Formal, Sweet and Impish
She was all three, our Auntie Tancing was. She was Father’s first cousin and our Grade IV teacher. And what a teacher she was: We were wondering if she took pleasure in hitting our heads with the knuckles of her clenched fist. That is, at the first sign of our being dense, i.e. not knowing the answer to a question. Yes, everybody got his/her head hit. The other punishment that she would mete out was to pull our side burns to the point of our scalp levitating. Argh.
She was a mainstay at our house for every function and the preparations thereto. We would watch in amazement at how skillful she was at churning out sweet things: muffins, kurukod, suman, moron and our favorite coconut sweet of varying colors. She was Father’s favorite cousin, obviously.
Although she was a blood relative, we held her at a distance: a combination of awe and respect. Precisely because she could be one’s “terror” teacher. Thanks to her, we endeavored to really bone up–and this we carried out through our freshman and sophomore years in high school. (Like, it was a different story after that, when our hormones became dominant, and we became less studious.)
We really regret not seeing her when we returned from Zimbabwe in ’92. We did not know then that she was terminal. Her house was out of the way from Paraiso, so we thought we would see her some other day. But we guess it was meant to be. That we would remember her at her robustness. Not the emaciated woman the way others saw her last.
She was our Auntie Tancing. Constancia Loperia-Cesar.