Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mama, my dearest teacher and friend

By Al Sabado

Born in 1930, my mom was clueless she'd marry a farmer. My dad, the farmer, was clueless he'd marry a Tondo girl. Today I remember this Tondo girl, my mom.

My parents, the lovely couple who lived their lifetime together as newlyweds.

How do you cook fried garlic rice without it sticking on the frying pan? Mama’s way was classic. She’d use a rice ladle (not her hands) to mush the rice, which she’d do after the heated pan emitted thin smoke from the cooking oil and the chopped garlic browned a little. Garlic rice was Mama’s favorite and our breakfast was never perfect without it.

How do you respond when friends don’t pay your money back? Oh, Mama’s way was never lacking in class. I didn’t see her get mad toward friends who borrowed money and didn't remember to pay back. Mama was just quiet about it, probably because she knew countless ways how to earn money decently. She wouldn’t borrow money from friends but worked hard for the money she earned. She learned the hard way back the time my adorable Aunt Dely (Fugoso) would raise her up during her youth. So in her lifetime, Mama worked as a school teacher. She worked as a topnotch government employee at the Bureau of Customs, where she stood her ground to keep her integrity! (We’re so glad she left the Bureau!) Following her government service, she joined Papa (then farmer turned engineer) in Papua New Guinea and worked as a cake baker and sewer. Back then, she’d bake wedding cakes and sew wedding dresses for the entire wedding entourage. She’d also sew curtains for the parliament of PNG.

How do you raise your kids when you’ve done all you could and the kids are still half as bad? I can't compute a fraction of that equation, really. We’re a brood of five and we’re not that bad. At least none of us used prohibited drugs or stole money or killed a neighbor, nothing of those sorts. But if you’re a parent, you’ll understand it’s never easy raising kids. One is tough enough; imagine dealing with five! 

We're what Mama called the STAAG, which stood for our first name initials: Sol, Teya, Alex, Al, and Grace. Mama would bake us cakes, with or without special occasion. This photo was on my (7th) birthday, which I no longer celebrate not because I'm 42, but because "uncelebrating" birthdays is best. ;) 

So Mama would scold us—this time she wasn’t quiet!—and told us, “Sana mag-asawa na kayong lahat para maranasan n’yo ang hirap ng buhay!” I have no better translation for that, literally and figuratively. But what Mama was just telling us was that we ought to marry so we’d understand how hard life is. My two older siblings married, while the three of us have remained single (hooray!). I still get to understand how hard life is though—just look around!

How do you know you’re dying? Mama didn’t know that. She was a strong woman. She’s like the 711 store that operated 24/7. And so her ways taught me that boredom is a mistake to be included in the vocabulary. She’d enjoy doing work, paid or otherwise. So she’d always find something to do. But I didn’t know either that her life would be cut short. I only knew I’d terribly miss her, now that she’s gone for 18 years . . .

If you still have your mother with you, love her dearly—every day.

. . . forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. (Proverbs 6:20-21)

Mama left behind this garden. I'm still figuring out how to make all her orchids bloom. So for now, ladies and gentlemen, Mama's bromeliads.

Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'...