"The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today." - Elbert Hubbard, American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher
I started to learn of the home crafts when I was 10. It was around this time that I was sent, over a few summer vacations, to my great-grandmother's house in Balayan, Batangas. Lola Bambe was half-Chinese, by then widowed for over 10 years. Hers was the typical bahay na bato, with a stone silong that was not lived in. The second floor was the living quarters, with big capiz-paned windows, high ceilings, wide wooden plank floors, and enormous rooms.
As a 10-year old, I was not expected to help with the chores, but since most of the time, my companion was the househelp, I would stay around to keep her company, and thus got to observe her daily routine. Morning ritual was folding down the beddings: mosquitero, blankets, and pillows. I had never seen so many pillows up to that point in my life: pillows for the head, the feet, and all around the bed to keep the mosquitero tucked in the sides. All had to be straightened out for the day, then to be put out again by night.
Before I got up, which would be around 6, the small town would be already abuzz for hours. Since this house stood in the main road between Balayan Bay and the market, the ice vendor in front would already be crushing ice to put atop big metal buckets containing the morning fish catches. In fact, the sound of crushing ice was my cock crow, with the hum of tricycles plying the roads, and the general hubbub of passing people, in the background. By then, the house windows would all be fully open, window sills dusted, and wooden floors swept.
Lola Bambe would be at her place at the dining table, and invariably would have guests, mostly kasama, or land tenants, from the sugar fields in Lian. I never listened in on the conversations, but Lola Bambe would usually be puttering about, instructing the househelp to serve more food, flicking the fly swatter, or drying newly-cleaned bottles with a dish cloth. Other times she might be rolling freshly-made yema in sugar, her specialty, to be placed in glass bottles and given as pasalubong for regular visitors.
One thing she emphasized to me, was to keep the "kasilyas," or toilet, clean. I took this to heart, later developing a routine of weekly top to bottom cleaning in our house, or spot cleaning for the priority areas of sink and toilet as needed. This is where, as verified in recent studies, most pathogenic microorganisms in the house reside (kitchen sink included).
A few years later, when we were independent of househelp, we older siblings parceled the chores among ourselves. We started off with the easier chores: setting the table, washing the dishes. Eventually I moved on to cooking, learning from my Dad, from cookbooks, and from one of the earliest cooking shows, "Wok with Yan," where I learned to use "magic powder" or cornstarch as sauce-thickening agent. By 15 I was the go-to cook for most of our family occasions, usually birthdays, Christmas, and New Year.
With food preparation came marketing. Dad usually brought me along during weekends to Farmer's Market, Nepa Q Mart, then Katipunan market (already closed now). We brought our marketing list - pork, chicken, fish, vegetables and fruits - to buy ingredients to last a week. This reinforced, not just what I learned in Home Economics, but mental addition and subtraction, to total cost of goods bought in a store, and compute for change.
I developed a regular routine in housecleaning, which included dusting, and sweeping the floors. On weekends, Dad would mop the floors, and we would help him clean the car inside and out, sweeping the rug and scrubbing the floor mats. School break was reserved for spring cleaning, when Dad and the boys would undertake major projects like washing down the house windows.
Initially I had been recalcitrant with all the chores I had to do. Later on, I assumed this attitude of looking for the silver lining in every task, that in time developed into a habit. Only much later, as an adult, that I realized how my parents shaped our character through responsibilities they stepped up as we matured. I've come to appreciate the knowledge I picked up, the skills I honed, and the attitude I developed, through these various duties, something that serve me well as homemaker, and educator.