My Mom is Filipino — born and raised in Cebu.
Because Mom grew up on dirty streets and struggled through poverty; trying to make money first by selling liquid pre-made coffee in plastic bags, then going on to work long shifts in a nearby cafe, she’s as tough as nails.
My Mom is the strongest person I know. She has an incredibly high pain threshhold and low tolerance for bullshit, coupled with a firey temper. My God. My Mom is like a quietly simmering volcano but when she erupts? You’d better look out.
Mom calls a spade a spade, calls ‘bullshit’ loudly and often — and is rarely wrong. Mom doesn’t have good manners, she doesn’t bake cupcakes or go to Mother’s meetings. Mom doesn’t wear an apron and wouldn’t know what to do with a fine-bone China tea set or a colourful Easter Bonnet. She’s not that kind of a Mom. Mom is cautious and isn’t one to be warm or friendly to those she doesn’t know. You have to earn her trust. Her childhood and youth has made her wary but also cheeky. Mom will want a bargain even now “Give me your best price” she’ll demand in Woolworths to a bemused checkout assistant.
We’re not in the markets, Mom — we’re in a well known Supermarket. You can’t barter for your groceries.
But every time, Mom will give it a go, bless her.
I think in many cultures, ‘sampling’ a grape from a bunch of others at the store is okay, but my Mom will try to ‘sample’ wooden spoons, measuring cups, jars of jam or anything that will fit into her usually large handbag. So many of us will take the soaps and tiny shampoo and conditioner from a hotel. Mom will take the TV. I’m not even joking. Mom will take anything not nailed down, given the chance. I used to be so embarrassed by her theiving but now that I’m older, I see Mom through compassionate eyes; seeing her as a starving teen on unstable streets; taking whatever she can get to help her and her family survive; especially if Mom thinks it’s a multi-million dollar hotel franchise. She figures they’ll cope without a mini fridge (including all the tiny bottles and overpriced snacks within) in room 119, bless her.
Mom learnt Filipino Karate in her Youth and could do the most amazing roundhouse kick before arthritis set in. I’ve seen Mom take out many a dangerous opponent with it, it’s amazing the height Mom can get and how perfect the semi-circle of pain is she creates with body — leg out and foot ready to deliver a ‘pow’ in the face of anyone seen as a threat. Even now, Mom is a force to be reckoned with and does not take any shit from anyone.
Mom can level an entire building with a steely look in her eye.
I think every little girl looks at her Mom with admiration beauty-wise, and I’m no exception. I think in terms of attractiveness, my Mom is up there amongst the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. She has gorgeous coffee-coloured skin, big brown eyes, long, thick, dark, poker-straight hair and a smile that radiates from her inner-most being to the laugh lines that are now gathered in the corners of her eyes as she ages.
Mom has a fire raging in her belly and I’ve inherited a watered-down version of that in my own characteristics. I can lose my temper, too. I can argue with the best of them and when push comes to shove, I can make myself heard. I learnt that from my Mom.
Mom has always said “Don’t start a (physical) fight — but always finish it and make sure they don’t get back up again for a while”.
I’m yet to have a physical fight and at 46 years old, I highly doubt one will come along, but Mom’s words to ‘finish it’ come to mind when bullies press and push. I’ll ‘wear it’ (Dad’s expression) for a very long time but pushed for long enough and the “Gina” (Mom’s name) in me will rise and will verbally take down whoever is in front of me until their face loses colour and they think twice about bullying me again in future.
I think Mom probably hit me over the head, whacked the side of my face, slapped my ass hard or beat me about the head and shoulders with a wooden spoon daily (I’m a fairly stubborn kid and didn’t learn from the first few hits so Mom would keep going until I did), but I never felt unloved by my Mom. I never felt outcast or as if I wasn’t a part of her very soul. I don’t know how Mom managed it, but she has always made me feel loved, even when she’s breaking a spoon on my ass or screaming at me from the other end of the house “JAN! What have you done?!?”
Mom had to buy wooden spoons in their packets of 10 every week because she broke so many over some part of my body in a beating. I learnt fast not to make Mom angry and that what she asked for was never too much or too hard. Through regular “beatings” (usually smacking me with her palm or a nearby wooden spoon — nothing to call child services about), I learnt to be respectful when answering my mother, that “no” meant “no” and wasn’t an invitation for an argument and that what Mom said was to be obeyed. Quickly and ideally without question.
Even though Mom did not hesitate to whack or smack me when I was being naughty, I never felt any shame from it. It physically hurt — but only for a moment and in the next, I was learning about how to clean and keep a home of my own, or how to make spring rolls, or vacuuming was best done in lines so that everywhere got an even clean rather than randomly pointing the vacuum at various points in the carpet. Mom taught me how to properly clean a bathroom from top to bottom, including in the tracks the shower door slid along whenever someone got in or out.
I remember one day I was in the shower and Mom was in the bathroom brushing her teeth. I asked if I could go to a party. Mom said “No” and reminded me I was grounded. Angry and feeling that this was the party of my life (didn’t we feel everything so much more as teens?) that I was now going to miss for something naughty I did a week ago, I shouted out “OH FUCK OFF, MOM!”.
I wasn’t expecting it and even as I write about it now, I’m impressed at Mom’s accuracy considering there was a thick shower curtain between us, but Mom punched me square in the nose.
“Dont you ever talk to me like that again, Jan!”
And wouldn’t you know it? I never have again.
My nose recovered, my grounding stood, I missed the party but Mom’s lesson stayed and will probably last my lifetime. I have always spoken to my Mom respectfully since that day over 3 decades ago.
Mom taught me to be tidy, to take my shoes off before going into someone’s home, how to cook the best, fluffiest rice, how to look after my possessions with care, to look after my brother before myself in everything I do (hard eye roll), how to be a hard worker and that it is vital to push past the boundaries of pain and make sure I meet a challenge eye to eye whenever an opportunity for greatness comes up.
So today, on Mother’s day — I salute you Arnideta Marcilina Castro Delantes Daniels. You are the reason I have a fire in my belly, a loud voice, a confidence that surprises and delights me, a stubbornness that annoys everyone I know, a tough skin and a spirit that glows during the hardest adversities I’ve had to face.
Thank you for making me strong, Mom.
I am who I am because I’m your daughter.
Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.
Leave a Reply