Sunday, May 13, 2007

Winner, "Bida Si Mama" Essay Writing Contest

The best Mother's day gift... both my son, Axel, and daughter, Kyla joined this essay writing contest... can you imagine the big grin on my face? :)

Community : Mother's Day Special
Weekend BALITA (May 12-15, 2007)

In celebration of Mother's Day, BALITA publishes the winner of our "Bida si Mama" essay-writing contest - the piece that follows, by Axel Tolentino of Alhambra, California. We also decided to publish three other entries that we feel have stories to tell. Together, these four paint a portrait of motherhood at its best: ordinary mortals rising to a sublime dignity through dogged commitment. Parenting, especially for mothers, is a life's work, and the way these women throw themselves at it day after day is one of mankind's most underrated achievements. It's all about love, as they say. Take a bow, mothers. And to everyone who contributed, many thanks - Ed.

The Unsung Hero
by Axel Tolentino

She begins life like any ordinary person. She goes through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. At times, life can be hard, but she perseveres, her faith never wavering, believing that she is destined for something greater. She trudges on uncertain but determined, searching for that one thing that can complete her. She goes through life, makes friends, forms relationships, has a career, achieves recognition, but still she searches. And then... Life begins unnoticed, followed by morning sickness, a growing belly, some weight gain, stretch marks, picky eating, hormone imbalance and finally the pain, the kind that one remembers through the numbing effects of anesthesia. Relief immediately follows, but only momentarily. She heard you cry for the first time, saw you in a haze, and as she fell unconscious from fatigue, she knew. Next will be years of sacrifices, often unappreciated, but nevertheless given.

Finally, she holds you in her hands, her own child. She is now a mother. Gone was the uncertainty as to why she exists, in its place a new uncertainty: Will I be a good mom to my child? Suddenlt, everything else paled in comparison. All that she has achieved was nothing compared to what she now holds in her hands. She feels blessed.

Who can deny the hardship of changing diapers late at night when all she wanted was sleep? And even while sleeping, half her mind is alert to the tiniest cry coming from the crib. She might be tired, but she still sang a lullaby to offer comfort. Wake up early to prepare for another day, never mind that she hasn't really slept the night before. All these she did, never complaining.

As the years go by, she watched with mixed pride and a touch of fear as her bundle of joy grows up. She works hard to make sure you have everything-good food, good education, clothes to wear, and toys to play with. She was there to kiss your tears away, comfort you when you're sad, guide you when you're lost, offer a helping hand, and just be there when you need her the most. Time came when you needed her even less. You grew up, she had to let you go. You wanted to try it on your own, be the one responsible. Her advice fell on deaf ears. This is your life; you can do as you please. She watched and prayed that you would be okay. She kept quiet. She cried when you cried, felt all your hurt, but never said a word and waited. For you to remember her, maybe hear her voice telling you, "It's okay, I'm here for you. I will carry your burden if you will let me. I can be your shield, just like when you were little." You never really forgot, but neither did you remember. She was your unsung hero. She is always there for you no matter what. Waiting patiently for you to be her son once again, for you to need her, and for you to call her "Mother."

Ode to Tita Beth
by Kyla Tolentino

Mother's Day is fast approaching and I'd like to take this opportunity to write about a mother who has been very loving and caring to her family and friends, but is now inflicted with great pain. No, she's not my mother, she's my aunt.

I was a few months old when my aunt left the Philippines to work in the United States. My two cousins left the Philippines to live with their mother when I was two years old. I'm already 16 and I have only seen her for more than six months now since my brother and I came to America to live with our mom. My aunt may have been a strabger to me for the past 16 years, I having no means of seeing her i8n person. Still, I know things about her; most, for which I admire.

She's Elizabeth Magaru, "Tita Beth," as I call her. She's 12 years older than my mom and she's a mommy's girl. She attended grade school and high school in the same place as I did. and my grandmother used to boast tha Tita Beth was a consistent honor student. Mom, too, told me things about her sister. Though both my mother and I manage to get accepted at the University of the Philippines (UP), the fact that my aunt made it to UP with nursing as her first course of choice always leaves me with great respect for her whenever I think of it. She's also a very great mother, evident in the fact that my cousins grew up to be good persons.

