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My Bicolana Mother

More than just a housekeeper, she was my mother
By Alfonso B. Villamora

"God could not be everywhere, so therefore he made mothers." The
Talmud

San Diego, CA. Somebody once asked me whom among the television
mothers is my favorite and almost got floored with my response
Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife in the reality sitcom "The Osbourne's."

My friend was probably expecting me to name somebody else like
Shirley Partridge or Carol Brady. Being a liberal, she could have
entertained the thought that foul-mouthed Roseanne could be it.

Ozzy's wife may be a lot hipper and a lot weirder than the Leave It
to Beaver matron, but Sharon is really the "moral and emotional"
center of her foulmouthed family. She doesn't do housework in an
apron and pearls, but in many ways she's a lot like June Cleaver,
she's the nurturing one.

I can relate to Sharon's personality, unlike those moms who all
presented a consistent picture of what motherhood was. Those mothers,
in between baking brownies and deferring to dad, could always solve
their kids' problems, no matter how daunting, in just one episode.

Nowadays, TV moms no longer have all the answers. In fact, some have
become considerably dumber than their kids. No longer are moms just
happy to be a housekeeper, to look pretty and dispense words of
wisdom to the kids, but has to have a job to portray a liberated woman. The values have changed as well.

When single newswoman Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) gave birth out of
wedlock back in 1992, then-Vice President Dan Quayle accused the
character of "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child
alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

A brouhaha over unwed mothers and family values ensued. But a little
over a decade later, no one batted an eye when single Rachel
(Jennifer Aniston) gave birth to baby Emma on Friends.

While good for a running series, these mother images are for the
consumption of the American audience thus unrealistic for me. Growing
up with my mom was not like any of it. Some similarities, but not
close.

Growing up in Bicol

Certainly, my mother was not even close to any of the American TV mom
favorites. Heck, she did not even have a set of pearl earrings to
boot. Other than the pair of gold earrings she wore since time
immemorial and her gold wedding band, I don't recall her wearing even
those fancy ones. She was just plain as a plain housewife could be
with her daily `duster' and occasional `wear your best' on Sundays.

While my dad was the undisputed head of the household, my Mama was
the glue that held the family together. Mom didn't work and handled
all the domestic duties.

Being the fifth of eight siblings, growing up in a remote town in
Bicol was not easy. Being remote, the town did not have electricity,
potable water or a sewage treatment system. Just surviving was a
great challenge. I surmised that the challenge was even greater for
my mom who had to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO) & Chief Finance Officer (CFO) of the Villamora Company (i.e. keeping company of her kids).

As the CEO, she made sure all of her kids were educated with a
college diploma to show for it (of course, children compliance is an
entirely separate matter). If needed be, she used her `coercive'
powers to make relatives in position of power to toe the line,
obtaining `preferential' treatment for scholarship positions as band
members. She also `barged-in' in the offices of influential persons such as the governor of the province to demand a better job for my dad of course to the
embarassment of the latter.

Being the COO, she obliged most of her children to render `voluntary'
services to the company. From washing dishes, scrubbing and waxing
the floor and doing the laundry. For the skilled workers (such as
myself), there was mandatory service to ocean exploration exploring
the bay for good harvests of shrimp and large fishes (my family was
into semi-commercial fishing) and logistical service (ensuring that the nets and boats were deployment ready).

My mother never went to college, but she did great as the company's
CFO. Granted that the annual budget was small, but she made sure she
maintained a balanced one every month. When the payroll officer (my
dad) hands the budget allocation, mother would deliver a privilege
speech before allocations are further disbursed. Not only are the employees `castigated' for excessive spending, she would also take a dig at my dad, asking for increased budget. She would then specify job opportunities for us
that can help minimize the impact on the budget. One such job is doing the laundry inhouse.

One of the benefits of living in a rural area is the accessability of
cheap labor and free stuff provided by nature. Our town is blessed
with a fresh, free-flowing running water from the nearby volcano, Mt.
Isarog. Having said that, I distinctly remember spending countless
hours with my mom on the Himoragat River providing not only cheap but
free labor as we did the laundry for the entire family every week.
But notably, Mama was the great provider of free labor as she spent gawd-awful hours sometimes into the early dawn, `fixing' the nets, sorting them and sewing the tears.

When unexpected expenses crop up, naturally they upset the proposed
budget (budget is approved when the money is allocated by the CFO and
spent). Expertly, she would prioritize the spending bills and realign
allocations giving priority to daily operating costs for staples and
education. If needed be, she would tap into the informal lending
system of the town utang muna! She did these for too many times in the course of the same administration who served in perpetuity as there was no desire
on my mother's part or the kids to sever ties with the dispensation.
In 1992, the company celebrated the golden anniversary of my parents
marked by a small celebration. The speeches were great, with no promises of increased spending and great retirement benefits. Only promises of increased
volunteerism in the company, love and more sacrifices.

My mother celebrated her 77th birthday last April 23rd in that same
rural town where I grew up. Despite being confined to a wheel chair
most of the day for the past several years, her great outlook in life
is undiminished and undeterred by physical limitations.

When my dad passed away in 1994, I took over his job as budget
officer of the company while mom remained the CEO, COO and CFO.
Although Mama lacked a college diploma (thanks to her Papa who never
believed that women should have college education), she skillfully stirred the family business into an enduring one.

Sure many would say that my mom's primary job description was a
housekeeper but I would beg to disagree. With the love and compassion
my Mama has shown all these years, I could bestow her many more
titles or job descriptions.

I'm sure many will agree that she was a Research Associate in the
field of Child Development and Human Relations maintaining continuing
program of research (what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in
the field (indoors and out). Sure she did not go to college but most
of her life she was working for her Masters (the whole darned family)
and have eight credits (all healthy) to show for it.

Of course, her job is one of the most demanding in the humanities
(any mother care to disagree?) and often worked 14 hours a day (24 is
more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-
mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just
money.

As a child I can attest to the fact that I was once one of her lab
assistants and privy to hands-on experience with her experimental
modeling (like teaching us how to walk) and testing out new vocal
patterns (teaching us how to talk) which she enjoyed immensely.

Obviously, she was not just a housekeeper. She was my mother seven
days a week, 24 hours a day.

The Osbournes was structured around rock-star dad Ozzy, but Sharon,
by dint of the force of her own personality, has become a breakout
star. As the program has evolved, people have become enamored of
Sharon.

Reality shows like The Osbournes are really something of a separate
beast since the shows aren't scripted. But maybe that only
illustrates Sharon's natural star power. Her appeal did evolve from
her own personality.

Certainly, my mom was a natural in her own TV show excelling in
raising a family unscripted and full of ups and downs.

Thank you Mama, you've been great (KAIBA News & Features - www.kaiba.cjb.net).
 

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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email: alcalara@edsamail.com.ph  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: May 26, 2003