You picked me up that day, I was in my then very off-white gala uniform, it was dismissal, I was with all the other fifth graders were playing in the court, but I ran once I saw you at the gate. I remember you asking me about going to Tagaytay some time that week but I totally forgot about it. I remember picking up my big bag of school books thinking “It’s today?” It was just you and me on this trip, no daddy or manang Tisha, Just you and me on the road.

You and dad had separate cars and yours was my favorite, it always smelled good, had everything in the right place, and looked brand new. I remember rolling my eyes while you switched on the car stereo…you had Natalie Cole cassette tape playing again…*sigh* old people music. But as you drove and as the tape played over and over the lyrics and melody lingered in my mind, I fell in love and found myself singing along.

I only understood that we were there because of work and not a full vacation, we stayed at your colleagues home, with her daughter. It was two mothers and two daughters spending a weekend in Tagaytay. Your colleagues daughter, Bea and I did the usual, play with toys, run around the garden we even planned to sleep in a little tent outside. But you and your colleague started to tell us tales about snakes roaming the garden, we got scared and decided to stay indoors that night.

I specially remember trying to muffle our squeals at the back of the Toyota Lite Ace we came to pick you up in one night. We wanted to surprise/startle you, it was one or the other…Bea sneezed, ruining the surprise. But driver came to our aid and pretended it was him. He sneezed, and tried to convince the both of you that the noise you were hearing wasn’t coming from the back, but from his side. We heard your suspicious conversation and decided to jump up, the both of you screamed and when you realized it was just us laughed hysterically. We sat proud as you talked about how well planned it was, that you were nervous about weird things in the trunk. And even when we got back to manila you were still talking about it.

That’s one of my favorite memories of you mom, cause all my life it’s always been like that. You were the one that understood me the most, you were the one who always came to my defense, you were the one who taught me how to stand on my own to feet, you were always the one mom, always. And now that you’re not here, even with all your lessons, those nights we talked and I squeezed out all the advice I could from you, all the times you told me what is right and what is wrong. I still find myself, looking up at your bedroom window walking home from work, hoping that it was turned on. So I can rush to the gate, leave my bag on the counter, climb up the stairs with Champagne and say “Hi mom!”

I wish I can watch you cook Sunday family lunch, or do your nightly rituals in front of your dresser at night or at the very least, blow the candles on your birthday cake this year, I wish I had more years but since I can’t…. I hope they made it super big and special for you up there mom. Happy Birthday ❤