Extra-Ordinary Mother

MY MOM WAS TRULY EXTRA-ORDINARY. When I was graduating from Grade School, there was a furor. There were talks that I would be graduating Class Valedictorian, and half of the public was not happy about it. I joined my school at 4th Grade, and some thought that it was not fair that my classmate, who had been First Honors of the class since Grade 1, would now be graduating Salutatorian.

The teachers were divided. Meeting after meeting was held to resolve the issue, and tension was rising among parents and teachers.

One day, my mother called me aside. She said: “When you go to school today, talk to your Class Adviser. Tell her to end the conflict. You do not have to be Valedictorian. Tell her it is okay if you graduate Salutatorian.”

Being the dutiful daughter that I was, I told my Class Adviser exactly what my mother said. I told her that it was okay for me to graduate Salutatorian.

It has been more than 30 years since, and I remember that incident like it were yesterday. I remember it even more distinctly whenever I hear stories of parents fighting with their child’s teachers about what grade their child should get, or what honors their child should receive at the end of the school year.

That incident taught me many things. It taught me that honors are not everything. It taught me humility and the value of sacrifice. And it taught me that my dignity and value as a person did not depend on my grades.

I also saw an important example on parenting. I saw a mother who valued her child for who she was, and not for the grades she got from school. I saw a mother who did not pick on trivial things like recognition or distinction, but someone who chose to emphasize the value of humility, someone who was willing to sacrifice personal gain in the name of peace. I also realized that my mother believed in my ability so completely that she did not find it necessary to seek validation from the public.

I carried those lessons throughout life, and those lessons have served me well to this day.

How many people are like my mother? Sadly, only a handful few. Most parents today would fight tooth and nail to get their children into the Honor Roll. They would spend money for tutor even if their child is doing well in class, and even if it meant that their child would be missing out on the fleeting joys of childhood because they would have to trade play time with study time. During my time, only those students who were failing in class were given tutors. Today, if a child has a tutor, it is most likely because their parents want them in the Honor Roll.

I graduated Class Valedictorian that year, but the things I learned in class, and which I got outstanding grades for, were nothing compared to the lessons I learned from my mother that day. My mother was not perfect, but if she were alive, she would certainly have a lot to teach the parents of today.

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Doing What You Love

I HAD IT ALL WRONG. They say that if you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time. I am a strong believer in that, so for the last 4 years of my life, I pursued something that I passionately loved since childhood but which I have never had the chance to undertake: business.

But there was one major thing I realized: I was not good at it. I mean, there were minor aspects of it that I was perhaps good at, but we were definitely not in sync. I was definitely not in harmony with it. I could not “talk” to it in a language it understood. It felt to me like I was talking to a stubborn child, telling it to do something, and it would just stand there, with arms crossed, staring at me.

So for the longest time, I struggled with myself, trying to understand the seeming inconsistency in which I have found myself. Here was something that I definitely loved to do, but I was not getting anywhere with it. It was like loving to sing when you did not have the talent for it.

And then there was law. I know I was good at it, but after years in practice, I came to hate it. I put too much emotion into the practice and it made me vulnerable to the painful experiences that every litigating lawyer finds himself in from time to time.

It was a difficult choice of either doing what you love but which you are not good at, or doing what you are good at but which you do not love.

And then it hit me: why can’t it be a case of loving what you are good at?

For the first time in forever, I realized that I had the statement all wrong. When it says: “when you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time”, it does not necessarily mean that you pursue something that you love so you can do it. Of course it can mean that too, but not in all cases. In some cases, it can simply mean LOVING what you are already doing especially if you are damn good at it.

It felt to me like a heavy veil was lifted from my head and I was seeing things clearly for the first time. And one of the first things I saw was Rex Ono smiling at me. He knew the whole time, but he never said anything because, according to him, he loved me and he saw that I loved what I was doing and he did not have the heart to tell me to stop. He knew I was going to find out soon enough, and when I did, he would be there waiting for me to turn over the control of the business to him.

And so I did, gladly and voluntarily. Over the weekend, we agreed that I will step down from my control of the business and he will take over. No major changes on the outside, but huge changes within.

For the first time in the last four years, I found myself at peace with myself again. If this life is indeed one long journey, I have definitely come to the end of a leg. Not the easiest one to finish, but the lesson was definitely worth it.

I wonder what the next leg of the journey will be like. It can only be good.

