The Burden of Motherhood

This post was written longhand on the night of the 21st, but posted midday on the 22nd.

It’s a few minutes past 10PM but it feels like it’s 4AM.  It’s been a very long day.  Hurtful words were siad.  Alan and I left work at 2PM and had to break some bad news to my mother-in-law.  The poor woman broke her knee yesterday and is convalescing in our home.  She lives with my sister-in-law who has a house but whose main access is via stairwells that would be impossible for her to manage with her knee in a cast.  She has a cane but trying to walk with one when you’ve gotten used to 75 years without it can be a herculean task.

I fell like a westling referee after others let their tempers flare, and I had to help my hubby keep his at bay.  Fortunately, he listens to me.  He knows that after an hour or two, he’ll be glad he did.  I told him to bite his tongue and he did — one angry voice was enough.

I tried to calm everyone down to clarify things because so much was left unsaid.  The difficult thing about keeping secrets is that we often presume no one else knows.  And when it turns out they do know, we end up with our foot in our mouths. 

I guess it’s pretty obvious I’m not letting the cat out of the bag.  I only came to know of these secrets in the last 24 hour myself.  But because I found out the truth, I was able to play peacemaker.  However, peace only works when the parties are willing.  It turned out I was the only one who was amenable to a truce.  Well, I tried.

My mother-in-law became a casualty of this war only because she was doing everyone a favor by carrying the burden of a secret.  I can completely relate to her dilemma because I had been there.  She broke into tears when she remembered how her late husband had prevailed upon her to keep it a secret because he wanted to be the one to divulge the truth.  Then he passed on without a word being said. 

When she turned 75 years old in May, I wrote a post about her saying how lucky I felt I was to have a mother-in-law like her.  A well-educated woman who thought nothing of making sacrifices for her two children, a doting Lola who spoils her grandchildren rotten — never interfering in the affairs of her married children.  We are not particularly close but I take care of her like I would take care of my Mom.  She has always been nice to me, so I have no beef against her.  It pains me to see her being treated the way she is being treated now for having held on to that secret for so long — and I knew she did it out of love.

She and Alan have a special bond.  I can relate to that because I have the same bond with my child.  Sometimes he would get overprotective of her and others would get defensive.  He didn’t care much about offending others if it were in the defense of his Mom.  I have the same attitude about my parents.  It’s really a complicated story, but so much has been said which has caused more pain.

My Mom’s been telling me not to get into the thick of it.  I simply stepped in to mediate.  Now I’m being hit myself.  I guess it’s time to step back and just let the family resolve its issues.  After all, I wasn’t born into this family — I married into it.  Unlike my husband, I have a choice to stand back. 

So we’re settling down to this new set up at home.  My mother-in-law is more than welcome to stay with us.  Angel is beside himself with joy that he keeps climbing onto her lap despite our admonitions for him to be careful about hurting mom’s injured knee.

I wish my Mother-in-law peace in her heart.  She’s too old to be hurting like this — not after everything she had done to give her family a good life. 


On The New York Times Front Page

This photo taken by Bullit Marquez and distributed by Associated Press was emblazoned on the front page of The New York Times and Metro, one of the free papers distributed all over metro New York.

While I must say this is one instance when finding the Philippines featured so prominently on the front page of no less than the New York Times did not embarrass me, it gives me no cause to celebrate or be proud because of the widespread death suffered by our kababayans in the town of Guinsagon in Leyte.  Nakakalungkot.

I have been to Leyte but once and it was not to the hinterlands that I went like the town of Guinsagon, but I stayed in the city.  It’s one of the places in the South which is getting modernized but not quite that commercialized just yet.  Of course that was almost 12 years ago when I was working with a USAID-Dept of Health project that brought us to various parts of the country.  The province has since suffered several landslides which led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Recently there was an active exchange of opinions in my high school batch e-group (St. Paul College of Quezon City, High School Batch ’83) about the “why’s” of this unfortunate incident.  One of my batchmates who was a former beauty queen and a singer back in our day (ca. mid to late 80s) but who now resides in the US with her family was so moved by the news that she had a dozen questions about why this happened, who should be made accountable, is it correct for a public official to be made the top officer of a non-profit like the Philippine Red Cross, etc.  Another batchmate paintstakingly answered her questions and they had another exchange of opinions on opinions.  Nothing violent — it was a rather interesting exchange because you could see how their views varied because one was thinking in terms of disaster relief response in a first world country like the US, and the other was thinking more realistically about how things are done back home.

It’s too long an exchange for me to dissect, but let me just focus on the questions regarding the Governor’s accountability for the local government’s failure to enforce the evacuation order.  See, here in the US, they have the National Guard to enforce that, and people are sometimes removed bodily from their properties if needed, like in the recent Katrina aftermath.  There was even an old lady who pulled a gun on the troops when they tried to take her out of her home because of health concerns that necessitated the uprooting of families from their properties.  In the Philippines, people tend to listen when there is an imminent threat.  Yet we know that when they get restless in the relocation centers were space and food are sparse, they will want to return to their homes.  And return they did when the weather improved, but then they had no idea that the soil was soaked and ready to give in.

It’s so easy to ask about accountability when all is said and done, but to actually make someone accountable is another thing.  Will the fingerpointing do us any good?  Would conducting a probe to dissect every minutae of the calamity bring back the dead?  I’m not saying there is no lesson to be learned, but rather than dwell on the Why and the how, let’s concentrate on helping those who survived to move on, even if it means bringing in hundreds of people to dig for those who were unfortunate to have died in this tragedy.

My sister called me earlier from Manila to chat and she said that the recovery teams aren’t even sure they are at the right spot because all landmarks were obliterated by the massive mudslide.  We can only hope and pray that this will be the last of its magnitude. 

And now I hear that Mt. Mayon is spewing out ashes.  It might just be one of its mini-eruptions but I hope and pray that it does not turn out to be another disaster.  As the daughter of a bicolana, I have a soft spot for the province and its majestic queen which watches over this huge province of ours in the Philippines.