My Family Picture

I was given my first journalism award last week. It was the first time I was recognized for my work in public health. As any awardee would do, I thought back to the people who made this possible for me and thanked them.

There were the usual mentors, grant funders, respondents and colleagues to thank, but I knew that another person deserved an equal place on this roster: our Yaya Remz.

Actually, my daughter stopped calling her “Yaya” some years back and started calling her “Ate”. Because that’s what she is to my daughter—an older sister  who takes care of her, watches over her and when I’m not around, prods her to study and do her homework.

To me, I joke that she has become my “wife”—or at the very least, my alter ego in a parallel universe. I bring home the bacon, she manages the house and well, kid. I am the envy of many friends who have begged me to find a twin Super Remz for their own household.

Once, before leaving for her annual vacation, Remz told me she found a relative to be her “reliever”. I didn’t think of asking her to do that, but when I realized with great terror that I didn’t know where half the things were in the house, I was glad she thought of it. When Remz asked for permission to have her reliever over a few days before she left so she could orient her on daily tasks, I knew she wasn’t just our housekeeper. She was a “keeper” period.

In the 7 years that she has been with us, she has taken on more and more responsibilities. She checks on homework, gets to know teachers and coaches, texts me to remind me about coming due dates and approaching Parent Teacher Conferences. She has come to anticipate my needs and that of my daughter’s with uncanny precision. But more than that, she has  seen my daughter grow up from toddler to kid and now, to what my daughter proclaims herself as: tween. Remz and I have cheered at football games, have spent many sleepless nights worrying when the Little One was sick and have collectively (can you say that even we’re just a twosome?)  stood up to bullies.

On many occasions, she has shown that she is as invested in our success and well-being as any family member would be.

I know with great certainty that I would not know what to do without her.

I also know that in ways she may not have realized, Remz was an invaluable part in my getting this award. It was because I could entrust my child to her that I could focus on other things at hand–like bringing home the bacon.

As a token of my gratitude, I took both my daughter Reesey and Ate Remz out to a simple lunch to celebrate my award. I asked the server to take our picture as I realized that we have never had a picture together. It has always been either her taking a picture of me and Reesey or the other way around.

I looked at the picture in the camera. It wasn’t the best picture, truth be told.

But it was our first picture together. And to me, it was a picture of my family.

Ana P. Santos is a former banker turned freelance public health journalist. Her series of stories on HIV in the Philippines was Runner Up for Best Investigative Report in the recently concluded 2011 PopDev (Population and Development) Media Awards. She is also the publisher of Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal.

According to Ana, the Happy Even After journal was harder to put together than any investigative report she has ever written. It has set her off to look for awards for solo mothers or publications related to solo parenting. You can read more of her work at www.anasantoswrites.com.

Ana Santos

Ana is a journalist by education and now by profession, after taking a few detours in the corporate world of banking. She is also a sexual health rights activist as a matter of choice and passion.

As an independent journalist and foreign correspondent covering sexual health rights and women in armed conflict, Ana has received media grants from Newsbreak, Probe Media Foundation and the Philippine Press Institute to cover population and development issues. Recently, Ana also took on the post of Associate Editor for Illustrado, a Dubai-based lifestyle magazine for overseas Filipinos.

In 2009, Ana founded Sex and Sensibilities.com (SAS), a website that promotes positive sexuality in the context of informed choice among young women.

"Happy Even After", a spin-off of SAS, is a candid and sometimes humorous look at the perils and pressures of solo parenting in one of the two remaining countries in the world where divorce is not legal.