I just learned yesterday that my aunt died and was cremated in a span of two days from covid-19. She is one of the many casualties brought about by the pandemic as unfortunate as it sounds. Her death was not in defiance of getting a vaccine shot but because of a pre-existing hereditary autoimmune disorder or, disorders. I am unsure of how many conditions she was suffering outside of that one hereditary condition that I know of but she died because she was discouraged to get the vaccine.
Why is this important?
I was supposed to write an essay about why I like people like Dalinar and Jasnah and my view on today’s society but an intermission is needed to give respect to my aunt. As much as I would like to say and make fun of the fact that I experienced two deaths and a breakup over the last three years, I cannot. It is not me, July. It is you. I kid.
(Yes, my grandmother died 2nd of July.)
As a eulogy of some sort, I would like to give a brief speech in honour of my aunt. She was a lovely woman who had all kinds of ailments afflicting her though those never stopped her from going on to living life as best as she could. My aunt was a woman of character and integrity. Although life dealt her a rather poor hand, she worked hard while taking care of her siblings, standing in as a third parent while my grandparents worked the field and as a cook and as a homemaker once field duty is done. I am sure that my mother has learned a lot from her as she was her stewardess, growing up. Having said that, my aunt, as a result, was never able to travel the world as far as I know, and I am pretty sure that the desire is there but even so, she never once moaned about it. I do believe that there is strength in being content and happy with your portion.
In this, I would like to thank her for teaching me how to live contentedly and simply by the way of her lifestyle. She cared for what she had and appreciated, loved and welcomed people to her home. In my memories, I know my aunt to be generous as she gave what she can and she was generous with herself.
Last but not the least, I would like to thank her for encouraging my love for mangoes. You see, my aunt’s husband works as a mango farmer and every summer that my family and I would visit, when those bright and happy, yellow fruits, reminiscent of the sun, are routinely plucked from the trees, he would bring basket loads back to their home. Some baskets were selected to be sold to the market and some baskets were to be distributed among the family.
Whenever we would visit her home, she would whip out her blender and have one of her sons go to the nearby sari-sari store to buy enough ice to fill a standard ice box and cans of condensed and evaporated milk. As we wait for them to return, we would watch as she and my mother cut and scoop out mango flesh while setting aside the middle part which contained the seed. I remember vividly how deftly they would do this while catching up, barely looking down; a mark of how often they used to do this that it has become muscle memory.
Once my cousin comes back with the goods and the container is filled to the brim with a mountain of mango flesh, the ingredients were simply scooped together into the blender. No strict measurements were needed, just enough mango, ice and a ratio of condensed and evaporated milk depending on the people who are going to drink it. Sometimes, the tv is playing in the background but more often than not, the blender whirs with the chirping of cicadas, the clucking of chickens and the chatting of people. It was loud, yes, but there is comfort in the familiar. After what seems like an eternity, you are handed a glass of that beautiful golden, thick drink and all of a sudden, you find respite from the unforgiving heat. I do not know if my memory is serving me wrong but when it comes to my smoothie, she knew how I like my drink on the tarter side.
I finally realise why other countries’ mangoes just do not do it for me and have stayed far from those only until recently upon realising that maybe it is better to eat some than none at all? It is because Philippine mangoes are one of many cornerstones of my childhood and it is undoubtedly tied to summers in Pangasinan, the province of chargrilled milkfish,puto, salt and mangoes – my birthplace.
It has been many years since the last mango smoothie and it has been many years since we last saw and talked with each other in person but know that you will be missed, Auntie Auring.
I pray that wherever you are, you are finally getting some well-deserved rest.