by Heidi M. Pascual
Exceptional Mothers I Came to Know
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 want to 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) had 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 was 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 and 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 their 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 finished 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 did leave 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.