It's been a while now since I last posted an article in my blogspot. I guess, as an amateur writer, I temporarily lost the urge to write something as my work has been occupying most of my time (and thoughts) for the past month or so.
But today is different. It's Mother's Day! When I was young, we never celebrated Mother's Day. It was not heard of at that time. To us kids of long ago, everyday was Mother's Day. Our mothers were the greatest influence in our young minds - what to do (to earn a cone of "dirty" ice cream) or not to do (to earn a visit from the aswang, tikbalang and manananggal). My own Nanay is no exception - she was not only the light of the home back then, she was also the lawmaker of the house of the Montanos. With my father away the whole day, my Nanay organized everything from waking us up (me and my two elder sisters) at 5am to go to school at 6am (even though school was less than 400 meters away and classes start at 7am). It was a big thing for my Nanay to be "most punctual" in class. After school, my Nanay was right there in the school gate waiting for me and immediately asking me how my day was, whether I behaved or was I naughty, or did I get good grades in recitation and exams. It was "reporting" time for me. It was all right with me as I knew she had to report back to Tatay when he came home from work. Any misconduct that merits disciplinary measures is reported back to Tatay also. During rainy season, I was the only one who arrived in class with dry shoes even though the school surroundings were flooded. My nanay bravely carried me through the flooded streets just so we can save my shoes as we could not afford a new one then. Whenever my sisters and I quarrel, one fierce look from our Nanay subdues us. No arguments, no tantrums. Whenever our Nanay gets angry at us, she launches into her native language, Waray, that's why even if I don't speak the dialect, I can perfectly understand it. She had difficulty weaning me away from the bottle. I was already in Grade 1 when I stopped drinking milk from the bottle. The last bottle I used was a 7-up bottle to which she attached a plastic nipple, and even if she put Vicks on the nipple, it was super all right with me, until I dropped the bottle and it broke. She then refused to buy me another 7-up bottle inspite of tears freely flowing down my cheeks. She said that "7-up costs ten centavos and that is a big portion of our budget!". Well, I believed her then.
We were then renting a small house in Tramo Street, Pasay City. We had a small balcony with four chairs (which we also use for dinner) and I used to spend lazy afternoons watching passers by admire the lovely potted Petunias hanging in our small balcony. Lazy afternoons also meant waiting for a go signal from my Nanay to play outside. Once she gives it, it's all systems go for me and my older sister Marilu (I call her Alo). We played "touching robber", "baseball", "pico", and "patintero". Our playtime would sometimes get interrupted with a call from our Kuya (the eldest among the siblings) who had to iron his very very tight pants (baston) that was the "in" thing in the '60s. As we didn't have an electric fan then, Alo and I would take turns fanning our Kuya whose beads of perspiration were aplenty while ironing his pants (note: it was easy to wear the pants, but taking it off was quite difficult. Alo and I would need to each hold one end of the pants and pull it off from our Kuya with all our might until we tumble into the floor with the pants in our hands, imagine that!). Afterwards, Alo and I would then go back to playing with our neighbours. It was all right for us, anyway our Kuya used to allow us to watch him play his "army of soldiers" complete with sound effects.
A few minutes before 6pm, my Nanay would go to our small balcony and announce "Pssssssssstttttt!", then we knew it was time for me and Alo to go home. It meant "Angelus" time and we would hear Johnny de Leon (with his trusted sidekick Ngongo) announcing the Angelus. Johnny would play the record "Deck of Cards" by Wink Martindale (anyone remembers this?). Alo and I would listen to the Angelus while my mother prepares dinner, assisted by our Ate Lilian, who, since we were little has always been ladylike. Everyday, the scene was like that. We would wait for the arrival of our Tatay from work and our Kuya from school. Our dining table was "custom made". It was made by my Tatay and Kuya, and if it was not in use, we simply remove the posts and fold it against the wall. My chair then was a big drum where we keep our stock of rice. I cried once because my chair was not the same as those of my sisters, but Nanay told me that I should be proud because I am responsible for "safekeeping" our rice. Again, I believed her then. My Kuya was sometimes tasked to cook dinner. When he cooked "daing na bangus", I remember him wrapping his arms with a thick t-shirt and attaching a kawayan stick to our one and only sandok so that the hot oil coming from the daing wouldn't hurt him. After cooking, he would ask the three of us sisters to stand in the small balcony, and he would set up the table. He then would shout "sugod mga kapatid!" and the three of us would come rushing to our designated chairs. No, our house wasn't big, in fact the small balcony was only about three steps away from the dining table, but for me it was pure fun! My Nanay and Tatay would watch this amusing scene with happiness in their eyes. We were not rich, our life was just simple, but we were blessed with a wonderful and solid family.
A misdemeanor that I can never forget was when my Alo and I, together with other neighbourhood kids, decided that our neighbour's giant Gabi leaves could be wonderful bows for us who all pretended to be sagalas for our very own version of Flores de Mayo. Imagine my Nanay's wrath when our neighbour reported it to her and even if it wasn't 6pm yet, my Alo and I could hear our Nanay shouting at the top of her voice "Lailaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! Mariluuuuuuuu!!!!, uwiiiiiiiii!!!!!". When we got home, we were treated with silence....until our Tatay came home and the misconduct was reported to him. What happened later was another story..:)
One by one, my brother, sisters and I grew up but Nanay's presence was always there to comfort us as we struggled with our teen years, our first jobs, our first loves, and many other episodes in our lives that we all had to go through. Now, we all have our own families and all of us siblings are already parents to kids with different personalities. But still, my Nanay takes an active role in bringing "order" into our sometimes complicated relationships with our kids. Without fail, she comes to our house at exactly 5am (our house is less than 200 meters from theirs) and checks on my kids, even on me ("you're already late for work", "why are you wearing that dress" etc.). Other children with mothers like that would probably complain, but not me. I love my Nanay checking on us everyday. It means that I am still blessed to have my Nanay with me, that I can leave the house ahead of my kids, as my Nanay would look after them, even badger them to move faster (remember, she loves "punctuality").
I honestly feel that I, as a parent, can never equal the attention that my Nanay gave to me when I was growing up, compared with the attention that I have given to my children when they were growing up. My nanay is simply amazing. I can't imagine myself being a stay-home mom. But I would like to think that my children are sensible enough to know that mothers, no matter how much or how less they have shown their children what's truly in their hearts, will always wish the best for their children, just like my Nanay did for us.
She once told me that someday she can face God bravely and tell Him that "I've wonderfully done the job you've given me. Thank you God for making it easy for me."
To our Nanay, thank you for making such a mark on the lives of your children, we shall be forever grateful for all your sacrifices and devotion in raising us as good persons. We love you much! Happy Mother's Day! (she texted me this morning to greet me and ended the greeting with "luv u").
- Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.