Growing Up with Ninang

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When I was young my mom went to America to work as a nurse so I grew up with my Ninang. Ninang is my mother’s sister, but she is also my godmother. I call her Ninang because in Bisaya, ninang means godmother.

Ninang ended up taking care of me from age five until age ten when I moved to America. Ninang was a nursing student. Even though she was very busy, she took very good care of me. She made sure to help me get ready for school and prepare my meals and take care of all sorts of errands. My little cousin, Ivy also came to stay with us in Davao later on so my Ninang had to take care of two children.

When I was ten I went to live with my mom and my dad in America. I lost touch with my family from the Philippines until my Ninang went to the United Kingdom to work as a nurse in 2003. During the summer of 2003, I went to stay with Ninang for three weeks. I had lost contact with family from the Philippines for so long that having my Ninang around was the best.

She doesn’t know it, but I have to say she brought my feet down to the ground and since that trip, I decided to focus on my studies and make my family proud so now I have one undergrad degree, an associates degree, and two masters degrees. During my stay in the United Kingdom, Ninang and I went to Maidenhead to visit friends from Davao and ate lots of Kentucky Fried chicken. It was a blast.

During that trip, I bought the book the Life of Pi. That book was such a great read. It is about a boy who journeys to Canada with his family after his family sold their zoo, but during their boat ride from India to Canada, their freighter sinks. Pi is then stuck on a lifeboat with a few animals, one of them being a Bengal tiger. I absolutely loved the book.

The book, the Life of Pi and Ninang got me to thinking about perhaps visiting the Philippines for a little adventure for myself. In 2005, after having graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, I decided to go to Davao City to visit my family. During that trip I rekindled my bond with my grandparents, reconnected with my cousins, and even met new family members. The trip was filled with fond memories I will always cherish. Unfortunately, Ninang was not in the Philippines during that trip.

In January of 2015, I went back to Davao again and luckily my Ninang visited Davao with her family. In February, Ninang and her family visited Davao for a week and I got to see her for two days. We had a party for Ninang and her family in San Miguel. It was loads of fun and I got to meet Ninang’s children for the very first time. Ninang’s children were in their college years already. My how time flies. The day after their party, my grandparents, cousins, and Ninang’s family went to Paradise Island. All of us a great time swimming and basking in the hot Philippines sun.

I would have to say Ninang has been in many ways a lifesaver for me. If she had not been around when I was growing up I don’t know how well I would have fared in Davao City. If Ninang and I had not reconnected during the summer of 2003, I probably would have never reconnected with my family in the Philippines again. Ninang has always been there for me through thick and thin and so I thank her for all that she has done for me.

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Be the Pillar of Your Community Not The Woman From the Page of a Magazine

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Growing up I always read magazines. I started reading Seventeen magazines when I was in middle school. What I learned from all of these magazines was that I needed to look good to attract a boyfriend or be liked by my friends. At an early age of about 14 years old I started being very conscious about how I looked.

I spent my weekends at the mall with my friends shopping and going to every single store to find THE OUTFIT. I looked for the perfect outfits in Express, Wet Seal, Gap, and Old Navy. I saved the money I earned from babysitting and doing chores around the house to buy all of these clothes. I was proud of my clothes. I would wear them during days when we didn’t have to wear a uniform. I would strut around in school and flaunt my new brightly colored plaid skirt.

I also started wearing makeup in middle school. Yes, I know it was a very young age to start wearing makeup daily, but that’s what I learned from the Seventeen magazines I read. It basically said in bold letters all over its pages that if I did not wear makeup I was never going to get a boyfriend and my friends would think I was ugly so wear makeup it was.

High heels were another must have for me when I was in middle school. I used to wear chunky heeled loafers during uniform days and chunky heeled MIA sandals during non-uniform days. I envied girls that could afford brand name shoes. I remember during those days chunky heeled Guess sneakers were the end all and be all of all shoes, but they cost $100 and of course, I could not afford them.

Another must have during middle school that I did not own were Coach and Dooney and Bourke purses. I don’t know if you readers out there know, but Coach and Dooney and Bourke purses typically cost $200 and my parents refused to shell out the cash for either of those brands. So I begged and begged, but alas no Coach and Dooney and Bourke purses for me. I tried to save my money for the purses, but I did not make enough from babysitting or my chores so I never did get to own a Coach or Dooney and Bourke purse in middle school.

Why am I writing about this? Well I just wanted to let some of my readers out there especially young women that from a young age we are programmed by magazines to be conscious of our looks from clothes, to makeup, to shoes, and to purses and this is something that most girls go through in their formative years as a teenager and they carry it on to adulthood.

To this day I try to buy nice clothes, makeup, shoes, and purses. Yes, I now mostly shop at Walmart or Target and have let go of the high-end brand names, but still, I am very conscious about how I look because of the magazines I consumed and still do consume. From January 2015 to September 2016 I lived in the Philippines and did not have access to fashion magazines and I have to say I stopped caring so much about how I looked. I started dressing in comfortable t-shirts, boy shorts, and just plain old flip flops. I stopped wearing makeup and my purse was a hand me down purse my aunt in England sent me.

I noticed that without being bombarded daily by the media about how I must look I became a woman that took pride in not how she looked, but how her attitude and behavior affected others. I realized when I was in the Philippines that people didn’t like me so much for how I looked and that they liked me simply because I was nice, caring, funny, and giving.

I grew to be a stronger woman in the Philippines and I would have to thank my grandmother who served as a role model for me. My grandmother or Lola as I call her is a pillar for our village and not because she is the senora of the village who dresses in beautiful clothes, but because she cares about the people who live in our village. Many of our neighbors go to her when they have problems. Lola gives them advice and sometimes gives them help monetarily. Being around my Lola made me realize that the woman to be was not the woman from a page in a magazine. Lola was the woman I needed to become in order to be loved and truly make a change in people’s lives for the better.

Now I’m not trying to say stop wearing nice clothes, stop wearing makeup, just wear flip flops, and carry hand me down purses. That’s not it because actually soon I’ll be posting fashion type blog posts, but what I am saying is that material things do not make you the woman you want to be. Your attitude, behavior, and your empathy are what people care about. They don’t typically care that much about your looks, but how you are as a friend to them.