I would like to highlight, once again, the salient features of my Mom, how she handled being a mother to her 9 children, without going through the basics of Motherhood 101! I recall posting the same subject matter 3 years ago (under “Family” blog category), a year after she passed away and it was difficult for me at that time putting in writing every description of her entire life as a mother..
Even if she’s no longer visibly around, she remains to be a guide, protector and a friend. There were times that she appeared to me in my dreams together with my Dad, who left us years ahead of her, making me feel that they are still looking after their children, appreciating of our accomplishments and comforting us in our trials and tribulations. It was only when I wake up, I realized it was merely a segment of a dream,. I tend to be emotional about, sometimes gets teary-eyed and couldn’t avoid sobbing alone, once in a while.
As mentioned in my previous blog, our mother was a full-time homemaker, rearing her 9 children and humbly attending to their needs. She was a major influence to us, in our decision makings and our dealings with other people.
Below are some astonishing facts which she would not have known otherwise, and I thought this is the best way to honor her during Mother’s day. I have shared this with you before, I hope you don’t mind me re-posting this once more.
1. Our mother was selfless, very kind-hearted generous woman yet tough and strict.
I remember when we’re still kids, my mother would have to gather us to pray the Angelus every 6 pm each day and wouldn’t start the prayer if one is missing in the group. If someone is not around and is still playing outside with friends, she would go out of the door and had this amazing way of calling us. It sounded like a twit of a bird or a whistling sound which we knew that it was her, that it was time for us to be home. I’m not sure if my siblings would still remember these things. It’s sort of a bit funny or could be the sweetest sound but it was also of a concern because I knew there could be an accompanying responsibility and at times a price we had to pay for not being at home on time! And believe me when we pray, we couldn’t just sit anywhere and participate in the praying, we had to be with the group and kneel down just what she did. Otherwise, we would get a word of caution or warning from her!
As a very kind-hearted woman, she was so accommodating to anyone, especially the lowly and oppressed, knocking on our door begging for food and clothes. She would invite them inside, fed them and gave them out slightly used old clothes, sometimes with an extra small sum of money, making people leave our house with happy faces. She couldn’t bear the sight and the thought that poor people leave her house in sorrow. I remember another instance where we would welcome some people in our home on an honor-system basis, to the extent of allowing them to stay with us for years and treat them just like a member of a family. In fact, these people were sent to school and in exchange, they would do certain household chores, just like what we did at home – running household and/or personal errands.
2. Our mother was a self-reliant, independent and a hands-on person.
She was very hard working woman, an all around, do-it yourself person- a very good cook wherein some of my favorites include the very tasteful home made cakes (torta) baked in an old style fire furnace, sweet and salted rice cakes (suman), cassava cakes, fish “escabeche” (originally a Spanish recipe), beef stew with tomato sauce and other ingredients, tapas, her own “adobo” recipe, green seaweed/sweet potato leaf salad added with vinegar and onions, steamed tarot and yams and so many more. She was our chef and we would be her assistants, preparing the ingredients but we’re more interested on the taste test side of it!
She was our hairstylist and continued to be when ever we’re home. In fact, she was the one who first cut our hairs and did our first curls. There were times that we would try to beat each other and fall in line for the hair cut during weekends. Trust me, she was very good at it, and she could truly style the hair the way we wanted it to be. Probably she was forced to learn it by herself because almost of her children are girls except for one boy. And oh yes, even our only brother got his first taste of a haircut from her!
3. Our mother was a businesswoman in her own right.
I recall when my older siblings had to go to college. She established a small variety store so as to augment the family’s earnings. I also learned and acquired from her my business acumen, the wholesale/retail consignment method and the pricing strategies. She may not be an MBA degree holder but it was great that my first informal business know-how emanated from her. She was intelligent and I’ve discovered that she was among the top of their class during her school days.
I have also first learned from her about the barter system. She may not be aware of the technical parlance, but yes she knew how to trade our things in exchange for commodities. An instance is when poor farmers would go to the city center to trade their crops in exchange for clothes, blankets and other things they needed in their respective homes, my mother would engage in said activities. In fact, even without the traded goods, she would end up giving the needed things to these poor men and women.
I mentioned in my previous blog that my mother knew how to fashion dresses for her young children, especially when she had her first sewing machine. If she finds time, instead of buying ready made clothes, she would do the measurements, sketched the dress and made a pattern on a piece of large paper before sewing it. She didn’t go to a formal fashion school, it was more of a self-taught learning skill. She did not only sew some of our dresses but also for some small projects like curtains, for small windows and pillow cases, for home use.
4. Our mother was a very patient, relentless and pious woman.
Ever since I was a child, I observed my mother would wake up in the wee hours (3 or 4 am) of the morning, kneel beside her bed and pray the Holy Rosary and other devotional prayers. This habit of hers continued up to her heydays. During her mid younger days , I would hear her murmurs, silently saying her intentions pleading to God for mercy and forgiveness. Except when she’s indisposed, she would hear mass every day and brought us bread or any food which she bought on her way home. To her, the day would not be complete without attending the Holy Mass and receiving the Holy Communion.
