Once upon a time, there lived a precocious, young girl on the heart-shaped island, called Marinduque, in the Philippines. She grew up in the company of her happy, nurturing family, with a tall, handsome Castilian father, Ramon Saiz Carrion, a mining engineer, who headed the iron ore mines as general superintendent, and a beautiful, caring, wonderfully strong mother, Rosario, who ran a warm, welcoming home.
This wide-eyed observant girl, one of eight children, enjoyed the best of both worlds, growing up with the copper mountains of Balanacan in the town of Mogpog on one side and the deep, blue sea on the other. She relished the beauty of nature. During magical, moonlit evenings, the sweet scent of the delicate sampaguita flowers hanging in the warm summer air and the multicolored light of the fireflies on the huge acacia trees surrounding the white house atop the hill are vivid images that remain etched in her mind to this day. She would then look up at the sky and see the twinkling stars, and when she looked down at the bay, she would see the lights emanating from the fishermen’s bancas, illuminating the sea and making it like a star-studded sky. This young girl reflected, “What an awesome, magical sight of God’s creation.”
Together with her siblings, she enjoyed a charmed life, abundant with luxuries provided by a generous and loving father. She thought those halcyon days would last forever. However, at the age of nine, her world was shattered as her father died of a stroke, leaving her bereaved mother with eight children to care for, the youngest being two-year-old twins.
They moved to the town of Boac, where they lived in the hundred-year-old, matriarchal house with her beautiful, strong-willed grandmother, Elvira Sarmiento Nieva, widow of Marinduque’s first governor, Juan Morente Nieva. In this old-world setting, she became deeply conscious of her rich family roots as she heard stories about the Nieva clan that spanned five generations of powerful, influential and principled persons, who originated from this town, the capital of the province. The stately, white matriarchal house, with its wide, brown, narra-paneled walls, was very much part of her activity-filled childhood, standing right in the town center and only two hundred steps from the Catholic church which represented to her the rich legacy of the family’s history.
Widowed at the young age of 39, her mother Rosario manifested her resilience and strength by bringing up her eight children single-handedly. She was the quintessential mother earth and a woman of dignity, elegance, character and grace.
It was from her mother that this young girl learned her values. Fortunately, this brave, determined mother maintained her positive attitude towards life and ingrained in her young daughter and her siblings a deep sense of spirituality. At Angelus, they would daily gather to pray the rosary and thank God for His abiding beneficence that blessed the family year after year, from milestone to milestone.
A trait her mother taught her and her siblings was to be grateful to those who touched their lives. This virtue this young girl would live by throughout her life. As an educator, her mother encouraged them to study hard and to be well-groomed from head to toe. She guided them to keep well-written journals of their school lessons and experiences written in beautiful penmanship.
She emphasized the importance of good manners and right conduct. She taught them to read good books, magazines and biographies of great men and women. She would patiently discuss with them the values and lessons learned from each book to hone their analytical and verbal skills. This young girl wholly immersed herself into reading, which developed her love for literature and honed her creative writing talent.
The little girl is me. At an early age, I have minded my own business, which has borne rich fruits as evidenced by the many books I have written.
Today as we battle this pandemic, let us encourage our children to read books and spend less time on their cellphones and gadgets. The youth need to be reminded of the more important aspects of life.