Bea Zobel: The mother who loves Mangyans
PINOY LOVE - Bea Zobel, Jr. () - May 8, 2011 - 12:00am

I always remember being cold one night, going to the sheets and blanket closet which was outside my room and being showered with Mangyan baskets. That basically was my introduction to my mother’s love for the Mangyans. She kept buying all they produced to help them survive.

I love this story better. When my parents built their rest house in Mindoro many years ago, she encountered the Iraya Mangyans constantly walking on the beach. Wanting to know more about them, she did not hesitate to approach them, but they would just run away.

She laughs, remembering that someone told her to offer them sardines. You can imagine the scene: my mother running with open arms, offering them tins of sardines! Of course they ran for their lives!

She finally got through to them but not without great effort and sweat. She decided to visit them up in the mountain and, believe me, it was a hard climb. My mother did it many times over until trust was finally established. The rest is history. The Iraya Mangyan have land they call home where a school and clinic have been built for them run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Anne. This community, as with many others, has changed my mother’s life as she has changed theirs.

Bea Zobel with Mangyan elder Aradiano Pampilo: A mother to the Mangyans in Mindoro

My whole life I don’t ever recall my mother not helping someone. She changed the lives of Elsie Gatches, Tala Leprosarium and, lately, Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

A tough, determined, no-nonsense woman, I remember her being in the middle of a lake in Kashmir with my sisters. The boatman refused to take us back to shore if my mother did not pay double the price we had already agreed upon. She threatened she would swim to shore if he didn’t take us back. I didn’t have much time to imagine what was in that lake before my mother jumped in fully clothed. Panic-stricken, the boatman, terrified of a possible drowning woman, took us back without a word.

We are seven siblings. She had seven sisters, plus her makes eight, and 24 grandchildren, which keeps her very occupied when she is not building houses for the Mangyans. She has her bridge games, friends, books, the beach in Mindoro and, of course, my father.

Bea Zobel and former Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James and Scandinavian countries Jaime Zobel de Ayala

I think, to sum up her life, the mother of my youth was exacting, driven, demanding, forceful and not very tolerant of idleness, sloth or indistinct values. Now with the passing of time she is more relaxed, inclusive and accepting. The problem is that the one who is now demanding, forceful, and intolerant with my children is me. I guess we become the mirror image of our parents. As I reflect on Mother’s Day and what it means to me, I like to think that I learned to respect all the values she stood for and want to take them as mine as I look to find the appropriate compass to direct me in the education of my own brood.

Happy Mother’s Day to the rock and pillar of my life.

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