Lola Chocolate

I live where I work.  For the most part, that would be San Lorenzo Village in Makati City.  There were houses that may or may not be ancestral but generally has more rooms than your average home. It is an affluent community after all. 
Some homeowners had migrated or lived elsewhere and some are enterprising enough to make good use of empty rooms, by providing students a home life close to the one they left behind in the provinces or in far-flung areas to go to The Assumption College in the village. Please note: San Lorenzo do not allow room renters anymore, I was there 2005 to 2009. 

I am not an Assumptionista, but I got to know about some homes that are open to professionals like me.  We are a privileged few.  We go through a screening, since it is, as mentioned, an exclusive community.  I was interviewed and my background checked (trustworthiness, not affluence).  The village security knows everyone.  Our comings and goings are logged at the gates.  I could rent a condo somewhere but don’t want to pay dues on top of everything else.  I also like the sense of security that having a bevy of help and other people in the house lends.  I lived at two houses before I found the one.

The first one I lived in is a long narrow duplex that used to be the pool house in the back of the main house.  You go through a garage gate and then on to an internal gate that opens into a path that runs along the main house’ dirty kitchen, where the help get to spy on you (really, there’s a security camera at the gate and atop my front door).  There is a kitchenette and bath up front and another door opens into the bedroom, where there are two double deck beds. The room is supposed to be for four to share but it is rather a closed (though air-conditioned) narrow room and most who check it out gets claustrophobic.  I didn’t have a choice that time, besides there was a room phone, I can cook meals (furnished kitchenette) and I was there first.

The next one was better, with your own gate and key, a landscaped path, a garden room for a living/dining area and you could ask the help to cook your meals for a fee. Also a bigger closet space and bathroom.  There were four of us in the large room, partly veiled from each other by a low wall.  Mostly I had the room to myself.  One roomie mostly stays at her boyfriend’s; one comes home in the mornings (partying until dawn) and the two of us who actually lives there likes to catch the last full show at Greenbelt Cinemas (my absolute favorite thing to do – walking to the cafes and cinema just outside the village gates).

My last home is the one that Lola Chocolate owns.  She had a big family but they have gone on to raise their own in the province, further South or the States.  She mostly rented out the rooms just to have the feel of a full house again.  She only rented to professionals, because we are supposed to be mature women who are neat and well mannered, like her.

The house is old but well kept, the walls wiped down top to bottom and the dining table and kitchen curtains always freshly laundered.  The cook can prepare your meals, even lunchboxes for a fee.  I stock deli meats and fruits in my allotted space at one of three refrigerators or eat out mostly.

I get to enjoy home cooking when I go home weekends or when Mommy, as I call Lola Chocolate (a moniker bestowed by her grandchildren because she is fond of chocolates and has a personal ref stocked full for sharing), invites me to dine with her.

She is the kindly, advise dispensing, warm, cheerful and proper lola (grandmother) I never had.  Her dusters (daywear) are custom made, printed with flowers or fruit. She follows a strict routine of early mass at Don Bosco, breakfast after, a nap, lunch, another nap before her vigil at Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes then home to dine and check on her boarders.  She always has that clean talcum smell, face made up with some powder and a bit of lipstick, her naturally white head of hair always neat and tucked behind her ears and her French tipped or nude polish painted nails regularly seen to by a manicurist who also cuts her hair (home service).

She was 98 years old (when I met her) and diabetic, so her love for ripe mangoes and sweets had to be curbed and closely monitored.  She drinks a cup of hot ampalaya juice (bitter gourd) made by the cook, a saucer of pills by her side. She is disciplined enough to eat a small helping of dessert and gives the rest to me.  If she can’t eat as much as I can, she could at least enjoy watching me eat.

I make her laugh, and we endlessly reminisce about how her husband wooed her and she would always tell me to find the right guy, not to think about settling “for” but of settling down.  You have to speak up a bit, because she is hard of hearing.

We had great times together, Mommy and I, talking and laughing at her dining table - always set for a soup to dessert course, cloth napkins and table linen, natch! None of those vinyl, faux fabric. We are forever discussing the menu for her family’s monthly dinner party.

These tea things are ours.  They remind me of Lola Chocolate's display at the formal dining table, which she opens to us for special occasions like Australia bound Anna's despedida and Jeanette's birthday. She also drinks tea from cups, no mug in sight.  It was us barbaric boarders who drink from coffee mugs hehehe.

Dessert is fruit for breakfast and lunch, sugar free wafers for snack time, a few pieces of Cadbury Chocettes after dinner.  She is allowed some ice cream when her sugar count is manageable.  Whatever she had, I get extra.  I can’t refuse. I am always stuffed! 

When I resigned from the company, I moved back home.  I miss her though, and I would visit every time I am in Makati.

Over the years, she would sometimes forget who I was but will stuff me with chocolates still.  In the middle of our bantering, she would suddenly remember and we would laugh about her “senior moment”.  Her cheery disposition is only marred by her being wheelchair bound and how sad it is that the only thing left to enjoy in her doddering age is food but she can’t have anything or as much as she wanted.

I have brought her cakes and brownies I made with just one cup of sugar and she would laugh at my attempts to invent ampalaya cake with honey frosting for her.

She died several months after her hundredth birthday.  I went to her going away gathering on July 20.
That day I said goodbye to Lola Chocolate.

At home, I made a small chocolate cake spiked with three tablespoons of rum.

I iced the warm cake (yep) with Finetti  cocoa and hazelnut spread and went nuts! I thinned some of the pasty spread with a little water in a pan over low heat until it looked syrupy.  I drizzled it over the cake.

I ate a slice in honor of Lola Chocolate,
who I pray is watching over me from her place in chocolate heaven.  : )



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