“The Mother of All Mothers: Honoring Mortals and Goddesses” – in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (May 7-13, 2014)

Leaning in with my Mom, Mrs. Aida Ragasa Carmona
Leaning in with my Mom, Mrs. Aida Ragasa Carmona
All smiles! My parents, still together at 45 years and counting.
All smiles! My parents, still together at 45 years and counting.

Pilipinasblitz Forever Bles Carmona For the week of May 7-13, 2014


First of all, we greet the most important woman in our lives on the second Sunday of May: Happy Mother’s Day!

A bit of nerdicity: in the olden days of its origin, there was a bit of a flap regarding the spelling of the holiday. Anna Jarvis insisted that it should be Mother’s Day (singular possessive), and her reasoning was that it was supposed to honor one mother of one family. In fact, President Woodrow Wilson adopted this spelling when he made the official declaration about Mother’s Day with Congressional backing in 1914. However, the other variations, Mothers’ Day (plural possessive) and Mothers Day (plural non-possessive) are also in use these days.

With that brief nod to this holiday’s origins, I would like to weave a narrative about motherhood, engaging our collective imagination and our strong feelings, whether of love or something else, toward our own mother and the mother-figures in our lives.

Let me start with my own mother: Mrs. Aida Ragasa Carmona. When I and my two younger sisters and one brother were still children living in the Philippines, my Mom worked three jobs to get us by, apart from our Dad’s average income. She taught English and speech and drama at the Manila Science High School in the mornings, taught college English at the Far Eastern University, and then she would rush to Broadcast City for their overnight “Flordeluna” tapings, where she played the role of “Aling Atang.”  Looking back on it now, my Mom attributes her almost “super-human” energy to the fact that she was young and it was all an adventure for her. Although she admits that her salary from her Flordeluna role was the one that got us through grade school and high school, she was also frequently called for location shoots for various bit roles in films, where she usually played maid or teacher roles. She has worked with the crème de la crème of Philippine cinema in the 1980s: Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Mike De Leon among directors, and many popular stars of that era, among which she singles out Ms. Tita Duran as approachable (not “pa-importante”) and down-to-earth. Ms. Duran and my Mom became fast friends during those times. Among the younger set, she fondly remembers Ms. Lorna Tolentino who, when my Mom said out loud that she was craving for Skyflakes, Ms. LT asked her “alalay” to go outside the exclusive village where they were taping (therefore no “sari-sari” stores inside) and buy the crackers for my Mom, a whole box of Skyflakes! From my most impressionable years and up until now, my Mom is truly my source of strength and er, showbiz “chismis.” (Just kidding, Mom. You know I love you.) Happy Mother’s Day po sa inyo!

Here’s a shout-out to all the mothers out there: the real ones like you, who have to juggle home and career, who stay home and care for your children while your partner goes to work, who takes care of your pets as a mother to them, and every other variation of “Mother” onto which you put on your resplendent diadem. This tribute is for all kinds of mothers out there.

This is for Santa Monica of Hippo, who spent 30 years praying for her dissolute son. We know him now as Saint Augustine, a very influential Doctor of the Catholic Church. Saint Monica is the patron saint of three places: Manaoag, Pangasinan and Don Galo, Parañaque in the Philippines and Santa Monica, California. She is the one to turn to for help with difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, victims of (verbal) abuse, and conversion of relatives.

This is for the late Philippine President Corazon Aquino, whom I’ve had the honor to meet face-to-face at Malacañang Palace in 1987 because I won first place in a national poetry competition about the first anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution. She personally handed me and my fellow category winners our individual Cory Dolls. Pres. Cory Aquino became the Mother of the Nation during those uncertain times and her ascension to the Presidency marked the precarious transition from martial law to democracy.

This is for the Greek goddesses Gaea, mother of the Titans, and Demeter, patroness of agriculture and fertility. Gaea had the most terrible husband, Ouranos, who swallowed all his children and yet she endured to seek revenge later on. Demeter, in her grief when Hades lured her beloved daughter Persephone down into his Underworld, forgot being selfless for a while and brought on widespread draught and famine to mythical Greece. Such was Demeter’s love for her daughter. (If you Google the rest of the story, bonus points for you.)

This is for a couple of my Manila Science High School classmates, NMC and MGO, respectively, who as mothers of special children face unique challenges and yet rise to the occasion every single day out of their love for their respective children. Their serene countenances, grace under pressure, and true thankfulness to their God make me admire the families they have built with their husbands and children. In relation to this, I also salute the mother of my adult Literacy Plus learner. Her name is Sue. She expertly handles my learner’s wheelchair. My learner is a Korean-American man in his early 30s who was born with cerebral palsy. She patiently loads up my learner onto their specially constructed van and drives him over from their house three cities away to the Hayward Public Library every Friday. That’s where her son and I have our tutoring session for a couple of hours. She patiently waits for our session to finish by doing errands or browsing through books and audiotapes, deciding which ones to borrow. She is in tune with my learner’s moods, knowing when he is energetic and when he’s had enough.  In short, Sue is one of the most palpable examples to me of motherly devotion to her son. My learner may have been born with certain deficiencies but with a mother like Sue, he is clearly blessed in abundance. Sue’s dedication to her son’s wellbeing is admirable and worthy of emulation.

Clearly, there can be no higher love than a mother’s love. My Catholic parents would probably want me to mention the mother of all mothers in their religion: Saint Mary or Mother Mary. For those among you who are familiar with Christianity and/or Catholicism, the example of Mama Mary in caring for her son, Jesus Christ, is all over your Bible and traditions. From Jesus’ immaculate conception until his death and resurrection, his mother, Mary, remained loving and faithful. When I was younger and I was required to memorize the entire Rosary, I especially liked the looong Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary because her many titles are so evocative, for example: Mother of Our Savior, Tower of Ivory, Virgin Undefiled, Mirror of Justice, Queen of Angels, Mystical Rose, and so on. I don’t pray the Rosary anymore, but I have never stopped praying in my own fashion.

Lastly, this tribute is for three of my friends: one Latina and a couple of Filipinas, who have long been wanting to be mothers but so far have not yet been blessed by a child. If anyone deserves to be mothers because of the love and strength they carry in their hearts, it is these three by sheer virtue of their goodness and grace. I’ve been praying for each of them but they don’t know it. Well, JCL, LPP, and PIL, here I am going on record: May God and Goddess grant you the child you know you should birth into this world. When our prayers have been answered at last, may you love your respective children as only a true-blue mother could. Happy Mothers Day! It is plural, non-possessive, and can be shared by all!

********** Contact Bles Carmona for personal readings at pilipinasblitz@gmail.com, via Facebook at http://facebook.com/pilipinasblitzforever.org, or follow her on Twitter@BlesildaCarmona.

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