What we truly celebrate on the first of January.

For our 2017 New Year’s Mass, we trooped to the Shrine of the Divine Word. As blessed as I felt, thankful enough for being in the company of my daughters this New Year’s Day, I did receive a most wondrous of homilies from a missionary priest.

He said that there was a common factor among the Archbishops of New York, Archbishop of Chicago, and Archbishop of Los Angeles, they all in agreement that the Filipino is the new chosen people set to bring our faith into the corners of the world. Why? Because the Filipino fill the churches come Mass time.

Once, when this same priest was studying French, he was summoned by his teacher who resided on the third floor of a building. He was made to witness an empty promenade, vacant for many decades, until the Filipino set foot in France, and filled the cobblestones with devotees wanting to hear Mass.

Yes, the faith of the Filipino is formidable as a rock. Sent on a diaspora to many corners of the world, the Filipino, specifically the Filipino mothers, or the women who worked, initially as domestic helps and caregivers, nurses or entertainers, artists, etcetera, when faced with hardship and trouble, turn to faith and cling to that hope, that God will ease the difficulties that beset their situations. Thus, the churches filled with black-haired Filipinos.

Further, what is most unusual in the Filipino is their utmost devotion to the Blessed Mother. How the Filipino pay Her with most high regard, calling Her Mama Mary, like She is their very own Mother.

Yes, the Filipino is a chosen race, chosen to bring to the world the love of family, the devotion to mother, and the deep faith that transcends trials.

Then the missionary priest asked us to kneel, to give honor to that Mother called Mary and Her Child Jesus, with Joseph by Their side, because They set the example of FAMILY, that which binds the Filipino, that which the Filipino lives for.

The missionary priest said that after the Mass, he would have to make his own journey home, because his own mother makes a head count, and the priest is always late, for her Mano Po, Inay blessing.

That is what we celebrate today, the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

Of course, this blog is a short summation of that doctrinal homily, I just hope that we know why we celebrate today.

For my own Mommy, I miss you. And Lola Naty and Lola Oda, too.

A brief moment to get together and party.

BUSY. These days, there ain’t no time for making memories. There is too much work to attend to. My daughters, being young professionals, are caught in that whirlwind of a world. Jean said that when she comes home to our humble abode in the outskirts of the metro, it is like relaxing in the province, where the sound of silence is distracted only by the  chirping of the birds and the barking of our doggies. And Tish, how she sprawls on the bed and catch up on the much-needed sleep.

Rush Rush has been my daughters ways of life for a long time now. And we believe we have become anti-socials, declining invitations, simply because of time conflicting with hospital duty and disaster planning conferences.

Oh well, this Sunday was different, for we actually made is to a nostalgic party, my friend’s mother celebrated her 95th birthday. Splendid shindig. Befitted a lovely lady who gracefully raised her ten children. Wow.

And so, I prodded the waiter to snap a picture of my daughters and me. For the memories of a brief moment together.

A Eulogy for my Mommy

How does one talk about Eugenia Caraos Leyva in a matter of minutes? Perhaps we need eighty years, for that is her lifetime, and in that lifetime, each day did count.

She is my mother, a blessing that spells how God loves me so dearly.

Oh yes, Mommy did scold me when I ran down the hill and smashed face down, and instantly my arms and legs turned black and blue, or so I recall. And she spanked me when I refused to take a hot shower and I was chilled to the bone. I was a stubborn child, I suppose, but Mommy never ran out of patience .

She brought me and my siblings to St. Joseph’s Church, for splendid Mass with music. The Magnolia kiosk beside the church though was part of the Sunday package activity, pinipig crunch for Ate Grace and twin popsies for me. My two kid brothers were not as choosy yet, to my advantage.

Mommy loved the piano. She said that my grandma Lola Naty could not afford one, so she practiced on the table, after asking someone to teach her how to play the ebony and ivory keys. She enrolled Ate Grace and me to the Herminia Albano Piano Studio, Ate Grace succeeded in reading and interpreting the notes. She was awarded Outstanding Student. I slept. But Mommy never reprimanded me. She smiled and continued bringing me to the Saturday nap lessons. And for Mommy, a house is not a home if there is no piano.

