I was a little girl when my father first told me about Tita Inday. Not only was a she a linguistics professor at a big university abroad, but she had also created a word.
I don’t recall now what the word was, my father probably does, but what captured my imagination was the idea that someone could bring into being a word that had not previously existed. To my child self, this idea was completely magical and mind-boggling.
I met Tita Inday for the first time when I was in highschool. She was, a tiny woman—tinier than my highschool self. She was full of light and energy, overflowing with brilliance.
At a time in my life when I was filled with complete doubt as to whether there was even any point in writing, my aunt reminded me that bringing the work into being is the point. That publication doesn’t always happen, that things will never be easy because you are a Filipino writing in this language not your own, but you still have to persevere.
I write about her as I think about translations and language, about the mother tongue, about worlds and words that come into being because she would have loved this kind of conversation where we talk about what’s possible. What can we do with language? How far can we push words? What are the politics that lie behind the use of language?
I remember visiting with my aunt at her home in Calgary, this was right after Clarion West. She asked me questions about my work and shared her own work with me as well.
Through the years, we kept in touch, sometimes through email, sometimes through phone conversations and then through the occasional message sent through my father.The last message I sent her contained a compilation of essays I’d written in the past year and a half.
Tita Inday passed away on the 26th of July. My father said, she called while he was out. She was having problems with her heart.
It’s difficult to write about such losses. As if by writing about them, they become more real. But I wanted to pay tribute to her in this space. I think of the saying “it’s in the blood” and I can’t help but acknowledge that even though I am no linguist, this fascination with words…this engagement with language…it also comes from that moment when my father said: Your aunt invented a word.