House-cleaning and the overlooked “pamana” from the parents.

As I grow older, I realize much I begin to resemble the parents.

Filipinos usually use the verb “mana” when pointing out the similarities of the children to their elders. The noun form is “pamana”, which means legacy; “mana” could refer to a child’s genes, mannerisms, beliefs, as well as material heritage. It sums up the Filipino’s faith in tradition and continuity. Rebellion against one’s parents is often seen as a refusal of one’s heritage, which is worse than merely going against the parents’ wishes.

Old photo: bedroom

It sounds lofty, but I was merely musing about house-cleaning.

When I still lived with the parents — and it’s not uncommon for Filipinos, and other Asians, for the children to live with their parents well into adulthood or even after they have been married — I disliked house-cleaning. I had to do them, initially, being the eldest in a family who didn’t have a house-cleaner.

The parents were, and still are, very critical of house-cleaning. It’s common among the middle class to substitute luxury with cleanliness. One may only have humble furnitures in the tiny living room, but by God! The living room must not have a single speck of dust. When the father was done sweeping and wiping the floor, there was always an urge for me to learn how to float so that my feet will not spoil a work of art.

Eventually, when the siblings grew older, I stopped doing the house-cleaning and merely bossed them around to do the work for me. I grew tired of living with the family and, because I had a long-time boyfriend that time, decided to move out. One night, I told the mother that I found an apartment and was moving in with co-workers (almost true because the other house-mate was a co-worker); two days later, I’ve packed my things and went.

I still dislike house-cleaning. I don’t think I got that from the parents. But I get fidgety when the apartment is untidy. And there are days when I wake up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I clean the apartment. It wouldn’t pass the parents standards, but that belief in cleanliness has crept into me despite myself. Should I be surprised that one day, I’ll realize that I also have begun cleaning the floor in a way that will gleam with middle-class pride?

The thing that sucks about legacies is how you often don’t have a say which legacy you will be getting.