“Leon!”

I never turned my head to her when she called me with my Igorot name. A young man who had no idea who I was named after, I found the name very disgusting.

One time, I threw her corn husks to stop me calling with that name. It was the first time she started explaining that I was named after my great grandfather Leon Lizardo.

However, it was not that easy to absorb everything that went knocking at the door of my brain. I was not yet ready to accept the things my grandmother was telling me.

Dolores Baniaga- Lizardo, my grandmother, was a tough woman. She is definitely like my mother and my aunts.

She never spoke with us with some sweetness. Every time she talked to us, there was this shade of hate in her words- just like my language.

When I was still a struggling toddler, she came to our house every time I got sick. She was the only direct grandparent I had since all the others died before I came to life.

Baket Dolores made sure she would pass by our house when she went to check her rice paddies. She would come by our house and give us bisukol, kak-alla, abu and kutim- all produces of the rice fields.

I remember going to her house to borrow some money to buy a school uniform. She opened her purse and handed me P160 after I gave her the sincerest explanation I could provide.

She understood that my mom was always broke and that my dad was always away.

I know little about her since I never asked her personal questions. She was raised in Dagdag along with her brother Lolo Patricio “Obonan” Baniaga.

Her relatives include the husband of Baket Catalisia of Dagdag, Sagada.

Baket Dolores was first married to an Egsaen from the eastern part of Sagada before becoming the wife of Sagada former mayor Pablo Lizardo Sr. Leon was Pablo’s father and was Sagada’s second mayor.

In line with pursuing her responsibilities as a grandmother to us, she loved repeating bedtime stories for us. My favorite was about an orphan who got abused by her aunt and uncle then went to look for the burial grounds of her parents.

As I grew older, she started telling stories about her husband’s abusive and “fake” relatives who went to their house to get donations. She spoke with anger.

I wanted to know more. But we never dared to ask further questions because we knew we were dealing with some complicated things.

Every time I went up the stage to get my wood medal for excelling in academics, my mom mandated me to get her to put the award around my neck.

“Ask your grandma to do it while she is still alive” was always my mother’s advice. For the record, it was only her, Lolo Obonan and Lola Emilia Baniaga (Lolo Obonan’s wife) who went up the stage for my recognition.

As Baket Dolores aged, she became ill. She went to the city for some medication and when returned, it was a disaster!

How could I forget the time when she accused me of stealing her money after I went to her house to fix her stuff and fix her some food! Later, it was found out that her purse dropped on the other side of her bed.

She became lazy to clean herself and was very moody. I noticed she started to be quiet when our Uncle Cyril won a seat at the Sagada council.

When she got very sick, she still managed to come to our house. I cleaned up her feet then she started orating that the stinging should stop because she has now got clean feet.

At night, she would pray the Ave Maria prayer for minutes. She kept a picture of her favorite grandchild Ayban who died when I was 6 or 7.

According to my cousins, my grandmother believes her husband and Ayban visit her every time. One night, she was complaining that the two were pulling off her blankets.

One stormy August morning when I was 14, Baket Dolores passed away. Rain poured heavily that week and my relatives from the other parts of the region cannot come due to landslides and road closures.

Myths have it that when a person dies on a stormy day, nature is saluting the person for being a hard-working one.

That time, we had nothing in mind but to hope that God would send sunlight and stop the storm. She died on a Monday and was buried on a Friday when the weather cooperated with us.

Now, Baket Dolores is just part of my memory. I have pictures with her during academic recognition days and I hope she is still proud of me for finishing my studies even if she is not around to hang medals around my neck.

(Check out this old photo of mine)