LALA, OUR CUM LAUDE!

We already had two sons when Lala, the youngest and the only girl in our brood, came along. I’m not sure if it’s the same with other parents, but there was something about the arrival of a daughter – our daughter — that instantly inspired a farrago of emotions in me.

I was, of course, ecstatic for being the recipient of such an amazing divine blessing, and excited to take on the challenge of raising someone who could be a little version of myself. However, I was also anxious knowing that the world she was about to open her eyes into was not an ideal place for what the society calls the “inferior and weaker sex.”

And that was when my protective instinct as a mother started to kick in.

I know that this sounds a lot like stereotyping (I didn’t feel the same way with my boys, after all), but I’ve always had this irrational notion that our daughter was as extremely delicate and fragile as my grandma’s fine China. In fact, when I first heard her cry and felt her warm body comfortably nestled in my arm, I had an instantaneous desire to pull her into a tight embrace and never let go. The urge to shield her, to protect and defend her, was so strong, so immediate and so unbridled, it was almost stifling in its intensity. I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself that no harm could possibly come to my precious one — especially since we were still at a hospital at that time and were closely surrounded by family and friends.

She was a crybaby as a toddler, so I expected her to be whiny and petulant. As the youngest in the family, I thought she would develop a sense of entitlement. Being the only girl among all the cousins in her father’s side, I was expecting that she would be vain, frivolous, and superficial, and would grow into a temperamental prima donna. Her brothers were already academic achievers even then, so I was already preparing myself if ever she would turn out to be an academic non-performer and a quitter.

Growing up, though, she proved to everyone that she was made of tougher stuff.  She did not only defy my expectations; she managed to surpass every one of them.

She would display fierce independence early on. I could still remember this one time when, as a 3-year-old toddler, she stubbornly refused the hand offered to her by her ninong while we were all climbing the unfamiliar stairs in the latter’s new house. We were worried because even a single misstep could be fatal. But, she kept going — slowly, painstakingly, resolutely. And when she reached the top of the stairs, she faced us and beamed with utter pride and an undeniable sense of accomplishment.

She had been like that ever since.

AQUINO, LORIELLE ANN - Copy

As a schoolgirl, she was competitive yet accommodating to her classmates who would approach her for help. She was focused and driven, and she knew her priorities. Her perseverance and diligence were admirable. She would have her notebook/reviewer with her all the time in case there was a lull in her busy schedule. But when, finally, she was able to tick off every single item in her to-do list, she would relish the time she spends with her family, friends, and orgmates. For her “me time,” she loves to bury herself in her novels.

As a friend, she is amiable, forgiving and easy to please. She has a ready smile for everyone and is loyal, even to a fault. Don’t be fooled by her small frame, though, as to attempt to intimidate her. She could hold her own and could even be a merciless bully to someone twice her size when provoked.

She is so simple that she doesn’t see the need for any makeup, accessory, jewelry (even a wrist watch) or perfume. The only indulgences that can bring a spark to her girly eyes are clothes and shoes. But even with those, she is never impulsive. She knows the style and color that she wants, and she sticks with it.

She is self-assured and confident in her own skin, and is fair in all her dealings. She is morally upright — hating shortcuts, quick fixes, and palakasan system.

She is beautiful, both inside and out. She is compassionate and empathetic to the plight of others. Secretly, she has a dream to change the world for the better, or at the very least, to be part of that change.

She may not look it, but she is a voracious eater. She eats almost anything except those with mayonnaise and ketchup.

She is politically aware and socially conscious, and is a girl of principle and conviction. Whenever her schedule permits, she goes with us to talks, rallies, and other protest actions.

She is an amazing ball of contradictions — demure yet tough, soft-spoken yet assertive, and gentle yet fierce.

Now that she is growing into a young woman, we are discovering, much to our delight and surprise, that the two of us have much more in common than we previously thought. I used to think that all those talk about mothers and daughters growing into best friends is just romanticized. But, not anymore. Increasingly, we find ourselves giggling at the same girly stuff, swooning at the same gorgeous hunk, crying at the same scenes of some telenovela or movie, smiling conspirationally at some naughty idea, and getting enraged by the same societal injustices.

The moment she smiled at us for the very first time when she was a baby, she had us completely wound around her little finger. She was like a warm ray of sunshine on a chilly morning, a cool breeze on a humid afternoon, a glimpse of heaven here on earth, and a reminder that there is still hope, after all.

Today, she still continues to amaze us. As if all her academic achievements were not yet enough to make us eternally proud as parents – she was accelerated and conferred with the second highest honor during preschool, she was hailed the batch valedictorian in grade school, she passed the Pisay entrance test joining the company of 239 other academically-gifted high school students who bested 20,000 examinees all across the land, she managed to get into the University of the Philippines with a quota course of BS in Biology, she bagged a DOST academic scholarship, she earned a 99+ percentile rank when she took the National Medical Admission Test, and she was accepted to the medical school of her choice—, she has recently managed to surprise us with yet another accomplishment.

Our daughter is graduating Cum Laude!!!

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