Closer to God

When your belief became an ordinary tradition. Sometimes, certain tradition has molded your own belief over the years. You were obliged to do certain things even if it was out of your own belief because you have to follow what’s the tradition or it became a long practice in the family.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic, my mother was a really religious person. She went to church every Sunday, she prayed a novena and Rosary every single day. She was also active in attending some prayer meetings in every occasion in our town. I witnessed how strong her devotion and when she became dependent on her faith to God. Every difficulties and struggle in life she lifted it up and surrendered it to the lord. I guess that’s where she drew her strength all those years. Raising her eight children by herself, and having an irresponsible husband who was drowned to cigarettes and alcohol and no stable job was her great combat. She remained stronger and tougher for the sake of her children while hoping that someday she would reap the beautiful life that God has to offer her.

I remembered all her melancholy stories about her early life. She was only 10 years old when she lost her parents. She only studied through grade 4 and couldn’t afford to move to intermediate school. She started working as a help in one of the rich families in the town at a very young age. A few years later her eldest brother took her to Manila and promised her to send to school after helping him in his tailoring shop. My mother was so passionate about her job, she became so great at making dresses and she had been working long hours without pay. Her brother changed his mind about pursuing her study but instead, he insisted on keeping her work in their shop.

She met her first love, he lived in the next neighborhood. According to my mother, this young man was tall and good gentleman his name was Angel (Anghel). But their relationship didn’t last for long due to Angel’s parents’ disapproval of my mother along with that they sent Angel to a far away province and told my Mother he got married to another woman. She was heartbroken at that time and afraid if she would be able to move on. But she prayed to God every day to send her the man whom she would love and give her a lifetime happiness. A man who could help her extricate herself from her difficult life.

Finally, my father came. He was from the same island where my mother grew up. He was an orphan and an heir of a vast land including rice fields, fish ponds and a land nearby beach resorts. He had everything; love and abundancy from his Abuelo and Abuela (grandparents). In early 1920’s,  10 years before my father was born their family owned a huge mansion in Poblacion, which was later burned by Japanese soldiers during World War 2 in 1942. They had many horses and carriages. His mother was a great violin player and a teacher of Music at Centro Escolar a College in Manila now is Centro Escolar University.

Everything changed when his mother was forced to marry her own cousin. It was a family arrangement to keep their family inheritance. But at that time my grandmother had her own fiance from Masbate island and they were engaged secretly. She couldn’t defy her father so she agreed for the wedding, and  few years later she gave birth to my father. Unfortunately she died a week after, some relatives said that she committed suicide. Nobody knew what really happened.  My grandfather after being a widower, find a new family and had his own children, he left my father to his in- law’s care.

That explained how my Father became an orphan and how he became stubborn in life. So he started selling his properties, spending every penny he had, going back and forth to Manila and to the island. He wanted to enjoy every bit of his life with no dreams neither goals nor direction. Having a wife and children wasn’t his cup of a tea. He loved to just smoke, drink, and watch movies in Theater. But his other remaining inheritance was under the care of his Auntie Felicidad, he would only get his inheritance in one condition. “You need to settle down, bring me a wife and children.” Trapped in that condition my father had no choice but went along with it. He met my mother, promised her of a better life, helped her out from her difficult condition. As for my Mother she believed this was the answer to her prayers. She believed God will reward her for being kind, faithful and obedient all this time.

She had a first child, and second child and another child. She took care of the kids and worked in the rice fields even after giving birth. Until they have seven children. She thought she would only have seven until I came. I was her menopausal baby she had me when she was 45. Life was too difficult for my Mom, she had to leave her children and worked as a maid in a far away city. My brothers would help my father sell fire woods, or worked in the rice field. My other three elder sisters even at a very young age had to do the laundry and cooking and took care of each other. There were times they didn’t have any rice or bread to eat. For every small amount of money, my mother sent for the family was not enough to feed the whole family and we were longing for her.

As I grew up my Mother decided to just get a job in Poblacion instead in a far away town so she could go home every week end and took care of us. She had time to make me new dresses and get me new stuff for school. I was lucky enough that when I was growing up most of my brothers and sisters were already grown up and got their jobs so they could help my Mother in all finances. I got new shoes, new uniforms, bags, and notebooks every school year. Which my other siblings didn’t have. I have the love and attention from my parents and other seven siblings.

As the time passed by, I became like my other siblings when they reached the right age where they can stand on their own, they were all excited to leave the house away from my father’s authority. They want to pursue their own dreams and have a better life which they never had. I also left the island even if  it was against my father’s will. Even my mother begged me not to go, I loved them but I could not stand living with them arguing every day fighting over money. They have lived for over 40 years without harmony.

