Dear Mom, as I write this, it’s already your 70th! And to be completely honest, we didn’t know if we’d get to this point.
When I was much younger and you were still a flight attendant, I was always fearful that this or that flight you were on would be your last.
Would THIS be the flight when I would get horrifying news of my parents being killed in a plane crash? Would that goodbye wave from the car be your last? As your eldest and your designated Little Mommy, I always feared for your life and for our family.
Thankfully, God decided that you weren’t going to be in any plane crashes at that point in your life.
Then, there were the twin (mild) strokes of January and February 2001, when it felt like you and I were using Makati Med as a hotel. I remember a moment in the hospital when you already left me a blank check, and when you called Dad in tears and leaving instructions “just in case”.
Thankfully, God decided that you were still going to be around for much, much longer.
Then, there was the series of medical episodes before your emergency dialysis in November 2017, the many emergency room episodes from that time on, and your brush with COVID-19 in September 2020.
There were so many times when it felt like we were already going to lose you, and knowing that Mamang Caring, your mom, had left us at a very early age, I knew that we were–and are–operating on borrowed time.
I know that this is a somber, rather morbid, way to begin my greeting for you on your 70th birthday, but being reminded of our mortality just makes it all the more important to not take any of this for granted. So, while others honor their parents and other loved ones after they’re gone, I’m going to honor you, Mom, while you’re still alive.
We often crack jokes about you being quite brash and intense and, as that Feng Shui master once said, “All yang and no yin–like a raging dam that rams down everything in its path.”
But I want to honor you, Mom, first of all, for your balls.
(Pardon the crassness, folks, but bear with me.)
It took a lot of balls to leave home and take to the skies when you did at the beginning of your career, just as it took a lot of balls to raise all four of us–including our dearest Erica–pretty much on your own. Yes, you made a lot of mistakes; yes, we were traumatized by many of them. Yes, we had tons of issues growing up and even as adults, but we have to admit: these metaphorical balls that your kids are all wearing–they’re certainly from nobody else but you.
There were so many times in my own life when it would have been easier to buckle under the weight of the crises and challenges, or when it would have been easier to give up and just accept failure. But knowing that I came from a woman who had the balls to charge at life, made me tougher and braver, too.
Next, I want to honor you, Mom, for your fire and intensity.
I’m not sure if it’s your loud, gregarious, booming laugh; or how you used to dance and move (especially when I was younger); or how your PAL students used to call you “Mrs. Terror”; or how you would simply command presence and attention when you walk into a room. But ever since I was a little girl, whenever I would think of fire and intensity, I would think of you, Mom. (I also think of a volcano, and sometimes “Mom” and “volcano” mean the same thing, hahaha!)
And yes, that fire can sometimes burn. And too many people are afraid of intense people–especially intense women. But the thing about fire and intensity, too, are that they are the markers for energy and life. Without fire, without intensity, there would be no life. Or there would be a very boring life. And we all know that our family has been anything but boring. 😀
There’s a saying that I found in Chicken Soup for the Soul (which you used to buy for me from your flights to the US) which I would never forget:
The strongest steel is forged through the hottest furnace.Chicken Soup for the Soul
We have certainly passed through the hottest of furnaces–individually and as a family–and I’d like to think that you’ve molded us to become even stronger than steel. For all that, Mom, thank you.
I also honor you, Mom, for dreaming big, bold dreams–and for teaching me to do the same.
Whenever I would teach my DreamDareDo workshops, I would always start with the story of how I got started on “dreamboarding”, or vision boarding. Of how I would visualize the grades (or whatever it was) that I wanted, write them down, cut up magazines and make collages, and use them as inspirations for the reality I was trying to create.
And to be completely honest, I wasn’t extraordinary by any measure. So many of my classmates and peers were smarter, more talented, and so on. But I had one MAJOR secret weapon: You, Mommy. From the time I was born, through my awkward teenage years, ’till the present, YOU’VE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN ME and YOU TAUGHT ME TO DREAM BIG, BOLD DREAMS–because you dream largely and boldly yourself.
I never heard from you a single word that stopped me from pursuing any of my passions. (This is worth another blog post–wait for it.) I wanted to read; you gave me tons of books. I wanted to sing; you gave me singing lessons. I wanted to act on stage; you sent me to theater workshops. I wanted to type, create, and whatever else; you gave me a computer, a video camera, a microscope, printers and papers… you gave me all the tools I needed to succeed, and you never, EVER discouraged me from anything.
Now that I’m 40 and still dreaming bigger, bolder dreams, I know that I feel empowered the way I do today, because I was raised by you, Mom.
In truth, I could go on and on listing down what I honor about you, Mom. (That’s why I wrote this and this!) And definitely, I could write so much more about you. More than a whole book–which I really should do.
And I know that it’s tough now being in a pandemic, and having us away from you, and not being able to gather in person and give each other big hugs. But I’m counting on your big dreams and your fighting spirit, Mom, because this pandemic WILL be over at some point, and we WILL be able to gather and travel and celebrate the way we used to.
Until then, know that we are truly grateful for everything you are and have been to us, and that we will never, ever take you for granted.
I love you so much, Mommy. Happy 70th Birthday!