Back from Hibernation

Our family lost my mother, Bessie Magsaysay-Sevilla, in March of this year. Before that, we went through a roller coaster ride with one health issue or another that made my head spin. But between the time Spouse and I came back to the Philippines in 2006, in time for my mom’s birthday in early November…we simply enjoyed our time with her and with the rest of our family.

My mother was a natural cook as her elder sister told me after she passed away. You can’t fake having a knack for cooking my tita said. You can learn and study for years and be good but not a natural. Mama was certainly a natural, at more than just cooking. She was a miracle worker even. She fed and raised seven healthy individuals on a very limited budget. All seven of us grew up loving our food and all learned to love to cook. It’s one thing to be able to cook and another to LOVE to cook.

I’ll always see her lovely hands cutting butter into flour for her pie crusts as I make my own pies. I’ll always make my pastel de pollo her way, with tomato sauce and not the more popular cream sauce. And I’ll forever remember her look of surprise and recognition as she tasted this same dish, my first attempt at making it for Christmas two years ago. I made an extra effort to make it exactly as she told me it was done. She gave me all her little tricks and secrets and I was not disappointed.

No matter that she was stingy in her praise, as her mother was before with her. I was toughened enough in a house full of critical siblings, to keep persisting. Ask them and I’m sure they’ll tell you I had more than my share of failures. Unlike my mother, I am not a natural cook.

I told myself I was beautiful because no one else told me I was. Then I found and married a man who tells me everyday I am….so I took the same approach with my cooking as I did with my looks and crossed my fingers!

It was an invaluable gift my aunt unknowingly gave me during that phone conversation in March. She told me of a time she and my mom were on one of their hour-long cross-continent phone conversations. Their topic turned to the inevitable, food. Paella came up and my mother told her sister, “Do you know who makes a good paella? Mita does.” That was enough to make me cry all over again.

I will treasure those words my mother told her sister and not me. She always said, even a dog needs a pat on the head every now and then. That was my pat on the head…not that I need one…I just want one.

I hope my mother knew how much we all loved her and looked up to her as our hero and role model. No matter how much of a conscious effort you take to make someone know you love them, after they are gone, it all seems so inadequate.

Perhaps I named this blog Unofficial Cook because no matter how many cooks there were around to spoil the brew, we only had one Official Cook in our kitchen – My Mama…and this blog is dedicated to her.

4 Replies to “Back from Hibernation”

  1. Momma, we all miss you so. Thank you, my beautiful Mita for getting out some of the words we all have in our hearts. She will forever be with us.

  2. Truly sad about the passing of Lola Bessie and its so sudden. But Tita shes looking down on you her family her love ones. She is still guiding you 🙂 you might not know it shes there embracing you. Quite sad to have lost people we love the most.

    I truly can relate to your blog. I have lost Lola Elo and Tito Vic.. But the memories still lives on. The small things which our dearly departed has done for us will always bring tears to our eyes. Every now and then..

    Its nice also that your putting your feelings into this blog… A way to cope up with the emptiness and sadness you feel now.

  3. Thank you for never failing to encourage me, David. This blog is your idea after all. It’s amazing that so many people have read it through the years, left messages in appreciation of the recipes or just thought well enough of this effort.

    Thank you for being more of a son rather than a son-in-law to Mama. I will never forget how much a comfort you were to her during the toughest point in her ordeal. Thank you for thinking of getting in touch with Cousin Ric so that everyone in the family could be informed. Thank you for being so kind to make sure Tito Luis got to the funeral. Thank you for being my comfort at the toughest point in my life, you were my strength.

    I know you did all that and more out of love…and not just for me.

  4. Jackie, I try not to be too sad on a daily basis. There are the little ones and others who miss her too. But yes, these are my deepest feelings about Mama’s passing.

    The best way to honor her memory is to live a full life, not just for myself but for the family. So I try to do that and will continue with this blog. Keep the fires burning under that kawali!

    I think she’d like that more than anything. After all, your Lola Bessie gave everything of herself.

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