A poem about grief

A granddaughter's lament for her lola Deedee Siytangco and yaya 'Poppins'

The author and her grandmother, Deedee Siytangoc, cuddling in bed

(The author writes this for her grandmother, the leading journalist and former presidential spokesperson Deedee Siytangco, and for “Poppins,” her yaya who looked after her from infancy and was family to her, to Deedee and the rest of the Siytangco brood.

Deedee—Lourdes Munson Siytangco—passed away Sept. 28, 2023, and “Poppins” (Agapita Betonio Genosas), in July 2023. only within months of each other. Even in a cutthroat profession like journalism, Deedee was a nurturer, reaching out to subordinates, colleagues and sources alike. She was motherly. It was no surprise then that her death, after confinement in the hospital, was met with an outpouring of grief, but none as loving as this of her granddaughter.—Editor)

She speaks in mumbled words and sings in the tone of humility. The wrinkles on her face do not tell her story, but mine. The lines on her forehead decorate her temples, weaving and curving like roads where music notes play—symphonies of memories, wisdom, and trauma. Her existence is a sonata for everyone around her, but a requiem for what could have been.

The author with her grandmother, Deedee Siytangco, one Christmas

The vibration of a string is easier to feel than its song. The melody is the ocean, with waves I cannot ride. For I can swim but I do not know where I am going. For I can stretch my arms out to the ocean floor, press my lips to it, and feel no need to come up for air. Because with my lungs filled and my vision clear, the shore does not seem worth it. The shore is too far, too empty, too encompassed by gravity, my feet will no longer belong to me. Gravity has a way of pulling you away from things. But amidst the swell and crash of the waves, the ocean sings for me.

It sings about how you held me in your arms as a child. How your patience was an extension of your heart. How nurturing me also nurtured your soul. A sonata composed by you.

The author and her ‘yaya’ Poppins

I want to wade in the water and tilt my head to muffle the silence you left. Hoping that the blanket sky will open up and reveal that there is a heaven, that there is a god, and that you are still real. Because if the sea is but the sky’s reflection, I will prune and soften till my flesh falls from my bones to wait for your embrace. For I do not want to feel the shore without you.

So I will anchor myself to the coral and sand, listening to the echoes of your sonata. I will wait till storm clouds come and the thunder passes. Till the eye sees me and leaves. And when the sky opens up once again, and you’re not there,

Play your requiem, so I know we will meet again.

At home with ‘yaya’ Poppins

About author


She is a 22-year-old International Relations graduate of the University of Navarra in Spain. She enjoys reading, baking and playing mahjong, preferably with gin and tonic within reach. She is an advocate of social equality.

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