Lamentably, there are some who ignore their mothers constantly and then try to make up for it on an ordained day in May. Thus they add to the monster crowd of families clogging restaurants, hotels, malls, and other public places in a frenzied effort to give their One and Only the love.
Like Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day acquires significance only when its principle is observed year-round. But marking the day has certainly gotten more complicated. Commerce being the way it is, honoring one’s mother now means conspicuous consumption. So that more often than not, the heart of the occasion is obscured by blinding blings, large bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolates, spa treatments, hotel staycations, and all that jazz. More often than not, what is most important is forgotten. On top of which the concept is a thoroughly American creation, with US activist Anna Jarvis celebrating the first “official” Mother’s Day service on May 10, 1908, followed by US President Woodrow Wilson declaring the second Sunday of May an official holiday in 1914.
Still, far be it from us to behave as a wet blanket in these torrid times. Western construct or not, despite being pushed primarily as a commercial venture, Mother’s Day is as good a time as any to honor the most important woman in our life.
Sadly, however, not all mothers are disposed to be the star on their day, and we think of those Filipino mothers laboring overseas and away from hearth and home. We think also of the mothers of desaparecidos, stubbornly shoring up hope and desperately seeking their sons and daughters. A year ago in this space, we wondered how Edita Burgos, Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño, whose children are among the disappeared, are faring in their long, anguished wait. A year later, they’re still waiting.
Edita Burgos’ son, the farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, was believed abducted by military men at a mall in Quezon City just weeks before Mother’s Day in 2007. “Mother’s Day is supposed to be a beautiful occasion, but most of us here are in anguish,” Jonas’ older sister Techie said at the time. “What is time to a mother who is looking for her child? Every minute, every hour, every day counts.” Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño have been gripped by this terrible waiting game for almost eight years. Their daughters Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño were student activists attending the University of the Philippines when they were abducted, also by military men, in Hagonoy, Bulacan, in June 2006.
“I’m hoping they are still alive. I have to think positive for as long as I’m alive,” Concepcion Empeño said last year.
Retired general Jovito Palparan, whom activists call the “Butcher,” is one of those implicated in the abduction of the two girls. A Bulacan court had ordered his arrest but the man remains a fugitive from the law.
The mothers have come up against the proverbial wall—and official silence—despite all their efforts. They lament the apparent cover-up and continue to call on the military to produce their missing children. “I want to find him. Granting that it is God’s will that we will not find him, it is my job as a mother to look for him,” Edita Burgos said of her son last November. Just last month, she called on President Aquino to remember his promise of a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive examination” of her son’s abduction.
Erlinda Cadapan mused last year about how they used to dial the number of the cell phone her daughter used before she disappeared, and how it would ring but nobody would pick up. How long can these mothers cling to hope, how long before they find “surcease of sorrow”?
And how long will the state stonewall on the existence of the desaparecidos? Let the truth be the unshackling gift. As we mark Mother’s Day today, let us remember the disappeared and the empty chairs at other families’ tables. Let us be thankful for what we have and remember what others are missing. Let us remember all the anguished mothers. Only when their waiting has ended will there be true meaning for their Mother’s Day.
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