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While travelling recently in the United States, I came across a news story about a museum that kept selling out of candles marketed as ‘Joe Biden-scented’. At first, I thought it silly, but then I realised that I burn scented candles all the time to remind me of people. And while those candles never quite smell like the person, they remind me of them all the same. Memory is complex like that.

Like many Filipinos, my mother is Catholic and religious observance is very important to her. Growing up, we always lit a candle and said prayers to commemorate when loved ones had died. Even though I do not think of myself as Catholic any more, I still light candles for the people that I care about and miss. Sometimes I will stay and watch the flames, meditating on the person or people I am thinking about. Other times, I let the candle burn for a few hours, filling the house with their light and smell. If the person has recently died, I will put the candle in a safe container and leave it to burn down completely overnight. I like to think that the light symbolises my commitment to remembering the person and keeping their spirit alive.

My grandmother died more than a decade ago, but I still talk to her every day in my head and ask for her support and guidance regularly. Unsurprisingly, there are no candles that smell exactly like crumbed cutlets and floral perfume, so I take my memories where I can find them.