When Lola Naty took us under her wing, and we moved from Olongapo City to Marikina, we would see Mommy and Daddy only on weekends. The glorious weekends meant loads of comics: Archie, Peanuts, DC, Marvel, new pencils, clothes, a bounty of food on the table, fruits, and the sweetest of all, our dearest little sister, Portia. How we longed five days each week for a weekend when we could play with our bunso with the large, round eyes. In hindsight now, Mommy and Daddy commuted by Victory Liner, how they managed to carry all the bags of pasalubong, including hot monay from a bakery in Cubao, sigh, Mommy never complained about being tired.

The first physical concern i became aware of was when Mommy asked me to accompany her to UST Hospital. For whatever reason, she was bleeding. We took the bus, and I courageously asked someone to give his seat for Mommy. Oh how afraid I was Mommy might fall. Eventually, Mommy had to undergo hysterectomy. That scared me, because I saw the concern in my Daddy’s face. But how brave Mommy was.

And even braver when she came to America. It was a whole new world to conquer, initially with my two youngest siblings Lupo and Portia, and then with my Daddy, brother Noel, sister Grace and niece Tami.

Mommy joined the Blue Cross of America, where she was able to gain the respect of her bosses and colleagues, and made some of the dearest of friendships she had.

On the domestic front, she built a beautiful home. She marveled at being a doting grandma to my American born nephews, Lance and Louie.

For us left in the Philippines, Mommy made sure we received two Forex boxes of goodies, towels, night shirts, books, Barbies, Fisher toys, gadgets, trinkets, gowns, pantaloons, casseroles, and practically the whole of Wal-Mart every Christmas. On good years, the fresh scent of America comes to our home also summertime.

And that was the beginning our virtual bonding. Mommy never failed to call weekly, even when she was exhausted from work. The telephone cards were expensive, but she would call, so she would know if my house already has a roof, or if the old car was repaired, if the tuition for school enough, or have I got myself a physical check. Mommy provided for all, including my hundred thousand peso thyroidectomy, that when I told her about the need for the surgery and cried, she asked: Why are you crying? Gie is going there. Help is on the way,

That is Mommy. She worked so hard so that she could give, Not only to me. When she learns that someone is in a tight situation, I have to withdraw from the monthly remittances she sent and deliver not just grocery goods but money as well, to those who need it,

Mommy’s final years were as trying as when she was a child. First, she lost Daddy. A year and a half later, she was diagnosed with cancer. That turned the tides, my turn to call daily. A few minutes to an hour or more, Mommy would tell me of the pain that is chemotherapy. She said it is not something anyone would wish even to his enemies. I was the one devastated, for she told me she couldn’t breathe in the test chambers, and the long hours of imaging and scans left her cold, numb and hungry. She asked if she has still blood left after the many painful extractions. I would try to appease her with comforting words, but the battle with cancer preyed on the flesh, not the soul. Mommy narrated that the Blessed Mother came to her early on, after being afflicted with the illness, and so I said that that meant Mama Mary is already caring for her.

When Mommy was a child, she lost her father. Then the Japanese bombed their house in Cavite City. Impoverished, Mommy sold peanuts and other kakanin before she attended school, to augment the food on their table. She has just two sets of clothes, the one she was wearing and the one she would change on. That is also why she loved sending towels, she never had one in her youth

And yet she inscribed in one of her keepsakes an adage: Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used

Mommy spread her wings and soared high, reaching for all the beauty that life may bring,

Mommy celebrated birthdays and Christmases and other important occasions with joyful feasts. It is her way of thanking our good God for all the blessings bestowed on her. When I invited a friend one time to spend Christmas with us, he asked, exactly how many people are in the Christmas party, for there must be a tally like a hundred. I told him to commence counting quickly, for the friends and neighbors who partake at Mommy’s festive table come and go.

Thank you, Mommy, for filling life with much glee. Such heartwarming memories you left us with.

Thank you for finishing the race and keeping the faith. Yours is a story of Love and Devotion, your favorite piano piece.

Thank you, Mommy, it is indeed a privilege being your daughter. You are a perfect mother. I love you so much. I will forever hold you in my heart and cherish you in my dreams.

Love, Eileen