Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mae remains gentle on our minds

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Two noontimes ago, I enjoyed a long, lingering lunch with Men Sta. Ana and Geraldine Maayo. Men is an economist and BusinessWorld columnist, Geraldine a retired university professor and writer of fiction. What binds us is the spirit of Mae Manalang, Men's wife who passed on in August last year.

I confessed to not having properly mourned for Mae. Going through my files yesterday, I found some still lifes I shot at the Manalang-Sta. Ana household in Kamias, Quezon City, where I visited her after one of her several hospitalizations back in 2014.

When you're with a force of life like Mae, it's hard to believe her body is weakening because she is an animated story-teller and can make her discomforts sound like the most exciting thing in the world to have. Why? Because they confirmed she was still alive. See? I'm having difficulty in being consistent with my tenses when referring to her.

Although the decorative wall pieces and those on the side table were, according to her then, selected and bought by Men on his out-of-town trips, they make me think of Mae, especially the color of the wall. I can still imagine her face set against it, she telling me of her work in the NGO world, of why there are multicolor pairs of Crocs in their house (to protect the soles of her feet from sharp objects), etc.

At yesterday's lunch, Mae hovered over our conversations. It felt like at any moment, she'd slide out of a corner of Cafe Via Mare at the UP Diliman campus and sing some Carole King or Carly Simon song. I suppose in a heart that's in denial like mine, she never really left...yet.
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