The Frazzled Cook’s hostess with the mostest is no more

DR. NATIVIDAD Mancuyas, 1934-2012

FRIENDS and regulars of the Frazzled Cook, a destination restaurant on Luna Mencias Street in Mandaluyong, were shocked and saddened by the recent passing of Natividad Mancuyas.

The 78-year-old Mancuyas, Tita Naty or simply Mommy to diners, was a constant and calming presence at the Frazzled Cook.

Although she wasn’t an employee of the restaurant, Mommy, a retired dentist, whiled away the time greeting guests and making sure they felt welcome and comfortable as she waited for her two sons, Boy and Jude, to do their work.

Boy is the restaurant’s maître d, while younger brother Jude, a good friend of mine, is the head cook and overall creative director of the place.

Chic and soft-spoken

Mommy passed away in the wee hours of November 5 from an apparent stroke. What made the news of her death all the more sudden and unexpected was the fact that she was her usual chic and soft-spoken self as she greeted the Frazzled Cook’s Sunday evening crowd just hours before.

“She was complaining of a migraine in the afternoon,” said Jude. “I thought it was just the usual headache. After I gave her Flanax, she was up and about in no time. She even attended early evening Mass with her friends.”

Mommy, whose remains lie in state at Loyola Memorial Chapels in Guadalupe, will be cremated this Saturday, November 10. Whether in life or in death, she remains as fashionable as ever in a sleeveless coral dress by Emanuel Ungaro worn under an embroidered and see-through Vivienne Tam ecru blouse.

Of course, Jude, who inherited the lion’s share of Mommy’s fashionable gene, had a hand in choosing her going-away outfit, including accessorizing her with a pair of rectangular-shaped eyeglasses and emerald-cut diamond earrings.

Sleeveless number

Blessed with slim, relatively firm arms even during her senior years, Mommy never felt ill at ease wearing sleeveless numbers that would instantly make not a few women half her age self-conscious. As for the glasses, it was one accessory she seldom left home without.

alexyvergara with Cecile Zamora van Straten and Jude Mancuyas

“She always complained that no one seemed to recognize her without her trademark glasses,” said Jude. “I was actually looking for her bangaw glasses (Jackie O-style), but I couldn’t find them.”

But Jude would never do anything that Mommy wouldn’t, pardon the pun, want herself to be caught dead wearing. She now joins husband Dave and eldest daughter Davelyn, whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing, in the ultimate after-party event in the Skyroom.

JUDE and the gang

While Jude was rummaging through her things recently, he chanced upon one of Mommy’s hand-written notes that proved how proper, orderly and prescient she was until the very end.

Written on the note is a list of friends and relatives she wants invited to her wake, with yours truly occupying the 12th spot. Did she foresee her impending death? If that were a list to some beauty contest, I would have made it as one of the 12 semifinalists.

Cecile Zamora van Straten, a.k.a. Chuvaness, also a friend of mine, is second on the list. Since she and Jude also go back a long way, Cecile also knew Mommy fairly well.

Calming presence

I don’t know about Cecile, but I’m devoid of any talent when it comes to seeing dead people. But knowing how calming Mommy’s presence was, I probably wouldn’t mind getting a visit from her. In fact, I’m deeply honored to be included in her list.

Jude’s high school friends, including myself, paid our last respects to the lady two evenings ago. Jude, who happens to be very close to his mom, was probably hurting more than he would want to let on. It’s so typical of Jude, really. 😉

“My only consolation is she didn’t suffer much,” he said. “She was spared of the pain most people with a lingering illness go through.”

Whenever an old timer passes away, I’m always reminded of my folks, who, despite suffering from a host of age-related health issues and unexplainable bodily aches (real or imagined), are still with us today.

Since nothing is really given to us without an attendant flipside, having your folks around in the twilight of their years is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing, of course, because, in spite of their age, they’re still able to, especially in my Dad’s case, give my two US-based siblings and me sound advice. Their presence also provides us with an assurance, no matter how tenuous, that life as we’ve come to define it remains somewhat unchanged.

While living with them, you also gain a better appreciation of life and its numerous unsolved riddles and unexplained mysteries as you yourself metamorphose. In plain speak, as they age, so do you.

Menopause baby

Let’s face it. Even if you were a so-called menopause baby, you could never succeed in passing yourself off as a 20-something lost soul trying to find your place in the universe once your folks, especially your mom, hit their 80s. Sooner or later, other people are bound to deduce your actual age range once they start doing the math.

As an aside, I was once reminded of a publicist who seemed extremely proud of her dad’s accomplishments as a pioneer and veteran PR man.

