Exceptional Mothers I Came to Know
by Heidi M. Pascual

I am sure thousands upon thousands of stories have been written about mothers and women who genuinely act as such, and why they
deserve to be loved and put on a pedestal. Across the world, regardless of race or skin color, type of government their society has, belief
or religion, and other considerations, mothers are almost always, the most nurturing and loving individuals, particularly to their children.
In reflecting about Women’s History Month therefore, I thought of a few mothers I personally know and highlight some extraordinary
achievements focused not on societal or political efforts that merited awards or recognition, but on familial acts that changed lives of
people they love. I have purposely changed the names of these women to protect their identity and privacy.

1) In 2005, Merlita became a widow with three grown-up kids aged 25, 22, and 18. Her eldest (a boy) and the second child (a girl) just
graduated from college. Soon, both married and after a few years, had kids of their own, good jobs, and started to build their own homes.
Meanwhile, the youngest (a boy named Jessie) who was enrolled in a Manila University and staying at a nearby dormitory, became
friends with bad company which lured him into a life full of “fun” and lots of vice, including drugs. Jessie learned how to deceive his mom,
showing off college grades made in Raon, Manila, a notorious place that prints out (to this day) fake college receipts, transcripts, grades,
certificates, and even diplomas, for a fat fee! (During this time, Jessie also eloped with a girl named Tammy, from his town who was also
a student in the same university. Merlita continued to send Jessie to college while her daughter-in-law stayed with her.) When Merlita
discovered her son’s lies, she was heartbroken and took her then drug-addicted son back to their town. She committed her wayward son
to a rehab clinic in the hope of getting back her “real” son; but each time Jessie “recovered” and sent home, he would end up beating his
wife at every slight provocation and disrespecting Merlita with venomous words. For a number of years, Jessie was in and out of the
rehab center and Merlita even told her daughter-in-law to “leave Jessie for he’s no good for you.” Even Merlita’s older children urged their
mom to leave Jessie alone “to rot in hell.” But Merlita persisted, using prayers as weapons to destroy Jessie’s “drug-affected” temper,
and as a means to reach heaven and make a miracle happen. That was 10 years ago.
Today, Jessie and Tammy have a two-year old son, own a Tattoo Studio, and a beautiful –and happy, peaceful—home. Merlita decided to
stay with her daughter in another town, after the episode in their family life that seemed remotely open to solution. Merlita’s persistence
and strong love to help her son recover paid off handsomely, with lots of God’s help, I am sure.

2) Violeta didn’t go to college, simply because her family didn’t have anything to support her education. She married a year after high
school, had kids, and worked odd jobs to help augment her husband’s income. Violeta’s husband died young after a freak train accident
on the way to work. At age 25, Violeta was alone, with three little kids to feed, clothe, and send to school. Fortunately, this woman has a
natural gift to market anything; she could sell anything under the sun and reap good profits therefrom. For years, Violeta endured,
struggled, and faced tons of challenges just to enable her kids to finish college education, something that she herself missed in her life.
She never remarried and focused all her time and effort at making sure her kids finish college. And she succeeded after years of pain
and unspeakable hardships. She even confided that she incurred mountains of debts in order to reach her goal. All her kids completed
their collegiate education. One became an engineer; another a nurse; and the youngest, a caregiver. All of them have been working
abroad. Violeta’s kids realized early on that the only option to make big money was to become Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and so
they left the country to various destinations. The engineer worked in China during the construction boom there; the nurse went to United
Arab Emirates when the country called for hundreds of licensed nurses; and the third went to the USA to work in a nursing home. All
three have been leading prosperous lives for years now, and Violeta is at the center of their successes. The children built a big house for
their mother, gave her a nice car, and are sending monthly allowances to Violeta as well as balikbayan boxes of clothes, bags and
shoes, and dry groceries. “I thank the Lord for all these blessings,” Violeta says. “I attained success through my children, and I am
fortunate that all my kids turned out the way they did. They don’t forget to look back where they came from.”

3)Lydia only reached Grade 6. Poverty drove her to discontinue her studies and work early to help her parents feed six children. She
became a regular in the market, selling fish and vegetables by the roadside. As the eldest, Lydia felt obliged to take on more
responsibility in the family. At 17, she fell in love with another poor boy also toiling in the slaughterhouse of the market. Perhaps due to
their situation, the young lovers found their relationship as a source of happiness despite whatever is lacking in their lives. Soon they got
together and began the difficult task of raising a family. They worked so hard that their physical health suffered greatly. Lydia’s husband
passed at the age of 34, leaving four children for Lydia to take care of alone. When an opportunity to work abroad as a domestic helper
came, Lydia tearfully grabbed it, believing it was the only way her kids could survive and go to school. She left her children to her mother
and one older sister who never married. Initially the monthly allowance Lydia sent to her family was quite enough for her kids, until she
realized her absence in their lives was too important to set aside, as two of the boys stopped schooling. After five years abroad, Lydia
came back for good, sought government assistance to give her capital for a small business, and took care of her growing children once
more. Today, her children except one, finished college, two are teachers and one is an accountant. The one who didn’t finish college
helps Lydia tend their stall of fresh meat (poultry and pork) in the market, and the business is getting bigger. Looking at Lydia now, I
salute and respect her so much for all the things she did for her children. Though she still works full time, she is now able to enjoy life
because she has achieved most of her goals and has time for herself and her friends. She has been elected president of a women’s
civic group in her town.

I am sure that like me, you also have some exceptional, extraordinary mothers in mind. This year, I am saluting these three women in
celebration of Women’s History Month.