Married to a man who was fond of being with friends, during younger days, with peers who were like a family to him, having social drinking with them, and sometimes getting “groggy” at the end of the day, was an agony to my mother. Lifting up everything to God, served as an outlet to her worries, and oh yes, her prayers were granted – it worked after so many years! Our father’s social drinking habit has diminished and they both had a very good time together thereafter.
She was so patient and persevering, especially in dealing with my father’s whims like food to prepare, office clothes to wear and so on and so forth. She would gladly do these things sans complaints even though she was already exhausted just so to avoid further argument. My Mom and Dad were exactly the opposite!
My mother was my first teacher and catechist. I first learned from her about God and everything about spiritual beliefs. She first taught us the basic prayers and the Angelus and later the Holy Rosary with the Litany. Even without deliberate memorization of the said prayers but because of the constant praying of the Holy Rosary, I was able to memorize the mysteries and would you believe the litany as well which up to now I recite it by heart! For us young kids and teens then, we didn’t grasp the full significance of the said prayers – it appeared said things were repetitious and were imposed on us! It was only when we were growing up that we’re able to recognize the beauty and the importance of praying, especially the Holy Rosary. Truth is, I am now applying the lessons learned from my mother in my class telling them how prayers are important in our lives. I almost forgot another very good trait which I’ve learned from our parents – that after praying, we approached them, kissed them and placed their hands on our foreheads for blessings and as a sign of respect. Thereafter, the younger siblings would then go to the older ones and do the same thing.
Our mother was involved in church related organizations. As a matter of fact, she became one of the sponsors or “hermanas” during feast day celebrations. This is the reason why majority of her children are now actively involved in civic and socio-related activities.
She was my first music teacher too. She loved to sing and had a sweet voice. Hmmm, my good voice must have come from her, kidding aside! Oh yes, she had this skill of doing second voice thru the so-called “owido” (playing it by ear) which I realized just now that I have also acquired it from her. And more oh yessessss, she danced gracefully too!
5. Our mother was our first faithful doctor/nurse, mentor, critic, and our best friend ever.
I recall when we were sick during our younger days, our mother was the one who was there awake all night by our side, caring for us, cooking and feeding us our favorite food, giving us the needed medicines to make us well and healthy. She was there to provide moral support whenever it was time for her children to give birth and taught them how to bathe and care their first babies. It was just so frustrating that I wasn’t there by her side when she needed me most. I know from the deepest of her heart, she would understand me, just what she had been – a very considerate person.
She was our critic even during her golden years. Whenever she saw us not in proper attire, if we’re showing a little some of our skins, she would jokingly call our attention to change our dress. And if she liked it, she would just sit there in the corner quietly looking at us with a smile dancing upon her lips. I knew she was keeping her praises for us to herself. She was not really outspoken as far as flattering and pleasing people are concerned. As I said, she was more on the “critiquing” side!
She was our best friend ever. When our Dad first left to join Our Creator, our mother was wandering from one of her children’s place to another. Even in her older years, she tried as much as possible to travel and visit her children and be with them for a month or so. She would initiate the planning of a reunion for all of us and I can still vividly recall how she looked very happy, anxiously waiting for us at the gate whenever it was time for our flight arrivals. She had plans in mind with one of my sisters as her partner. We would go to a beach for a swim, visit tourist places, or just simply stay at home discussing various issues or even ending up in arguments! Oh yes, we’re normal creatures, especially in a female dominated place – we had misunderstandings- the so called siblings rivalry – and she would be the arbiter! But overall, it was a great feast for all of us with the delicious food served on the table just like the parable about the rich father who prepared nice things for his prodigal son to return to his home!
Our mother’s last birthday and final days of her life
On her birthday, we planned for a grand celebration for her. We offered gifts, flowers, and delivered our extemporaneous personal messages which she gladly accepted with a modest smile. We designed a program and had the presentations recorded on video, and oh yes there was even a banner greeting with her photo on it mounted on the wall of the hotel’s ball room. She was very excited about it, as if she was celebrating her 18th birthday. I recall we sang the song “Through the Years” with a twist and had it re-worded so as to suit the occasion. How I wish I could have written this before and delivered a well thought meaningful birthday message during that time. I am sure she would only smirk at it but would be proud of me silently at the same time! Actually, my mother was happy and contented just by seeing her children completed their studies, and have turned into successful adults.
When I last saw her, my mother was still feeling great. When I bade farewell to her, she kissed and hugged me tightly as if she wanted me not to go but I simply ignored it and set aside the emotions brewing at that time. Our communications then were limited and undertaken thru telephone calls and internet conveyed messages. There were always the friendly reminders from her – the love and care of a mother to her child, until the gloomy sad news that she followed and be with Dad and her Creator in Heaven, after a decade. I would have wanted to say my deepest sincere apologies to her for my shortcomings, for my limitations and weaknesses. I would have wanted to say a quadrillion thanks for all the love and sacrifices. I would have wanted to share with her more of my time and tell her how much her child deeply loved her, but she could no longer hear it, feel it! That time was the most difficult, unhappiest and terrible moment of my life, in fact till now. But when I think of my mother when she was alive, it gave me emotional and spiritual healing, because I know she will always be there to offer prayers for her children, to offer birthday masses for her children and to comfort them when in trouble and in despair, no matter what, against all odds!
To my Mom, my heartfelt Happy Mother’s day and to the mothers out there, a wonderful and joyful Mother’s day to you all!