Monday, April 28, 2008

Promise From A Mother's Heart

Many years ago, my mother made us a promise that changed our lives forever.
Now that I’m also a parent, I’ve come to see my mother’s promise as a kind spiritual umbilical cord to bring new life to me and to my other siblings from our humble beginnings.

Life’s Difficulties
Being the 4th sibling in the brood of 5, we were raised by our mother all by herself since our father has no steady means of livelihood. Despite her meager income from selling women’s undergarments, we’re still fortunate that all of us could still go to school. We lived in a shanty made of old galvanized metal sheets salvaged from a decommissioned foundry and with the help of my father’s friend; the once old foundry was turned into a bungalow that serves as our haven. Having an electricity source that time is a luxury that we couldn’t afford that we have to finish our school’s homework before dawn and the gasera (kerosene lamp) is the only source of light comes night time. More so that the source of our water comes from a leaking residential water pipe is short lived; after having been discovered by its owner that he had the damaged pipes repaired immediately.

Having nothing much of life’s basic needs drives my mother to make night also a day. At my very young age, I saw life’s difficulties thru the eyes of my mother. She would often tell us that there’s nothing wrong to be born poor but to die out of poverty is unacceptable.

Being the only breadwinner in the family, my mother has to leave our house before sun rise entrusting all of us to our eldest sister and before dawn, we would all be together partaking what has been prepared by my ate (eldest sister) on the table after saying the grace before meal. Everything was going almost as a routine that by the time my mother arrived at the house, I could tell if her day is a success by the pasalubong (presents) that she will buy from a nearby carinderia (eatery). But this success happens only on a few occasions that I could count it only in one hand. More often than not, our meal would always be a loan canned goods from the neighbor’s sari-sari store (retail store). Pork and chicken for a meal could mean only one thing – special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas and New Year celebration. I remember one time how my father with the help of my older brother catches a hen that by chance wrongly entered our house. That time, we had our mouths greased by the cooking oil from a sumptuous chicken adobo.

Making Both Ends Meet

With the family’s meager source of income, my mother knew that she has to work doubly hard to make both ends meet. With the help of my eldest sister, my mother would go to Divisoria market on early mornings to buy vegetables and sell it to our neighbors. This newly found livelihood provides steady means of income; barely ensuring that we can all eat 3 times a day. Thus, realizing it as a better alternative livelihood, she left her garments selling job and focus instead on selling vegetables.

Hardship in life knows no ages. Barely only 7 years old; while most children of my age are playing with toys, vegetables loaded in a basket or bilao has been my favorite toy every morning roaming street after street. While during school break, I would end up selling ice buko (frozen grated coconut with milk) and bibingka (rice cake) I got from a trader using my school ID as business collateral. Every night without missed, I would often see my mother talking to God thru her prayers and often that I heard her saying, “Panginoon, tulungan Mo po kami” (God, please help us).

Test of Times

Whilst our life is still no bed of roses despite the passing of years, the turn of events in our family life is something kid of my age couldn’t understand. Endless nights I would see my mother sobbing in one corner of our house, beaten black and blue by my father every time he gets drunk. All that I can do together with my other siblings was to comfort our mother in her time of despair. I developed the fear every time my father leaves home to be with his buddies for I know what would happen next when he arrives after his drinking spree.

Days had passed into weeks and months and I lost the count. But one thing I can never forget was the time when my mother could no longer bear the beatings from my father. She brought us out of the house; all 5 of us while my father was drunk and sleeping. With nowhere to go, she has no choice but to distribute the 4 of us to our respective ninongs and ninangs (godparents) taking only with her my eldest sister. I vividly remember crying and pleading with my mother not to leave me but with a heavy heart, she made me a promise, anak, pangako, babalikan kita at ang mga kapatid mo kapag maayos na ang lahat”(son, I promise, I will come back for you and your other siblings when everything is okay). At that time, I knew that my mother’s heart bleeds to watch me as she and my ate (eldest sister) disappear down the corner of the street. I don’t know how long we were separated from my mother; all I know was that everyday seems to be eternity.

