I could see her wrinkled hands arranging the bandana she wrapped around her head and forehead before she went about her task of piling the heated banana leaves. Grabbing a wooden spatula she scooped Budbod (sweet gelatinous rice with coconut milk) from the large kalaha (pot) and gently formed this into a thick rectangular delicacy covered with banana leaf. My brothers and I were excited. It would be a matter of minutes and Lola would serve our favorite- Budbod. The aroma wafting through the room. Next, it would be a scramble on who could finish the thickened gelatinous rice at the bottom of the pot. This is how we spent some of our summer days when we were little.
I could clearly remember the immaculate nipa hut of our Lola, the polished floors and the veranda overflowing with different kinds of potted flowers. I could even remember how my brother and I would seek for palwa (coconut bark) and use it to slide down the hill beside our Lola’s nipa hut.
Those were carefree days. Happy days. My Lola with once strong hands would quietly serve us not only Budbod but also Bukayo. The latter is made from grated coconut, brown sugar and coconut milk.
When my Lola and Lolo became older, my Mama and Papa brought them home to live with us. If my Lolo regaled us with stories, Lola was the opposite. She rarely speaks to us. Instead, she would get up at dawn every morning, cook breakfast and then she would go the vacant lots in front of us and till her ‘garden’. Our neighbors would always remark that Lola was very hardworking. We never ran out of Bolanghoy (cassava), kamote (sweet potato), malunggay and all other kinds of vegetables.
Every time I go home, I would look out my window and imagine what the lot across our house looked like when Lola was still alive. It was literally green and teeming with vegetables. Now, a huge house from a Chinese family occupies the space.
The last time I saw Lola alive was when I left for Manila to pursue graduate studies. I wished I woke her up and thanked her for all that she did to us the morning I left. I didn’t. She was already very weak and was sleeping most of the time. Instead, I held her hand and whispered quietly that I would be leaving. I knew it would be the last time I would see her alive.