Celebrating Our Mothers, Giving Thanks on Mother’s Day

by Edwin Quinabo

Susan Martin, 61, Kapolei, surprisingly said one of her most memorable Mother’s Day happened when her mother was no longer alive.

The year immediately after Susan’s mother Rowena had passed away in 2013, the Martins came together for a potluck dinner at her brother’s house in Pearl City. The family were gathered in the backyard near the fire where her two brothers were barbecuing. It was a little after sunset, the last minutes before daylight would disappear. It was quiet. She said no one said anything, but at that moment, they all were thinking the same thing – how Mother’s Day felt different, and how they missed her dearly. It was all so raw because Rowena had passed away on April 19 that year, just weeks short of celebrating another Mother’s Day.

“We were all feeling empty. Mother’s Day is the celebration to give gratitude to our mom. And what do you do when she is no longer here?” said Martin.

Perhaps like the sunset that by now had disappeared fully – it was like that of Rowena’s life. Their light of the family had faded away. It was as natural as nature’s clock from dawn to dusk. But still, it hurt.

In spontaneity, one by one, she and her siblings started talking about cherished memories they had with their mother. “My youngest brother talked about on the very first day of school, the first day of kindergarten, he remembers that morning he was afraid to leave the house. He was already dressed, had his bag. He said he needed a hug but just stood still.  He said he remembers mom knelt down, said to him, ‘Be a good boy. I’ll be here waiting for you.’” (His older brothers would accompany him to and from school on the school bus.)

Just as he was about to leave Rowena embraced him tightly. My brother said he never forgot that moment, all the details down to the tee. What gave him courage is knowing she would be there after he returned from school.

Martin said this is what we knew of our mom. “She was always there waiting for us to come home. Because moms are like our home [representation], the safest place we knew throughout our youth, throughout our teenage and even adult life.”

In the Philippines moms are often referred to as ilaw ng tahanan or light of the home.

“When it came to my turn, I shared how I remember my mom’s fondness for singing. She had a silky voice; and had won several song contests in her hometown in the Philippines. Her favorite song was Dahil Sa Iyo. She would sing it first in Tagalog, then in English. She sounded like Philippine songstress Pilita Corrales.”

Martin said their conversation carried on into the night. But as it got darker, their hearts illuminated brighter with warmth story after story. “That was such a special Mother’s Day because at that moment we knew our mother’s presence would live on long until we are reunited. Like my brother’s story, I am blessed with courage each day to carry on through challenging times because I know, in heaven, she is watching over us and waiting for us as she did in life,” said Martin.

“And what she would want as she told my brother many years ago, is for us to do good things for ourselves and others, until we are welcomed home into God’s kingdom.”

Mother’s Day this year is on Sunday, May 8. In the United States it is always held on the second Sunday of May. Mothers are celebrated on different days worldwide; 50 countries dedicate a special day to honor mothers. In the United States it became a holiday in 1914.In the early days there was strong resistance to commercialization of Mother’s Day. Reflection and praying were typical ways Americans celebrated Mother’s Day. Before it became an official holiday, mothers in early US set aside a special day for mothers as a day of protest against war. Eventually this day became Mother’s Day.

The origin is not a stretch from what the very nature of motherhood is – that of a protector of her children and family.Mother’s Day had a political origin and was also looked upon as one of the first movements of American feminism. Women then argued that American holidays were biased toward male achievements; and women activists initiated a massive letter campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians to have a special day officially adopted to honor motherhood.

The official Father’s Day was declared four years earlier in 1910.The campaign for equal recognition of parenthood that started by Anna Jarvis took six years before Mother’s Day became an official holiday in the US.

Like mother like daughter
Surveys show the two most influential people in a person’s life – from shaping lifestyle, religiosity, to values – are our mother and father.

Mother’s Day is about showing gratitude for what? Nurturing. Guidance. Sacrifice. And ultimately for having a significant role of influence for shaping who we are as adults.

For Dr. Edna Bautista, a retired communications professor and former Hawaii resident now living in Houston, TX, her mother Elisa played a pivotal role in her career choice and religion.

Elisa was a lifelong career educator, her daughter Edna says. “I was trying to be different from her. But she has demonstrated outstanding compassion, knowledge, leadership and organizational skills and won honors in her field. Who would not want to be like her who is loved by her family, students and co-workers?

“She is not only my role model as a mom and teacher but also a great example of what her colleagues/peers aspire to be.”

Elisa’s influence as an educator also inspired her son Dennis to pursue a career in education. “Both my kids, Edna and Dennis, have earned their doctoral degrees and became mass communications professors. I’m proud that they are successful in their careers and also stayed true to their Catholic faith,” says Elisa, an Ewa Beach resident.

She said, “My family was not rich, but we were blessed with everything we needed. My husband and I had to sacrifice and work hard because it was important to us that they could go to college. So, the greatest reward was raising my kids and seeing them succeed in life.

“It was also a challenge to teach children about their faith in a secular world. I’m happy my daughter and son are good, practicing Catholic-Christians and active in ministries.”

2015 study in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found children whose parents expected them to go to college performed better on tests than parents with low expectations. The trend occurred among both wealthy and low-income families.

