By Mari-An C. Santos

My mother turned 60 last month. But looking at her, you wouldn’t have guessed it. Her hair is still jet black and her face hardly has any wrinkles. Her voice is clear and she walks with sure-footed steps. I usually associate 60-year-olds with grandmothers. But my mother is not a grandmother. (Don’t remind her though–she might decide to take it up with me and my sister.) She is a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, aunt.

Everyone says we look alike. I always say I got my looks from her but my temperament from my father.

Mama always worries about what to cook for the next meal, that I have a complete first aid kit for my trip, and that our balikbayan relatives have everything they need. Whenever I come home to Manila, we always have these long mother-daughter talks. Aside from telling me about the interesting things that happened around the household, she tells me about her past. That’s how I found out about the time when she went up to Baguio all by herself to meet my father. But since they didn’t talk about where and when they’d meet, Mama had to go to different places until they finally, literally, found each other.

She told me about the first time she came to Manila all the way from Zamboanga. Mama was a nurse and had come to the “big, bad city” to work. Save for her older sister, she did not know anyone in Manila. She stayed at a boarding house and worked the graveyard shift at a small hospital, treating people at odd hours for the most bizarre injuries.

These were revelations to me. My mother, who’s usually escorted by my father, commuting a very long distance for an undetermined date? My mother, who’s always with someone, alone?

I’ve known my mother all my life but it seems that I do not really know her. Listening to her stories, I realized that we have a lot more in common than I had previously thought.

I look forward to many more years of getting to know my Mama better.

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