Musings About My Mother on Mother’s Day
It’s hard to capture in a newspaper column the life of our mother who, for 82 years, lived her life to the fullest.
If she were alive today, she would probably prefer that I don’t write this article. Like many public school teachers during her time, her good deeds never got the attention of the press not that she wanted it. But since it’s Mother’s Day, I will honor her by writing about her.
My mother was a woman of many achievements. She graduated valedictorian at the Colegio de Sta. Isabel during her intermediate years and finished high school in the same school in three years.
A public school teacher for many years, she rose from the ranks to become a principal and later a supervisor until her retirement. Yet she remained extremely reticent about her achievements. She struck me a simple person till her dying days, showing not a scintilla of arrogance.
Her curiosity and thirst for knowledge knew no bounds. At a not so young age and despite working full time, she managed to get her masters in education. She even studied to play the piano for pleasure.
Born in Tigaon, my mother or Iya, as she was fondly called by her relatives, loved teaching. Years ago, during a short jaunt to Naga, I went through some of our family photo albums. I found a scrap book kept by our mother for her grandchildren. On the first page she wrote, “Love is teaching.”
The statement was a harbinger of what my mother had become. Teaching was her first and last love. Teaching was not just a job for her but a way of life.
In hindsight, I think she loved teaching because she loved children. She wanted to play a role in the herculean task of shaping the character of her students. She lived by the aphorism: “Teach yourself is a noble cause, but even more noble – to teach others.”
But my mother was not just a teacher to her students. She was also a teacher to the many teachers that she had supervised as a principal and as a supervisor. She wanted her teachers to excel in their profession, do their jobs right, and be their best. She would not put up with any teachers’ shenanigans.
When I was a student in Sipocot Central School, I was a consistent honor student from Grade 1 to Grade 4. But in Grade 5, I did not make it to the honor roll because my teacher then happened to be my mother. She purposely did not include my name in the honor list even if I deserved it. I was so disappointed.
I found out later that the reason for my exclusion was because my mother did not want to be perceived as playing favorite. As a young lad, I did not understand it then. But I understand it now.
My mother was not the quiet type. She would not hesitate to forcefully speak her mind. She would never run away from a fight, especially when truth was at stake. Stories of her picking up fights with her classmates at Colegio de Sta Isabel and even with fellow teachers who crossed the line abound in the family.
But behind her pugnacious and fiery character, she had a soft heart especially for the poor or anybody in need. She once dug deep into her savings to help a relative who was in financial crisis.
She would often remind me whenever I would go home from the U.S.to bring used clothes she could give to young children loitering the streets where she and my father lived.
Giving alms to the poor was my mother’s favorite charity. She must have learned this from the nuns of Colegio de Sta. Isabel. Of course, with my activist orientation, I never agreed with her approach to helping the poor. But I never questioned her intent or motivation.
What the family lacked in material things, she compensated with more lasting gifts like her constant advice that we study hard, help one another, and be fair to people – the best education one can ever receive from a mother.
My mother found strength in her faith. A devout Catholic, she took her religion seriously. During her only visit to Seattle, she took time to teach her young grandchildren how to pray. And when she was discharged from the hospital for the last time prior to her death, a rosary was found under her pillow, her source of strength even as her body was deteriorating.
My mother was not perfect. She had her flaws. But she was honest. She was a person of integrity. She was a woman of faith.
My mother will not be around this Mother’s Day, but I know she is watching. She knows that I value everything that she taught me and my brothers and that’s how I continue to honor her.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.