Archive for ‘Relationships’

30 March 2019

Blessings Be upon You

by misslampa

Papa has always been more old-school about the Filipino tradition of pagmamano. Right after my siblings and I would tell him we’re about to leave. he’d offer us a free hand which we’d meet with an outstretched palm. We would then bow slowly until his knuckles lightly touch our forehead while listening to him say, “God bless.” And then we’d be on our way. That’s the classic way, which is also how I’ve done it with older relatives, my parents’ friends, and the parents of my friends.

But my Mama, she bestows her blessing upon us in a slightly different way.


This was way back when both my parents were still taller than my siblings and me. :-)

Mama used to have to bow down a bit to find our foreheads, where she lightly traced a small cross with her thumb while the rest of her fingers lay on top of our heads—much like how the priest does it when baptizing babies—before she sent us out the door. While doing so, she’d say a quick prayer and ask the Lord to bless her children and keep them safe from harm. Then she’d smile with her kind eyes and say “Ingat, anak!” (“Take care, my child!”) before letting us leave for school.

Our late teens saw my siblings and I all growing taller than my mother, and so we had to outgrow the bowing bit of this routine. Since then, she’d just raise her hand in front of her face and find our foreheads there, still waiting for her touch and blessing. She’d then hug us tightly then say “I love you” and “Ingat ka” and mean it like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

What I don’t tell them is that every morning, I still look back at my reflection in the mirror, lightly knock my knuckles against my forehead, and trace a cross on it with my thumb so I’d still feel like I’m getting their blessing.

Taking part in this parent-child dance is still one of my favorite things about coming home. At 74, Papa still knows the moves like the back of his hand and now adds a quick kiss or hug sometimes, to my sappy heart’s delight! Mama’s 70 and has been extra forgetful since she had a stroke three years ago, but when she happens to be up before I leave and I come into her room to ask for her blessing, she still remembers every step, down to hugging me with all her might and wishing me well like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

I hug her back but now, I trace a cross on her forehead as well, partly to make her laugh (my sister and I kid our parents about how they’re now the babies in the family) but mostly to beg God to please please give her peace of mind, a happy heart, and a good night’s sleep—things that haven’t been coming to her as easily. I do the same with Papa and I’m glad he also lets me, especially because I know I only have the rest of either their lives or mine to keep doing it.

I know tradition dictates that it always has to be younger one receiving the blessing. But because I’m my mother’s daughter, I’d like to think I’m also allowed to do things a bit differently.

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13 January 2019

A Pet Name for Me

by misslampa

My nephew Coco now has a pet name for me.

He’s been calling my Mama “Lola” (grandma), my Papa “Lolo” (grandpa), and my older sister “Ninang” (godmother), but for the longest time, he didn’t have a term for me. The few times we interacted via Skype, he danced with delight while I sang “Baby Shark” and learned how to stick his tongue out by mimicking me, but he never got around to calling me anything. He probably thought he was just watching another YouTube video.


You’ll really end up second-guessing yourself when even face-tracking filter apps refuse to acknowledge you.

I got to play with him a lot when I went home last Christmas, though, so I guess something finally stuck after hearing everyone repeatedly refer to me as “Auntie” in the hope that he’d say it, too.

He found me washing dishes in the kitchen one Sunday afternoon and wanted to play tag, I think, so he stood a couple of feet away from me, said “Auntie-ya” loud and clear, and held my gaze for three seconds before running back into the living room giggling, fully expecting me to run after him.

I did just as expected and rushed to where he was, of course. I shouted “Coco” repeatedly and captured him in a big bear-hug, like I had every other time we played this game.

But my heart knew that that time was unlike all those other times, too, because it was when my darling little Coco finally decided to pluck me from anonymity.

Later on, while appreciating how the name is actually an amalgamation of “auntie” and “tiya,” I realize that he uses the same term to refer to black ants, too. “Oh no, oh no! Ant-ya!” he quips while pointing at them with his forefinger.

But no matter. I’m still going to mark this Christmas as the Christmas an angel settled on a nickname for me.

1 July 2018

The Aunt who Glitters Learns to Love Spring

by misslampa

At the Bureau of Education here in Higashikawa and even in the schools I teach at, I’m probably best known as she who could not wait for winter in Hokkaido to be over.

Because for all its beauty, winter can and does zap your genki.

2018 Winter Doraemon

Even Doraemon doesn’t seem so crazy about it, see?


Or turn pedestrian crossings and sidewalks into skating rinks that make you fall on your butt.



How about we just slide to work today?




It’s pretty and all, but only if you don’t have to go outside.

But mostly, I’m not a fan because it gets freezing cold up here. The temperature outside ranges from -12 to -22˚C during wintertime in northern Hokkaido, and since I come from the Philippines where the average in Manila hovers just above 30˚C for most of the year, it really wasn’t a surprise that the cold got to me. Back home, we turn on the air conditioner to keep a room cool – and by that, I mean 21˚C. Positive.

People were amused when I started wearing scarves once the temperature dipped to low 20s. And then genuinely worried when I transitioned to thick down coats in November, when everyone else began using their scarves. (To be honest, I was worried about me, too.)

But when my kind boss told me in mid-May that I must be happy to be welcoming my favorite season, it was my turn to be amused. Because although I am not big on winter, I don’t ever remember referring to spring as the most wonderful time of the year. My thing is fall and its vibrant reds and yellows and oranges, and hearing the colorful carpet of leaves crunch under my feet. But I digress.


(Still digressing, sorry, but look at how pretty this tree in my town is in autumn!)



Truth be told, the main reason why I was looking forward to spring was because it marked the end of winter, which lasted for Seven Painfully Long Months this year. The spring flowers are a nice bonus, but I’m not really a flower person, either.

Well, I wasn’t. Until I am.

You see, one thing I didn’t see coming was how the park and the playground would once again be filled with children playing and coming up to say hi. Months of ice and snow that kept kids either indoors or on the ski slopes seem to have made me forget.

But the sweetest of the 3- to 5-year-olds compel you to remember. I pass by the pre-school playground on my way back from teaching an after-school English club and every week, without fail, they run up to me and ask to do a fist bump a la Baymax and won’t leave until we get to the fa-la-la-la-la bit. (My colleague and I taught them that, haha!) Or do a high-five but take my hand in theirs the moment our palms touch and just keep it that way just so I’m theirs for a while longer. Or hold my face in their hands and call me Oba Kira, which Google translates to “Aunt Glitter.” which is one nickname you won’t hear me complaining about because hey, it’s kawaii.

I am fully aware that those hands have been in places unspeakable before they were on my face, of course, but I try not to think about that.

It takes me a while to go through this routine with the kids, which isn’t really new since I did this back in autumn, too. But it’s springtime in Higashikawa now, so guess what the cute little munchkins scramble to give me right before I leave?

spring 2018 flowers

Some of this season’s super tiny flower bouquets, made up of flowers from whichever weed was closest to them when I start saying goodbye.


What an adorably cute way to be reminded of how simple and straightforward it really is to let someone know you like them back when the world has yet to train your heart to be afraid and hold back.

So from now on, yep, flowers are a thing for the aunt who glitters, too.