When I was 9, we always pass by a bank walking home to San Nicolas from my lola’s carinderia in Kapasigan. She once said that she’d like me to work in a bank, her reason was convincing to me, “because it’s air-conditioned”. Since then, I always try to sneak what’s inside the bank whenever we pass by. I never asked what kind of work will I get there, what lingered in my mind for years is that she only wants me to work in some comfortable, air-conditioned place. That may be her drive to give me the best education she can with her meagre income. Up to this time, I still can’t believe how she got to afford a private school my entire grade school years from just selling gulaman. She uses a small table, the size of a living room center table, along the sidewalk outside my lola’s carinderia. There she makes her gulaman and stacks clear drinking glasses that used to be Nescafe bottles. She had tried selling lumpia too. She called me her “assistant” because I always wanted to take part in making one, so she had let me help her place the uncooked lumpia rolls in a tray or container for storage. She’d receive a few thousand pesos from Papa every month, which from what I’ve heard and understood from eavesdropping, is enough to pay the rent, electric and water bills.
We didn’t live a life bounty of even the necessities. It was a struggle. The kind of life we had taught her to save almost everything she can save. I pull random amount of toilet paper sheets, she would tell me to pull just two and fold it nice and neat. Until this day, she goes to my room early in the morning to turn off the lights or unplug the TV. I always mind her collecting disposable containers in the kitchen; she’d argue we might need them in the future. She never bought new clothes and still gets excited with hand-me-downs. By being frugal, she was able to make ends meet. She’s a master thrifter.
One night there was asthma attack. The nebulizer you bought me from borrowed money can’t help me. You gently massaged my chest and my back, stroked my hair. I asked you to bring me to the hospital; you look so scared and confused. You said we have no money. You didn’t bring me to the hospital, I can’t blame you. But I was in your arms the whole night. It made a difference, see I survived.
She’s not a perfect mother though; I am not a perfect daughter either. She had slapped my face out of anger from the compelling disrespectful words that came out of my mouth enough for any mother to disown a child. I deserve a hundred more of that from you, we both know that. I’ve hated you to the point of wishing you did not bring me to the earth. But you did with eagerness, with no thinking twice, selflessly, not thinking what a complicated life may be ahead of you given Papa’s status and lifestyle. I didn’t realize that so I disobeyed and broke your heart countless times. Once in high school I came home 3 hours late from school’s dismissal time. I saw you solemnly praying the rosary by the altar instead of taking your dinner. I wasn’t moved and I didn’t learn from that. I hated you because I always thought you did not work hard for us to overcome poverty and for always regarding Papa as the head of the family, the only person we all should obey whether right or wrong. I loathed that. Pursuing secondary school in a public school felt like losing face.
You don’t cook because you can’t. For years it is just now that you’re learning, taking notes when watching cooking shows and eventually serving us your experiments. I am so upfront in telling you your flaws, but you’d say nothing and just make the adjustments for it to go well with my taste. You are a loving heart and I am a stinking asshole.
May 2, 2012. I have frightened you with my fainting in front of you. You’ve shaken me strong enough but it’s your trembling voice that brought me back my consciousness. You held my face tight close to your chest calling me not by my name but by the word ‘baby’. You called me your baby, Mama! I almost never heard that. Then a soft pressing in my head, it’s your lips, you can’t deny. I now know that I can be half dead anytime and only your touch and voice can bring me to life. There’s no other person capable of loving a bad girl like that. Only you can do that, Mama, only you. You are amazing.
Please do not grow tired taking care of me. By the way, I’d have to die first. When you’re seventy and still healthy, I’ll kill myself and just be sorry. The strength you have is capable with moving on with life without me better than me carrying on without you. I am so sure of that because you couple it with solid faith in God.
I suck at being a daughter but the rest of my years will be spent to make it up to you. Happy Mother’s day, Mama. Your baby loves you.