She had the sweetest smile, reminding me of delicious pineapples she served after lunch. She always treated me as a VIP, whether I was a young girl , a rebel student, young housewife, hardworking single mom. My parents spoke to her in Tagalog, when actually her dialect is Bicolano; Tatay spoke Ilonggo and Nanay spoke Tagalog. She spoke to my baby cousins then, Maritess and Josefina (Little, they nicknamed her) in English, Tagalog and Ilonggo. She was a sweet person, with soft melodic voice and gentle ways. I wonder if ever she screamed or raised her voice when she taught in class, as she was also a teacher.
She had eight children over the years. Tragedy in her family started when Little became a victim of hit-and-run, and died just after she graduated from college. The whole family, the whole clan grieved with her. Years later, Uncle Memong, her husband died. Shortly after, her eldest daughter, Maritess, died when the ship she was aboard sunk. Maritess was found very near an island, meaning she was able to swim quite a distance to the direction of the island. After this third tragedy, Tita Cinder had a stroke, was half paralyzed and was not able to talk. Through physical therapy, she was able to make sounds but her speech did not return to normal.
Patsy and I, her 3rd and only daughter now that the older two had died, bonded like sisters. Her sons Boboy and Sonny had been generous to me and my daughters. Second to my own family, they are my closest relatives. The usual family competition that is a trademark of some relatives did not happen between our families. I attribute that to my sweet Tita Cinder who always showed by example that cousins are looked after, not competed against. Yesterday, Tita Cinder transitioned to the other world, to be with our Creator, to be with Uncle Memong, Maritess and Little. No more pain and suffering for her.
Tita Cinder, or Estela Escobedo Palis to many, your gentleness and generosity of spirit is unparalleled. I will miss your sweet smiles and soft-spoken words, but surely you're happier now where you are. Hugs and kisses to our loved ones there in heaven.