Her Life Away From Home

She was the help. For 7 years she served my father, my siblings and the little me. She cooked some of the best meals I’ve had growing up. But she was more than a help with an apron and a turner. She was exceptional.  She was loved. She was a friend.

A few days ago, I saw her for the first time after 29 years, old but still standing. No sight of walkers, cushions, or canes to support her.

She welcomed me in her apartment in Scarborough which she described as “small” but I didn’t agree. It was big and spacious. It had a living room, a dining table, a kitchen, a flat screen TV, a laptop, and an aquarium. Its walls where white and fresh. The cabinets were teemed with plants, dolls and photos of her and her daughter.

We had a reunion dinner, a hearty meal of pancit, monggo, beef caldereta, fried fish and fruit salad, all staples of the Filipino table, prepared with years of experience.

Filipino meal
She told me stories of the past and mentioned names that sounded familiar. Elsa, Len, Bito, Pipin, Rene, Kola, Maricon. All gone but remembered.

She showed me photos of Rocky, our beloved dog. She took care of him as she took care of us.

She sat beside me, put her hand over my head and prayed for me, my family and my health.

Her daughter told me, “Nanay loves your family dearly”. And we love her too.


I stood outside the bus station in Mississauga and looked at the final hours of the sun setting, giving way to a night sky lidded with clouds. It was difficult saying goodbye. Who knows when I’ll see her and her daughter again?

She may have been a help, but now she’s here in Canada, with a beautiful home, a nice kitchen, and a comfortable bed, living the life she deserves to live.


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