When I joined the Binibining Pilipinas pageant 22 years ago, I was asked who my hero was. I answered, “My mom.”
At that time it was considered a cliché to say such things, but I honestly couldn’t think of anyone else. My father passed away when I was 10 years old, and from then on, my mother did everything she could for us to have a good education and a decent life.
She fought her personal battles alone, and overcame them. She never wanted us to see her sad, frustrated, or tired with the challenges she faced as a single mom.
She rarely questioned decisions I made, but rather, she showed her support and care for anything that meant a lot to me. She never failed, though, to remind me and my brothers how we should go through life.
What I learned from my mom is not to lose my sense of humor. During my college years, I wanted to start helping out the family. I juggled my time between school, working at a fast-food restaurant, and starting a modeling career. I had little time for sleep and rest, which made me listless and irritable when I was home.
My mom couldn’t take it anymore, so she told me, “You used to laugh a lot, and now I rarely see you even smile. Remember this: everything you have, everything you’re working for can all disappear for all I care, but please, never lose your sense of humor.”
What she said struck me so hard, I can still vividly remember myself looking at the big mirror above the console, listening to her words, remembering even how she said them. She was sitting on the couch, calm, praying the rosary. Then I looked at myself again and saw a sad, tired face.
Another lesson my mom taught me is to keep my mind busy. When mom was much younger, she repaired her own clothes, sewed some of them herself, did embroidery, and was an expert cook. When my dad passed away, she focused on making beautiful rosaries, and taught others who wanted to learn, too. She believed that keeping one’s self busy was vital to one’s steady personal growth.
My mom took a job with the school that bought our house. It lasted a couple of years, then she stopped working altogether. She focused on her hobbies, and made a simple living out of them. I think she set a good example for us, always doing something that would either earn her some money or make other people happy.
When the time came that my brothers and I had our own jobs, she would always check on us and ask how we were doing. We didn’t have to ask her how she was with her rosaries, since the house was always full of bundles, hundreds of rosaries ready to be sent out.
I jokingly asked her when she would stop, and she answered, “I hate being bored; that’s why I always keep my mind busy. People who don’t do anything are just lazy. We should make sure we’re always productive so we can make the most out of our time. And anyway, making rosaries is like hitting three birds with one stone. It keeps me moving, I make people smile, and at the same time, I do it for God.”
Another fine lesson I learned from her has to do with widowhood and solitude: “Alone” doesn’t always have to mean “lonely.”
My mom has been a widow for 34 years. That’s twice the number of years she and my dad had been married. My imagination alone might not be able to fathom how much my mom misses my dad. She never got married again so she could fully love her children.
There were times when my mom told us that she wanted to see dad already, but maybe too much waiting has only made her stronger to face the world and find her purpose even more.
Seeing all of her grandchildren growing up has made her happy enough to stay with us.
She decided to live on her own many years ago, and insisted we focus on our respective families and children. On one of my visits, we were talking about my being a single mom. She held my hand and said that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely, that it is really up to me to see my solitude as something negative or positive.
I then joked that she was right, that some of us ask for what is not meant to be; that although many single people wish to be married, some couples might wish they never got together!
We shared a good laugh after that, and I assured her that I will be fine, single or not. Then she finished the conversation by saying, “When your kids grow up and have families of their own, don’t be afraid to be alone. I’ve done it, and I know you can, too. And when you don’t know where to go, there will always be here to come home to.”