Mothers without borders | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

Mothers without borders

I am beautiful in my way

‘Cause God makes no mistakes

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born this way


Don’t hide yourself in regret

Just love yourself, and you’re set

I’m on the right track, baby

I was born this way.”


—“Born This Way”

Lady Gaga and Jeppe Laursen


Even if this song was not meant for children born with imperfections, maybe if this was in existence then, it would have been part of her playlist.

The baby was a firstborn to a couple in their late 30s. He had several malformations from a rare disorder and the prognosis was poor. This led to frequent hospitalizations and memories of how the mother would ever so gently hold her baby while we struggled to find venous access. Instead of making us feel inept after failed attempts, she would tell us to take a breather and come back at a later time for another try. A mini-cassette recorder would always be by their bedside so that well-loved nursery rhymes would keep them company. It has been close to three decades since those encounters and she must now be in her late 60s. Whenever the words “mother” and “unconditional love” are mentioned, thoughts of her and how she was come to mind.


“I love you right up to the moon—and back.“

—“Guess How Much I Love You”

By Sam McBratney

Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Those were the words of Big Nutbrown Hare to Little Nutbrown Hare as he lay sleeping comfortably in his bed of leaves. The little one had tried to outdo his father in terms of measuring the depth of their love for one another.

This was her favorite book so Nanay would make it a point to read it to her every night. From the initial admission to the eventual diagnosis of a hematologic malignancy, we marveled at how calm and very much in control she was. Months later, through a coresident, we learned that we were invited to her little girl’s wake. Upon seeing us at the door of the chapel, Nanay guides us to view her precious one, thanks us, and says, “May angel na tayo sa langit.”


“Are you planning to retire soon?”

This was a question that we posted to the one person who to this day is still responsible for keeping our clothes in immaculate and pristine condition. She proudly announced that all her children have finished college and are blessed with steady jobs. She maintained that she would keep working until that time came when she would be physically unable or we would no longer need her services. Her decision to stay has been a source of lengthy discussions with her children who repeatedly remind her that they had the means to provide for her.


She was a vendor selling organic produce in Bonifacio Global City and on occasion, in the open Sunday market in the Lung Center of the Philippines. Having been told by the oncologist that my ailing father would benefit from having a steady supply of healthy unprocessed meals, she had become a part of my weekly routine. Upon learning that my mother would give me a scolding if I didn’t choose correctly, she would patiently wait while I made the rounds. On several occasions, she would give me more than extra, almost filling up a sack. “Naku, hindi ka na kumita sa akin, abonado ka pa.” She would then gently push and wave me away. “Sige na, until next week uli.”


Her beautiful face and her eyes said it all. I was in the middle of a very tense situation and across the room she managed to convey her support and her expectations via a steady gaze. Sitting next to her the day after, she turns to me and says, “I felt your pain.” Quickly enveloping her in an embrace, the unpleasant feelings that lingered from the night before dissipated. She knew me well and, at that moment, the word mentor took on an even deeper meaning.


I end today’s column by thanking the men and women who have provided us with words that speak of the kind of love that only a mother can give. A personal favorite is this Filipino lullaby.

“Sana’y ‘di magmaliw ang dati kong araw

Nang munti pang bata sa piling ni nanay

Nais kong maulit ang awit ni inang mahal

Awit ng pag-ibig habang ako’y nasa duyan.

Sa aking pagtulog na labis ang himbing.

Ang bantay ko’y tala, ang tanod ko’y bituin

Sa piling ni nanay, langit ay buhayPuso kong may dusa sabik sa ugoy ng duyan.”

—“Sa Ugoy ng Duyan”

Music by Lucio San Pedro

Lyrics by Levi Celerio

Happy Mother’s Day!

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