. . .And They Called Her Iday. . .
She was 14 when our Poppa married her–well, sort of, because Poppa, 18, eloped with her on a horse. A baby still, for all intents and purposes, just like the African girls you read about, who are too frail to carry an offspring, thereby suffering fistulas. In Momma’s case she had two stillborns, our eldest, Presentacion and the second, Eligio.
Momma was an only child, was the darling of the neighborhood, if only for her singing and dancing talents. And they called her Iday (Baby Girl) for that. In today’s parlance, she was spoiled and had that temperament. Spoiled in the sense that she knew nothing about cooking, her mother doing all the work. We guess it was instinct that made her cook good–at least for us. Like, our tummies were always full of puto, which she steamed religiously for our merienda. Her pinulahan and pancit miki were to die for.
Many a time would Poppa hit her, because of jealousy, and we would fill the house with our screams and wails for them to stop the fighting. Poppa mellowed with time and the fact that hypertension afflicted him throughout his life. Still and all, Momma harbored resentment towards Poppa for the past beatings she suffered.
Holding grudges was not beyond her, obviously–but oh, how diligent she was at catering to our needs. In appreciation, we boned up in school, consistently garnering honors. Even under a lampara, we would study deep into the night–and the special food she cooked was always awaiting us. Oh, how we loved getting sick because a super special food Momma would concoct was always there plus the Royal Tru Orange.
Momma was so-so as far as religion goes. She was not as devout as say, Generosa Alejandro-Yu, her bosom friend, whose priest-son Momma was a godmother to. But she did host the feast day for the Lady of the Rosary in 1953, when we were yet a baby–nonetheless we remember the glorious scent of the Azucena flowers adorning the Virgin’s carroza, and Grandpa’s ministering to us in a hammock, the better for us not to pester Momma and her fiesta guests.
Having had 9 children was no picnic for Momma. She suffered from beri-beri in her younger years; hypertension and arthritis in her twilight years.
It was meant to be that Momma would not recover from a massive stroke and heart attack on August 27, 1997. Seven days later, on September 3, 1997, she sailed to the other side of the veil.
Hopefully, Benita Balatar-Maray took with her our undying love. She was 79.