I still remember the moment when my dad and my aunt told us the news that my mom had passed away. My younger brother and I had just gotten home from school and were watching iCarly in the living room when we heard the front door open.
I saw my dad and my aunt from Ohio enter the room. My smile was wide because I was excited for my aunt to see our house. She hadn’t visited us for a long time. But neither of them were smiling — they looked so glum. I had a heavy feeling in my chest. Something was wrong. They shut the T.V. off, sat in front of us, and said, “Wala na is Mommy.”
It’s been 10 years since we lost our mom. I’m 21 now, a college graduate now working as a writer. Realizing that a decade had passed, I can’t help but wonder how I got where I am today without her.
I was a young girl when we lost her. Like, before-I-had-menstruation young.
I carried the loss of my mom in school, getting jealous of my friends who had their moms with them during events. At my first school fashion show, all the other girls had their moms fussing over them as their glam teams, while I (already prepped by my aunt before I was dropped off) sat by the benches alone. The thought of my mom missing for this special event in my life led me to silently cry in a corner.
I was mom jealous up until college. There were a lot of times when my friends and I would have round table talks on what was going on with our lives. Eventually, the conversation would lead to how their moms were transitioning from mama bear to daughter’s best friend. While they were sharing stories, I would sometimes zone out and imagine a parallel universe where my mom was my best friend.
I try and remember what she was like as much as I can — what she smelled like, how her touch felt, or what she sounded like. A part of me admits that I’ve lost some details of her and that sometimes I feel like I’m longing for a stranger.
She’d probably be overprotective, giving me a 10 p.m. curfew and not allowing me to ride an Angkas. But at the same time, she’d try to be the “cool mom.” I imagine her hosting family wine nights or supporting me with my celebrity crushes and fandoms. My mom would’ve loved Chris Evans as Captain America.
I try and remember what she was like as much as I can — what she smelled like, how her touch felt, or what she sounded like. A part of me admits that I’ve lost some details of her and that sometimes I feel like I’m longing for a stranger. But then, just when she starts to fade, a trigger comes along to spark a long forgotten memory.
Like the time I recently got into essential oils and bought eucalyptus and lavender. The moment I dropped some lavender oil on my bed, it felt like the flashback scene from Ratatouille. I was taken back to childhood when my mom used to burn lavender oil in our bedrooms.
My heart was filled. I didn’t know what she used to make our bedroom smell great. I didn’t even know that memory even existed. Yet at that moment of putting two and two together, I felt more connected to my mother. During times like these, it makes me think that we probably have the same taste in things. And that we could’ve gotten along perfectly now that I’m a young woman.
Despite not having a mom during my teenage years, I’d like to think that I turned out to be who I’m supposed to be. Because there wasn’t a single moment that I felt unloved or unguided. Along the way of trying to find myself, I had mom-like role models that encouraged me to follow my own path. I had the titas that reminded me so much of my mom, whether they were my mother’s sisters or friends. They tell me stories of what my mom was like, how she was a Divisoria queen or how I picked up her mannerism of lifting a leg up when sitting. They take the time to take me out to lunch and care about my life. I find it comforting that they still think about me even when my mom is no longer with us.
I had my sisterhood of friends that guided me to be the best version of myself. They taught me how to be young but responsible. In college, we all got part-time jobs in the same company, and it was one of the best days of my life. I was exploring Makati and working with my best friends but also learning how to budget my salary. They taught me that if I wanted something, I needed to find the resources and hustle for it myself.
There wasn’t a single moment that I felt unloved or unguided. Along the way of trying to find myself, I had mom-like role models that encouraged me to follow my own path.
Finally, I also had my wonder dad who cooks, drives, markets, cleans, and fixes everything for us so that we never even have to worry about anything. He’s the reason why acts of service are my love language. After mom passed away, he borrowed money from his friends to get us by, picked me up, and fetched me from school 75% of the time during college. That’s aside from teaching us life skills school you can’t learn in school, like how to plant pechay from a seed. Everything he does is for us and I am grateful for every sacrifice he’s ever made.
A decade without my mom isn’t something I thought I would be going through, but life hits you in a way you wouldn’t really expect. As hard as it is, you have to look at the bright side and move on from your sorrows. Losing someone isn’t losing everyone.
I am very lucky to have an army of titas, a squad of friends, and a dad who loves me infinitely. All of these people in my life honed me to who I am. When you think about it, it’s like all of them contribute to the ingredients of being a mom.
In their own way, they taught me the value of sacrifice, responsibility, and thoughtfulness all of which are the values I remember my mom having. Sometimes, mothers don’t necessarily mean the person who gave birth to you — they can also be the people who’ve always been there to guide you.