I have mentioned in my previous post on “Mother” that she was asking my grandpa (who died when I was a kid) to take her with him in a ship a day before she died. The brother of my mother died Monday May 14, 2012, we went to his wake in Lobo, Batangas which is quite far. On our way going there, I told my sister that I posted on my blog about it. I told her that we even go to other countries many times and yet we did not attempt to ask her to join us so she could ride a ship or airplane. I believe she really wants to travel because she was very fond of reading and she knows a lot of things to add that her very sharp memory never falter till the day she died. She never forget a name or a story she heard or read and of course the litany of our lives.
My sister told me, yes we should have done that but she also remembered a story she always told us. My grandfather (an Illustrado) had a first wife who died of giving birth, the child survived and was raised by a nanny who gave her own milk so she would survive. In those times there are no instant milk formula, instead a “sisiwa” or surrogate mother was hired by my grandfather. He met and married my grandmother who was a daughter of their worker in the farm (I presume, uneducated unlike my grandfather who studied in colegio in Manila). My grandmother had 10 children, my mother told us that every time she gave birth, they always buy land and keep expanding their properties the reason why they had so many children. The daughter by first marriage eloped with her teacher and this made my grandfather very mad that he prevented his daughters to get higher education. He donated land for elementary school and maybe even had made it built. As far as I know, my mother studied in this school near their house so with her other sisters except for the youngest whom they pleaded with their father to be allowed to get a college degree. She studied in Manila finished college and married an engineer. My mother was a valedictorian but she was not allowed to get further education. He father said that his daughters would be like their half-sister (first marriage) that would not study but would only get a husband.
The brothers of my mother were encouraged to study but some decided to just concentrate on farming since they own vast tract of land. One of the elder brother studied in UP and during wartime was part of those who were in the Bataan Death March but he survived and was invited by the US government to work in the US Embassy. Later he become a US citizen so with his children and other members of his family including their youngest brother. My mother was envious of his brothers and she wants us her children to get the education which was denied her. She was a dutiful daughter if there was such a word and with her stories we knew how much she loved her family. She helped her family and her brother even when he has a family.
Mother was so beautiful when she was young, when she died we have seen how she seemed to be much younger and so beautiful like when she was newly married. We treasured their wedding picture with my father in white business suit and my beautiful mother who told us that they were not engaged and she only said yes to my father in front of the officiating priest. Theirs was an arranged marriage, my father is quite well-off by the standards of old, an only surviving child of my grandfather. My grandmother and aunt were killed by Japanese soldiers. We grew up with my grandfather and mother would always tell us that my father was not her “novio” theirs was an arranged marriage. I do not know if she loved my father. Thinking fast forward, I remember the movie”Fiddler on the Roof” which I saw with my youngest sister when we were in college. It’s quite hazy now in my memory but the story has a matchmaker, it was a musical and the main cast were product of matchmaker that the woman asked the husband if he loved her, which was answered differently, that they had a number of children (forgot how many) and so that was the answer. It also kept me wondering, does it mean that having a number of children would make you love your husband?
My sister and I did some analysis of the stories of my mother as adults. She told us she lived with my uncle in Quezon City when she was a young lass where she met this lad, a neighbor who is a son of a judge who have large tract of lands (hundreds of hectares) in Mindoro (I think). My grandfather acted rashly when he learned about this guy, he fetched my mother from Manila to bring her back to Batangas. As a dutiful daughter who revered her father, my mother followed his every word and maybe she went home with a heavy heart. We concluded that my mother fell in love with him since she always tell us this story, I only remember the family name but she never mentioned the name of the guy. It was an interesting analysis by her five daughters who did not care to think about it before. Part of the analysis was that in the last hours of her life she still longs for this guy that she asked my grandfather to let her ride the ship even if she has to pay for her own fare so she could she him. We never saw our parents with a touch of romance. My father called her “Sama” meaning kasama or partner, that was accepted by us as fair and he did respected my mothers’ decisions. Ours was a matriarchal family although we defer to the decisions of my father, my mother has a way of swaying him to her wishes. Now, that leave us wondering whether my mother loved my father and whether my father knew my of my mothers’ first love.
First love never dies, so they say and if our analysis was true, my mother never stopped loving this man whom we never knew the name. Love stories like “The Notebook” moved me into tears but knowing the love story of my mother if our analysis was true is sure to hit a chord. We are left wondering, is there a truth to our analysis? What has life really been with our mother who was so strong and sure of herself and what she wants? Was she not able to fight for the true and only love that she has? Did my father knew about it and how did he reacted to this knowledge? We will never know, as we were not able to know the name of this person whom she always talk about anonymously.
My mother remained an enigma to us her children. We continued to reminisce about her until we reached the house of her brother. We will never know but we will always be proud of her and what she stands for, equality and good life for her children. There are innumerable things we can remember about her that our conversations will be always laced with, our mother when she was alive….