I won’t

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Friday, May 9, 2014


I WILL not write about my mother. I will write instead about the taste of my favorite dish that I have learned to cook on my own. I don't know why but it brings me great comfort to prepare, cook, and then eat pork stew in pineapple sauce. Something about the pork fat and tender meat balanced by the sour sweet blend of the thickened sauce matched with steaming white rice that evoke feelings of great contentment and joy.

From the simple recipe of pork, canned juice, garlic, and brown sugar that my mother prepared, I have since embellished the dish to include a version with tomato paste, rosemary, and black beans. I have also innovated by tenderizing the pork through hours of slow cooking by use of firewood. Objectively speaking, I know that I have concocted a better dish but there is something missing, an ingredient or element perhaps, that I cannot identify.

I won't write about her but I will write about the unbelievable sadness that struck me one quick errand to the mall. Just as the landscape of the city outside has morphed to an unrecognizable state, the malls and the little city within them also change at an equally fast rate. There was this quaint supermarket that was in some sort of limbo between the basement and the ground floor where many weekly family grocery trips were made. There were many good finds for her at the adjacent department store perhaps because their stock matched her fashion taste which stopped evolving since the 80s. All of that now is gone, replaced by the new store on the block complete with updated stock.

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This place once made her happy where she could spend the little savings from the meager pension she received. But if she were still around she would probably have a panic attack because she would be lost in this new intricate maze of shops and people. She would get dizzy, break out in cold sweat, and declare her “kabuhi” followed by a hearty burp.

I won’t write about her. But I will write instead about how in many occasions I would see her likeness in crowds in the most unlikely of places – the market, bus terminal, the airplane. I am reminded of the novel by John Berger where the protagonist meets her dead mother in far away Lisbon, Portugal. Apparently, according to the novel’s cosmology, death just meant departing from your present life to move to the city of your choice and the son chanced upon her mother in this city where they have long walks and extended conversations.

When I travel and see a kind tsinita woman of her age, size, and demeanor, in Cebu, Gensan, and wherever, I often pause to wonder if it could possibly be her. That she and my dead father just decided to quit being our parents and established a happier life elsewhere. I wish that were so.

I won’t write about her. I will just write about the insane toothache, headache, fever that one gets every so often. The medicines usually work but there is something about someone taking that special trip to the city to buy you your favorite siopao that makes you better than better. And of course, the ever powerful brush of the forehead that is at once a reading of your temperature and a gesture of worry and care that is no match to whatever ailment.

I won’t write about my mother. But I will write about the Vagina Monologues and how it revealed to me the difficult ways of being a woman and mother especially of her generation. Men have always taken the privilege of controlling the bodies of women, alienating women from their own physical selves.

I have seen this in the way she handled herself prudently before others. She was shy and uneasy; dependent on her husband for many things. Some may say that these are qualities that men look for in women, but such alienation actually result to disastrous consequences. We found out belatedly (or perhaps we had been far too long in denial) that a tumor has been growing in her breast for years.

I won’t write about her. Because it is embarrassing to admit that grown men, like me, are reduced to bawling little boys when remembering our beloved mothers. It is a heartache that began the moment they held us in their arms upon birth, and continues to throb and bleed long after they are gone.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 09, 2014.

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