Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Room for my Mom

by Anthony Diala
People’s Republic of China
I grew up with a happy family. My father was a policeman and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My childhood days are still fresh in my mind. Though we lived in a small house in Pampanga, I remember how happy we were. I remember the joy I felt whenever my Mom would give me my baon of around 50 centavos (that was in 1979). And I would spend most of it on kakaning-kalamay and tibok-tibok (local delicacies of Pampanga).

Amidst our simple life, my Mom and Dad would always have visitors in our house. Most of them would be asking for help -- either relatives or strangers whom I had never seen in my life. But my parents were generous to a fault. Don’t get me wrong. As a grown-up child, I admire the generosity of my parents. I remember my Mom sacrificing our own needs just to lend something to our needier relatives and friends.

Needless to say, it was my Mom’s relatives in the U.S.A. who sustained most of our expenses in school. My siblings and I went to a private institution. My Dad’s salary as a policeman was just enough to pay for our monthly food expenses; nothing more, nothing less.

When I was in third year high school, my daily expenses and those of my brother and sister had become a financial burden to Dad and Mom. Though an uncle of ours paid for our tuition fees, my parents had to take care of the expenses for projects and many school activities.

And so Mom decided to work abroad. But Mom had never held a job and had never been away from us. Besides, she was only a high school graduate. What kind of job could she qualify for?

Dad told me that she would work as a domestic helper in a Chinese family in Hong Kong. But before this decision was made, I recall that my parents tried to engage in export. However, it did not succeed, though I witnessed how my parents gave their best effort to their fledgling export business.

So it did come to pass. Mom flew to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper while Dad continued his work as a policeman. At this stage, my brother, sister, and I had to make drastic adjustments in our lifestyle. We were forced to cook our food and wash our clothes whenever Dad could not come home due to red alerts and other police operations.

It was a painful adjustment and a rude awakening. We missed Mom. Terribly. We never appreciated her presence. When she was around, we ate our meals, put on our uniforms, and went to school without bothering about the logistics of running a home. Most of all, we missed Mom’s loving presence. We missed the presence of two happy parents.

Dad tried to cope. Even though he had just come home from an all-night police operation, he would wash our clothes by hand (we didn’t have a washing machine then). I felt sorry for Dad. Many a night, I would see him lie awake. Then he’d get up at dawn, silent, absent-minded, and looking out of the window at nothing. I knew he missed Mom so much.

After a difficult year of adjustment, we thought Mom would be able to come home. We were sorely disappointed when we learned that she needed to complete her two-year contract. We adjusted to the situation the best way we could.

I was in second year college when a shocking news devastated me. Dad just had a stroke and was in the hospital. My dad’s relatives stopped me from breaking the news to Mom. But alas, after almost two weeks of fighting for his life, Dad departed. The responsibility of breaking the news to my Mom fell on my shoulders. I couldn’t utter the words. They were words which broke my heart. My tongue felt heavy and my jaws felt tight as if I were afflicted with tetanus.

At the airport, Mom joined me and my dad’s sisters in the car. We hugged each other lifelessly. Mom had been away for more than a year; she was in shock and was speechless.

“So, Mom, how’s Hong Kong?” I asked stupidly. I knew they were not the right words to say, but I didn’t know what to say.

At the wake, Mom tried to stay strong, but I saw her escaping to an empty room and I heard her weep. My only comfort then was crying on the shoulders of my ex-girl friend (my wife). It was a very tough moment for all of us.
I was offered an option to continue Dad’s service as a policeman, but Mom refused. She was determined to start a small business out of what she can get from Dad’s death benefits but another tragedy struck. Mount Pinatubo erupted and most of the city where we lived was in complete disaster. We had to evacuate to the house of my girlfriend’s family and we stayed there for about three months. We had to spend the money from Dad’s death benefits, and only my Mom’s relatives in the US served as our lifeline.

It was a very tough decision, but Mom signed up for another contract in Hong Kong. Her employers were asking her to go back to Hong Kong, and amidst the hardship we had to endure, she accepted. She left me, my brother, and my sister to take care of ourselves in a small, rented apartment.

Mom worked abroad for the next ten years, going back to Philippines once every two years. Through all those years, she supported us with everything she earned abroad. My brother and sister had gotten married just like me, but Mom never had a chance to attend any of our weddings. We never did have a royal life, but Mom gave us her best. Come to think of it, she even gave up a happy married life for our sake.

Right now, Mom lives in the US. Her relative’s petition for her has been finally approved. Ironically, she has to continue working for a family in America. Life is tough as well. Up to now, just like my uncle who sent us to school, Mom still sends financial support to my brother and sister.

How can we repay them in return?

I promised Mom that she would never live in any home for the aged. As my tribute to her, when I finally build my home, she will have a room in it and I will support her in return.

Not that I must pay her back for what she has given us all her life. In fact, I can never repay her for what she has given up. But I want her to know that she is very special to me. It was she who carried me in her womb for nine months – I owe my life to her. She invested the best years of her life in me and my siblings. Selflessly, she gave us her all so that we can have a better future…
Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.

6 comments:

ReadMe said...

Mother will have the best place in our hearts. Mother deserves the best care in her twilight years. Yes, we cannot repay what mother has done for us. We can never repay Mother not even with our own life because it is she that gave us life.

Thank you Tony for sharing your life with your great Mom.

Carmelita C. Ballesteros said...

@readme

As a mother, my greatest invest-ment is my family. It's not only financial. It's also physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Thank you, Tony, for the affirma-tion of your Mom, and all Moms!

Tony@NIPPON said...

Thank you Tita Carmel and to all who spent time to read my story as a tribute to my mom and my loving wife Alma.

I think her story is just as great as with all Moms out there trying to squeeze every ability that they have for their family, and some even bracing the hardship of labor abroad as OFWs.

My heart goes out as well with the Dads as well who are also enduring the same.

May our Lord bless you all and give you long life!

Mabuhay mga kapwa OFWs!

Ariel said...

Tony,

Touching...
Moving...
Affecting...
Heartwarming...
Heartbreaking...
Tear-Jerking...

Reaeding the story, one can honestly feel the emotions beneath those words...probably my favorite article so far...

Allan

Carmelita C. Ballesteros said...

@Ariel

We are happy that a simple and honest article has touched your heart. We trust you also feel very deeply about your own mother and family.

Tony@NIPPON said...

Thank you for feeling the same way Ariel. I hope I was able to inspire you and to all reader to continue supporting our parents, whom we owe our very own life.

One day, we may face the same old age issue, and we hope to expect the same treatment and caring, especially when we cannot take care of ourselves anymore....