London’s Big Ben doesn’t fail to heave and bong at precisely the right time, telling all Londoners that they’re late for their appointments. Or too early for drinks.
Quite like a mother.
She got all three of us, one summer, deciding to teach us the elementary rudiments of theatre, which she learned from the Rose Bruford School of Drama in London. (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts hadn’t been founded yet.)
The workshop was for free! And it required her to speak Shakespearean, mime like Marcel Marceau, and slowly drift like a leaf the whole summer, mentoring and turning somersaults—for free. At that time, not even a kiss from your mother was for free. It had to come with your allowance.
The whole summer, Jimbo, Yasmin, and I worked so joyfully, as we did the art that we loved and cherished like a mother: theater.
We learned to make “pictures”—she would say a topic like “cosmos” and we would have to go on stage and interpret that with our bodies frozen in non-action. But, hey—look out for the other actor—you had to go and balance the picture the way blocking should be on stage.
We went to her home and crept under her stairway so it would be dark, to watch an 8-mm film she took of Marcel Marceau live, doing mime in their class in London!
And so the three stooges (us) learned the art of mime. I am quite proudly saying now that anyone who says he is a mime, we can beat anytime. Even if we’re in our half decade ages. No senior cards yet.
Then we grew up.
I was so ashamed of what I did with my life after college but when I saw her, she was all smiles. No judgments.
Soon, I was teaching what we learned in college (in her workshops, for free) to little children in a preschool she built. In a junior manner: Children’s Drama. This taught the little kiddies how to stretch and “get out of their bodies” in order to shift mentally, so both body and brain worked excellently. So, academically it was easier for the kiddies to study the rudiments of subjects like “ice cream.”
I was asked once in a while to do interpretative reading. And mime. I asked the children what I did in silence, and they understood!
Earning my keep
The little voices chirped: “You were watching a movie and eating popcorn!” “The movie made you laugh hard, but afterwards it was sad because you began to cry!” “Then the popcorn fell.”
Soon I grew up, I think, and finally earned my keep without asking my allowance from mommy.
I was at my desk, timing scripts for TV advertising, when my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, and she was quite perturbed and she whispered: “Dulce, did you read the newspaper this morning?”
I knew there was a huge Baguio earthquake, but people in advertising have little time to care because they have TV commercials breaking next Saturday.
But the voice on the phone was nervous and quietly robed with fear. So I went to read the newspaper.
She was buried alive.
The sculptor of our theater dreams, the light of Marcel Marceau, the woman on our pedestal, the fountain of our virtues, the mentor of love, the pathway of children. The heartbeat that kept me alive.
She was buried alive.
Under the watch of God.
As usual, she was attending a seminar. Then the earth did a hip-hop number and the building caved in and put her under a table beside a corpse. She had to drink her urine because she knew that being dehydrated would kill you more than hunger. She stayed in her underground hotel room for two days. Lovely view. She prayed. For the woman who died beside her. Then for herself.
She was rescued. By who else? The gentleman who married her. Husbands everywhere: that is your divine job assignment. From the Boss!
He asked the workshop organizers where in the building she was, that particular session, when the earthquake hit. Then, he asked the Baguio miners and some PMA cadets to do their job at that site, and every time they would dig deep he would call her name. Then a moment became a miracle: She answered! She called his name!
They dug technically and as an engineer would, so that where she was would not be filled with earth and cave in. She was pulled out by God’s unfailing Hand.
That afternoon, we had a Catholic Mass for her, and she was smiling, though walking very slowly in a light green long shift.
Mothers are strong.
In heart, body, mind and soul.
You can’t kill a mother in any way.
Not even in your memories.
In college, in her class, when she came into our Art Appreciation class, we would stand up and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Roco.”
Sonia Roco is my second mother now.