‘Happy’ is not a toothpaste brand
Mama, I still clearly remember every time you brushed my teeth during my toddler years — one of my earliest memories from childhood, when you acted as my first dentist. You always spoke to me like you were also invoking an enchantment that we, your three children, would grow to be independent people and still care for each other.
Like a broken record, you kept telling us to finish our studies and be the best version of you and Papa. Indeed, we achieved awards in school, but I never heard you brag about yours. When Ate and I decided to pursue our University of the Philippines dream, we never heard any doubts from you that we could not make it through.
In the summer of 2006, I went to Los Baños with only P800 in my pocket. A family friend lent us P1,000, less P200 for interest.
It was my first time to travel to a new place. We could not even afford a cellular phone then. I was thinking I had a special power to communicate with Ate so she would know that I had already arrived in Turbina station.
As I rode the ordinary provincial bus, I gazed at your worried face as you said: “Likayan mo kan sadiri mo. Kung puede magpauripon para lang maka eskwela ta uda man kami ibang ipamana san’yo (Take care of yourself. If necessary, take household chores for a penny to survive college, because we can’t give you anything except education).”
It was your way of telling us to do everything to finish our schooling.
Everything was easier then despite the long days and nights of academic pressure, because you stood like a pillar of hope for us amid pain and hardships. I was lucky to have P50 as my weekly budget, and sometimes P300 during your so called “buenas” days. Those were the days when you sold bangus and other items briskly, like an online flash promo sale. Those were the happiest days for me and my siblings back home.
Despite being diagnosed with malignant brain tumor in the early ’90s, you strove to be a good provider for the family. You walked every street of our small town equipped with your favorite umbrella, sometimes assisted by my younger siblings whenever you felt the excruciating pain of migraine. We knew then that you were forcing yourself to live for us.
While in college, Ate got a scholarship that came with a monthly stipend of P2,000. We always shared 50:50, and although at times the money was delayed, it was a big blessing. We rejoiced!
I worked as a student assistant at the University of the Philippines Los Baños until graduation for a rate of P25 per hour to survive college.
The year 2008 came like a typical year, until Dec. 26 happened. That fateful day, you were like a candle in the wind. As in the song “Vincent,” this world, I think, was never meant for someone as beautiful as you.
In just a snap of a finger, Ate and I became the father and mother figures for our siblings. Boy, it was not an easy task for a teenager who just turned 19. I felt like carrying the heaviest cross, but in my mind I told myself I should not lose. I must pursue and carry on! After all, I am your son.
It has been 11 years since you left us, Mama. Another decade of struggle is about to end. Maybe your prayers were heard, because life has been so kind to us. I’ve met some helpful and kind people. I now have a stable job, and I am able to earn more than what I had ever thought of having. I am now fulfilling your dream house, Ma.
Now that I am turning 30, whenever I brush my teeth I remember you. Like the spell you cast upon me, I am still growing to be the best version of myself, and I promise to take care of our family. There is no battle that my six siblings and I cannot win. You did a great job raising us. Like what the old Bicolano folk song says, “Balakid na boot an sacuyang utang (All the love I owe you, I can never repay).”
“Mabalos na maray, payaba namu ikang maray (Thank you, and we love you very much)!”
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Anima Mundi is the same name the author, 29, uses in Diablo II and PVZ.
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