I often share stories about this woman to my ex-boyfriend – how I love her chocolate cakes, brownies, and literally every food that she prepares. Her name is Zenaida Gamboa-Pisig, and she is my grandmother. All of us, her grandchildren, call her Ma. She is my hero and here is her story.

When I was a child, there was something to look forward to every year on my birthday. Before there were Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, Ma would ask me days before my special day what kind of cake I would like to get. Hands down, chocolate cakes had always been my favorite! The day before my birthday, she would ask Ate Inday to do grocery. And Ma was very particular about her ingredients. For example, her butter needed to be an Anchor label.

On my birthday, she would wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for her and my Lolo. After which, she would prepare to bake my chocolate cake and cook the other handa. She would usually bake and cook alone. In fact, she didn’t want anybody else to be around her as she did her cooking wonders (except for Ate Inday). But I got to watch her from time to time. It was my birthday anyhow so I could do whatever I wanted. *wink*

I remember whenever she was away from the kitchen and nobody was watching, I would sneak on that chocolate icing and taste it. Sadly, I would have to wait until afternoon before I could devour her ‘masterpieces’.

At 3:00 PM, my elementary classmates would arrive one by one and my birthday celebration would begin. Yehey!

This trip down memory lane is more than 20 years ago though.

Days after I got back from Cebu where I celebrated my birthday together with my ex-boyfriend, my Aunt called on me and said that we needed to bring Ma to the hospital. I thought she, who graduated from UP Manila and was a Registered Nurse and later became the Chief Nurse of two known hospitals in Cavite City, just needed a simple checkup. When I came to her house that morning, she didn’t look well. I had to assist her in her walking going to the car and she felt really heavy, considering that she only stood 5’5″. That’s when I realized that she was not in good shape. I helped her sat beside me (on the passenger seat) and as I entered the car to drive, she kept on asking “Nasaan si Paul? Nasaan si Paul?” I never saw her that disoriented. I answered, “Ma, nandito po ako.”

At the hospital, one sickness led to another. Ma passed away in 2008. I was 25.

She was last diagnosed with pneumonia and spent her last two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). While she was there, I remembered dreaming about her. It was one of the dreams I would always remember. She was wearing a black dress and she was talking to me. She said she would help me succeed in all of my endeavors. I woke up that morning with a smile on my face because I thought she would get well. But on that very same day, I finally realized it was something else. So I visited her in the ICU.

It hurt to see her suffer. She had these plastic tubes all over her face so she couldn’t speak. I talked to her and thanked her for everything. I tried so hard to hold back my tears. I told myself that she didn’t deserve to be there.

Her life was not perfect. But I knew she did her best to be the best mother and lola to our family. I’ve always been proud of her. I looked up to her. I witnessed her sacrifices, her joys, and her love for us. I also remember seeing other people as they came to her for medical and financial help. She helped those people in the best ways she could. Her generosity was known to many.

Ma, this blog post is for you. Now, the world knows who you are and how you lived your life. I know that you’re proud to have me as one of your grandchildren. Thank you for taking good care of us and thank you for being my angel. I love you.

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