Reunited at Last

Mother’s promise to her child is a promise from a pure heart that can never be broken. True to her promises, one by one she collected us and reunited at last. Though there has been not much of a change in our life but that moment I saw my mother and the rest of my siblings is more than what I can ask for. Determined not to be separated again from one another, the 5 of us promised to help our mother even more. I for one become a collector of bets after school and have to divide my time collecting kanin-baboy (hog feeds) from our neighbors to feed our hogs.

With hard works and collective efforts, our life changes a bit better and we had the first taste of life’s little luxury when we purchased our first appliance – an electric fan that costs 450 pesos. My eldest sister’s first paycheck ended up as a down payment for a black and white television set while the meager earning from selling vegetables was used to purchased a Class B freezer at a factory price that eventually give us the queue to diversified our goods selling fish and meat. My youngest sister never to be outdone had her own share of business – selling ice and ice candy. For the first time we experienced a bit of life’s little pleasure and still as I normally see from her, I would see my mother talking to God and saying still the same prayer, “Oh, God please help us.”

Then I became a teenager

Years gone by and I was in the prime of my teenage years. Having been unexposed to people of opposite sex other than my sisters, I was often mistaken as suplado by my girl classmates. High school life proves to be the most memorable stage of my life for it was the stage I was able to build and extend relationship outside my family. It was the time I started to court girls and my mother is a very able partner of keeping my childhood secrets away from the girls I brought home.

When I was in college, I landed a part time job flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant in Makati. I worked in the morning and study in the evening. Hard work and perseverance to succeed has always been in my mind. Barely a year since joining the company, I was promoted to Junior Manager Position despite being still an under graduate. I finished my Engineering Degree in college and landed in good company after graduation. At night, I could still see my mother praying but that time, few words has been added to her old litany, “Oh, God please help my children in their work and studies.”

I got Wed

In my teenage years, I happened to change my misfit image for the gloss of popularity, whatever the cost. Having the financial freedom, I shrugged off any consequences and believed that to have a “good” testimony, like so many of the dramatic ones I had heard, that I had to have a “past.”

At 24, I got married to a workmate, with my mother initially not relish on my plan. My marriage relationship immediately bears me a son and my mother with her joy ballooned with the arrival of a grandson.

That time, my mother’s nightly litany has grown few more words adding her grandson in the list

My Ups and Downs in Life

My career continuous to flourish that I end up jumping from one company to another and so as the number of our kids. We spent our lives lavishly trying to savor good things in life that I have never experience before. We spent more than what we can save. My initial car was bought thru bank loan but my career continuous to flourish that I just found my self buying my second car in cash on top of the one issued to me by the company where I worked. At times, my only problem then was - where to park all my rides.

Year 2005 comes the most devastating time in my career. I have to leave my high paying job because of disagreement with my boss. With no savings come that rainy day, I transferred to another job that pays me relatively lower and without any perks. We were facing then the biggest question that I have to answer – can I still afford my children’s education? My eldest son and daughter were studying at an exclusive school for boys and girls respectively while the third one is enrolled in a Catholic School. My marriage relationship also succumbs to the test of times. And there; at that time where my life seems so low, I found my self in the arms of my mother helping me and my wife to pick up splinters of our broken dreams.

There I was retold by my mother’s promise to God from her heart – Which she would always pray for me and my family as long as she lives. A promise that she would never break like the promise she has made the first time we were separated.

Now, we are slowly picking the paces of our once fragmented hopes and dreams but my greatest hope is for me to respond to God’s given gift to me - my mother.

As my children grow, I will tell them that God has a plan for all of us in our lives, and He intervened to protect us at all times. I will tell them the way God’s grace intervened to touch the spiritual deadwood that characterized our family tree, grafting in a new branch – one that is spiritually alive.

And I will tell them how it all began with a mother’s promise from the heart.

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