Two of my favorite women in the world are celebrating their birthdays today — my mom and her mom — and in the spirit of love and celebration, I’d like to dedicate this post as a temporary job back to my memory lane and re-remember the most standout moments I have with them. No, I am not forgetting the fact that I made a long-ass Facebook post for mama, something which I doubt anyone else read, but let’s stray off from the mushy parts and only think of the nice ones.
Yes, mama and inang (her mother) was born on the same day. The story was inang, on an April 4th (not saying the year, people), was praying in the cathedral and thanking God for another year of her life, when her stomach contracted. Cut the birthing part, there goes mama, the fifth of inang’s children and the smallest of her siblings. Her sisters called her kuting, “kitten,” which is cute. There is, by the way, nothing cute about her.
So, my mom…
She may be small, but mama, with a BS in Statistics and a full-on math nerd, would take on a high-ranking seat in a local government department. A tiger underneath, mama did clash with officials with distorted philosophies, pressuring her to bend, which she didn’t, and when she couldn’t change the office, she changed the environment, quitting her regional director post and coming back home to be an entrepreneur.
Fun fact: mama’s business has been on TV once. They were one of the first (if not the) makers of Tahong Chips in Bulacan and we can remember staying glued to our bulky colored television to watch Drew Arellano take large bites of these hand-pressed, freshly-cooked mussel chips. I could remember coming to exhibits with her, where she’d make a decor from a round styrofoam embellished with mussel shells as the highlight of her table.
Mama’s other job is working as a mediator, which I could sum up as a citizen-judge: making peace in between parties who choose to settle their issues instead of throwing it on the court. The latter is much expensive. Before, a lot of people told her she couldn’t be a mediator, including a snobby mentor who looked down at mama because she didn’t choose to wear sharp blazers with luxury bags — only comfortable trousers and simple blouses. Nope, your intelligence and reputation isn’t based on your appearance.
Mama would help any needy person she’d meet (I could start to count, but I’d probably get tired). She believed in one simple philosophy: teach a man how to fish. And she taught. She gave her time, her resources, her energy, putting all of herself into making her students learn potential businesses which they could benefit from. Alas, in the end, these students gave up halfway, all with their own excuses. But some of them still remembers her, and comes to visit whenever she’d call them.
Mama made our home a small community. We’d have staff working in the back, where she bought for herself a real-deal oven for baking (they make cookies loved by many elderly in our subdivision because those cookies weren’t sweet). And then, one day, when she knew that those people weren’t actually learning, just coming in to get paid and not doing the work with all of their heart, she stopped.
…which was just right on time, because when papa decided to be a full-time pastor, mama accompanied him as they started living in the church’s pastoral house.
And now, inang.
Inang would walk around the barrio using her umbrella as her cane. On specific hours of the afternoon, she’d meet with her friends, who were also her neighbors, before turning back home to cook dinner. She’d play solitaire on the table every 10 am. She loved watching drama. She’d make me sleep at 3 o’clock. She’d make corned beef lumpia. She’d clap her hands while humming a song only she knew the notes.
I’d sleep beside inang whenever she’s left alone in the house. She’d always watch me while eating, just to make sure I’d finish everything on my plate. She’d tell me funny stories about her friends (more specifically, how absurd her friends were), and then laugh at them sneakily because she’s that. I guess we got our sarcasm from her.
Inang would always be here on the 31st of December, walking all the way from their house to our home. She’d go to the market even though her high blood shoots up (it’s past tolerable to normal human beings. To her, it’s nothing). She had an unusual laugh, like it grates in the ear. It’s one of my favorite laughs in the whole world.
Inang died on an August day. She was brought home from the hospital after she was intubated for pneumonia. During that time, her children knew she was about to go, so all of them came home from Europe and Middle East just to see her. They gathered around her in a small room a few meters from their old house.
Those were intimate moments. I’d remember sitting on a chair and reading her the Bible aloud because she couldn’t move from the bed. She couldn’t even speak. It was really dreadful, because Inang would still move her eyes as if trying to say things I didn’t understand.
I learned the news when mama called in tearfully. Inang had passed in her sleep. She was surrounded with the people she loved. That was her last wish, and it was granted to her, as if God listened to the silent cries of her heart and gifted her with the finest image before she breathed her last.