The author delivered this eulogy on July 20, for her sister Maria Theresa Lammoglia Virata.
My sister loved Our Lady. She was deeply devoted to Mary and whenever she would attend Mass (which was every day), she would wear white with a blue sash around her waist.
When she was brought back to the hospital Thursday morning due to pneumonia, it seemed the following day would be her last.
But I believe my sister was waiting for Saturday, it being Our Lady’s day.
As her blood pressure fell and her breathing became more labored, my prayer to the Blessed Mother that Saturday night was for her to come and take her daughter home. And, indeed, Mary did.
At 11:55 p.m., with five minutes to spare, my sister left us for the last time.
All things beautiful
What I remember most about our houses when I was growing up was that they were always full of books.
My mother, Segunda, passed on to us a love of reading, but my first books (that I still have) came from my sister Bebe—fairy tales, nursery rhymes and the three books of Winnie the Pooh.
These, in turn, I passed on to my children who, perhaps with one exception, are all readers.
My sister never lost her love of books until she became too sick.
Her legacy included a love of all things beautiful. She was later known as a collector but actually, she just loved beauty.
It didn’t matter if an object was old or new. You could see that in her house. True, it was sort of jumbled but what she had were always things of beauty.
She belonged to the era of great collectors like Lindy Locsin, “Tito” Luis Araneta and Dr. Arturo de Santos.
There were so many statues of santos in the house in Parañaque it was actually spooky at night.
If she wanted a Mass said in the house, she had all the paraphernalia—chalices, monstrance and patens, candelabras and antique priests’ robes that were falling apart. Not to mention retablos and remilletes, thuribles, silver frontales and crucifixes in all shapes and sizes. She even had a bishop’s chair.
The time she started collecting was a source of great amusement among her friends. What did she see in all those decrepit, dilapidated, old and antiquated furnishings and images?
But with the rise in the prices of Philippine antiques, she had the last laugh.
When her husband died, I suggested she sell all those antiques and enjoy herself—go back to school, travel, rid herself of possessions.
She gave me a side glance and told me to leave her alone. She would be buried, she said, in one of her Ming bathtubs.
I think she had three or four seated mummies from Sagada, surrounded by her favorite porcelain pieces from the Tang, Sung and Ming eras.
Five hundred years hence, some archaeologist would find her and be thoroughly bewitched, bothered and bewildered. You can see how her mind worked.
The first time I went to New York, she said I had to go to the Metropolitan Museum first, and only afterwards to Saks Fifth Avenue—that palace of consumerism or beauty, depending on your point of view.
To this day I love department store displays, especially at Christmas. I can no more think of Christmas and not remember my sister. It was her special time.
When she chose a present, she would make sure it was something you would like. She would never buy just anything para cumplir, as they say.
She would shop for hours at Christmas time and Mang Igto would wrap at least a hundred presents.
The table in the library in Parañaque would groan with the weight of crystals, silver, evening bags and books, always books.
She never gave only one present, usually it was two or three. And if, by chance, she missed the Christmas deadline, there was always Three Kings, Chinese New Year, even Easter.
What else can be said of my sister? She was generous to a fault. That is, if she loved you. There was no middle ground here. She either loved you to death or couldn’t stand to see your face.
At Christmas there would be black squid sauce for the pasta (my father’s recipe), stuffed turkey, castañas and boxes of fruits, especially cherries—her favorite—and lots of cakes.
There was a Douglas pine sent from the States that would remain fully lit until Easter when the needles began to turn brittle and yellow. It all reminded me of a latter-day Miss
Havisham from “Great Expectations.”
Was it excessive? Yes. Was it because of the deprivation of the war? Maybe.
Anybody who knew her knew that she loved chocolates, ice cream and cakes with a passion. She looked forward every December to David Choy’s present of See’s chocolates from San Francisco.
Chocolate cake was surely her supreme favorite, and Magnum ice cream when it was introduced here.
My son, Miguel, claims that it was his aunt who instilled in him a love of chocolates and desserts, to the detriment of his waistline.
She loved local fruit trees. Her garden (not the manicured type) had coconuts, camachile, atis, santol, guavas and granada. Sampaguita bloomed. An ilang-ilang tree gave a wonderful fragrance at dusk until it was felled by a typhoon. Her altar always had these flowers from the garden for Our Lady.
The world my sister knew is gone, like most of the people who lived then.
She wanted her ashes strewn in Manila Bay. I imagine it was because it was the Manila Bay of her youth that she remembered.
As we bid my sister farewell, I quote the words of the poet:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
—“The Tempest,” Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 148-158