Dedicated to my mother, and to all women who bear humanity
We felt more like sisters, you and I, the way you shared your youthful dreams with me, dreams that had to be shelved for the daily grind when you married Dad at such a teender age. But you passed on these dreams to your daughters, that each of us may realize them: now 3 surgeons, a pediatric anesthesiologist, and a mathematics master's degree holder 3 times over.
I learned meticulous, almost obsessive housework from you: strict personal hygiene, uncompromising kitchen safety, arrangement of things to perfection. You nurtured my Martha-esque tendencies (of the Stewart kind) way before the media mogul demonstrated her craft on cable tv: how to fold clothes precisely, stack them in even piles, and organize cabinets. These habits are burned into my mind's hard drive and wired into my hands.
You constantly read from works of prose, or quoted words from poetry. Reverent care for the written word was an integral part of your love of reading. All publications in our home library had to be indexed in a card catalogue, and it was a school break project I took upon myself to dust and put them back into their categories (and sneak a read from ones that interested me, such as Frank Netter's medical atlases). We had book etiquette: use a bookmark (to avoid folding page corners), do not mark them in any way (except the owner's identification, usually in my Dad's precise calligraphy), no bending back of front covers to the back around the spine, even for softbound pocketbooks. Reading one of the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica involved a ritual of washing hands, placing the book properly on the table, and turning pages with care.
This love of reading eventually found expression in writing, publicly-recognized with your membership in the UP Writers Club. How you've managed to consistently put entries in your journal, amidst the cares of mothering 8 kids, is something I could only attribute to pure will. Then you gave me my wings by gifting me my own diary at age 10. My scribblings have flown from then.
I learned from you that there was only one way to do anything: the right way. No skipping steps, no cutting corners, no accommodation. And no matter how hard it may have seemed to achieve something, that soon became achievable, through persistence and bull-headed determination. Be it a regular transaction in a government office, or a consumer complaint to a multinational corporation, you always got your way, with grace and finesse and that true Batanguena grit.
I took Marriage 101 through the 45 years you had with Dad. And it was not through tinted glasses that I saw the union of man and woman, but with a prism that broke pure light into myriad wave lengths. So that when I finally decided to marry, it was by love, but not the heady-cloudy kind, but the fierce one that was willing to go through hell and back, to attain the eternal promise.
You emphasized that family is most important, not by telling me, but showing it. And that once we made our choices, there was simply no other way, and not any other thing to prioritize. Too often in my own family journey, I had come to forked roads; you always brought me back to the right path, not with admonishments, but by being a springboard for my thoughts.
Yes, the best way to understand a mother is to be a mother oneself. And yet...I have only begun to understand you. But understanding is not a prerequisite for loving. And though the relationship of child and mother may not have been necessarily borne of love, love may be learned by a heart that has heard the quietest whisperings of the Divine.
We were never showy, but we were wordy. Though these words could only approximate true expressions of love and affection, let these suffice. For now.