Giving My Mother Her Due

Part of the planning for my mother’s surprise birthday party, Dad asked us to prepare a message for her. Growing up, I realized that instead of buying them birthday gifts, I would use my gift of writing in expressing my love and gratitude for my parents. About ten years ago, I gave them a poem for their birthday (both my parents are born in September) which they found really special, so they submitted it to To everyone’s surprise, I gained recognition for this at the age of 14. Perhaps I should write about it in another post.

Incidentally, I finished reading Mitch Albom’s For One More Day a few weeks prior to my mother’s celebration. It is about a son who lost his mother in his most trying time. Since his mother’s death, his life became a complete disaster. He lost his job then eventually lost his family. One day, to his frustration, he was determined to end his life only to be given the chance to spend another day with her mother. It was a very touching story, thus I made this book as an inspiration to my message for my mother. Here it is:

Please allow me to begin this tribute by recounting the Times My Mother Stood Up for Me:

I had been riding the bus service since I started school in first grade, and transferring to another school in fourth grade did not make an exception. I was not the bullying type nor do I get intimidated by most kids, but one pressing incident made my mother come to school to file a complaint.

One afternoon, on our way home from school, a bus-mate—a year my senior—harassed me by deliberately putting crumpled paper into my mouth. I do not remember what he was up to, but he ridiculously thought it was funny. It happened so fast that I did not realize this until I started shaking, brought about by overwhelming fear and humiliation. When I got home, I immediately told my mother about it, and she insisted to report it the following day.

I was young then, but somehow, I knew what was going on. At the Guidance Office, she demanded an explanation as well as an apology from the offender. That was the first time I had a clear memory of my mother in an authoritative stance. I tell you this—never have I been bullied since.

I had another situation of the same nature in college during my senior year. One early morning, over the phone, I had an encounter with an unnerving thesis-mate who threatened to cast me out of our group if I do not show up in school with my monetary contribution for our thesis. I had explained to her that I won’t be able to go since I was only informed the last minute. Upon hearing this, she suddenly went berserk—yelling at me on the other end of the line. My mother, who was sleeping in the next room, heard this uproar. We were already shouting at each other when she walked into the living room. When I told her what happened, she called my thesis-mate to hear her side of the story. Apparently, my mother got disappointed when my thesis-mate told her that I was irresponsible and incompetent member of the group. My mother thought this was a sweeping statement and that she would not allow this situation get even worse.

She took it upon herself to ensure that the issue gets resolved by due process in order to secure my place in graduation. I knew it was difficult for my parents to be in such a disconcerting situation, but they never left my side. My parents stood by me until I marched on my graduation day.

Of course, how does one expect a mother to react when their children, most especially their only daughter, gets heartbroken? More often than not, mothers are most affected by this. It pains them twice as much seeing their children hurting. As my parents would always say, “Hindi ka iniluwal sa mundo, pinalaki’t binihisan upang saktan lamang ng kung sino mang hindi karapat-dapat na magkaroon ng puwang sa buhay mo, maging sa buhay naming pamilya mo.” (We did not bring you into this world, fed you and raised you, so someone can hurt you; someone who does not even deserve to be a part of your life nor ours.) I guess that’s just how it is—my battles are their battles, too.

The list of all the times my mother stood up for me is endless; it goes on and on. It would be a shame to keep a record of the times I stood up for my mother.

It’s sad, the imbalance of it all. Why do kids assume so much from one parent and hold the other to a lower, looser standard?

Growing up, I have learned that if my mother said it, I believed it. She wasn’t easy on me, don’t get me wrong. She smacked me. She scolded me. She punished me. But she loves me. She really does. She loved me falling off a swing set. She loved me slipping on her floors with muddy shoes. She loved me through the vomit and snot and bloody knees. She loved me coming and going, at my worst and at my best. She has a bottomless well of love for me. Her only flaw was that she didn’t make me work for it.

My father had seen my mother as a woman, but I had never seen her as Rosalia, the name her parents had given her, or as Gigi, the name her friends call her, only as Mommy, the name I had given her. I could only see her carrying dinner to the table with kitchen mitts, or tying my shoelaces when they’re undone.

When you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know. I believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above the swirling waters, and sometimes that means you will never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t. But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin. So this is my mother’s story and mine. (excerpts from the book, For One More Day by Mitch Albom)

Mommy, I could only wish the best things in life for you, but it would be more realistic to hope for better health in the years to come. I know that you have always maintained a youthful glow through the years, but I still aspire that you embrace this part of womanhood, and age with grace. On this day, I pray that all your petitions—your heart’s desires—may be granted.

I may be stubborn in most occasions, but I’d like to believe that who I am and what I’ve become today, I owe everything to you. Though I don’t say this quite often, I want you to know that I love you!

Happy, happy birthday, Mommy!

By the time I finished, the guests—including my Mom and myself—are already crying. I guess they got overwhelmed as much as I did. Writing a message or a speech like this one is easier than reading it to an audience of 20++ people.

I assume it’s true that the mother has more influence in the overall development of their children. Regardless whether the children grew up with a father or not, it is the mother who hones their kids’ character to prepare them for their future. It helps them cultivate their survival skills in order to make it on their own someday. When that happens, perhaps the mother has served her purpose in life.

I believe that it is one thing to give the most expensive gift you can find in the world, but allowing words to express your affection for your mother is another. I hope you find ways to give your mothers credit, too.

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