It was the year 1983. In school several years later, I would learn that the actual date is August 21, but I was only three and a half then and did not care much for dates. Our transistor radio was on, a lot of people were talking, and my parents — my Mom especially — were very agitated. I did not know what was going on. I was scooped up and placed in the backseat of our small beetle. My dad was driving and was honking the horn of the car madly. There were other cars doing the same thing. Then we saw a group of people burning tires and shouting. My dad stopped the car and my mom and I clambered up to sit on the roof. My mom always told me to take care of my things and not to destroy them, so I was puzzled why she was not the least bit angry at those people burning perfectly good tires. “Are they bad people, Mama?” I asked.
“No. The real bad person is the one that we are all fighting against. He killed an important person today. And sometimes we are forced to do these kinds of things so that the bad person will be forced to stop doing his evil.”
It was a complex concept for a three-year-old. But it was important for my mom that I got it. And I did. And what I also got was that I had a mom who, from day one, never underestimated her child’s ability to understand.
I was in second year college, a Journalism major at UP. The semester was ending and I found myself at my wit’s end with tons of academic requirements to complete plus a host of extra-curricular activities that I was juggling. As that particular sem was packed with Journ writing classes (feature writing, news writing, editorial writing, etc) most of the requirements had to do with passing written pieces. Since needed to submit three articles the next day, I begged my Mom to write one article. At the time I was already earning money from free-lance writing work, so it was clear to both me and her that it was an issue simply of time management, and I was not cajoling her to write for me so I could come up with a better piece and get a higher grade.
She refused. “In the future, I want you to be able to look yourself in the eye and say that everything with your byline is entirely a product of your own mind.”
(Of course, several years later, when I mentioned this to her, she laughed and snorted and told me, “tinatamad lang ako nun. nyahaha. pero buti na din di ka naging plagiarist.”)
My Mom cannot cook to save her life. Once, she learned how to make refrigerator cake, and for maybe ten Christmases we would have refrigerator cake and office raffle-won ham. Lately, after a weekend with some nuns, she was taught how to make buco sherbet. Now, she is on a sherbet-making frenzy. First buco, then lychee, then peach. She is threatening to make sherbets of the thirteen New Year fruits.
Once, she attended this new agey seminar at the behest of a friend and was annoyed at this overbearing woman who went on and on about how a good mom cooks for her kids. Feed them, feed their aura, yadidadida. She pursed her lips into a thin disapproving line when my Mom intimated that she does not know how to cook.
My mom retorted, “I call for pizza, sit down with them to eat, talk to them about life and raise them to be good, non-judgmental kids.”
(And that is why we are what we are now: fat and mulat.)
Happy 52nd birthday, Mom. I love you.
P.S. Only a few days ago, someone who perhaps had some differences with my Mom several years ago (he thinks my mom singled him out for being an activist and disapproved of his activities; when in fact the only problem she had was that he did not meet his deadlines), said to my face, meaning to compliment me, “But you are nowhere like your Mom.” As far as I am concerned, that can only be an insult to ME. Dude, you don’t have a clue. :)