Mothers in history, and the history of Mother’s Day

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Saturday, May 10, 2014


DID YOU KNOW that Mother’s Day was first celebrated by the Americans? In 1908, Anna Jarvis organized the first known observance of the occasion, taking over from her own mother’s Mother’s Day work clubs that sought to bring about better sanitation and lower infant mortality rates.

In 1914, US President Woodrow Wilson formally declared the second Sunday of May as the Mother’s Day holiday, and since the Philippines was under the US government at the time, naturally we followed suit.

Given this knowledge, will Filipinos who are against the recent United States-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) because it affirms our being a US neo-colony, who think we are drowning in American influences, stop celebrating Mother’s Day?

Globalized Mother's Day

That’s an option, certainly, but a preposterous one. Mother’s Day has been globalized, consumerized, since 1914. It would have been inevitable. Mama, mater, madre, mère, mutter, mom — these reflect how universal a character the mother is.

The “mmm” sound, after all, is common to all translations. Why? Because it is the sound babies make after feeding: it is the smack of contentment; it is the sound of being nurtured and loved. A mother’s love for her child withstands all boundaries of race, language, and a great many other things.

In the Philippines, we have our own special metaphor for the mother: she is the “ilaw ng tahanan,” the light of the home. Her steadfast yet oft-behind-the-scenes character throughout our history has borne heroes, both the sung and the unsung.

Faces of mothers

Teodora Alonso, for instance, taught her son obedience, generosity, and sacrifice — and these values, among others, stayed with the son, who in turn sparked a revolution. Teodora Alonso was the mother of national hero Jose Rizal.

Another woman, with whom we are perhaps more familiar, only did what any mother and wife would have done, but in her doing so she paved the way for our nation as we know it today.

Corazon Aquino, mother to Kris and our very own President Benigno Simeon "PNoy," Aquino III, was known as the mother of Philippine democracy.

A third mother I choose to mention here has come to be just as famous as her already-famous son, but it is widely known that without her prayers, support, and purported voodoo, her champion (and ours) would not be where he is today. Dionisia Dapidran-Pacquiao is Mommy D to the whole world, and mother to boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

A fourth mother we can mention, perhaps the one most worth mentioning, is our own. If you think about how those women were as mothers to famous Filipinos, they are really not so far from our Mamas, Nanays, Mamings. As I wrote above, motherhood cuts across many things. Fame is one of them.
To end this history-laden ramble of sorts, we would do well to clarify the use of the apostrophe (’): Is it Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day? The distinction is perhaps not so important to some, but going back to Anna Jarvis in the 1900s, she meant for the occasion to celebrate the intimate relationship between mother and child.

There are so many varieties to them, after all — single moms, beggar moms, active moms, passive moms, stage moms, soccer moms, mothers of heroes, of dragons, of regular people — but at the end of the day, this day in particular, it boils down to that one very special woman in YOUR life.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Maming, and to all the mothers out there! (Ena Jarales-ADMU Student Intern)

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[References: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-natio... http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-nation-gifts-facts-culture-moms/]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 11, 2014.

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