She kept on yapping over lunch about how sharp and active he still was despite having spent decades in the business and outliving most of his contemporaries. But when I asked her point blank how old her dad was, she suddenly turned coy and told me that it was “confidential.” Putting her on the spot was farthest from my mind. But once you (or someone close to you) reach a certain age, shouldn’t you view the milestone as an accomplishment and badge of honor by declaring it to the world?

“He’s in his 70s,” she said vaguely before looking away.

But when I myself did the math based on the daughter’s story, the old man could very well be in his early 80s. It was only then that it hit me that she was probably more concerned about not revealing her age than she was about her dad’s. 😀

At the same time, it can also be quite painful to see your parents grow old and diminished physically and mentally right before your eyes.

Despite a wellspring of resources and goodwill, not that I have limited amounts of both, you can only do so much to alleviate your parents’ miseries.

alexyvergara, Anjoy Hipolito, Chito delos Santos, Eric Pineda, Noel Crisostomo and Jude Mancuyas

Reduced to acceptance

Apart from merely reacting to certain health issues that might suddenly crop up concerning your parents, you’re eventually reduced to accepting various outcomes because there are certain things, which, despite your best efforts, you have no control over. At the end of the day, you’re as helpless as they are. Sooner rather than later, you’ll find yourself face to face with the inevitable by seeing them go.

Natividad Mancuyas, I wonder what would have happened had you reached the ripe old age of 80 in good health. Had you been given the chance to throw a party to celebrate that milestone, would you still end up jotting down my name on your guest list?

Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. Being ranked 12th on your list of people to send you off is good enough for me. May you rest in peace with the Lord as you revel in the company of dearly departed friends and loved ones.

JUDE and members of Tita Naty’s send-off party

4 thoughts on “The Frazzled Cook’s hostess with the mostest is no more

  1. Thanks for writing about the inevitability of aging and death.I’ve already seen Chuvaness’ post about Mrs. Mancuyas and left a comment there saying that she was blessed because she died on the first Sunday of the month.

    Every sentence you wrote in this post is true but what really hit it home for me was this:

    “At the same time, it can also be quite painful to see your parents grow old and diminished physically and mentally right before your eyes.”

    My dad is now 81 and bed-ridden after suffering a mild stroke 2 years ago. So it’s really just old age and dementia that’s keeping him bed-bound. And there’s his only sibling, my uncle, who is just a year younger. The only people caring for them are my older sister and a housekeeper.

    It was hard for me to accept that my Tatay is no longer the Tatay I grew up with. He is at that stage when every little secret he has kept hidden all these years is now laid bare everyone to see. I now know that he is truly scared to die. And that he is a mama’s boy. 🙂 He cries and calls out for my Lola at night sometimes.

    Like most Pinoys abroad who are away from their families, I dread getting a phone call from home in the middle of the night. I have accepted that my dad is old and that he is on his last leg here on earth. But of course, that doesn’t dampen the dread of the impending loss.

    • Thanks Mayo for sharing your story with me. It was brave of you to do so. Thank you, too, for letting me know how you appreciate my work. Writers like us live for these moments: making connections with someone, somewhere out there.

      I guess we can take comfort in the fact that we were brought up fairly well by our parents. True, what is happening now to your Dad is truly a horrible condition that strips him of his humanity. He is no longer the Dad you once knew, but a mere shell of his old self. When your brain fails, everything about you, including your body, becomes useless. Let us just dwell on the good times and try our best to manage their conditions. In your case, it would also help if you spend a bit more time talking to your fathers’ caregivers, especially your sister. It’s important to make them feel that they’re not alone in this. That, despite the distance, you still share their pain and the financial burden of your dad’s upkeep.

      As for your Dad, I believe 70 percent of what he is now saying is not the truth, but exaggerations of thoughts he may have had during his younger years. But whichever way you look at it, his condition is really sad. There are no quick and easy answers, I’m afraid.


  2. Hi, Alex! My condolences to your friend, Jude. Pero, wow I like the idea of writing down and keeping a list of people that I wanted to be notified when I pass on. Thanks for sharing her story. X –Ruby
    P.S. Ang gandah ng flowers from Cecile. Gusto ko ganyan din ang ibigay mo sa akin ha:-)

    • Rubs, matagal pa tayo. Sana. When you get to witness these things, it makes you appreciate life and be thankful even more. Teka, si Cecile ba nagbigay ng flowers? 😀 Di ko alam iyun, ah. Thank you for making your presence felt by dropping me a line here. In Tagalog, mabuti at nagparamdam ka. Hehehe!…Upon closer scrutiny, kay Cecile nga pala galing ang flowers. Ang ganda nga. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s