After so many years when I finished college and started working and making money, I tried to go back to the island and visited them. Sometimes we took them to the city so they could see their other children and grandchildren. I worked hard just for them, I didn’t like my parents to undergo any hardships. I would love them see happy and enjoy their life as they get older. Especially, my Mother, she deserved every happiness in life after so many years of miserable life with my father. She deserved a reward. If God couldn’t give it, I and my other siblings will provide it.

In 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 4. She underwent treatment however the Doctor told us, that our Mother had only few months to live. Her body could not endure the treatment. I decided to resign from my job to look after my mother and took her on the island as her last request.  She wanted to spend her remaining days in her own home to be with my father. I knew it was a difficult decision, but my mother was more important than my career.  I could always find a new job later. I saw her everyday in so much pain and agony. It was tormenting to see her everyday. I was scared too. I couldn’t stand seeing her dying.  One day we had a serious conversation while she was lying on the hammock made of a fishnet hanging inside the rest house. I asked her, Mom, do you still believe in God? Are you still close to Him after all? She replied, ” I never lost my faith and devotion towards Him. I’m grateful He gave my precious life, and gave me a loving and great children. All I prayed all this time is to keep my children away from harm and sickness, and if anyone of you get sick I would rather be sick than any of you, because I’m already old. My life is almost over in this world. But your life is just starting. May the Almighty God keep you strong even when I’m gone.”

I couldn’t understand why my mother was still faithful to her God. She is just human she could get mad sometimes, and question him. That’s a normal thing to do. At first, I was mad at Him for not granting my prayer, for not making my Mom live longer and be happy. I had so many questions to ask such; Why she needs to suffer again after so many sufferings she had. Why she needs to die, why isn’t there a miracle? So many why’s… it was heart-wrenching and so difficult to accept, I had to pretend I was fine just for my mother because that’s what she really wanted. For me to be stronger and keep my faith even deeper in times like this.

I have so many questions at the tip of my tongue, these had been my battle for so many years. But, to question my faith was even more difficult. I have my own faith, it might be different from others or from my mother. I still believe there is one and powerful God in this world. Who is responsible for all of us. We may have different beliefs and religions to follow but accepting in our lives that there is a Divine Power dwell along with us. Give us free will for decision making and allow us to commit sin for us to repent and ask forgiveness, a chance for us to make a better path, better and greater after we have stumbled several times.

I may not be very religious, I don’t go to church as often, neither I pray the rosary every single day. But in my own belief being closer to God is manifested in so many different ways and varied every different perspective. People can perform all of these things mentioned above without having a commitment and strong devotion isn’t consider a covenant to be closer to God.

In observance of this Lenten season, people do fasting and any kind of abstinence. Most Catholic devotees perform religious procession in Holy Friday where there are carriages of Holy images that were paraded on the street and there are devotees also perform Station of the cross. As a family tradition that we inherited from my late mother, we did the religious procession and attending “Siete Palabras” also known as The Last Seven Words. Tomorrow will be Holy or Good Friday and we decided to do the station of the cross at Divine Mercy in Marilao Bulacan. These are the best times I remember my Mother. It reminded me her faith and devotion as Roman Catholic and her love for God. Even her last words before she reunited to our Almighty.

(Written and spoken in my native dialect known as Aklanon)

“Ga pasaeamat ako sa Ginuo sa akong kabuhi sa akong mga unga, kapin pa ro pagbugay na kimo. Ikaw do katuparan it akong mga handum. Ikaw ro gabaton it gracia nga ging promisa kakon it Ginuo. Ikaw ro gaangkon it kabuhing dayun iya sa eogta. Sa eangit do akong kasakit hay di ko eon mabatyagan. Ag sa akon pagpanaw giyahan ka permi it atong Makaako.” – Nanay

Translated to the English language:

“I thanked God for my life and for my children, also for giving you to me. You are the fulfillment of my dreams. You will receive the graces and rewards intended for me by our Lord. You will enjoy a better and peaceful life on Earth. In Heaven, I will never feel any pain and when I’m gone Our God Almighty will always guide you.” – Mom

praying to God

***—-***

Comment:
This article is a tribute to my beloved mother for all her sacrifices. I know you’re in heaven now. No more pains and worries. I really miss you so much. I love you with all my heart. If I will be born again I will still choose you to be my mother. Thank you for everything, for loving me more than you love yourself. You are my beloved Nanay (Mom) my best friend and now my guardian angel. Please watch over me and please remind me how great is your faith and how closer you are to God.

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