posted last 21 March 2009 on Facebook
May Wan: Luisa’s daughter
I love talking and hearing stories about Nanay. She has such an exciting life full of adventures that seem to come straight out of a fiction novel. The time she escaped through the roof of their stockade cell, repeating the same feat a few years later with a different set of cellmates. The time she gave birth while a platoon of soldiers were looking for her and even burned the paltera’s hair. The time she escaped, was caught, gave a false name and had to deny her own grandmother. But when I think of her, I usually remember boring stuff, times we spent talking and eating, watching movies, doing something together, memories that would mean nothing to anyone besides me. Before listening to what my sister has written, please allow me to share some of these memories, so that you may have an idea how she is as a Nanay and how much we miss her.
Nanay is a teacher. Besides her Education degree, she has sufficient training with my cousins who visited her makeshift day care center in jail. When one of my cousins failed a subject in high school, she marched to the teacher and scolded her, saying that the red number was not a bad mark upon the student but speaks instead of the teacher’s inadequacy. When I myself get into trouble in school or get a failing grade, I had to hold her back and give her a stern lecture about how she should trust me to handle my own problems. Although of course, the first word I scream when in pain is her name.
My mother is not a skilled cook. All I remember of her culinary repertoire is burnt rice and one perfect lunch a long long time ago when she fried the chicken very well. But maybe I learned from her all the practical knowledge I really do need. She did taught me about the solar system, first aid, bank transactions, grocery shopping and marketing tips, water conservation, how to clean the sewers without dirtying your hands, how to collect candle wax in a ball and use it to polish the floor of the jail cell, how to mend a broken friendship with pinipig ice cream, how to crochet, how to wrap your hair with a towel so it won’t fall off your head, how to be stubborn and righteous, how to know your self-worth and not seek the constant approval of others…the list is endless.
In high school, my classmates refused to represent our section at the Lakan at Lakambini ng Hayskul contest. When asked, I said that I would be willing to “sacrifice my dignity” if my parents would allow me. Of course, I was confident that I already know their decision. And indeed, Nanay did not only refuse to give her permission, she also had the audacity to suggest to our class president the criteria of the ideal but non-existent contest she would have me join instead, a list that did not include beauty but only intelligence and hardwork. With that in mind, I sometimes could not help but think that my own mother thinks I look horrendous. She has jokingly told me and my sister that it’s too bad one of her daughters is ugly, but she would not tell us which one.
When I was an only child and a brat spoiled by affluent relatives, my mother scolded me each and every day, or so I feel, due to my snobbish behavior and extravagant habits. She told me how people worked hard for each grain of rice I put in my mouth or negligently scatter on the floor or the table. Being unused to life in jail and to daily chores and to not doing everything one wants, I got mad at her for being mad at me. She then explained to me that people only scold those that they love and care for because they want their loved ones to be better persons and have better lives etc. etc. Now, years later, remembering this, I am entirely secure in the knowledge that I am the person that Nanay loves most in the whole wide world.
In my entire life, I only know of 3 occasions when Nanay was reduced to tears. The first one was when a dangerous fire was raging a few houses away from ours and my sister who was a toddler at that time was left at our house in the care of her yaya. Nanay was crying with abandon in the jeepney and she ran the couple of blocks home. Then there was the time when I took my sister for a walk around our grandparents’ subdivision and Nanay had no idea where we were for several hours. She gave us an earful in Lola’s bathroom and we were shocked when she suddenly sat on the toilet seat and burst into tears. The other time was when she lost our last baby sister or brother when Tamara was 3 years old. I cannot imagine how she cried when she miscarried the other 4 times before that.
Nanay was a mother not only to me and Tamara but also to my cousins and to all the people she has sheltered. Our home, our lives are filled with people who have felt abandoned and neglected, people suffering from nervous breakdown, youths who have run away from home, women who have been raped or beaten or probably both, pregnant women approaching single motherhood and even just imperfect people who seem to irritate everybody else. I admit that I sometimes question why it has to be my Nanay who needs to help everyone with their problems all of the time. But one time, she was telling me about a girl who has run away from home and was staying at our house, had a fight with her boyfriend outside the gate in full view and within hearing distance of all the neighbors, threatened to cut her hair and scared my aunt who thought she was trying to kill herself with the scissors. Nanay said that she only pitied the girl and wanted to hug her because all the girl really needed was a mother. When she told me this, I thought how lucky the world is to have this woman who wants to help those who need it most. And lately I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have the best Nanay in the whole world simply because she’s mine.
It’s been 2 years since Nanay was abducted and several times I have been sorely tempted to write down all these wonderful and not so wonderful memories with her, to list down all the movies we’ve seen together, to fill in pages of everything she has ever said to me, to us, every little thing, lest I forget any of it. But writing it all down gives it such permanence and carries a sense of finality. It seems to manifest my fear that no more memories could be made, that we would never see her again, that I have given up hope…
However, I am hoping that in sharing this with you might make you see your own mother clearly, all the small and seemingly insignificant things she does for you that you might not appreciate much now but would attain a degree of significance only when she is no longer there.
Tamara: Luisa’s youngest daughter
What would you do if you were Smart, Rich and Beautiful? You could have anything you want, be anything you want. If you had everything, would you give it all up just so you could stand up for what you believe in?
The Martial Law era was an awful time to live. You never knew what would happen to you and everyone else you know. Anyone could die at any given moment. The masses went hungry. The rich prospered, just as long as you were on the right list.
Someone needed to take a stand to end such atrocities. That someone needs to be bold, courageous and willing to give up everything, even their lives, for the sake of everyone else. There were a lot of people who took this stand. These were normal people who risked their lives because they have had just about enough of being tricked by some mad man posing as the president. These were people who wanted peace and justice for everyone. And one of these people was my mother.
In the stories they told me as a child my mother joined the cause through the persuasions of her brothers. She was still schooling at the time at USA where she got kicked out for her “extra- curricular activities”. I heard stories as a child about her escaping prison four times, about her dodging flanks of soldiers in the mountains, dodging bullets here and there. These captivated me, and I’ve always thought of my mom as somewhat of a hero.
My sister was born during these stories they told me were being played out. Heck, during her birth there were soldiers chasing after our mom. But I, you see, was born 7 years after the martial law. The country was almost back to normal. And I never got to witness what my mother did let alone grasp the concepts and the meanings of what she did.
As a kid she’d take me to her many offices. I never understood any of what they talked about, but I knew it’ll help lots of people in some off town or baranggay or something. She’d take me to lots of rallies and other places where they’d implement their projects. Not somewhere you’d usually take a kid to.
As a kid I have always understood what she and my father did. They’d always explain it to me and my sister but I’d never listen anyways. I have always known. And that’s why I never asked them to stop what they do. Even as I experience complications in my life and wishing that someday it would be normal, I still won’t ask her to stop. Because what they do is beautiful. The most beautiful thing any person could do. Self-sacrifice.
Now back to that last question. If you had everything, would you give it all up just so you could stand up for what you believe in? Well, my mom did. I could never have done what she did. I’m too much of a coward. But she, she has all the courage in the family. And she was my mom. And I had to share her with everyone else. But I never mind. Everyone else needed her.
But now, I am scared to think what would happen to those people who needed her help. The people who need her voice to speak out their pleas to those who should’ve heard them in the first place. Who would have the courage like her to give up their everything?