My mother was my first best friend. As a young girl, she would indulge me, and between us there were no secrets. We had an unusual kind of relationship; I could tell her anything, but I also knew that I could not overstep my boundaries.
I knew her work, I knew her friends, both in and out of show business. My mother was very private in spite of her being in the limelight—maybe because she was married to a man who also guarded his privacy fiercely.
My parents were both very passionate people with strong beliefs. It was both interesting and overwhelming sometimes to grow up in a home with two strong personalities.
My father passed away early. Imagine my mom being a solo parent in the early 1980s onward.
Mom will always be a tough act to follow. Through the years, there were many people who would seek her advice, something I would learn and hear firsthand while growing up. I share them now with you.
The first lesson my mother ever taught me was that we must treat everyone equally, and with respect. Although she bows to authority, she is never intimidated by anyone. “Pare-pareho lang ’yan. We all go to the bathroom every morning,” she loved to tell me whenever I would say that meeting so and so was making me nervous.
Second, she would always remind me of the value of education, and to do well in school so that someday I’ll able to earn my keep. “You’ll never know about life. It’s always good to have a skill and to have your own money.”
Mom was widowed at the age of 47, and though my father did not leave us wanting, it was she, through hard work, who put us through school and gave us everything we needed.
Third, we always knew that we came first, above all else. Whenever she could, mom would take us to school and pick us up every day. She would wade in the floodwaters in Katipunan (which were only ankle-deep in the late 1970s) to pick us up in school, and make us wade back in the water with her. “Kailangan niyo iyan, para maranasan niyo rin ang nararanasan ng ibang batang nababaha (You need that, so you can experience what other children go through in a flood),” she would tell us as we sloshed through the floodwaters while following her lead. Of course, this was before the age of leptospirosis.
Fourth, always believe in the saying, “When sad, sing.” Except for the time when my dad’s loss devastated her, I will always remember her whistling or humming her sadness away. “Ikanta o isipol mo lang iyan, hija,” she would often tell me. “Try it, and feel your disposition change.”
You can also count on humor and laughter to carry mommy through the most trying times. Known for her comedic timing, she would always chide me when I was a child for being so serious. Now, our roles have been reversed, and I find myself reminding her to use humor to help her sail through some of the tough days.
As a young adult in college and beyond, my boyfriends would often shake in their boots because my mom, when she did not like them, would show her displeasure. “I’m only looking after you!” she would tell me after I would complain about her strictness.
There was one boy she was particularly not fond of. “If he cannot be there for you for the small, important things, how do you expect him to be there for the big, life-changing ones? Pumili ng tama, at huwag magmadali!”
‘You must like the view’
Mom was always partial to the charming and good-looking ones. One of the funniest pieces of advice she loved dispensing was this: “Siguraduhin mo na gusto mo ang nakikita mo, ha. Alalahanin mo, pang-habang buhay mo na iyan makikita at makakasama—sa umaga, paggising mo, at sa gabi, pagtulog mo. You must like the view, remember that. But of course, there has to be something in between the ears, too, or else ma-bo-bore ka lang…”
As a young woman, I wasn’t always very expressive for some reason, choosing instead to keep my resentments boiling inside, which would often affect either my health or my disposition. Mom always said that it was unhealthy to keep it all in. “Ilabas mo iyan; isang araw dadalhin kita sa bundok, tapos isigaw mo lahat ’yan, ha. Believe me, after that, okay ka na.”
Well, we never had to go up the mountains, because eventually, I managed to find other outlets for my angst. With pen and paper as my weapons, I have taken my mother’s counsel seriously. Paper, as Isabel Allende once wrote, can hold anything.
The best piece of advice that mom has passed on to me, though, and one that I have taken to heart and practiced with my children and everyone I have ever loved, is this: “Never sleep on an argument, make your goodbyes always pleasant, and say ‘I love you’ as often as you can.”
Mommy believes that you never know if you will get to see the morning, or if you will ever see your loved ones again, so you must always go to bed with a peaceful heart. “Hindi mo alam kung makikita mo pa iyan ulit, so you better make the last memory, and every parting, a good one.”
Coming from a family with a history of many losses, this lesson is one I value each day and constantly remind my children about. After all, only the present moment is ever guaranteed.
Always generous with her love and her words, she would always tell me, her child for whom “I love you’s” were once very difficult to say, “Aba, ’pag mahal mo, sabihin mo! Do not let the moment pass you by. Hindi na ’yan maibabalik ulit.”
Thank you for teaching me well, mommy. I love you! Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!