When I’m ever in doubt, I always call a grandparent rather than a friend. Upon hearing their voice on the other side of the phone, I can sense the tranquility, resilience and wisdom, which younger generations like myself have not yet earned.
My grandmother Aurora “Rory” Trinidad, who I fondly call Mamita, is a woman that knows how to navigate life and get what she wants. The perfect example of this approach is her whirlwind romance with my Hawaiian shirt-loving Lolo Perry: they got engaged for six months before getting married.
She recalled how she fell in love with my grandfather. “I liked tall guys, gwapo rin at mabait pa. He introduced me to his family, and they also liked me. I didn’t want to wait too many years or have a long courtship. So I said to your Lolo, ‘Let’s go. If you’re ready, then I’m ready.’”
That moment led to what she called “a very smooth marriage.” She warned me, though, before I idealized her love story: “Investigate the background of your admirer first.”
Today, we celebrate our grandparents for their wisdom and presence in our lives.
I chatted with a couple of siblings to get tips on love and life they’ve learned from their grandparents: Monica Mendiola-Salazar and Michelle Mendiola, Jay and Matt Laurel, Luisa and Martina Salimbangon.
Monica Mendiola-Salazar and Michelle Mendiola on Lola Annie
Marry your best friend and appreciate what is.
To most people, she was known as Anita Meily, the former magazine columnist and author of three books on topics around relationships and marriage. She was also president of the Christian Family Movement, along with her late husband, Joe Meily Jr. But to Monica and Michelle, she was simply Lola Annie, whom they both hailed as “the best grandmother” or “the one everyone adored.”
Their Lola Annie passed away last August, at 94 years old. However, they weren’t short on precious memories with their lola.
She told me that I should marry someone who I like to talk to and who makes me laugh. Because when you get older, that conversation is all you’re going to have.
Monica shared that her fondest memory with her grandmother was the many summers they traveled to the US from age 12 until just about high school. She saw how all their relatives adored her grandmother for her sweet demeanor. Even every grandkid felt like a favorite. Michelle added, “She had not one bad bone in her body.”
Michelle recalled one day she visited Lola Annie. She showed her a box of love letters dated from World War II. Michelle said of the contents of the letter, “They would talk about things of substance. Who writes letters nowadays, anyway? You could tell that they just had a perfect friendship.”
She continued, “It wasn’t about ‘how beautiful you are’ or ‘how in love I am with you.’ It was practical things, making kwento. I found that so sweet.”
When I asked Monica about the best love advice she got from her Lola Annie, she said, “She told me that I should marry someone who I like to talk to and who makes me laugh. Because when you get older, that conversation is all you’re going to have. When your husband makes you laugh, you have an unlimited resource when life is hard.” As Michelle emphasized, “Marry your best friend. That was drilled in us.”
Besides love, Lola Annie also was the epitome of a life well-lived. Monica said, “Watching her grow older was an epiphany for me because she wasn’t bitter at all. Actually, she was even sweeter and lovelier. She would always say, ‘My mind is at rest.’”
Michelle said, “My grandma is good at being alone. When my grandfather died very early in life, she wrote a book called And Life Goes On, and that’s what she did.” She added, “Lola taught me not to waste your time, be honest, be authentic and then go do what you want.”
Jay and Matt Laurel on ingrid Santamaria
One great love and craft can be enough.
Jay described Mama Ing (Dr. Ingrid Santamaria) as incredibly sharp. He said, “She remembers things that we talked about way back.” Matt agreed as he shared, “We have a game where it’s like a song roulette. I will play any Mozart or Beethoven song. And I tell her to close her eyes. I’ll play it. And she’ll tell me exactly which one it is.”
When I asked them to name their fondest memory with Mama Ing, Jay said, “You know, she was the only surviving grandparent for both my wife, Kyla, and me. So, I asked her if she could walk me down the aisle during my wedding in Baguio. So that was like a super-special moment for me.” Matt joked, “No one can ever top that.”
For Matt, instead, it was in the little moments during lockdown where he spent his afternoons drinking sangria and eating appetizers in his grandmother’s home.
When it comes to love and life advice, she didn’t say much outright. It is how she lives day to day that both Jay and Matt are in awe of. Matt said, “I asked her if she wanted to date after Papa Joe died, and she just said ‘He was the love of my life. I have my kids and my grandkids. I have everything I need.’”
Instead of dating again, she focused on her passion and craft of being a concert pianist, even trained at the Juilliard School in New York. When Jay was a lot younger, she told him, “If you somewhat understand classical music, it will also bring order in your life and in your way of thinking.” He expressed, “We’re honestly so lucky to be her grandchildren.”
Luisa and Martina Salimbangon on Lolo Benhur
Focus on yourself and finding your peace.
Lolo Benhur Salimbangon was a man of his word. Even as he had a busy career as a public servant, he kept his commitments to his grandchildren.
He always told us that you’d fall in love with two kinds: one you’re crazy for and someone that will give you peace. And when faced with those two options, always choose peace.
Luisa recalled a day she invited him to have lunch. “His entire day could be busy, yet he would fight through everything to have lunch with me. He was coming from QC to Makati to have lunch with me for a good 30 minutes.” Martina agreed as she remembered, “He would wake up at 7 a.m. every day and have coffee with you. Those little everyday coffee moments I miss the most.”
Last December, Lolo Benhur passed away due to lung cancer, but both Luisa and Martina still treasure the lessons he imparted during the many times he sat down with them.
When I asked them if he ever gave them love advice, Luisa said that because of their grandfather getting married twice, “He always told us that you’d fall in love with two kinds of people in life: one who you’re crazy for and the other one is someone that will give you peace.” Martina continued, “And when you’re faced with those two options in life, always choose peace.”
Their grandfather also had a knack for knowing when to relieve their worries.
During one lunch, Martina was going through love problems, causing her to become very quiet. Finally, he said, “You’re too much of a woman to be a babysitter for the rest of your life.” This moment reminded Luisa, “One of his biggest pieces of advice then was to make sure you find someone who is your equal because you’re also an independent person.”
Luisa said, “The goal is your own goal, which should be working on yourself. And with all other relationships that come along the way, keep those that are worth saving.”
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In these times of uncertainty, we can look back and reflect on the acumen of our grandparents. They’ve lived, loved, and laughed through life more than any generation. And when I recall my favorite tips from my very own light-hearted Mamita, I leave you with these three: Always look good, never losyang. Never be idle. Don’t have a dull life.