Mothers are all the same, anywhere in the world—they love their children as only they know how. I got married at a young age, just after graduation from college. As such, I did not have the benefit of seminars like those preparing the young people of today who are getting married—other than my euthenics lessons at the University of the Philippines.
I recall that when my eldest son Victor was born as a robust baby boy, he immediately became the favorite, not only of my husband Mafe and myself, but also of my parents’ family and the brother and sisters of my husband. He was, after all, the first grandson in his generation. But when my second eldest, Gaspar, was born, he became the favorite of the clan. And my husband had to spend more time with Victor to balance our care and attention between the two.
This system held on as my other children came one after another—Toti, Marissa, Jose Noel, Valentino, Marinella and Marlo, the youngest—with whoever was the youngest at a certain time getting the lion share of the care and attention, and the older ones learning how to share and care among themselves. So they grew fully assured of being equally loved, cared for and attended to by their parents. The net effect of this “equal treatment” was that they learned to care for and help one another—sharing responsibilities according to their capacity when they were younger; and, as they acquired more capabilities in later years, assuming more responsibilities. For example, the eldest invested in a college plan for the youngest; now the youngest is helping some nephews and nieces.
As to grandchildren, it is a common perception among Filipinos that the lolo and lola favor some grandchildren over others. In our clan, the elder grandsons tend to believe they got better attention; after all, they were the first among their peers to wear Air Jordan rubber shoes which we bought direct from the United States a few months after the shoes were introduced in the market.
But almost everyone in the family, young and old, conceded that the real favorite was Luigi, who was born with a congenital heart problem and was treated as someone with a very fragile health. This went on even after Luigi had undergone an open-heart surgery at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey, United States. The doctors at the Philippine Heart Center, found him with an “automatic pulmonary vein return” problem.
Still, a “controversy” that broke among the grandchildren shortly after we returned from the United States this February. One of our grandchildren saw a book given to my husband by Andrea, the eldest daughter of our youngest son who works and resides in California. Mafe had asked Andrea to write a dedication to remind him that it was a gift from her. Andrea obliged with a note wishing her lolo would enjoy the book. After which, she wrote: “Love, Andrea, your favorite ’Apo’.”
At the family bonding to welcome our return to the Philippines, one of our granddaughters, Angeli, came across the note on the inside cover of the book and protested: “This is not true! I am the favorite. Lolo used to sing me to sleep.” Carlo then came up with a photo of him and Luigi, with a caption that read, “Lolo’s boys.” Trixie followed: “Lolo also sang me to sleep at nights.” The truth is, lolo lulled them all to sleep with a song. Even Mig and Marc who rarely spent a night at our house, when they were there.
Paolo, the eldest among grandchildren, claimed he was the favorite because his lolo used to meet him at the Edsa Shrine when he came from La Salle Green Hills, to add to his baon, he recalled. Eunice recounted that we, the grandparents, always made it a point to keep her Christmas gifts. Inna claimed that in addition to singing her to sleep, her lolo taught her to walk and that was how she learned to walk alone even before her first birthday. Micah insisted she was the favorite, while Nikolle recalled how she was always provided with baon.
Almost every one disputed Andrea’s claim of being the “favorite apo.” What makes Andrea’s claim to being the favorite apo unique and memorable is the fact that having been born in the United States, she sparingly speaks Tagalog, although she perfectly understands the language. That’s why the use of the Filipino word apo in her note made it sound very endearing and showed that despite growing up in an “American environment,” she still has that thread of the Filipino in her heart.
The biggest objection to Andrea’s claim of being the favorite, came from someone closest to her—her younger sister, Carmela, the youngest apo in the clan. She cried when her lolo addressed Andrea as “my favorite” during one FaceTime conversation. She was appeased when her lolo (she used to call him “wowo”) assured her that both of them are “my favorites” and gave me her widest smile.
One lesson I learned from that “controversy” is that young children, while they are reassured when their parents and grandparents show them that they are really loved, wish and think they, individually, are the favorite.
As a grandmother in her 80s, I am happy that I did not play favorites, so no one can say I had anyone for a favorite. The truth is, they’re all my favorites!
Zeneida Raquid-Vibal made motherhood and being housewife to her family her career. She raised eight children (six boys and two girls) who are now all professionals, with families of their own. With 17 grandchildren as of today, she says family care and child-rearing never end. Indeed, she is now looking to caring for a great grandchild.
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