one who loved gardening and sewing as much as she did, the one who was too lazy to cross the street to visit her, the one who’s never asked her even a simple “kamusta?” actually loved her a lot. If anything, she knew her helper more than she knew me, the same way that the said helper knew my grandmother more than I ever did. Her helper is my age, and in the short amount of time she stayed with my grandmother, she was able to do more for her than I ever did in all those years: she gardened with her, cooked her favorite meals, and cared for her whenever she got sick. While I, the supposed “apo,” couldn’t even be bothered to visit her.

My grandmother’s passing left an immeasurable amount of regret in my heart—remorse worsened by the realization that I was never there for her. I relied too much on my self-constructed notion of her being a constant that I failed to discern what would happen once she was gone. It is only now that I understand the value of explicitly telling someone that you care for them because as much as they seem to be a constant to you, they won’t be in your life forever. It is not enough that we continue to depend on the idea that simply thinking of them is already sufficient, because, in the grand scheme of things, the thought won’t always count. It’s the actual deed that will.


These days, whenever I peer out of our window, I always find myself staring at my grandmother’s cozy house sandwiched between two commercial buildings. I wonder whether her plants still await the 4 a.m. watering sessions in the same way that she probably waited for the visits that never came from her apo.

The warmth her house exuded now compared to then wouldn’t have had a noticeable change to a stranger’s eye, but I knew better. Without my grandmother’s presence in it, the home is almost as soulless as every commercial building in its vicinity.

My Lola, the ultimate plantita, was more than just an elderly lady who loved plants. It will forever be my greatest regret not to have known her beyond that.

Anne Breechie L. de Jesus, 19, is a college sophomore.

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