Feb. 1 is the birthday of my mother’s older sister, who became a cloistered Carmelite nun. But she entered the convent after the war was over.
On Feb. 7, the Japanese took all the men in our family, brought them to the Masonic Temple and shot them. The women were left to fend for themselves.
When I was past 50 years old, Tita Chitchit — already Sister Mary Joseph of the Sacred Heart — and I became close. She told me how she regretted that they never talked about the war. They behaved like no big thing happened. So they never came to a resolution.
My mother had Alzheimer’s Disease. Shortly before she passed away she woke up screaming and would not stop unless she slept. The doctor wanted her teeth pulled out because she might be in pain. I would not let them. I took her to the hospital. She screamed all the way, in the waiting room, in the elevator. I was so genuinely afraid.
But I understood. In her family, my mother suffered the biggest loss. She lost her father, whom she adored; her brother, whom she loved dearly; and her husband, all in one swoop. They had been married for less than four years. I never saw her cry over that. She never talked about how painful the loss was.
Tita Chitchit was my godmother. I am told that she used to love to play with me when I was a baby. I know that when we visited her in Laoag when I was six years old, she brought only me into the garden of their cloister.
I remember seeing the big, mean thorns of the mabolo tree on the ground and even if I was small I could imagine the pain they must have felt walking through their garden barefoot. Being barefoot was part of their sacrifice.
I wish I could tell all those who order to please pray the rosary every day. My life has really changed since I started doing that.
Of course, given the life I led, there were times we fought. But in the end we were very good friends and I loved her dearly. She passed away around three years ago. I was newly married but I went to Laoag by myself to be with her as she lay in state.
Once, when we were alone, I was silently talking to her. I apologized for the times when I had hurt her. Then suddenly I said, “Tita, from now on I will pray the rosary every day. I know I never prayed enough by your standards but when I go back to Manila, I will pray the rosary every day. I promise you.” And I did.
When the quarantine hit I decided to fix my beads. I have always been a hobbyist. I have many beads. I decided to make first an altar in our bedroom, then a rosary for me, and a rosary for the altar. Suddenly my husband asked if we could pray the rosary together. We did every night.
Then I found myself making rosaries every day. I priced them at P250 each plus delivery charge of P160, which stays the same whether you order one rosary or 10. I don’t make them to make a profit. I make them because I enjoy making them and I enjoy selling or giving them away so more people will pray the rosary.
I have made more than 200 rosaries over Christmas. Now, so far, I think I’ve made more than 30 and I’m still behind on my orders. I believe my Tita Chitchit somehow dictates what I’m supposed to do.
My rosaries are unusual. They have extra beads between decades. One bead is for the “Glory Be.” Then there’s a small divider. The next bead is for the Fatima Prayer and other ejaculations. Then another small divider. The next bead is for the next mystery and the “Our Father.” Also I put a rose on all the rosaries I make. That’s my trademark. I wanted to put rose fragrance, but I can’t find it in the pandemic. You can wear the rosary as a necklace. It looks very pretty.
My rosaries are different and very pretty. I think the art is dictated to me because I never know what I’m going to do. I begin by taking the beads and counting 50 for the decades and three more for the three “Hail Marys” in the beginning. But in the end, it’s a pretty rosary.
I wish I could tell all those who order to please pray the rosary every day. My life has really changed since I started doing that. I am truly grateful to Our Blessed Mother, whom I reach, I think, through my Tita Chitchit, but praying the rosary daily really helps. My husband and I have no problems. We are both happy and very grateful for the life we have. We actually enjoy praying the rosary together.
So I thank my Tita Chitchit for this marvelous gift. I regret that she had to go to give it. But I’m sure I make her happy in a small way.