I am sharing with you a few of the many things I learned from my mom through the years. Throughout the list below you will find many that are related to prayer/praying. That, perhaps, is Mommy’s greatest legacy. But even as she is very anchored in nurturing a friendship with God, she maintains a very healthy sense of humor, loves dancing and pretty things, is generous to a fault. She always leads by example, and makes it her mission to help solve other people’s problems. Mommy always goes the extra mile for a friend or even a stranger in need. You can sell her a stone and she will buy it if she knows it will help. No one problematic leaves her company without feeling better and lighter. There is a downside to being that way but good karma has chased her all her life. If only for that, I know she is on to something right. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You are a bright ray of sunshine in our lives. We love you very, very much.
• Never waste anything. Anugon, she always says, magamit pa man ni (Don’t waste this, it can still be used). From a lonely safety pin lying on some corner to a five-centavo coin, to hideous souvenir items and tacky gifts, Mommy always spotlights the “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” label, giving the item a chance to survive just a bit longer until it finds a happy taker. “Magabaan ta kung mag usik-usik ta.” (We will have bad karma if we waste things). “Someday, someone will find use for this.” And really, someone always does. The pack rat that she is, she is the one who will have the perfect item to complete a costume for a school play, little bottles for a school project, bags that can be taken apart and refurbished for Practical Arts class.
• Don’t just keep it in your cabinet or closet, give it away to someone who can use it. Do not be attached to anything you do not/cannot/will not use. Someone else will benefit from it.
• Honor an invite with your presence, and if you can’t make it RSVP. Empty seats in a party sadden her and she always says “Kaluoy inatwn sa nag-imbitar” (I feel for the party-giver) At least when you call to RSVP, your slot can still be given to someone else.
Great things can be conquered by praying the rosary. My entire life is a testament to this. I want Mama Mary to always be my best friend.
Newspapers are best for cleaning mirrors and other glass surfaces. They are always available and with little else but water, they never leave streaks or any residue.
Always clean the back of your ears and your navel — areas that are often neglected.
• For kids playing outdoors, always wear long pants. That way, mosquitoes cannot bite and even if the child trips and falls, there will be no deep scratches or wounds. Should the latter happen though, boil guava leaves in water, cool, and use it to bathe the body. Guava leaves have healing properties and will contribute to flawless skin.
• The body is not a machine. When it feels tired, listen to it. Sleep. It helps.
• Pearls make you pretty.
• Once, someone gave us suman without the latik as a present. It was obviously their tira and Mommy said that as much as she appreciated the gesture we should never do that. When you give a gift, it has to be complete. Giving suman without latik is like giving only the other half of a pair of earrings, or one shoe instead of two. Always be thoughtful when it comes to gift-giving. Your aim is not to avoid offending but to make the recipient happy.
• Be a cheerful giver. Always.
• Always ask permission when you borrow, and always return things. When we borrowed books from the library before, Mommy always checked the library card at the back to make sure we return the books on time. When our playmates left things in our house she made it a point to have it sent to the rightful owner. When we swapped novels and Betamax tapes with friends and cousins, she always reminded us to return them. Even among us siblings we were trained to always ask permission when we borrowed things from each other, as a matter of courtesy. It was always something we were very conscious about.
• Respect privacy. We could leave our diaries and letters unattended and Mommy would never peek inside. She never went through our things or opened our letters or eavesdropped on any of our phone conversations.
• There is a time for everything. So for the moment, do what you have to do. If it is work that you are faced with for a long stretch, deal with it. There will be time for a break soon enough, just wait and see. If what you must do right now is nurture a family and run a household with little or no time for a social life whatsoever, do that. While we were growing up, Mommy was always around for us. As soon as we got home from school she was there to welcome us, help us with our assignments. She was not the type who baked and cooked but she was a friend and a confidante and always indulged us in our whims. She allowed us to turn over tables and chairs as we “made” houses or pretended they were the mountains in the The Sound of Music, she allowed me to play with her makeup and try on her shoes and clothes. We felt at home in our home, we never tiptoed around her and neither were we scared of messing up the house. She never stifled out spirit and she allowed us to bloom individually.
• Never leave the kitchen dirty. When my cousins and I sneak into the sparkling kitchen at midnight for a snack we were always mindful of cleaning up our mess. Even if we did not wash the dishes, as long as we put them in the sink and left the table clean, that was good enough. Otherwise, insects and undesirables like cockroaches will attack.
• Put lotion on hands and feet, every day. A woman should still have hands and feet as soft as a baby’s.
• Kindness comes back, always. Have no doubts about that.
• Always see God’s hand in everything. Even when things do not necessarily go your way, it will have no power to frustrate you. “Sige lang, apgbu-ot sa Ginoo, ayaw kaguol.” (It’s okay, it’s God’s will, don’t worry). And when the situation comes to pass, you realize the wisdom of that very simple statement.
• Protect your family like a mother hen.
• If you have to do something you are not exactly enthusiastic about, offer it as a sacrifice for the poor souls in purgatory. It makes it more bearable, if not easier. When Juliana was about seven or eight we dragged her to go to a children’s party she absolutely did not want to attend for some reason. My mom told her to just offer it as a sacrifice for the poor souls in purgatory. Without missing a beat, my daughter turned both hands palms up and said “But Lola, why must I suffer for the poor souls in purgatory?” As an adult, there are many things I must do that I do not want to do. Thinking of what Mom has taught all these years makes everything doable.
• Good manners are very important. It is not a matter of being rich or poor. Good manners are something everyone can learn.
• Be charitable. Give to nuns and priests, they who rely on the goodness of the community they serve to further God’s cause.
• Keep photos and letters.
• On a very busy day when your to-do list is longer than your arms, pray first. God will give you the wisdom to know which to tackle first, and before you know it you have been able to tick it all off the list.
• A parent’s blessing is very important. If it were up to my Dad and Lola Carmen, my sister and I would never have boyfriends and we would never step inside the wonderful world that was disco back in the ‘90s. But Mommy was there for perpetual help and intercession. She struck a deal with us and with the help of our Tita Liclic, her sister, who was one of our chaperones while we were in college, Mommy said we should never sneak out behind their backs because she wanted us to be safe from any untoward incident. We had to ask permission, which she always granted reasonably, and we were allowed to go out with friends for as long as we kept our curfew and told her we were going. It was very important that she gave us our blessing because that also ensured our protection from harm. It is a practice I have continued now that I have a family of my own. Before Juliana leaves the house, Richard and I always bless her.
• Cover your loved ones in prayer. Persist in prayer for them and intercede for them in all areas in their life. Even if results are not seen yet, just keep on praying. There is no such thing as wasted prayer, it always bears fruit.
• Go to the patay. Say Mass for the dead. All the dead relatives have to be remembered. On All Soul’s Day, my sister brings out from the file — a very long list of the dear departed our family has known.
• Eat together. Family meals are very important because it is more than just sharing food, it is a time to connect and strengthen ties. Time together as a family is very precious.
• Be grateful for acts of kindness shown and extended to you. Pay it forward as often as possible.
• Always welcome the friends of your children. Our house was always open to our friends. Any one of us siblings could come home with a dozen or more classmates and they would be warmly welcomed.
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