Although I don’t see my mother as often as I did after she moved to Bacoor, Cavite 20 years ago, we’d keep in touch often by text or Facebook messenger. I would greet her on her birthday and during the holidays, or sometimes when I was just curious with what she’s up to. Often, she would end our chats with a reminder to take care of myself.
There are a number of things I now know because I picked them up from my mother.
Reading is one. She would leave books around the house hoping we would pick them up. That reading habit would find me devouring my English and Filipino textbooks after we’ve bought them. Before classes started, I had already read all the stories.
I remember my mom coming home one afternoon from an errand, and she brought with her these ancient English books she bought from a sale in a bookstore in Sta. Cruz, Manila. The books’ hardbound covers had gathered dust, but the pages inside were pristine.
You know how English textbooks go. All those little stories about people and places around the world were followed with questions to test your reading comprehension. Of course, I didn’t bother with those questions. I was only after the stories.
I think I gained an interest in places from one of those books. Names like Popocapetl and Quetzalcoatl amused me. How do you even say those names? (They are names for a Mexican volcano and the feathered serpent god, respectively.)
When my sisters discovered Mills & Boons romance novels, that set them reading a lot. And you can bet my mom would be grabbing those books, too, after my sisters had finished them.
I also passed on to her hardbound books that I got as freebies. She always looked forward to a crime thriller.
Often, she would complain about how some whodunits were just too predictable because she could already guess who the killer is even before she finished the second chapter. Of course, she would read the whole book just to see if her hunch was right. She always is correct.
I picked up my mother’s habit of reading a page with one of her eyes closed. I found her squinting her eye one afternoon and asked her why she was reading that way. All she said was that she read better with one eye closed. Nowadays, you will also find me squinting my eyes when I am carefully reading some document.
Something I also learned from my mother is how to call the wind on a really hot day. It must be an Ilocano thing because a friend who is a certified Ilocana asked me about it.
We were in the province one summer vacation. We had just come from my grandparents’ place in a village a few meters away from the main road. I trudged my way through the dusty road until we reached the highway where we waited for a jeepney to take us back to town.
It was a hot day and there wasn’t a breeze to cool us down. There I was complaining about the heat as we stood under a clump of trees. I tried fanning myself with my hand, but it didn’t work.
My mother suddenly whistled like she was calling someone’s attention. In a few moments, a breeze came and shook the leaves of the trees behind us.
How did you do that, I asked her.
She said when it’s really hot and you need some air, just whistle. I tried it myself that moment, and indeed the wind came.
Many years later, on a coverage with journalist-colleagues, I had a chance to whistle for the wind, too. We were on the road, waiting for a cab. It was a hot day. Absentmindedly, I whistled, and the wind did come.
My friend commented, “Who ordered for the wind?”
I turned to her, my eyes wide open in surprise, and asked her how she knew that little trick.
She replied that it was something everyone who grew up in the province knows. We both laughed after that, and proceeded to whistle in unison.
There are other things I learned from my mom, but that’s all I’m sharing for now.
Happy Mother’s Day, Nanay!