Because I love you
I look at myself in the mirror before I leave home. And I surprise myself with how I look. I’m dressed well, my skin is no longer sunburnt, I’ve lost weight, I’ve ditched my worn and torn Chuck Taylor’s, I no longer tote a dirty backpack, and on my face you can see lesser stress, more light.
You will not be able to tell that I was once a full-time activist, except for a number of scars from carabao fly bites that I endured during immersion trips to the countryside, and the callused soles of my feet from the numerous protest rallies that I had attended.
Things are better now. I am present for breakfasts, lunches, and family outings and activities. I have even fallen in love and found myself a boyfriend (who is not an activist, by the way), and I am slowly adjusting to the nitty-gritty of a bourgeois relationship.
But most importantly, I look at my mom and see how I am no longer at the top of her worry list. But I also feel her anxiety that any time, this calm would end and give way to the usual storm.
For this Mother’s Day, I want to ease her fears. But first, let me go back to a journal entry I wrote for her on May 10, 2010, when I left home to be a full-time activist: I rang the bell of our gate after five or so days of being away. I went through storm and rain in my mind, trying to make sure my tears would not fall as I stood in front of our house while I waited for someone to open that familiar gate for me.
Inside our home, my mother welcomed me, still with open arms, unwavering in her resolve to get me back. Everything about her actions, her accommodating voice, reminded me of what I would be giving up if I stood by my decision.
I broke everything that was whole in my mom. I broke her hopes, her dreams for me, and her resolve that this situation would soon be over like a bad dream. I saw my mother cry because of me for the first time, while trying to convince me for three hours to give up being an activist. I didn’t budge. I never did.
After many months in and mostly out of our house, my mother was a fortress. Having an activist for a daughter, I think, is far more painful for her than anything else: This daughter will remain the same, normal in thought and in action, but her heart will forever stay with the people and no longer within the four corners of your warm and cozy home. No matter what you say, she’ll consider not only your family of six her home but also every picket line, every hacienda, every farmland where the masses are toiling day in and day out.
My mother deals with this reality every day, and yet she is able to pacify her pain just for me. So that each and every time I come home, a smile welcomes me, and warm home-cooked meals fill me up. She is able to keep this family together despite my being away.
Today, while writing this somewhere in a faraway province where I am organizing the youth, I can say that among her children, my mother went through the most for me. I am not alien to my parents’ pain, my mother’s agony. I remember when she’d text me, “Please come home, anak (child),” and I’d feel a tug in the strings of my heart, I’d feel my eyes welling up with tears. I’m new to distance from my family. It still pains me each time. My mother’s love reminds me of everything I loved about the life I had then. But at the same time, she reminds me of how I was brought up to be sympathetic to the plight of many, and how I am now a daughter of many other families trying to fight for their basic needs and rights.
Even as an activist, with a very unconventional understanding of love, I love my mother more and respect her more each and every day she tries to understand why I’m not with her.
As said in a letter of a great activist, “I love her in the way I understood love then, and I love her more in the way I now want to change the world. The many experiences of mothers with daughters who have chosen a life written with the struggles of the people would make up the most colorful, tragic, agonizing, and yet heart-warming stories of all. My mother handled ours with beauty and understanding that fills my heart with gratitude each time. Like Mary in the story of Jesus’ coming, she kept our whole experience in her heart. And she continues to redefine this struggle that I will be forever immersed in, with her kind of love, cushioning me and keeping me always, wherever I may be, in the more peaceful nights of this revolution.”
Today the peaceful nights of my revolution are spent in the air-conditioned comfort of my room. But the nobility and sincerity of my mother’s love have not faded in quality. With all that I have done, she treats me as if nothing had ever happened, just happy that I am back.
Indeed, I have come back. Not because I was required or compelled to, not because I needed something, not because I am scared. I’ve known that a family can be done without; I’ve deconstructed and reconstructed its meaning and my attachment to it time and again in my heart. I can do it again. And in a heartbeat I can again disappear. I’ve come back only because I want to. Every time I decide to come home, to decline the possibilities of going full-time, it is only because I’ve seen true and unconditional love from my mother. And for such, I feel a desire to reciprocate, not out of requirement but out of my own desire and volition.
Today I am a full-time law student. I still attend rallies and help out in the labor sector. I’ve taken up a part-time job in a progressive nongovernment organization. It serves as my outlet for my passion and desire for activism. It makes me feel that I haven’t turned my back on the struggle. It keeps me sane.
At the breakfast table, my mother asks if I’m leaving for the day despite the fact that it’s summer vacation from law school. I tell her I’m going to the NGO I work for. She understands what it means, she understands its multilayered meanings and implications, she sees a glint of the emancipation I’m used to in my eyes. She asks no further questions, but in her eyes I can see all the worries, rallies, labor education discussions, and time outside of our home in unsecure places.
We look at each other for a millisecond. In my mind I tell her this is not like before. I pray in my heart that she understands. Without a blink, she agrees, tells me to take care, and kisses me goodbye.
Though every day the idea of returning to the fold of full-time activism tears at my mind, those moments tell me that I made the right decision. So with my kiss I tell her, Yes, this is different, I’ll come back, I’ll come home. I won’t leave, I’m here to stay. Because I love you. Because you loved me despite everything, because I’ve learned what true love is from you.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!
Marian Kris B. Santos, 24, is a law student at San Beda College and a staff member of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research Inc. She was a full-time activist for two years.
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