I call her Nanay.
Growing up, she was always present. She’d come to every parent teacher conference and make friends with other moms. I remember coming and going to school with her 3 times every day– one trip to and from for each child she had. She’d drive that old beaten up Mercedes Benz, a temporary play pen for her three restless kids. I remember eating lanzones in that car, staining the car roof interior and us laughing about it (and never telling my dad!).
She was very hands on, she taught me how to spell my name, cooked our favorite “ulams”, and cut shapes from art paper so we could form art paper collages. She even made us Milo before we slept!
She made a conscious decision to be there for us when we were younger and gave up a possibly successful career to be with her children. With Nanay, it cannot be said that there was a moment missed as we cruised through our childhood. She was always there.
When I was in my first year of college, she did it all again, gave it all up again. She had started working again, and had been doing so for a few years when she decided her family needed her more than she needed the corporate career she was very obviously good at.
The relationship that developed between us was a disastrous one. I was a difficult child and an even worse teenager. I was very mad at anything, everything, and mostly her. She was there when I needed someone to be angry at, and when I needed someone to cry to. She didn’t stop being there. This made me furious.
It was years later when I realized: she never quit her job. She was a mother and it took more than a 9 to 5 schedule. That’s the choice she made, the work she took.
She was my mother and she rolled with the punches, most of those punches coming from me.
Looking back, it seems that there are so many things I have looked over and so many things I didn’t understand about her. All the tiny pieces add up into a bigger picture now that I look at it from the distance of years past.
She tells me I am just like my father. It may be because of the stubbornness and the annoying need to be right all the time. I don’t know, but I do know this: I am exactly like my father in that without her, we would both be utterly, irrefutably useless. We need Nanay.
Years later, we drive together to Ortigas on a busy Friday morning. She’s still there, the same loving and doting presence but I’m not the mad teenager I was, not anymore. She drives me to my internship, she insists, even when I can do it myself. We talk of family, traffic, the country, and anything in between. A stressful drive into the metro made pleasant by our chats.
These days, her being there does not make me mad. It is a blessing and an opportunity to get to know the woman who has given up so much and received so little in return.
Today, I acknowledge all that she’s done for me, and all that she’s willing to do. I consider it an honor to be called her daughter.
I am 24 years old and I still need Nanay. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.