All my life she described me as rebellious, stubborn and strong-willed. She dubbed me as the black sheep among the siblings, the foremost challenger of authority, the fearless and fierce against any parental rule.
I am the unfriendly force that she must dealt every day in the four corners of her home. When pain seemed not enough, I left home without notice.
For more than a decade, I disconnected myself from her – no word, no letter, no call. She was my mother.
I spent my childhood in a coastal village of Naga in Zamboanga Sibugay, a province in southern Philippines. It was the place where my father and mother started a life in the 70s. They were from the island-village of Molocaboc in Negros. But in search for better lives, they braved the perils of peace in Mindanao.
Our first house was built above sea waters. My first “playground” was the sea. I grew up honing my skills surviving the waters. I was introduced to a life that was transient as the waves, unstable as the waters, but free as the breeze. At 2, I can dive the open sea, do fishing, and harvest shells. We grew up selling the bounties of the oceans.
I learned to travel the road-less seas. I mastered to sail the boats through the invisible winds. I am trained to find home amid pitched black nights guided only by the “North Star.”
“The gust may drift us away. The wind may set us off course. But the North Star will always tell us which direction to row and how far we are from home,” my father always tells me.
For years, I was drifting in the seas of nowhere – far from the warmth embrace of my mother. Yet heralds came of how her mouth was full of my memories. Every day she would sit by a waiting shed, hoping that a bus, jeepney, trike, or habal-habal would carry me home.
Every day she would tell people of my beautiful stories. Her friends – including drivers, porters, and even strangers – knew about me. Falling out from the mouth of a loving mother were stories of how she fancied of my brilliance, and how we look the same than of my father.
When words ran out, tears started to fall from her eyes. A mother who, if only given the chance, would summon the heaven and hell just to bring me back into the very arms that first embraced me.
The truth is, I am the most rebellious among the siblings. But she showered me with love – her care unmatched, her affection unequaled. Until one day, while I was enjoying the freedom of being free, I heard that she was gone.
In her death bed, she told people, “Even when I will be gone, please wake me up when Kokoy will be home.”
It was then that I realized that I just lost my greatest fan, my greatest lover, my biggest believer. Mom was never a lover of pictures. We rarely find a photo of her.
I once asked her why she would not want to take souvenir photos with us, to which she said, “Because I don’t want that my memories be hanged in the corners of your houses or be kept in the albums that testify the moments of our lives. I want to be kept within the borders of your heart; that when the times come that you will miss me, you will not seek the walls of your houses, but within the borders of your hearts.”
She passed away in 2007. I rarely become emotional. But when I write something about her, tears flow as fast as words decode of what I wanted to say.
I wished she could have read these words. I wished I could have hugged her for one last time. I wished I could have asked apologies for the heartaches I caused. I wished I could have shared the glories of my success. But these are all impossible now.
However, today I am re-sharing this message to honor her memories. I will never falter to do so as long as I live.
“Mom, thank you for standing strong even if the world abhor me. Thank you for believing when others reject me. Thank you for painting good memories from the trashes of my being. Thank you for being the last woman standing to knit our hearts when the thread of love was weakening.
How I wish that I could have shared some of the glories of my victories with you, and that I could have painted a smile on your face when you took your last and final breath.
But your departure has taught me life’s great lesson – The search for love is not tiring but fulfilling. For even if you fail to grasp and hold it in your hands, its memories will continue to tell of its stories from generations to generations.
Let me tell you that you are always the first love of my life. Thank you for taming me not with arguments or rod of corrections but with the sweetest of your love and the warmest of your affection.
I would always love to visit the waiting shed, where you never falter to wait for me until the very end your life. I wanted to grasp every word, every story, every memory, every smile, and every tear that you shared there.
This Mother’s Day, I want the world to know that I am telling of your stories to my son Kyle, your grandson – of how proud you are to me, of the love that you clothed me, and of the sacrifices that became the pillars of my being.
One day, I shall bring Kyle to that waiting shed, and we will share the very stories of you.”