Lessons from Mama

My relationship with Mama was never perfect. Like any other mother and daughter, we always fight, but on most days, we laugh and gossip. It's always fun to gossip with your mom.

Growing up, I always knew I had the coolest mom, perhaps unconventional.

I remember when I was in high school. I was curious about cigarettes and beer because I heard my classmates talking about them. I was in my first year at that time.

When I asked Mama about it, she didn't get mad like any parent would. She was happy - kind of relieved - that I approached her. So she brought me to this sari-sari store and got me a stick of cigarette and a bottle of beer.

It felt cool.

I had a long drag of the cigarette and drank half of the bottle. Then she asked me how it felt. I told her I felt sick, and I don't understand what the fuss is about it. Then she asked me if I'd do it again, and I promised her I won't.

The tindera, who was dumbfounded by what she just saw, asked Mama why she did that. She explained that I'll always be curious and may try it behind her back with my friends. So it's better that I do it in front of her. That way, she knows. Also, it will give me enough willpower to say no to peer pressure. And it did.

In college, when I stopped school because I didn't feel like going to school, she didn't force me to go back and continue my education. Instead, she was very patient and waited for me to realize that I had to finish school for my future. After almost two years of soul-searching, I returned to school. I realized I was really stupid but lucky enough to have a very understanding mother.

It was also her who encouraged me to join the campus publication so I wouldn't get bored at school and, of course, to hone my writing skills.

In her words, she said, "para may pulos ka man da (so you'll be useful there)." I'm happy I did because that's when I realized that I wanted to be a journalist -- to be the voice of the voiceless and hope of the hopeless.

When I graduated after three years, she was happy, excited, and proud.

Among the life lessons that she taught me and that have resonated with me up to this day is to “live by your means.”

Growing up, we lived a simple life.

I only realized that Mama had a comfortable life after my first visit to her hometown.

Mama talks about her family and where she came from. But she never mentioned that her family was prominent.

I didn't ask her about it, but I understand why. Perhaps to teach me that I have to work hard for everything that I want and need.

One time, I was driving her and my two aunties. I was secretly listening to their conversation.

My aunties were talking about their daughters - my cousins - and their birthday surprises. I looked at Mama, and she was just listening and enjoying the moment with them. She didn't share anything. I have to admit, it gave me a little pinch in the heart.

I cried that night. I felt sorry for myself and for Mama. Because I can't afford all those things -- that goodness in life that she truly deserved.

During payday, she would just ask me to buy her a P50 hotdog sandwich from Jollibee.

Sometimes I would tell her that I'd just buy the juice from 7-11 because it was cheaper. Sometimes, I would tell her that she had to wait for my next payday because I can't afford it now. She would just smile and say, “It's okay.”

I told her I'm really sorry I can't afford to treat her to fine dining or buy her stuff, but I'll work twice as hard so I can give her a better life in the future.

She stopped me in my tracks, and I never forgot what she told me that night.

She told me she never needed those things -- those are just material things. She said she's very happy with what I've become -- that I'm following my dream to be a journalist and making a difference in people's lives and the community. She said it was more than enough, and she couldn't be any more proud.

The second thing she taught me was to “be humble and always keep your feet on the ground.”

With my "little success" in my journalism career, becoming an editor after three years into the job at a daily newspaper and eventually the editor-in-chief, Mama would always remind me to keep my feet on the ground.

She would always tell me to thank the Lord for giving me opportunities to grow as a journalist.

She was always excited when I got invited to speak at international and national conferences or get featured in international and national publications.

She would listen to me speak and joke that my English had gotten better.

But then she never failed to remind me to always be humble -- that attitude is more important than any success.

The last thing she taught me was to be respectful and kind.”

Mama would always remind me not to look down on people because of their status in life.

She would always tell me to respect and be kind to the security guards, janitors, and just about anyone at school. She would always tell me to greet these people a good morning or afternoon when I entered school.

She would always tell me to be kind and feed the hands of those who helped me. But never, ever expect anything in return.

She would also tell me to help those in need sincerely and heartily. And again, never expect anything in return.

When she got hospitalized and passed away last year, prayers and financial help kept pouring in. And I'm grateful for this.

These life lessons that Mama has taught me will continue to resonate with me.

Thank you, Mama, and goodnight.*

***

Marchel Espina is the editor-in-chief of SunStar Bacolod. She is dedicating these jottings to her mother, who passed away last year.

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