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Perspective

(Originally posted on Facebook on February 15, 2016)

My morning was off to a stressful start. Someone misplaced something, and something I thought was done was in fact not done. I was ready to blow up.

I was flicking thru my scratch pad to make a note when I saw a familiar handwriting. It said: “My bestest ever. Best friend. Best wife. Best ever.”

I remembered the bouquet he gave me yesterday did not have a note on it. Maybe he could not find the right paper and all he managed was this draft.

Suddenly, I felt ashamed of myself. My problems were in fact insignificant. I realized for the nth time how blessed and lucky I am. I have absolutely no right to be angry at anything. Life has been good to me and gratitude is – and should always be – the color of my day.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.

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Happy Fourth, Dadda!

Psst! Rex Ono! Thank you! Been four years, and you still allow me to be a brat. Why is that important to me? Because noone – and absolutely NOONE – has ever allowed me to be a brat before. Not my parents who loved me with all they got. Not any of my exes who I know loved me too.

Four years, and you still take care of me like I am a frail little girl. Noone else has done that, either. I grew up self-reliant and taking care of everybody else, and it feels so good to have someone take care of me for a change.

I don’t have to be a brat. And I certainly don’t need anyone to take care of me. Hell, I can move boulders when I roar!

But I have to say that when you allow me to be a brat and treat me like a little girl, it is the best feeling ever – because I am reminded that I do not have to be strong all the time, that I can relax because someone else is looking out for me.

So, thank you! God truly knew what I needed when He sent you my way.

P.S. Thank you, too, for allowing me to have the kind of wedding I have always dreamed of. See? The pictures look great!

Happy Anniversary!

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A Tale of Two Mothers

The kids did not have to be picked up until around 6PM, but we left the house early mainly because I wanted to relax. Relax meant sitting at Bo’s Coffee along Ramos Street until it is time to proceed to the kids’ school.

We had Chuchai (our Chihuahua) with us, so we had to sit outside, and everyone passing by Bo’s would pass by our table.

Around 5:30PM, two kids in school uniform came by, a boy and a girl. The girl found Chuchai cute and stopped to talk to me about her. The boy asked if he could sit down, and we said “Yes, of course.” We had just finished eating, so there was no more food to give them. I thought of giving them money, and Rolly was thinking the same thing.

The girl said her name was Sandra. She was very pretty. She said she was 10. When asked, the brother said he was 12.

“Where do you go to school?” I asked.

“Abellana,” was the answer. Abellana is a public school.

To those who do not know, the distance from Abellana to Bo’s would be at least a kilometer.

To get to where we were, the kids would have to cross Osmena Boulevard, walk down R. Landon St., cross it at some point, walk up a side street until they reach the intersection to Ramos, cross Ramos St., and walk some 2 blocks to get to Bo’s. All these streets and side streets are crawling with vehicles of course, and especially at 5PM.

“And where is your house?”

I was expecting Sandra to say it was just around the corner, so her reply shocked me. “Opra,” she said, as a matter of course.

To get to Opra, Sandra and her brother would have to cross Mango Avenue, follow the whole stretch of Juana Osmena until it hits Escario St., cross Escario and then walk some more, up the small streets towards Opra. The distance from Bo’s to Opra could easily be twice the distance from Abellana to Bo’s. I have made an amateur map just to roughly show the distances. The location marked by a green arrow was where we were on the map.

My mind was racing. My kids would be picked up in a car, but these kids – way younger and way smaller – had to walk at least 3 kilometers to get home along the busy streets of Cebu. And they could be doing this every day.

Their mother, I am sure, would not want this to happen if she had a choice, but she probably didn’t. She most likely did not have enough money for their fare. Rolly was talking to the boy and the boy nonchalantly mentioned that they were not able to eat lunch (tho he did not say why). But other than that, the kids looked happy and well-adjusted. They probably have a good family to go home to.

If I felt sorry for Sandra and her brother, it was only for a fleeting moment, and it was immediately replaced by admiration and hope. These are kids who look difficulty in the eye, kids who do not have things served to them in a silver platter. These are kids who will grow up strong, who meet challenges head on, and who would not rely on anyone to solve problems for them. These are kids who will likely succeed on their own.

I felt like I have shortchanged my children. I have not given them enough difficulty. I have made life too easy for them, and I am worried I may have made softies out of them. “Mushrooms”, I would joke. I tell my kids they are soft like mushrooms, and they’d laugh, but it is not just a joke for me. I worry for them, because they don’t even know how to ride a jeepney on their own.

