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I always visit Tacloban. My frequent visit in my hometown made it closer to me as if there was no ocean that separated us, as if there were no islands between us. But this time, I felt I was visiting my hometown for the first time. It was a universe away like a page from a history book. I planned my trip as if I was going to an isolated island. I packed sanitary napkin, laundry detergent, shampoo. I brought home a  large luggage of goods, in fear there was no  grocery store.  Back then, we used to have everything. We had malls, restaurants,  hotels, and parks. Watching  Tacloban through the window pane,  I was guessing which stores were opened. From above, I saw the skeleton of my city. The green mountain tops surprised me. The last time I was there, Yolanda made everything  lifeless. The airport was naked and dead. We passed through San Jose, one of the places that were covered by flood. Tents donated by United Nations stood in the grounds flattened by Yolanda. The rain poured and I wondered how the people living in tents could survive. It had rained for the past few days.
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Everything was normal at home but outside, everything was too far from its original state. There was no place for strolling.  I accompanied my mom to the store that just reopened. The prices went down but the place needed a major cleanup. We walked through the wet floors. A lot of people squeezed in to buy items they had lost during the typhoon. Women were buying stained kitchen utensils. On the store walls, I spotted muddy hand-prints of Yolanda. There were a lot of vendors in the streets though we consider them now as the business in Tacloban. Only  a few big retail shops opened. I bet tourism went well. Almost all the operating hotels were fully booked by foreigners on mission. Though the downtown area had electricity, it was still a haunted city.

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Every house in Tacloban needed a repair.  Too many streets needed to be cleared and cleaned. Too many stories. Too many smiles. One smile came from Kuya Tantan. He lived near the airport area which we  knew had been soaked by the sea. During the storm, he transferred his family to his neighbor’s house. As soon as he reached the second floor of the house, the entire first floor was a pool of seawater. They stayed in the second floor with broken glasses from the window. He heard people outside asking for help. He spotted a hole on the wall, where the air-conditioner was intended. He removed the bars and let the people in. He saved the lives of  eight random strangers. One was a 15-year-old boy. After the storm, he told the boy to come back in case he never found his family again. The boy did not come back.
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One afternoon, we went to the city hall. Kids were running  with their balloons. A group of Koreans performed  Christian songs. One stood out and prayed, ” I pray Tacloban will be the richest city.” Tears streamed down my face. I felt he meant  what he said and I believed in it.  Tacloban will be.

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Welcome to my hometown where every photo you take is a Pulitzer price, where every day you spent is worth keeping in memoir.

TACLOBAN SHIP

 

 

Mama

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“My mother is the best mother in the whole world.”

How many of you have said that?

We all do.

I can’t remember if I said that when I was kid. I probably did because that was a default way to describe a mother. But now that I’m an ‘adult,’ I know what I mean by “my mother is the best mother in the whole world.” When I was a kid, I probably loved my mother because she fed me, clothed me, sheltered me. As I age, I love my mother more for small reasons, for deep reasons, and for no reason at all. It’s when you are a grownup, you gain deep appreciation the kind of life your parents have given to you.

Minimalist Lifestyle

When I was in Grade I, my mother only gave me two pesos for my baon along with sandwich or crackers she bought in the grocery store. Though we were not really poor, I felt a little deprived. I was studying in a private school where almost all the kids had yayas, drivers, and tutors. I stared at them with envy as I saw them buying soft-drinks and chips in the canteen. My brother and I learned to save when we were kids. It was not because our mother told us to do so, because we knew there was nothing much we could do in spending our allowance in a day, compared to saving it for the things we wanted to own. When I look back, I’m glad my mother did not give me too much of everything. I don’t buy designer clothes and I am not in a hurry to buy the latest gadgets. I also go for the basics first and save for my luxuries.

No “Don’ts”

My mom was always present in my class presentations, parades, and all the school activities that required parents to come. But she wasn’t a typical stage mom. She did not tell me to be like this, like that, to join here and there. She wasn’t like other mothers who would push their children to be honor students, to study in a prestigious university, to finish on time, to take up nursing, to be lawyers or doctors, to work abroad. She was happy if I achieved something. When I didn’t, it did not matter to her. And I am happy that my mom is like that. She gives me enough freedom to be what I am and to discover my own interests.

Mothers usually tell their daughters during their teenage years:  “Books first before boys. Studies first before love” but my mom said nothing like that. Deep inside, I wanted to say, “Ma, don’t you think I’m pretty enough to have precautions or warnings about boys? ” (haha) I’m glad that even if my parents have never given me lengthy anti-boyfriend sermon, it turn out well. I don’t have you-and-me-against-the-world love story. And I haven’t brought a male specimen in the house for my parents to be afraid of. Maybe that’s a simple lesson of parenthood. The more you say, “don’t”, the more they will do it.

I did not make an attempt to be rebellious because there was no reason to be. When I was staying with my parents, I never had a curfew. She did not have to tell me to come home on time because most of the time I was at home by choice. Yah, I pretty had a boring life. When I told my mom, I had to  finish a group project overnight, it was easy to believe. There was no need for me to make white lies.

Unconditional Love

If there’s one thing I learn from my mother, it is unconditional love. It’s a kind of love that you don’t ask anything in return and that you accept people as they are. My mom does not require anything from me.

Some people will love us for what we have. Some people will love us because we are funny, nice, and charming. Some people will love us because of what we can do. Some people will love us because of what we have achieved. Nobody can just love anybody that freely. I know that even if I travel across the universe and meet as many people as I can, I know no one can give me that kind of unconditional love.

I love my mom, not only for giving me life but for the kind of life I had, and the life I made out of it.

Mama, Happy Birthday!

If you want to get to know my mother, read this… hehe