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Manang Adang
by Tish Valles

Illuminada was always old,
her soft raisin hands
running through my hair
every morning before school,
gingerly and forcefully holding
together my innocence
and endless questions
in a perfect braid
so taught, my head
would ache till recess.

We called her "Manang Adang,"
this woman who took care of me
and my sister, Veronica. She made
our meals, did our hair, mended
our clothes, poured milk
into glasses in the mornings
and evenings. She was
our first lesson that you can
grow your love for another,
so big she becomes family.

Later, she was
also our first lesson in
betrayal and heartbreak.
First the golden spoons
my grandfather squirreled
through the war, concealed
from the Japanese and
corralled against
the bombs. Then, it
was a gold bracelet my
great grandmother
had made especially
for the arrival of her first
great grand daughter.
There, all there hiding
among her things,
the wrinkled handkerchief,
the betel nut, the rosary
she prayed every single day.

* "Manang" is a Filipino term of endermeant and respect for someone older, an older sister or someone you feel sisterly respect for.


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