She's a very caring daughter to my grandparents. She would call two to three times a month just to say hi and catch up with what's been happening at home. She'd send money to my grandparents whether they need it or not, always sending something extra on special occassions. She'd send balikbayan boxes for Christmas, always filled with tons of goodies for everyone. She never forgets to ask about celebrity gossip in the Philippines.

She's been an great aunt, albeit an absent one for most of my life. She never forgets a birthday or any special occassion. She always asks how we're doing in school and reminds us to study well. She'll send money to our grandma so she can get us something we want as a reward for doing well in class or in some competition. There's always something under the tree at Christmas time.

I remember answering sone of her calls for my grandparents, which were the only times I get to hear her voice. Though I can't remember the kast time I saw her in person since I was too young, I was familiar of her face; pictures were akk around our living room. A particular photo stuck to my mind like a caller ID photo in a cellphone. Every time I hear her name or thought about her, I saw her as that image. I never thought I'd be so surprised when I saw her after all those years. Last October 12, 2006, in my grandfather's funeral, my aunt went home for the first time in 16 years. I came home from UP that particular Thursday, aware that mom went home with Tita Beth. When I arrived, Mom hugged me, then returned to her seat, and i quickly looked around to find my aunt. Of course, the particular picture in my mind was the one I expected to see. Mom then pointed to the woman beside her and told me she is Tita Beth. She looked so different.

My aunt is sick. She's had kidney failure for more than five years. The sickness made her look older than her age; she's so bony now. She still works; sometimes, she even works o vertime. She's a very determined. She needs her body to be stronger to be able to undergo her operation. She needs to be operated as soon as possible before the time comes that she can't be operated on anymore.

To help her feel good despite her condition, my grandmother, mother, brother and I take her to places whenever my aunt's day off is the same as ours. Our family, together with hers, has gone out to dinner a few times. She enjoys going to het favorite places here in Los Angeles. On eimprovement that I see is her appetite. Whenever she eats her favorite dishes, she eats like a bear. It's good that she's gaining weight.

I hope the time comes when she'll be free of her sickness and she'll look healthier and happier. I hope for the day when I'll see her looking as beautiful as she was in that photo taken before the sickness struck her.

Happy Mother's Day Tita Beth! Get well soon.

My Mother's Miracle
by Shiela Perez

When I was a little girl, my mother performed a miracle, though she doesn't know it. It's something I never told her. Maybe because it's one of those stories you never really tell anyone; you just keep it with you, like a charm in your pocket-so small but holding so much significance. Now I'd l ike my mom to know about it because she made it happen. And I wouldn't want it to disappear untold.

When I was growing up in the 70's, I thought miracles had to be huge, like the Red Sea parting for Charlton Heston, or the Virgin Mary appearing before the three Fatima children. To me, miracles were so much larger than everyday life that didn't happen these days-that is, until December of 1977, when my mother's miracle did.

It was a sunny winter in Los Angeles when my older brother, my younger sister, and I came down with the flu. We caught it every winter, sure as leaves fall. All three of us were quarantined in my brother's room, while my mom watched us from the nearby kitchen. She went back and forth, sitting us up to feed us, giving us medicine, taking our temperatures, and emptying out the bucket we'd been sick in. And in between, she would sit by our bedside, watching tv with us, or taking a nap on the small cot.

As kids will do, we never thought what it was like for our mom to take care of three miserabbly sick children. We never heard that phone call she must have made to her office, using her sick days to look after us. We never thought what it was for her to wake up all hours of the night to check on us. We just slept and ran our fevers, uncomfortable and waiting to get better.

Usually, as we did begin to feel better, we'd become impatient to get out of those sticky pajamas, put on our day clothes, and play outside. That week, my brother and sister broke their fevers on schedule, while for some reason, the flu kept it's hold on me.

They were in their play clothes before I knew it. From my bed, I could hear the screen door slam as they ran in and out. Even though I was only 10 years old, it puzzled me why I wasn't well. My health was one day overdue, and then three days. I was still weak and achy, all alone in the room. I heard my brother and sister just outside the bedroom door asking my mom if I was still sick, and my mom telling them to leave me alone if they didn't want to get sick again.

