Little Mother, Big Sister

History books hardly mention Rosa Quirino. Very few people knew Rosa, sister to the Quirino brothers Ernesto, Elpidio (who became a President), Eliseo and Antonio. Rosa was their “little mother.” She brought light into the sad days when the family mourned for their mother, Gregoria.

Rosa was there to dry the tears and, with her gentle arms, provide comfort and nurturing to her siblings. She managed the household, the cooking, cared for the youngest siblings and even ironed the family’s clothes.

In her quiet, unassuming ways she was the glue that kept the family bond strong. Like women during the turn of the last century, Rosa embodied strength and femininity. Yet she was a source of comfort to her siblings.

Rosa Quirino was the eldest daughter and second child of Mariano Quirino and Gregoria Rivera. She was two years old when her brother Elpidio was born in 1890 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Aunts reminisce that Elpidio was Rosa’s favorite brother.

Manong Ernesto and Rosa, as the eldest sister and “ate,” witnessed Elpidio's christening celebrated with a big feast in Ilocos Sur. “Apo Lakay” by Carlos Quirino described that day: “There were heaps of rice, cauldrons of pinakbet (vegetable stew), calderetas of goat meat, tureens of bagoong (shrimp paste) and buckets of basi (liquor from sugarcane and lambanog, fermented coconut juice). Music from a local orchestra of guitars and mandolins filled the air.”

Rosa Quirino married Amadeo Eugenio who was the Provincial Treasurer of Ilocos Norte till he died in 1952. (Photo from the Felicidad Q.Eugenio Lamug family).

Rosa Quirino married Amadeo Eugenio who was the Provincial Treasurer of Ilocos Norte till he died in 1952. (Photo from the Felicidad Q.Eugenio Lamug family).

Mariano and Gregoria’s other children were born soon after Elpidio -- Angela, Crisanto, Eliseo, Jose and Antonio.

After the 1890s, Mariano and Gregoria brought their family to Agoo, La Union, in protest of how the Spaniards treated the citizenry. When the political unrest simmered down, the family returned to Caoayan, Ilocos Sur.

Granddaughter Nita Lamug Cadsawan recalls that when Rosa’s mother, Gregoria, died the youngest Antonio was two years old. The siblings took care of their youngest brother. Rosa, became the family’s “little mother.” She immersed cotton balls in milk, wrapped gauze around it and with that fed Antonio with milk.

The older Quirino siblings made it their responsibility to care for the younger ones. Ernesto paid his brothers’ tuitions. Years after, the Quirino brothers successfully finished law school: Ernesto, one of the first pensionados (scholars) sent by the government to study in the United States, became a lawyer; Elpidio became President of the Philippines; Eliseo was governor of Ilocos Sur; Antonio became a judge, was an adviser of his brother President Elpidio and known as the “father of Philippine television” for introducing the TV industry to the country.

Through the years, the family devotion never wavered and the loyalty to each other was fierce. When Elpidio launched his campaign for the Assembly, at the start of his political career, Rosa devotedly washed his clothes and ironed his shirts.

When Rosa was 22 years old, she met the Postmaster of Tuguegarao, Amadeo Eugenio, from Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He was tall and handsome. She was pretty and demure. A romance flourished and they married. They had four daughters: Felicidad, Lourdes, Alma and Pacita.

Rosa Quirino and Amadeo Eugenio's ancestral home in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. (Photo from the Rosa Quirino Eugenio family).

Rosa Quirino and Amadeo Eugenio's ancestral home in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. (Photo from the Rosa Quirino Eugenio family).

Eldest granddaughter Nita Cadsawan (Felicidad’s daughter) remembers that their grandfather Amadeo owned a butchery business. Felicidad accompanied her mama Rosa daily to the meat establishment.

The late Dr. Aleli Quirino recalled in her journals, “When Manong Amad became the Municipal Treasurer of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Manang Rosa was happy she was now near her family, especially to Elpidio, whose clothes she would wash every time she would go to Caoayan.”

Dr. Quirino reminisced, “Tony remembers that he and his father, Mariano, would go to San Nicolas and stay with her. Younger sister Angela stayed with Rosa to study. Later Manong Amad was transferred to Badoc.”  

According to the late Judge Antonio Quirino, “Manang Rosa never forgot to help her siblings even if she had a family of her own.  When Elpidio launched his political career for the assembly, she helped him in his campaigns and supported his victory. “

A few years after brother Peping died the Quirino family experienced another loss. It was New Year’s Eve in 1924. Rosa was preparing her four daughters for a family gathering. Suddenly, Rosa suffered an excruciatingly painful headache. The family saw that she vomited blood, but they did not know what caused it. Right there, Rosa, at 36, died. 

Eldest daughter Felicidad was 12, and the youngest, Pacita, two years old when Rosa passed away. Little Pacita did not comprehend her mother’s death. At the wake, the toddler merely thought her mama was asleep and tried to wake her up. Until today Pacita, nearly 94, and the last living daughter of Rosa says, “I never felt the love of a mother.”

Rosa’s brothers and their wives helped take care of Rosa’s daughters through the years. Felicidad, Lourdes and Alma were sent to live with each Quirino brother for a while, according to granddaughter Nita Cadsawan.

Rosa Quirino Eugenio's solemn funeral was attended by her father, Mariano, husband Amadeo and their four daughters Felicidad, Lourdes, Alma, Pacita; brothers Elpidio, Ernesto, Antonio, family and friends. Rosa was buried in Ilocos Norte. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family).

Rosa Quirino Eugenio's solemn funeral was attended by her father, Mariano, husband Amadeo and their four daughters Felicidad, Lourdes, Alma, Pacita; brothers Elpidio, Ernesto, Antonio, family and friends. Rosa was buried in Ilocos Norte. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family).

Rosa Quirino and Amadeo Eugenio's daughters: Alma married Primo de los Santos, Felicidad married Cosme Lamug and Pacita married Luis B. Adea. Lourdes died when she was 15. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family)

Rosa Quirino and Amadeo Eugenio's daughters: Alma married Primo de los Santos, Felicidad married Cosme Lamug and Pacita married Luis B. Adea. Lourdes died when she was 15. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family)

Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea, now nearly 94, the last living daughter of Rosa, still travels to family reunions, the most recent was to Vigan for the 125th birth anniversary of the late President Elpidio Quirino in November 2015. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family).

Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea, now nearly 94, the last living daughter of Rosa, still travels to family reunions, the most recent was to Vigan for the 125th birth anniversary of the late President Elpidio Quirino in November 2015. (Photo from the Pacita Q. Eugenio Adea family).

Rosa Quirino Eugenio’s family remembers her today through journals, photos and anecdotes passed on by their grandparents. Rosa had long, dark, shiny hair that reached down to her hips. She inherited her looks from her mother, Gregoria, who was a 14-year-old Spanish mestiza when she met Mariano Quirino.

Rosa was known for her devotion to her brothers and sister, a loving reflection of her faith, which was her highest purpose. She is remembered fondly for her kindness, which today inspires her grandchildren and great grandchildren to have that sense of duty to family.

Rosa is remembered for all these, inspiring us to do good to ourselves, to others and the world around us.

Rosa’s commitment came from the heart. There is no greater balm to soothe the loss of a mother than love. The love from Rosa’s heart infused the family’s energy and solidarity. Rosa was a blessing to her family. In the end, her own brothers were a blessing to Rosa’s children and grandchildren.


Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site AsianInAmericamag.com.


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