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My earliest recollection of Tiya Itang brings me back to Laguna during the years when we were hiding from the Japanese. My father was already recuperating from the ordeals of the Death March and the concentration camp in Capas, Tarlac, and our family had traveled by boat all the way from Malabon to Pagsanjan, Laguna. We were living with my Lolo Pepe and Lola Morang in the town of Magdalena.

Tiya Itang plus three girls in one hammock, swaying stronger and stronger, until the cord snapped and all four of us all bumped off onto the bamboo floor. No broken bones, still giggling, I am sure, for Tiya Itang would have concocted a soothing tale for us girls.

I was probably two years old at that time. Tiya Itang was my doting baby sitter, and I must have gone everywhere with her. Actually, I only remember three things of my stay there. One was picking guavas from a tree so low I could reach the fruits myself. (Or did Tiya Itang carry me so I could reach up?) The other was carrying a pail to fetch water from the well. And the third thing was falling down the stairs—or more precisely, falling through the bamboo staircase, after missing a step. When I fell, the iron wire scratched my stomach, but when I started to cry, Tiya Itang said I should not, for I had my own flag etched on my tummy. So there, I bragged to all who cared to listen, showing my Mercurochrome outlined-banner.

After the Americans liberated the Philippines, my family went back to Navotas, Rizal where my father would set up practice as a family doctor and general practitioner. Tiya Itang came along with us, and enrolled at St. James Academy to complete her high school. One of her classmates became my Science teacher at St. James Academy after they had graduated from college. She has since become a famous writer; her name is Gilda Cordero.

As a baby sitter, Tiya Itang was tops. I remember when we were all cuddled up in a hammock in our sprawling nipa cottage a stone's throw away from the Navotas River. My sister Lupe was born in Pagsanjan in 1944, and my sister Luding was born in Sipac, Navotas in 1947. Tiya Itang plus three girls in one hammock, swaying stronger and stronger, until the cord snapped and all four of us all bumped off onto the bamboo floor. No broken bones, still giggling, I am sure, for Tiya Itang would have concocted a soothing tale for us girls.

Yes, Tiya Itang was born to become a story-teller. She grew up to be a writer. She was writing feature articles and novels for the Weekly Women's Magazine. I remember that I tagged along with her to meetings of the book writers' club founded by Ceres Alabado. By then, Tiya Itang had become Auntie Margie.

She was also a computer school founder-directress. She was a pioneer in this field, but in the mid-'60s I guess she was too early for the market.

Auntie Margie was not only a writer; she was also a one-woman recruitment and placement agency. I can't guess how many teachers she was able to successfully place in American schools in the early '60s. She was also a computer school founder-directress. She was a pioneer in this field, but in the mid-'60s I guess she was too early for the market.

Having garnered a fellowship in the USA, she continued writing and publishing. She won awards for her poetry. She worked with Loida Nicolas-Lewis. She was PRO of a Women's Club. My knowledge of her life abroad is very sketchy, as we did not keep a running correspondence.

In 1999, when my mother (her elder sister) fell seriously ill, we had lengthy conversations by phone. She then sent me her Juan Tamad stories, as well as a copy of "Teary, the Crying Clown" the printing of which she wanted me to follow-up with a Filipino publisher. In her Christmas card that year, she expressed her homesickness for her brothers (Tio Guding and Tio Ramon), as my mother had died in July. She had talked to Tio Guding and warned him that "he should prepare for the RAPTURE (Revelations) so we may all be reunited during Christ's swift visit, as his second coming comes a little later."

As always, her thoughts were for her family as her writings early on were for the very young.

© Victoria Francia Cruz

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