Today is mother’s day and i want to honour my Aunty Neneng.
She was a colourful person, with a high and cheerful voice. I remember her singing into a hairbrush, dancing, and getting us kids to join her. When she laughed, she would cover her mouth. She would make us yellow fiesta rice with raisins and she loved playing with us kids. I remember her small frame, the moles on her face, and her beautiful brown skin, darker than everyone else’s in the family.
One christmas, she gifted me and my sister long necklaces made of colourful glass beads. My sister and I were six or seven at the time, and when we received it, we didn’t appreciate it. We made fun of it. When I think about how we must have hurt her, to see us receive these gifts in the way we did, I cry. I look back and I see how systems of capitalism and white supremacy were influencing how i didn’t value this gift made by my own tita’s brown hands.
When i was making the necklace, I loved the sounds of each bead stacking over the other, the peace that I felt in my concentration, and most importantly how I was able to honour my Aunty’s life with my sister.
Aunty Neneng had no kids, she wasn’t interested in marrying, and was probably queer. She helped fill in the gaps in the childcare work that my parents needed and the support work for my lola. Just like in the way we couldn’t appreciate her necklace, my aunty’s care-work was not acknowledged in the way it should have been: as important mothering work.
I made this necklace as a way to honour my aunty neneng. To even express how I am sorry. Thank you for how you showed us your love, how you cared for us growing up. I couldn’t appreciate what you were giving us.
My Aunty Neneng passed away too young. Her death was extremely sudden. She was sick one day and went the next. Her health was neglected. You were taking care of everyone around you, ang nanay mo, kaming mga bata, but who looked out for you? What barriers felt too tall to advocate for your own health?
At one point when creating this, the whole necklace came apart. Each bead I had carefully put through the string fell to the ground below me. I wondered, Aunty Neneng, did the necklace ever come undone when you were making it for me? Did you also have to go on your knees and pick up the pieces? When you strung each bead through, were you singing?
I wanna thank you for being part of making me who i am today. Just like you, I sing into a
hairbrush mic, I have a childlike sense of play, and I am growing to deeply value the care work I give and that is given to me.
Maraming na maraming salamt Aunty neneng. I love you.