Tribute To Remedios "Meding" Medina Reynoso
Remedios Medina was my mother in law; she was married to Gabriel Reynoso. She died yesterday at 1530 hours; I celebrate her life because I and my children happened to be involved in it. Without her, my children would not be; equally important, without her, my married life would have been cut short, and badly, at only 6 children.
Her husband died years ago; their children were:
(1) Elisa (Tita Ateng), 1941
(2) Corazon (Cora), 1943
(3) Amparo (Ampy), 1945
(4) Osmundo ( ), 1947
(5) Rebecca (Becks), 1950
(6) Juanita (Nits, ), 1952
(7) Manuel (Boogie), 1954
(8) Teodoro (Teddy), 1955
(9) Rafael (Raffy), 1956
(10) Luis (Louie), 1957
(11) Reynaldo (Rey), 1958
(12) Olivia (Olive), 1960
12 children, yes! You have to be a strong woman to raise a dozen children if you are not rich. She was not perfect, but who is?
I married her 3rd child, Ampy, on 18 March 1967 at a civil ceremony in Bay, Laguna; I didn't know it then, but it was the birthday of my father-in-law, Gabriel. Nobody knew we got married; only 2 people did, our witnesses: Eddie & Maring Villanueva, who unfortunately later separated. (33 years later, we were married at the San Antonio Parish Church in Batong Malake, Los Baños, Laguna in December 1990, but that's another story.)
Being essentially shy, I don't usually sit and listen to stories by relatives or in-laws. But I will listen to a friend or acquaintance's story that I may be able to write about or share to the world. So I don't remember any "encounter" with my mother-in-law. She would have been 96 on 22 November 2015, her birthday, being born 1919.
But I can never forget a non-encounter with Nanay Meding, and it happened somehow like this; I can tell you only very few details, because they are all I know.
My wife Ampy worked as the Secretary to the Director of the Forest Products Research & Development Commission (Forpridecom) located at the campus of the University of the Philippines College of Forestry. We didn't know then but already in those years, the 1960s, the campaign was earnest to limit family size among Filipinos, when Ferdinand E Marcos was just plotting how "This nation shall be great again!" If you could convince a wife to have a ligation, you would receive a reward.
We owe FM, among other things, all those super highways, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Metro Manila Commission, and a great many government offices you will be surprised if I listed them all. Two of them were Forpridecom and the Forest Research Institute (FORI), whose building was within the Forestry-Forpridecom-FORI quadrangle, and where I worked and became the Chief Information Officer (CIO). So, love was only a walking distance away at lunch and break time.
I loved my work, and I loved my wife. My promotion never came, but with me FORI publications came out surely as my children had earlier:
(1) Cristina Marie (Tina), 1968
(2) Jose Mario (Jomar), 1969
(3) Maria Lorena (Dida), 1971
(4) Paul Benjamin (Jay), 1972
(5) Teresa Leonor (Techie), 1973
(6) Cynthia Mae (Cynthia), 1976
I was employed by FORI in 1975. In the meantime, one lady at her office kept on badgering my wife, whom she had befriended, to "stop producing so many children!" or words to that effect. My wife, who didn't know any better, felt guilty about it. No, she never told me about it, but one day, she said, "If I consented to a ligation, will you sign?" The signature of the husband says he is aware of and willing for the procedure to proceed on his wife. I said, "No, I will not. Ligation is a man-made instant intrusion into the woman's body; it is an unnatural process. The body will suffer for it. In contrast, a pregnancy is a slow process; the mother's body prepares for the event for 9 months; it is a natural process. But if you insist, you can fake my signature. I will not complain. But I will not sign. It's your body." I knew that she could fake my signature really, but I was hoping she would change her mind. She did.
Not giving up, at another time, my wife confronted me: "If you reject my ligation, you accept a vasectomy." She was determined. My response was fast, firm and final: "Over my dead penis!" That was the end of that. (I really said that? Yes. It was just the two of us. I half-expected her to laugh, but she didn't.)
(Much later, this one I didn't know, but my wife went to Nanay Meding and asked her permission to separate from me because she was having a hard time being mother and wife. If ligation didn't proceed, or if vasectomy didn't happen, to stop the children from multiplying in her household, she wanted out of the marriage contract. But my mother-in-law told her, bless her soul: "Pumasok ka riyan, pangatawanan mo." My best translation: You got in there yourself, be faithful to it. Thank God daughter followed mother's advice.
(I learned that many years later and, after I publicly shared a little of it, I smacked my mother-in-law on the right face in front of a reunion of the Reynosos and Hilarios in Bulacan and said, "Thank you, Nanay!")
Probably also at this point, a Peace Corps Volunteer, Mike Price, became a friend and, one time, knowing how many children we already had, asked half-seriously, "Why, you never heard of family planning?" And my quick answer was, "Why yes. In fact, I plan to have 12!" Be careful with jokes – they might come true.
And so with me as CIO, from 1975 to 1981, while this was during the Age of Dinosaurs (Typewriters), FORI publications came out regularly and on time: monthly newsletter Canopy, quarterly technical journal Sylvatrop, and quarterly color magazine Habitat. But as I was my own typist, my own editor, my own proofreader, I was never late with any issue. I have always been a fast worker.
And so Frank Hilario and Amparo Reynoso happily had other children:
(7) July Salvador (Dinggoy), 1977
(8) Jennifer Claire (Jinny), 1979
(9) Ernest Charles (Ernie, ), 1981
(10) Daphne Cassandra (Daphne), 1982
(11) Neenah Bonafe (Neenah), 1985
(12) Edwin Dante (Edwin), 1988
(13) Graciela Antonia (Ela), 1990
13! It wasn't funny; it was real. Like my mother-in-law did, we welcomed the children as they came, gifts of God. I wasn't always a good husband, or a good father, but like my mother-in-law, I tried my best.
I remember in the late 1960s when the Hilario-Reynoso family was only Tina and Jomar, after a year at the Xavier University College of Agriculture (XUCA), I was recommended for an MS at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, and so I had taken the children back home to Manila, in my parents-in-laws' abode at Paco, Manila, while waiting for my papers. My wife was left in Cagayan de Oro to finish her assignment or something at the Regional Public Works & Highways Office. (I never left for the Netherlands; someone must have sabotaged my application – but that's another story.)
So I saw how my mother-in-law would cook, wash dishes and clothes using an artesian well sunk underneath the house they were occupying near the Paco tributary of the Pasig River, to supply the needs for 17 warm bodies: 2 parents, 12 children, and the 3 of us in-laws. The children helped, of course – they had to. But 17 mouths to feed at any one time!
We survived. Thanks to my mother-in-law, who was an ambulant vendor near the Paco Market, and to my father-in-law, who was a commercial painter for an advertising firm.
Goodbye, Nanay Meding, and thank you very much. My gratitude will last as long as I live.