Last July 7, the day after my birthday, my lola (grandmother) on my mom’s side of the family passed away.
Lola Melding passed away in her sleep at the age of 93. The last time I saw her was a few years ago while she visited Dumaguete. The last time I was in La Carlota City (where my mother’s family hails from) was over 10 years ago.
I decided it was only proper to pay my respects and go to La Carlota for her interment and burial.
On July 11 I left for La Carlota aboard the 1am Ceres bus to Bacolod, along with my younger sister and cousin. We arrived at the crossing (the buses to Bacolod don’t pass through La Carlota, so you would have to get down at a certain crossing/junction) at around 6am, and we were picked up by an uncle soon after. Aboard my uncle’s van, I had some time to think and just look at the sugarcane fields that whizzed by. It was somewhat surreal, thinking that the last time I had visited my Mama’s hometown was when I was still a little girl. It had been way too long.
We arrived at our Tito Joelu’s house, and after settling down a bit and placing our things in the spare room, we went to the cathedral (which was a lot nearer than I thought it was) to wait for the casket. It would be brought in from Bacolod, where it had spent the past few days in a funeral parlour; many visitors and relatives coming in and out to pay their respects. The casket arrived at around 8am, and it was only when they brought it in that I was able to see the lifeless body of Lola, all decked out in a Filipiniana-type ensemble, face made up nicely, rosary in hand. It felt surreal. It always does, seeing someone you know already in a casket.
My cousins and I went for breakfast together at Jollibee, then returned promptly to the church. The mass for Lola would still be at 1pm, so we were permitted to go back to Georgina (Tito Joelu’s house.. I don’t know why they called it that) to rest for a while. It was a good thing – I had barely gotten any sleep on the bus ride, not to mention I had not slept the night before.
After a good nap, we had to get ready for the memorial mass. As we went back to the cathedral, there were a lot of people already seated among the pews. I think it was my first time to be at a Roman Catholic mass for the dead. (Mama grew up in a Catholic family, but converted eventually to Protestantism after she married Papa.) I was told that I would be participating in the offering, that I would be carrying a bottle of wine. It was entirely new to me, but I figured I would just follow my cousin in front of me.
The mass was quite short. After the readings, Manang Gaita, who is the oldest cousin in our generation/Lola‘s oldest grandchild gave some words in memoriam. I don’t think there was a dry eye in our family, or at least in my pew and the pews in front of me. The way she talked about Lola made me feel a little envious that I did not get to experience that. I think by the time I would have been more conscious of spending time with her, she would have already been having memory loss. But it was nice to at least hear how she was as a grandmother to Manang Gaita. Two of the clergy (there were about eight priests during the mass) even shared their memories of her, because she was such a devoted member of the church. Tito Boboy, the youngest son of Lola, also gave thanks to everyone for attending the service.
After the mass, the casket was loaded onto the hearse and then we had a procession towards the cemetery. I was surprised at first that we would be walking, but then I was told that it wasn’t too far. It was bearable, though it was hot. The hearse played some Josh Groban songs that really lended to the somber atmosphere. Once we reached the cemetery we were allowed to look at Lola one last time, before the casket was closed and loaded into the niche in the Jalandoni family grave. We threw flowers into the niche before it was sealed. There was a lot of crying.
We had merienda at this place across the church, and everyone was invited. I was able to meet some of my younger cousins, as well as aunts and uncles that I had only heard of but never actually met. It was really nice to be around family.