New Year's morning, I woke to the sound of the Rose Parade on our little black-and-white set. I saw my mon sitting in a chair beside me watching it. When she saw me, she smiled, asking, "Oh, how do you feel?" Then she put her cheek to my forehead. Sick as I was, I noticed a slight difference in her. I felt a different kind of tenderness emanating from her now that (as I've thought about it over the years) must have come from a worry and feeling of helplessness that only a mother could feel after doing everything she could, yet having to watch as this one child of hers suffered.

She took my temperature, which must have been very high, because she made a little sound that told me she was worried. And without a word, she did something she hadn't done before: she lay down and put her arms around me. At that very moment, I felt the fever leave me. My head and body cleared, as if all the illness had drained away. My mother noticed it , too. She felt my forehead, and was surprised that I was suddenly alright. I remember her saying (and I didn't have to look at her to know that she was beaming with relief): "Aw, you just needed your mama to make you feel better."

And I did. It was that simple.
She held me a little longer and then got up to make breakfast.
"It's your birthday tomorrow, huh?" she asked. Jan 2-I would be 11. (She always made it sound as if my birthday snuck up on her, though I knew differently.)
"What kind of cake do you want?" she asked.
"Strawberry," I answered, as I always did, "with pink frosting."
She nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. I listened to the familiar sounds of pots, dishes, and running water, and I thought about this minor miracle of my mother's that released me.
Then a word came to me-the only word that seemed to fill my mind and the air around all around me. That word is "Love."

'Nanay' is my heroine
by Marife Esguerra

I was born the seventh among nine children of my parents. Most of us have been delivered by my mama at the Mary Johnston Hospital in the Tondo district of Manila, the Philippine capital.

Upon graduating from high school in 1982, I found out that my mama has secured teh approval of then Manila Mayos Ramon D. Bagatsing, Sr. as well as president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila to accept my enrollment in the university's College of Nursing.

Obligingly, I strove hard to absord the nursing subjects for about one year, and then without my mama's permission, shifted to the mass communications program of Philippine Women's University and graduated with a bachelor of science.

Sometime in 1987, after finishing a short course at the Cora Doloroso Modeling School, I got a working visa to Japan and joined a group of Filipino entertainers as a solo singer in Japanese nightspots. From my meager earnings I was bale to send cash and non-costly presents to my mama and three sisters.

While working in Japan, I met a Japanese gentleman and an Arab student who both befriended me. When I ended my working contract, I went home to Manila where my Japanese boyfriend regulkarly sent me several love letters, one of which was convincing to get married with him, which I respectfully declined. My Arab boyfriend followed me to the Philippines and enrolled in a Manila college to pursue medicine. He was too persistent in seeking my favor to get married and live with him.

In order to evade such delicate situation, I managed to secure a tourist visa to Chicago, Illinois. There, I stayed briefly with known officers in our church, the Iglesia Ni Kristo. Having verified the current whereabouts of my mama, I moved to Long Beach, California, where she migrated in March of 1986.

In Long Beach, I took up odd jobs, including that in a Kodak films wholesaler office, where I worked the afternoon-midnight shift, my mama fetched me and I rode with her home. Another job was working as a salesgirl in a video rental shop.

My mama, who was a licensed certified nursing assistant, managed to get me hired as a temporary aide at Marlora Convalescent Hospital on Anaheim Street, Long Beach. This is also where I obtained my certificate as a certified nursing assistant. Having thus qualified, I was able to get a job first at Akins Convalescent Hospital, the Colonial Empire Hospital.

Since 2000, I have come to realize that my mama is my bida because of her inspiring maternal advise-that I pursue the nursing profession. Now I have advanced to becoming a licensed cocational nurse after completing a course at the Long Beach City College. I have achieved this with very strong moral and financial support of my beloved mama.


Heart of Rachel said...

Happy Mother's Day Maria. Sorry haven't been able to visit in a while.

Congratulations to Axel and Kyla for the beautiful pieces they have written. It must feel great to have both works published. A wonderful Mother's Day gift. Thanks for sharing.