Ah, the challenges of parenting. We want to give our children the best, and then we end up not giving them enough because we gave them too much. If only I could turn back the hands of time, there are things I definitely would do differently.

Rolly handed the kids some money and told them to buy themselves a burger, but it was not because we felt sorry for them. It was rather because we felt happy about them. And they deserved a prize for all that hard work.

I definitely would like to see those kids again. And hopefully next time, we can offer them something more than just burgers.

sandra

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What Makes Motherhood Difficult

Before I had children, I was not afraid to die. So what if I die, I thought, my troubles will be taken care of by whoever is left behind.

After I had my firstborn, I was afraid to cross EDSA, afraid I would get hit by a bus. I did not fear for my life. I feared for the life of the child that I would leave behind.

When a woman becomes a mother, she stops living for herself. She begins living for her children. She forgets her own dreams because she begins dreaming for her children. She forgets her own wants and fears, as she now wants what her children want, and fear the things that put them in danger.

She loses herself and forgets herself, and her world changes from a frame full of beautiful self-portraits to an album full of beautiful smiling babies, and children, and teenagers, and young men and women – and then babies again as her children give her grandchildren.

So what makes motherhood difficult?

A woman meets true love for the first time when she becomes a mother. And from that moment on, she forgets what it was like to love herself. Her children will be her truest and biggest love.

But that is not all.

No matter how much her children love her, she will always love them more. And no matter how much she wants to keep them in her life, and in her arms, they will always want to leave.

And even when her children are on their own, running their own lives, she will always care, and be worried, and be afraid for them. Things that hurt them will always hurt her, no matter what their age. And no matter how great her love is for them, there will always be things she cannot do.

Motherhood is difficult because it forces a woman to love with all of her heart – and love forever. And from the moment it happens, she becomes vulnerable, and her world will never be the same again.

I wish I understood that when I was a kid.

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What Matters Most Part 2

I saw the news recently about the girl who graduated Salutatorian. I did not watch the video. I knew it would strike too close to home. The incident reminded me of a similar incident a long time ago.

I was 12 and in Grade 6. I was graduating in a few weeks, and there was official “rumour” that I would be the class Valedictorian. Many were surprised, and some were openly questioning the decision. I was a transferee and joined the class at 4th grade. My classmate, a brilliant young boy, had been consistently 1st honours since Grade 1, and many had expected him to graduate class Valedictorian. The news that he might not created an uproar.

It was tense. Our teachers met again and again to review our grades. I could sense it, and my mother knew about it. My teachers were under a lot of pressure.

One day, my mother called me aside and said: “Tell you class adviser that it is okay for you to be the class Salutatorian.”  And so that day, I went to my class adviser and told her just that: that my mother said that I did not have to be the Valedictorian, that it was okay for me to graduate Salutatorian.

Of course, the teachers did not have any of that and I graduated class Valedictorian anyway. But that incident left an impression in my young brain: that honours are not the end-all and the be-all, that it does not make you who you are. You are who you are, and honours do not make you a better person, nor the lack of it make you any less the person that you are.

After graduation, my mother told me: “You have to prove that you deserve it. Do not put your teachers to shame. They chose you. You must show the public that they did not make a mistake.”

And so I went to High School and graduated Valedictorian again. I went to college and graduated Magna cum Laude from Political Science and then Cum Laude from Law.

But then one day my mother called me aside again and said: “Life is not determined by the grades you get in school. You must perform well in life.”

And that was when I truly got it. School is just that: school. And the honours we get in school are just that: honours in school. I am not saying they are not important, or that they are insignificant. What I am saying is that they are given for a performance already done. They do not in any way determine how we will do in the future, much less in life.

Sure, we would like to be acknowledged for having done well in class. We would like to be called First Honours if we think that we studied hard enough to get that recognition. But if we do not get it, how big a deal should it be?

My mother taught me that it should not be all that big a deal, because our success in life is not determined by whether or not we graduate with honours. I would have been the same person whether or not I graduated with honours. I would have made the same mistakes, and would have learned the same lessons. I would have been the same kind of friend, and I would have loved in exactly the same way.

What is success after all? Success is what you make out of your life. And what you make out of your life depends on what you do after you graduate – not before. It is determined by the decisions you make after you leave school, and has nothing to do with the honours you got when you graduated, or the lack of it.

If my mother had been here, she would have been proud to say she taught me well.

 

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