Trinidad: Happy birthday, Mang!

IT’S my mom’s birthday today, January 18.

She turns 78.

She was born in San Fabian, Pangasinan, a few years before the Japanese invasion, then they migrated to Baguio after the war.

Aside from her business acumen, McGyver abilities, ‘commander’ attitude, and her encompassing love for all her kids and grandkids, I think what impresses me the most about her is her courage and bravery.

She used to tell us stories about how her uncles and aunties would scare her about ghosts and elementals, but she scoffed at them, unafraid of the dark or being all alone.

Everytime our landline phone rings, I remember her.

When I was a young girl, about 10 years old, there was this prank caller who would call and say “mamatay ka” in a creepy, scratchy, wavering voice.

I got so scared by this, it made me dread answering the phone. If he was on the line, I would just hang up the phone, slowly, quivering inside.

One day, the phone rang, and my mom answered. I heard her say, in what must have been the creepiest voice she could muster, “Mamatay ka rin”.

That was the end of the prank calls.

A few years ago, my phone got left behind in a pedicab. It must have fallen out of my bag. We were in Divisoria, about to go home.

I called my number, asked the pedicab driver to return my phone, but he said no.

We asked around, found out the address of the guy, and my mom bravely went to get it.

We were advised against going with her because the driver lived in the slums, where hold-ups were frequent, and strangers were regarded with distrust. She wasn’t daunted.

She was able to get my phone back. She said she knocked on the driver’s door, asked for my phone, and he just gave it. No questions. Maybe her bravery in going to his place stumped him.

We had a stormy relationship when I was in my teens. I wrote something in my diary, she read it, and it caused a rift between us.

I once told her and my dad, “I did not choose to be born, and if I knew my life was going to be like that, I would have preferred not to exist.”

Painful, I know. I hurt her feelings a lot, countless times, but she and my dad never bailed out on me.

For a long while too, I thought she had favourites among her kids. And I resented this, particularly because I was her favourite to scold, haha.

Somewhere in my thirties, I realised we were all her favourites, she just devotes a lot of her time and attention to the one who needs it most, when they need it. She extends her help, even without being asked.

When I was at my most challenging period, almost losing our house, she was there, offering support, and advise, and assistance.

I would not be where I am, brave and courageous in my own way, if I did not learn from her.

I’ve learned many spiritual truths as well. One of the most profound is that we choose our parents before we are born.

In my heart and soul, I know I chose the best mom I could have when I chose her to be my mother.
Happy happy happy birthday, Mang! We love you.
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