I still remember the first time I helped my aunt Shirley bake. We made blueberry muffins and puto. I believe we didn’t use an oven because we didn’t have one. But that didn’t matter then because we were resourceful, and there are other ways to make muffins and puto, the same way that there are other ways to live. What matters for both is to get the right ingredients in just the right amounts and the outcome will be good. Sometimes, we tweak the recipe a bit or encounter small (or big) mistakes, and still manage to produce something sweet. And when we don’t, we can charge it to experience and try again. Such is life.
Aunt Shirley was a smart woman. Quick on her feet and feisty with a sharp tongue that sometimes caused trouble. But she was also loving, and she loved fiercely. Growing up, I could always count on her to tell me if I gained or lost weight or kung sobrang itim ko na ba. But she meant well, and I know that she loved me all the same because when I told her that her revel bars were my favorite, she sooner than later sent me a big box of it, although I do think that she may have preferred that I watched my weight. (For my birthday last year, she made me the best cake I’ve ever had! Plus alcoholic cupcakes!)
But regardless, she made me believe that I am beautiful, and I am grateful for that.She’s not one to hold back on criticisms, but she also lets her compliments overflow. Beneath the surface, I know that she’s tender-hearted and kind.
We didn’t have many conversations, but I saw through her and I knew her by the questions she’d ask me. Of course, there were the standard questions about school, work and boys. However, she used to also ask me questions about books, writing, and faith. Three things I value and hold dearly. In a way, I believe that I’m a little like her. Or more. Just how much, I guess I wouldn’t exactly know. Being a child for the most part of the time that I knew her, and living in a different city when I was old enough to sit at the adult table, we never became close as we could or would have. But I’m not here to gloat over what could have been, but to celebrate what was.
There are many things about Aunt Shirley’s life that I don’t know. But I know she loved her kids. I know that she loves her kids. And I believe that she’ll continue to watch over them as well as the rest of our family. Like any of us, she wasn’t perfect and her life wasn’t pristine. But she made the most out of what she was given. She never lost hope even in the hardest of times. And she had joy. That’s more than any of us could ever hope for.
Right now, even when we believe that she’s been taken from us too soon, we can look back at the time she shared with us and see that she made her mark. If she were a Kardashian, I imagine she’d be Khloe. From hard-hitting advice to delectable desserts, she served them in her own fashion. I’m gonna miss her sass and criticisms, and it’s a shame we won’t get to see more of her artistry in baking and decorating. But she’s done all that she could, and she fought till the end. She was one tough cookie. Rough around the edges, but soft and sweet in her core.
Her life wasn’t easy, raising and caring for six kids, and running a small business. Nearing the finish line that we didn’t see coming, she may have been burnt after being diagnosed with cancer and struggling through it, but something tells me that she’d want us to remember her fondly with laughter in our hearts, and think of her as a phoenix that will once again rise from the ashes.
And with that, I ask everyone to continue praying for her soul that she may soon be together with our Father in Heaven, along with Lolo Bads, Lola Lag, Uncle Jibs & Tita Nol, and of course, Daddy Sonny. The past six months have been a whirlwind, but her suffering is now over.
Her decision to surrender to God puts the icing on the cake.