My mother sends her love to complete strangers
NEW BEGINNINGS (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2013 - 12:00am

Last weekend, with the full moon hanging over our house, I came home to Gulod and found my 69-year-old mother glued to the TV, her partially blind eyes puffy red from crying while watching survivors of Yolanda being interviewed by a reporter in Tacloban City.

One man spoke with tears rolling down his face, profusely apologizing to his relatives abroad, who might be watching the news telecast, that he was unsuccessful in saving the lives of his loved ones. Another woman was just narrating her harrowing experiences of the super typhoon and how she held on for dear life to withstand the fury of Yolanda. While watching the news, my mother was so involved and affected she willfully decided not to touch her dinner. The evening news was already over but my mother was not yet finished digesting what she saw on TV.

I sat down with her on the sofa. She confessed she cried each time she saw on TV the devastation wrought by the super typhoon. The nearby Laguna Lake was already blowing Christmas breeze. The cool weather did not help in boosting my mother’s mood. She repeatedly told me the stories of the survivors even if we both watched the newscast.

She stood up after collecting herself. To our veranda she went, stared at the robust narra tree in our small garden. Quietly, she settled on her late husband’s rocking chair. Around this time, the narra tree at home should have been festooned with thousands of LED lights. It was supposed to be our live Christmas tree at home. But this time around, upon the behest of my mother, the tree remained bare, its leaves starting to fall off one by one, as is the case every Christmas time. She asked not to decorate the tree — in solidarity with those who have been gravely affected by the monstrous typhoon.

“I-donate na lamang natin ang gagastusin sa Christmas lights sa Visayas (Let’s just donate the money we will spend for the Christmas lights to the people in Visayas),” she told me.

I assured her that her wish was my command.

Her decision meant she was giving up a chunk of her happiness. And she was not flinching on her decision.

“Kung kinakailangang magsakripisyo, gawin na. Kung may kaya pa tayong ibigay, ibigay na. Magpa-Pasko, kawawa ang mga binagyo (If we need to sacrifice, let’s sacrifice. If we have more to give, let’s give it now. I feel for those badly affected by the typhoon,  especially now that Christmas is upon us),” she intimated to me.

This is the first time, since my father passed away in January 2010, that our narra tree would be without those LED Christmas lights. Those lights had come to symbolize my mother’s happiness during the season. She once told me that it was through the Christmas lights that she was able to express her love for her husband whom she misses most, especially during Christmas season.

In their days of want, my parents couldn’t let the Christmas pass without even a single strand of Christmas lights. In their flickering light, they found hope. In their dancing incandescence, they wove dreams. So, no Christmas was without Christmas lights at our humble home.

Except this year.

My mother opted to do away with the lights at home because she wanted those lights transferred to other homes — in far away Leyte, Samar, among other areas ravaged by the typhoon. She knows hers is a simple act, a drop in the bucket. But she also knows that little drop in the bucket will create a ripple of kindness from others, too, who are not yet moved or are not moving enough yet.

“Kung meron ka pa, magbigay ka pa. Pera, oras, serbisyo (If you still have resources, give more. Give money, time, your services),” she enjoined me. She said if she had more she would surely give more. If she was still as strong as she was five years ago, she would surely be in repacking areas around town. But her infirmity limits her. So, aside from prayers, she is giving up her happiness — the floodlights in our narra tree — in the hope that she can make others smile.

“Syo, wala muna tayong Christmas lights ngayon (Syo, there will be no Christmas lights for us this year),” she said aloud, as if talking to her husband while looking up to the boughs of the narra tree. Syo is her term of endearment for her late husband. â€œPero hindi ibig sabihin noon ay hindi na kita mahal. Hayaan mo muna akong magmahal ng mas marami pa ngayong taon (But it does not mean I don’t love you anymore. Meanwhile, please allow me to love others this year),” she whispered to the wind.

She smiled as she stood up from her husband’s rocking chair. The Christmas breeze seemed to blow sweet-nothings to her face. That was the time she knew her husband gave her the imprimatur to love others aside from him.

That was the first time my mother became unfaithful to her husband.

That was also the first time she became faithful to her commitment to others who are complete strangers. To them, she gives her prayers and love.


(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at

I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

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