A Mother's Day 2019 Special: The Lagdameo Women (Linda With Daughter Reena & Granddaughter Danni) On Their Fondest Memories Together
"I remember they were drying the cement for the sidewalk,” says Linda Lagdameo, as we sit in the dining room of her family home. We sit at a rectangular table with a glass surface, all an even distance apart. Our cold glasses of water tinkle with fresh ice. “I stepped in it so that it had my footprints,” she says. “I was kind of naughty.”
I ask her to elaborate further, and she jokes that there are probably not enough pages to fill out with her antics. Her eyes glint with the sort of mischief that holds the innocence of a child, as she recollects her childhood.
Linda recalls being the “baby” for a long time, having been the firstborn, with her brother being born five years after she was. This gave her five years of being her with her parents, constantly present in their daily lives, whether they were at fancy dinners, company outings, meetings, or even on the field. “I would go around with my dad while he was starting his businesses. I would always be with him.”
“There’s an old, old photo (somewhere),” starts her daughter Reena.
“In black and white pa!” adds Linda.
“…When they were entertaining a lot of guests and dignitaries, and you see a little five-year-old in the middle sitting next to Lola,” Reena continues.“I was an ugly child,” says Linda, squinting her face at the thought of the image—the right amount of self-deprecation that is considered charming and lady-like—one that doesn’t linger for compliments but instead carries the conversation forward.
“My mother spoiled me,” admits Linda. “My dad spoiled me, too.”
Though this was not without balance. Linda explains that her mother was the more lenient one, while her father the disciplinarian. “We had all these sayings (in the house). Like when my father would ask a question, he would always say that he never wants to hear, ‘I don’t know.’ If you don’t know, you have to find ways and means of knowing. He was that type of person.”
It was a personality trait that reflected the times, she thought out loud. “During that time, what is black is black. What is white is white. There is no ‘why.’ Unlike now.”
Reena agrees, as she and her teenage daughter Danni exchange looks. “I do take the time to explain certain things,” Reena says. “Because otherwise she’ll still do what she wants.”
In Linda’s household, as a mother of seven, she evolved into the disciplinarian that her father was. “Especially with the three older ones,” confirms Reena. “More so because she was a younger parent. She had three toddlers at the same time. But as we got older, we did realize the value of it because otherwise we’d be…pretty spoiled brats,” she says with a laugh.
“But it wasn’t discipline in the sense that if you did something wrong, you’d get punished,” Reena clarifies. “More of, she taught us the value of hard work.”
The family lived in the United States for nine years, and though they had household help, Linda enlisted the children to do chores around the house. Reena recalls a blackboard that had all the kids’ names listed on it and arranged by age, with the chores they would be assigned to for that day, which could range from setting or cleaning up the table, doing the dishes, cleaning the silver and more. While there were chores that they were all expected to do on their own daily, such as making their own beds.
“Even if we had help, I’d say, ‘Do your bed before you go to school.’ So here comes Reena, the bed looks made, so I look under (the bed cover)…” narrates Linda.
“I was 13! I was younger than my daughter now,” says Reena, playfully defending herself while looking pointedly at Danni. “Mom would peek under (the bed cover) and the duvet was all crumpled, and…but it looked neat on top! I would do the bed cover and the pillows,” she says in between chuckles.
Throughout our conversation, Linda offers us food from a large tray that carries four different types of finger foods. Ever the gracious hostess, she interrupts herself to make sure we have enough water or food on our plate, despite our protests that we are more than sated. Reena explains: “We’re a family of foodies.”
The Floirendo-Lagdameo family grew up in the kitchen—whether to cook, eat, snack, or simply converge. (The family has a penchant for cooking as much as eating, and often share in the family chat group the photos of dishes they made themselves or those they ate.) Linda describes that some of her fondest memories in the kitchen would be when her mother would be visiting and would cook for everyone. They all chime in with their favorite dishes that she would make.
“Lola’s gallantina,” says Reena.
“Relleno,” adds Linda.
“I like both.”“The turkey,” adds Danni.
“And Lola’s turkey stuffing! As I said, we grew up in the kitchen.”
Linda recalls, “One time, I tried to cook adobo, and my two half-American grandchildren asked, ‘Why is it like this?’”
“Why is it not like Lola’s?” Reena says with a laugh.
But that is not to say that Linda could not match her mother’s talent, as Danni declares Linda’s beef stew exemplary.
“Oh yes, mommy’s beef stew is really good,” emphasizes Reena.
Many of these recipes are family recipes, although with many members having special recipes of their own. Even Danni has taken to the kitchen as a baker. “She does nice cookies,” says her Lola Linda proudly.
“Oh yes, I do cookies. And polvoron.”
And while some of their best memories surround food, Reena recalls in exaggerated frustration how much she hated when they would have guests over for dinner—not because of anything food-related, but because of her struggles as a child learning to figure out how to converse with the kids of her parents’ friends. “I’d excuse myself, saying ‘Excuse me, would you care for something to drink?’ They’d say ‘No. No, thank you.’ ‘I’m just going to grab something,’ then I’d hide in the kitchen. Then, the next thing you know, mom comes and says, ‘Get back out there, and entertain the guests!’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what to talk about!’”
Linda shrugs, “I had to do it myself when I was growing up.”
“Or worse,” adds Reena. “They’d make us play the piano. And I get stage fright. So I’m like, what am I supposed to play? She’s just like, ‘Play.’”
“That’s terrible, no?” asks Linda, self-aware as she looks back on the reflection of Reena. “When the parents make you play the piano or sing!”
Reena looks back to see how her mother’s raising of her influenced her own raising of Danni. “Certain things I find myself doing the same because I think two of the most important things that we grew up with were respect for elders and integrity, so those are things that we want to ingrain in our children as well.”
Reena recalls one of the responses Danni gave in school when asked what two values her family taught her. “It’s funny because my mother never used those words,” clarifies Reena.
“Suck it up,” says Danni, as we laugh in response. “And breathe through it.”
“Whether you like it or not, you have to do it, so just do it, and it’s over with,” explains Reena more diplomatically. “Go through it, cry it out, that’s okay,” continues Reena. “If you feel bad, fine, let it out, but after that, it’s like, okay, that’s enough. No, you have to figure out what you’re going to do… then you move on.” Danni nods in agreement, saying that it has definitely made her more independent.
Linda says that she sometimes can see her own influence on Reena’s parenting style. “I want to say, ‘Reena, relax. But I was like that with them naman.”
“I think I see it in all of us children. She taught us the value of…learning from the bottom up.”
“I think, as you get older, you learn to understand,” says Linda of her mellowing out with her own grandchildren. That, and having seven children (“no two alike,” says Linda, which is what she was told by her sister-in-law who has eight children) requires patience. All three women agree that whether it’s from a generation above or below, the most enduring lesson they have learned from each other is to adapt and be patient. With that, it is time for me to go, and Danni thanks me for coming and stands up to walk me to the door. “Just like we did!” exclaim the two mothers.
Danni graciously walks me to the door and wishes me well for the rest of my Sunday, and I walk down the driveway feeling grateful to have been witness to the generational tradition.
*This article was originally published in Metro Society March 2019 issue.
Photographs by Daniel Soriano