Barako Mama | 6 Personifications of Motherhood

Charles Stanley quote on motherhood

It’s Mother’s Day once again and the world is celebrating motherhood. Expect everybody greeting every mom a “Happy Mother’s Day!” Thanks to those who greeted me (and who will greet me) this day.

Why Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day celebration began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in West Virginia.

She began campaigning for a Mother’s Day to be recognized as a holiday in 1905 when her mother died. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had been an activist who cared for wounded soldiers during the American Civil War. Anna wanted to continue her mother’s advocacy and would like to set aside a day to honor all mothers.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May.

However, the modern version of Mother’s Day has been criticized by Anna Jarvis for becoming too commercialized. Jarvis believed that the companies had exploited the idea of Mother’s Day banking on the occasion to earn profit rather than emphasizing on the sentiment.

For me, everyday should be a Mother’s Day. Because everyday, a mother will do anything and more for us than anyone in the world.

I Have Two Moms

I have two moms: one biological mother whom I’ve never met and might not ever meet in this lifetime; and an adoptive mother whom I’ve only known through letters, packages, phone calls, and a few visits. Actually, I was raised by my late Uncle Aciong.

I’ve always said that my life is like a TV soap opera. One thing that is very common in Philippine soap opera is the story arc about a child separated from its parents at birth and the life-long search afterwards. Ever since the days of Anna Liza during the ’80s, to Mara Clara during the ’90s, to Pangako Sa ‘Yo in 2000 and its recent revival, that timeless (or overused) plot has never failed to grace a TV story.

My Unknown Biological Mother

Come to think of it, we’ve been greeting mothers because we felt they have been good moms. But have we thought about those mothers who became one due to unwanted circumstances?

Imagine a Chinese teenager or young adult in the late ’60s who got herself pregnant. Imagine if she might be either a rape victim, or a teenage girl whose boyfriend had left her to suffer in shame.

Unprepared for the mother role, her pregnancy had become a turning point in her life. She decided to go through with it and accepted Fate and not commit an abortion. She had no support system back then. She might have hidden her pregnancy from her parents and gave birth to twin daughters in a
charity hospital without their knowledge. Uncertain of the future, and don’t have someone to hold on to, she left her children at the hospital for six months without plans of returning.

Then she reconciled with her parents and told them the truth. They returned to the hospital to claim the twins but got home with only one and couldn’t find the other until now.

Think of those rape victims, or teenage girls whose boyfriends had left them to suffer in shame. Some of them went through it and accepted Fate. Unfortunately for the others, they chose abortion or other life path. I wouldn’t blame them. There were no support system back then.

For these mothers, Mother’s Day could be sad or dreadful. The essence of the day itself haunts them with their past mistakes and its consequences. That doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the greeting “Happy Mother’s Day”. They do. It just so happen that their motherhood was different from most of us.

So for those women who suffered that fate, “Happy Mother’s Day”. Here is wishing you Hope.

Isabel: My Adoptive Mother

She was in her teens when World War II broke out. After the war, she went back to finish her studies in Nursing, then took up Pharmacy, both courses from the University of Santo Tomas. She then took her Master’s degree in Education at Loyola University of Chicago and went back to the Philippines to become a school directress.

She married my dad on 1 July 1966 and after three years, they still hadn’t have a baby. So when I was left in the hospital and was up for adoption, she adopted me on 16 April 1969 and gave me their last names as my own. Her life as an adoptive mother started.

My memories of infanthood and toddlerhood were blurred, except for a few images and memories of my walking-talking 3-ft. doll, the Sound of Music long playing album playing on the stereo, and my most vivid memory of crying when she left for the States during Martial Law.

Since then I was left alone with my Dad, my Uncle, and a nanny. I only saw her on pictures on diplomas hung on the walls. I only hear her voice whenever we receive an overseas call from her. I only met her for the first time in the late 1990, months after my graduation from college.

We don’t have the mother-daughter bonding that others had in their lifetime. Ours was different. I admit, I was never close to her. Probably because I experienced the saddest Christmas in 1985 when my Dad told me of their divorce. She divorced my Dad and married my stepfather, who I find kind, too. That might have moved me farther away from her.

We became a little bit closer when I graduated Nursing in 1994. That’s were the good memories of mother-daughter bonding would come from. I knew she was proud mom seeing me receiving four medals on stage and showered me with gifts afterward.

But things went sour when I decided to take a different career path and started leaving everything behind. I became a writer and began living the writer’s life. I was excited when I told her the news that I was a finalist in a scriptwriting contest. But I only received a flat, “So?” from her. Unlike my Dad who is proud of every writing achievements I had, my Mom never was.

We even become estrange when her materialism conflicted with my ideals of a family. My married life is different from hers. And I will try my very best to give my husband and daughter the family treatment of a wife and mother I ought to be.

Since then we never contacted each other. She stayed in the States for the rest of her life. And when I received the news of her death, my family and I were with my Dad in his hometown. Honestly, I felt blank. No emotions. Too bad we hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye. She would have been proud of her granddaughter named after her who is doing good at school. She would have known how her ex-husband is living a simple and healthy life at 91.

There are times I thought why did she adopt me only to end up estranged with each other. But God showed me the answers. The people around me then and now have shaped me into what I am. These are the people who gave me ideas and inspiration in life as well as in my stories.

Happy Mother’s Day to my adoptive mother in heaven.

Manang Beatriz and Manang Ching: My Two Nanay-nanayans

I grew up with a nanny. My first nanny, Manang Beatriz, is from San Julian, Moncada, Tarlac. My parents sent her to high school while she took care of me. I remember when I attended her graduation at Roosevelt High School. Then, she took up a vocational course in dressmaking. But sadly, she left us when I was 8 years old. I haven’t seen her for the last 40 years until I met her again last October when I came back to Moncada. Since Manang Beatriz left in 1978, we had been changing house helps until Manang Ching came along.

Manang Ching was a former Benedictine nun who lived with our relatives in Project 4, Quezon City. In 1982, she came to live with us in Cubao. I was in my sixth grade then. She saw my tantrums, my rebellious ways, and my funny side when I was growing up. We had our quarrels but we had our bonding moments, too. She saw me got married and got a glimpse of my baby. She fulfilled her “duties” to our family but as Fate would have it, we never had the chance to meet before she died.

Seng: My Mother-in-law

Mother-in-laws have been the butt of joke since the ’50s. Just look at those TV sitcoms on how they treated mother-in-laws and you’ll see why. But I can say that I’m lucky to have Priscilla Pineda-Bacsa as my mother-in-law. She is the mother I never had. And she has been a doting grandmother to my daughter.

Me as a Mom

Getting pregnant and giving birth gave me the first (and only) taste of motherhood. I could still relive those days. But now that I’m here doing my filial duties to my father, I’ve left my husband and daughter behind. That doesn’t mean I’m less than a mother to my child. Distance should not be a hindrance of being a mother. Although it may seem that everything is coming full circle on me, I pray to the Lord that mistakes shouldn’t repeat itself.

Barako Mama

This blog signals the return of a category. I’ll be featuring articles on motherhood and parenting and I’m calling it Barako Mama. It’s a name I concocted for a dream cafe. But I could be a tough mama, right?