Persona

Seeing my daughters
become good mothers

You come to terms with what it took to raise
women who made varied choices in life

Author's daughter Karenina skydiving in Portugal

I am trying to catch the image of my mother when I was young. But many things are blurred now. The old pictures seem clear except that I don’t have them now.

Probably she went through motherhood the way my daughters did.

Except that my mother had no access to technology so she didn’t see how I moved in her womb.

At 72 and a father of three, I had to witness motherhood all over again through my daughters.

My eldest is 45 and a mother of two girls; next is 42, a mother of one under my custody; the youngest just turned 40, a mother of three (two girls and a boy).

These days just seeing my grandchildren on video becomes a daily source of joy during the pandemic. They are my virtual stress-relievers and my maintenance pills I stopped taking a few years back.

Just how did I welcome motherhood as it started shaping my daughters?

On one of those visits about 18 years back, my eldest showed me a picture of a baby in a womb.

Papu, look, she said.

Whose is that? I asked

Mine, my daughter said.

Just to know that my daughter was soon turning into a mother was a new experience for me.

 In my mind, I was still looking at the photo of my firstborn in a hospital in Albay.

Suddenly she is turning into a mother herself.

The author’s daughter Tamara Irika with her own daughters Tanya and Tyra in Singapore

Another daughter who got married in Albay followed suit. Out of the blue, I had two daughters expecting a baby on the same year.

When the boy was born in Ligao, Albay, I conferred on myself the status of a grandfather. When another girl was born to my eldest, suddenly I became a grandfather of two.

My youngest soon followed.

Now, 2021, I am a grandfather of six—two boys and four girls.

Nacherly, I monitored their new status and helped in any way I could to lighten my daughters’ motherhood burdens.

As my eldest was teaching at Ateneo, I’d visit her apartment frequently to walk my first granddaughter in the nearby park as she prepared for school.

When my second daughter gave birth to a boy, I knew just by looking at him that he would spend his early life with me.

The author’s daughter Kerima swimming with her son Emman

When my youngest gave birth to a girl, I asked my part-time housekeeper to help clean the house while my daughter recovered from childbirth. When they came of school age, I offered to fetch the grandkids in school to lighten their motherhood chores.

Today, two granddaughters are based in Frankfurt, and the rest are in Pasig in different households.

I could now see how my daughters have metamorphosed into good mothers and very devoted ones at that.

Through the years, the Frankfurt-based daughter got in touch by visiting once or twice a year. We would have special dinners and exchanged stories and laughter in her hotel rooms and would visit the island province.

Looking at my granddaughter growing up disciplined, I knew she was brought up by a good mother and a good teacher.

The author as school ‘fetcher’

She just passed the entrance test in a Mannheim school and is starting  college, major in graphic design. My grandson (a consistent honor student) will be done with high school and is preparing for college.

My Pasig granddaughter is also another honor student who is coping with virtual learning rather well.

The good students they have become are all because of good mothers— and these are my daughters.

Just before the pandemic, frozen on my mind was the picture of my eldest daughter who fetched us in the airport in Hong Kong and billeted us in a hotel for a four-day holiday.

Karenina after graduating from Ateneo de Manila, cum laude, catching the concert the author produced at Philamlife with celebrity guests Pen Medina, Allan Cosio, Odette Alcantara, Joe Gruta, among others.

Apart from me, she sent for her sister and two nieces who were traveling abroad for the first time.

As she took care of our tour and inland transport and hosted intimate family lunch and dinner, I couldn’t believe she was the same daughter who was born in Albay on a Black Saturday. She grew up in a house by the sea with a good view of the perfect cone, lording over the hill I used to climb with a friend.

Now she is a busy business consultant and in the middle of business trips, she found time to see us on foreign soil, spent on air tickets and  accommodations, just to see how everyone was.

We told stories to catch up in this restaurant called Social Place, took a tram to Victoria Peak and at that time of the year, the weather was cold, the icy wind nipping on your skin.

As you view the skyline of this former British colony, you come to terms with what it took to raise three daughters who made varied choices in life.

One is into the arts (she was active in the school theater), another was an activist, and the third was into sports before she became a full-time mother.

In their growing up years, you cooked their breakfast, walked or biked them to school, escorted them to their first ballet lessons, attended their PTA meetings and before you knew it, they were in college and years later, you figured in their commencement exercises.

As you brace for their birthdays, you reflect on how you raised three daughters with different concerns and how you coped with their individual life choices.

Before she left for Frankfurt, my daughter taught and tutored the staffs of diplomats.

She disappeared. She was soon found in the jungles of Isabela figuring in an armed encounter.

Another daughter attended the state university, worked in the university newspaper and just a couple of years before graduation, she disappeared. She was soon found in the jungles of Isabela figuring in an armed encounter with military troops which then claimed to have found several Armalites in her possession.

Meanwhile, my youngest (now mother of three) was into sports and since I have not watched a single volleyball game in my life, I could only offer moral support. Now I make up for my absence in her high school and college volleyball games by helping take care of my granddaughters.

A top student in high school and graduating cum laude in a school for the well-off along Katipunan, my eldest probably sensed there was no way she could be stable with a degree in development studies and a Master’s  in Pilipino. So she took German language courses, later flew to Frankfurt where she acquired another master’s degree in business and finance.

Every time we are reunited in Manila, I could see a daughter as a good mother with a good business sense. But her affinity to the arts remained as she and her partner watched concerts and hosted dinner for the world-famous pianist-godmother of her eldest daughter.

The last time around, my eldest daughter said we needed not go to Frankfurt to see my youngest granddaughter, Katharina, who was born in Austria.

Since it would take months to process a German visa, my daughter suggested we go to an Asian country instead. So five months before the pandemic, my daughter treated us to a Singapore trip.

This was the Singapore I longed for: to be with my daughters and granddaughters sharing lunch and dinner and taking a dip on the rooftop pool and enjoying the sight.

I took this opportunity to cuddle my fifth grandchild as often as I could as this visit was only for three days. When she was asleep, I’d turn to my other granddaughters to do a quick visit to the Merlion Park (home to an 8.6 meter-tall and 40 ton-weight, water-spouting Merlion) and the façade of the Victoria Concert Hall where Cecile Licad performed in 2002.

On our last day, we had lunch on the 56th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands whose architecture, with its boat-shaped design, was quite a sight.

On our last day in Singapore, I took the time to hold my youngest granddaughter one more time. My daughter Kalon took a picture of us right on the 56th floor with a sweeping view of the city-state skyline.

Still, the most memorable highlight was to see Katharina smile at me. She probably wondered why I couldn’t get enough of her every day of our stay.

Those last two Hong Kong and Singapore trips yielded the realization that your daughters did well as mothers and are now caring sisters to each other.

As she herself arranged the quick Hong Kong and Singapore itineraries, making sure we had land transport, I realized I had a good daughter who could give me a special treat in my old age.

The author’s daughter Karenina with daughters Keya and Katharina in Germany.

To be sure, I enjoyed HK and Singapore but with it came the realization that my eldest has evolved into a seasoned global citizen, a good mother and a good daughter who cared a lot for her sisters, nephews and nieces as well.

In Hong Kong, I remembered  Victoria Peak in the film inspired by a Han Suyin autobiographical novel, A Many Splendored Thing.

Up there with an exhilarating view of Hong Kong, you rewind your life and times with your three daughters as you recall the Han Suyin film and song that made it popular —

Oh, once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched my silent heart
And taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing


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