Further on parenting, Edna said, “My mother came to Hawaii when I was just a baby and raised me and my younger brother mostly on her own while our dad was on long deployments for the U.S. Navy.

“She sacrificed a lot and had to adapt to American culture because of us yet she also wanted her children not to forget our Filipino heritage. Eventually, we became involved in local Filipino media. My brother was a radio announcer at KNDI radio, and I still write for this newspaper.”

Simple and meaningful Mother’s Day
The Bautistas celebrated a simple and “not-so-fancy” Mother’s Day when her children were young, according to Elisa. “When my kids were younger, we would start the day off with breakfast together. My husband would cook. And then we would go to church together as a family.

“But when you are older and everyone is far away, this type of typical day is something you just cherish everyday—time and togetherness and not the material things, says Elisa.Edna recalls of her childhood celebrations with her mom.

“As children, we handcrafted cards and gifts for her Mother’s Day. She preferred the personalized time, efforts and thoughtfulness from our hearts, instead of anything generically store-bought. Now we want more precious time to spend together.”Elisa agrees with Edna about spending precious time together. “I wish I could be together with my entire family. But my children are far away and in different time zones. Luckily with today’s technology, it helps that we can do FaceTime,” says Elisa.

Virtual Mother’s Day fun
FaceTime, Zoom, Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype and other chat apps have helped to enliven Mother’s Day greetings and quality time spent while apart. Since the pandemic, people have come up with innovative ways to spend time with their moms on Mother’s Day virtually.Some ideas:

1.) Watch her favorite movie together. Relive the old days. Enjoy a mother-daughter movie that you both watched together and loved. Unlike at the theater, you can both comment on parts to keep the experience exciting. If you both don’t have a movie, there is always old family videos. Set those VHS machines up ahead of time if those tapes haven’t been updated to DVD.

2.) Spend the entire dinner or lunch together. Why just chat for 15 minutes when you could all have a family meal together. This might take some coordination with time zones. But this experience will be worth the effort and a Mother’s Day she will relish and never forget.

3.) Have a picnic. Phones are not called mobile phones for no reason. The home isn’t the only place to have virtual fun. It’s springtime so the weather is nice all across the mainland and in Hawaii. Schedule a picnic outing at the beach or park. You both can take in the sun, relax and chat over beautiful scenery.

4.) Manicure. Daughters, send your mother a manicure kit and buy one for yourself. So while you’re catching up on life chatting, you both have something fun to do together.

5.) Open gifts together. One of the greatest satisfactions when giving a gift on Mother’s Day is seeing her reaction opening it. Be creative when choosing a gift. A good lead is to find out what her latest hobby is then buy something relating to or essential for that hobby. If your mom has taken up painting lately, perhaps a canvas or two or art books would be something she could enjoy. The examples are endless. Be creative. You know your mother best.

6.)Tell your mother why you are thankful for her. Moms already know why, but it warms the heart to hear it sometimes. Have fun with it. Sing it to her on a karaoke machine. Or write it in the form of poetry. Don’t worry about rhyme schemes and technical aspects of poetry. It could be free verse. Anything goes.

Edna says, “I’m thankful to God that my mom is still alive, healthy and strong—she turned 80 earlier this year!”  Edna said she loves her mom for giving her a good family foundation, faith, education, guidance and life!

Thankful for passing on faith in God
Like the Bautistas, Susan attributes her strong faith in God to her mother. “I’m thankful for my mom exposing us to the Catholic faith and bringing us to church regularly. We all attended Sunday school then would go to church immediately after. That was our routine through our childhood and teens.

“What I’ve learned and practiced as a child, I’ve also passed this on to my own children. I see how they’ve relied on their faith in God throughout their lives. I’m pleased to see this as a mother; and happy that they are college educated and live independent lives. My daughter is an registered nurse and son part of administration at a hospital,” said Martin.

Surveys confirm the strong influence parents have and pass on in the area of religion and beliefs. In a September 2020 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, about half of teens ages 13 to 17 say their parents have all the same religious beliefs as they do. In the same survey, parents think that their teen’s religious beliefs are similar to their own beliefs. About half (53%) of parents who responded to the survey say their children have “all the same” religious beliefs as they do.

Philippine traditions on Mother’s Day
Susan said when her mother was alive, the entire family would gather for Mother’s Day. It’s actually a Philippine tradition to have one large gathering for all moms — the immediate family, aunties, relatives and sometimes neighbors — to be honored.

Now that she’s gone, she and her siblings celebrate Mother’s Day separately with their own families, but on occasion, they will all get together to honor the memory of their deceased mother on Mother’s Day.

Including deceased mothers as part of Mother’s Day celebration is actually another Philippine tradition. Lighting a candle at church or visiting the grave site of a deceased mother is common to show respect and gratitude for Filipinos. The origin of this practice is distinctly Asian; most Asian countries practice varying degrees of ancestor veneration.

Originally Mother’s Day in the Philippines was celebrated on December 8, on the day of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In 1980, Mother’s day was moved to the second Sunday of May to coincide with the American date.

One explanation for the change was for it to coincide with the American observance to accommodate the large Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the US.From Hawaii to the Philippines and around the world, the universal theme most say of Mother’s day is to make our mothers feel special for the love they’ve given us and for the gift of life itself.

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