[Letters from Mama] The great honor and privilege to be your mother
Mother's Day, admittedly, is a manufactured "holiday." What isn't manufactured, however, is the affection we feel towards our mothers – whether they've been our mothers since birth, later in life, at work, or whenever. Mother's Day is a perfect opportunity to be cheesier than usual and make sure the mothers in our lives know that they are loved, they are appreciated, and that no matter what we say, we need them in our lives.
But this year's Mother's Day comes at an extraordinarily trying time – a pandemic forcing most of the world to seek shelter in their homes as essential workers struggle to contain the deadly novel coronavirus. So for Mother's Day, we asked mothers from different walks of life to write a letter to their children as the world braves this pandemic.
Stella Quimbo has a formidable resume. She has a BS, MA, and PhD in Economics all from the University of the Philippines. It's only fitting, of course, that she eventually became chair of the same university's School of Economics. A former Commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission and a Prince Claus Professorial Chair Holder at Eramus University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Quimbo has since shifted gears and now represents the 2nd District of Marikina City in Congress. But old habits – competencies, actually – never truly fade. The first-time legislator is spearheading the passage of a P370-billion stimulus package that wants to help small and medium businesses recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.
She is mom to Mario, Lean, Pepe, and Lupe, and wife to Miro.
To my dearest Mario, Lean, Pepe, and Lupe,
This is the worst of times, yet the best of times too. Years from now, when Tatay and I are long gone, and you have children of your own, you will be telling them about this period in time when we were locked up in our house continuously for 60 days.
This is called the cycle of life! When we were your age, our parents told us about the second world war. Lola Mama told stories to Tatay and his siblings about how they had to abandon their house in the city and live in the mountains, where they ate what they planted and made their own soap and other household stuff.
“You kids are lucky, you didn’t have to live through the war,” is what our elders would say.
They can’t say that to you guys. Today, you are living through a war. And Tatay and I are doing everything that we can to prevent the virus from invading our house, just like how our grandparents did everything to hide their families.
Fortune is always a relative concept. You are as unfortunate as your lolos and lolas for having experienced a “war”; but you are fortunate to have three meals a day, not to have to make your own soap, unlimited though spotty Internet, enough space for social distancing, eat in the company of your parents and Loly every single day.
Before COVID happened, my daily frustration was not being able to spend as much time as I want and ought to with all of you. As a working mother, that is my daily dose of guilt, every single day. But COVID gave me a chance to compensate for all those shortcomings. It has been great to reconnect with and rediscover all of you. Thank you, too, for confessing to me and Tatay all those bad things you did but never admitted. Eto pala ang dahilan ng life imprisonment as a penalty for heinous crimes; you eventually make confessions of your misdeeds.
Others, however, are not as fortunate.
Millions of our kababayans are hungry and fearful. They fear for their lives; they may survive the virus but perhaps not the abject poverty. Many of them earned a living selling food in the streets, driving tricycles, or providing services like haircuts and massages pre-COVID. Today, they have nothing because the economy has virtually stopped. So imagine how frustrating that can be to parents: I am not lazy, I had a job just weeks ago, but now I have to beg for food for my family from the State.
This is what I am currently fighting for; this is my own war. You see me working from the time I wake up until past midnight at times, Zoom-ing many times during the day. I’ve been working on a bill that hopes to protect workers from losing their jobs when the economy gets reopened. Thank you for supporting me on this.
You will, one day, have to face wars on your own – in school, at work, (hopefully not with your in-laws, so please choose your spouses well!!). Each time this happens to you, think about this time of COVID. Make the most of everything, learn to plan and manage risks (like what we do with grocery shopping), always think ahead, build skills (you now know how to wash the dishes, congratulations!). More importantly, emerge stronger after each war.
I love you all. It’s a great honor and privilege to be your mother. May the Lord keep us safe from COVID.
- From Berna Romulo-Puyat: [Letters from Mama] Optimism, thanks to my children
- From Stella Quimbo: [Letters from Mama] The great honor and privilege to be your mother