Life in the Fast Lane


The Ultimate Guide to Being a #TitaOfManila

By 9:25 AM , , , , , ,

Disclaimer: The author of this post has 1.8 years' worth of experience being a #TitaOfManila1 in terms of blood relations. Prior to this, she has had the fortunate privilege of being a tita (or auntie) and ninang (godparent) to the kids of her cousins or friends for over a decade. Needless to say, you could consider her an expert (or close to being one) in the realm of tita-hood. 

Being a tita and ninang is a weird but fun role. For one thing, you will (or probably already) feel this insane, inexplicable bond with your pamangkin2. You are not his/her mom, but you would gladly take a bullet for him/her. You don't have to deal with him/her day in and day out and experience the highs and lows of parenthood, but you don't want to miss out on his/her milestones and daily antics either.

Nevertheless, I take great pride in having a pamangkin and being present in his life as much as possible — sometimes even going over and above the "scope" or job description of being a tita (especially since I only have one pamangkin, at least within my immediate family).

Thus, I would like to share some techniques honed over time, like fine wine, which would enable soon-to-be or newbie titas to achieve the pinnacle, the very best of tita-hood. It would be a disservice on my end if I were to share only watered-down, safe tips.

Thus, I would also like to encourage each of us to go all-out and embrace our tita-ness.

(These tips are applicable for titas of pamangkins who are still infants, all the way to titas of pre-teens and teenagers.)

1) Do not hesitate to be or act like a child — or a pa-cool teen

Being a tita means being a source of entertainment, especially when your pamangkin's/pamangkins' parents are exhausted. This means taking on the role of storyteller, playmate, and sometimes, mascot. This also means altering your voice as needed, crawling on all fours, sticking your tongue out, and brushing up on Elmo's World, Sofia the First, and everything else your pamangkin likes. If you want to be his/her BFF, you have to be fully invested in what he/she likes and do what he/she does. Including understanding what "carps", "starbs", and "pics" mean.

The more entertained he/she is, or the more you understand him/her, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

This is the stuffed toy I bought for my nephew. I've sent my nephew Elmo "selfies" on Viber, copied Elmo's voice, and pretended that stuffed toy Elmo could draw on my nephew's sketchpad.

2. Slowly but surely brainwash him/her to like the things you like

Once I spotted my nephew's interest in drawing or coloring, I bought him two sets of crayons and sketchpads. A good chunk of our bonding time involves me drawing for him, especially when he points to his crayons and looks for his sketchpad in our house (he has another set in his parents' condo). When he brings his 'ayons (his contracted version of "crayons") and papoo ("paper") to me, I take the time to brainwash him into learning a new color, or identifying a letter or a new animal. He has also expressed an interest to "bike!" (which he says really loudly), so being the triathlon freak that I am, I have not-so-secret desires of making him an Ironkid someday.

The more brainwashed he/she is, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

I must have made over 500 versions of Elmo in the past two months. I am hoping that in the next few months or years, he will master how to draw not just Elmo, but everything else and become an artist. That way, he can fulfill my not-so-hidden desires of being an animator or working in Disney. Heh.

3. Spoil him/her rotten (while also mastering the art of not turning your pamangkin into a brat)

On the days you're not together and you come across something he/she would like, get it immediately. Don't even hesitate to do so. A new pair of shoes, a shirt, a toy — the sky's the limit. Not only will it satisfy that semi-maternal instinct you might possess, but it will amuse his/her parents, and naturally, score more BFF brownie points in your pamangkin's/pamangkins' eyes.

The more spoiled he/she is, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

He's now tall enough to ride bikes for 3-year-olds, even if he isn't even 2 years old. Guess what I plan to get for him in the near future.

4. Take a gazillion photos of/with him/her/them

If I were to look at your phone's camera roll, I should expect to see at least 100 photos of/with your pamangkin/pamangkins. In a variety of poses, and in various situations. And they better be your phone's and computer's desktop wallpaper and screensaver. If you already have a pre-teen pamangkin, do not hesitate to upload 1,029,241 snaps with him/her on Snapchat.

The more photos you have, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

One out of the quintillion photos of my nephew and me, taken when we were in Hong Kong early this month.

5. Go all-out in terms of tita-hood by sounding even worse than a lola (or "grandma") when you need to warn your pamangkin if you don't want him/her to do something

Do as lolas do, and nag your pamangkin/pamangkins, hover, and worry about him/her/them even more than his/her/their parents when they're about to touch sockets, ride a bike, get dirty in the playground, or look for a date to the prom. In fact, hide out near the ballroom when your pamangkin is at the prom so you can stalk him/her and his/her date.

The more shadowing, "tsk-tsk-ing", and sharp "NO! AYAYAY!'s" you say or do, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

My nephew discovering the joys of fallen branches and sticks in a Makati park, at the risk of tripping, getting dirty, and exposure to germs.

BONUS TIP: Do not hesitate to ask the parents to send you a photo or a video at any given time of the day, or request to do a video call over Facetime, Viber, or Skype. It doesn't matter at what time of the day, or how often you do this. You can always rationalize that you're not with your pamangkin/pamangkins 24/7 and you miss out on important milestones, like his/her witty one-liners or "firsts".

The more you photos/videos have, or the more video calls you make, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

One of many Facetime conversations with my nephew. This was the first time he really recognized that it was me on the other side of the line, and he was responding to my questions and copying my mannerisms.

Truly, being a legit tita is hard work. It involves being fully invested, being borderline obsessed, and being your pamangkin's/pamangkins' best friend after his/her/their parents. Your role in their life is a unique one, and something worth cherishing from their infancy until adulthood.

You may use tita-hood as practice for being a mom eventually, and it actually is the best kind of practice. From diaper changes to knowing how to give sound advice to a pre-teener, you will know essential life skills that will make transitioning to being a mom much easier.

Or you may just be a perpetual tita, a not-quite-mom-but-a-somekinduva-second-mom, and that's okay, too. That's a wonderful dynamic that's worth keeping, crafting, and honing. 

So embrace tita-hood and do everything in your power3 to ensure you have a wonderful relationship with him/her/them whether you're near or far, whether you're ready for it or not.

Because chances are, no matter what you do anyway, your pamangkin/pamangkins will love you unconditionally and think you're the next coolest thing to their favorite toy or app.

1 A cultural phenomenon that needs a separate post. But if you want to get the general idea of it, check out this article.

2 "Niece" or "nephew" in Filipino. Since it's a gender-neutral noun, I decided to use the term so as to avoid repeating "niece or nephew" a zillion times throughout the post.

3 This entire post is obviously an exaggeration in terms of the role titas should play in the lives of their pamangkins. Don't take it literally, but with a grain of salt, of course. Being a tita is, first and foremost, knowing when not to overstep, or to override what your pamangkins have learned from their parents. So what you do with this role or privilege is entirely up to you, so make the most of it!

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