Bie Ning Ima 1: The Day We Become Mothers
I look back to fourteen years ago, when I decided to be a
Life is always about choices. Even when you say "But I have no
choice!" is in itself making a choice.
I hear a rustle of cotton bed sheets being pulled aside and the
soft tingle of a tiny bell tied to a string and placed near the
bed so that any slight movement will produce a sound. I leave
work in the kitchen, where breakfast is almost ready, to check on
Manuniat cu pa quing dase. Uram-uram pa mata, malabug pa quing
muri. Sasalingalngal na ing single nasi a mitmung bauang ampong
penadtad sebulan pritung ebun, uling macanian ia mung buri cu,
macaiabe tambing quing sinangle nasi. Eque buri ing gagalgal
"malutu" ning ebun. Tinuqui neng sinalingalngal ing pipiritung
daing. Macapangaiat uaua. Migising nacung talaga, pati mangalati
cung bulati culam-culam na quing bau ning balu cung macaiapag
"Good morning, Baby! How is the most beautiful bebe in the world?
Ninung caluguran mung dili? Dale namo sabian mu na caibat mangan
tana canian. Lutu na ing buri mu. Subuanan dacang maracal ne?
Geua dacang tiltilan, quinayud que itang manggang bubut at tidtad
cung mapinu ing camatis ampong bulung sibuyas. Ummm, sarap
My Baby smiled. I clean her up and change her diapers, put Fissan
powder on her back to make sure her back will keep dry while I
feed her one of her many favorites for breakfast.
"O pota tana caibat mengan manaliling baru ban canita gang
mangabalag ing susubu ta ali daca panasan ne?"
I turn Baby on her back and position myself properly so I can
lift her from the bed. I breathe deeply as I scoop her to a chair
nearby. I put her on her slippers and slip an arm around her
waist. She rests her arm at the back of my neck. We take slow
steps to a table in the kitchen.
Ing bale Capampangan eya metung a cocina. Atin quing lual ning
bale bandang gulut 'nu milulutu ing paca caua, calderung madagul
at maigit canita ding balanga ampong caualing bacal a
uling-ulingan. Queni mipapascad ing carning babi, manuc, baca
bayu pa man migisa quing buring maging lutu caibat na niti.
The times do make us change—from traditional cooking to the
modern comfort and precision required to prepare some meals.
Today we have choices. I still practice both. Within five days in
a week the LPG-fueled stove gets its turn. I do personal reading,
internet, and other related computer stuff in the quiet before
dawn from 4 o’clock in the morning while preparing the
viands for the day and, lastly, breakfast so that it remains hot
when Baby wakes up. Modernists call that multitasking. As soon as
the neighborhood comes alive with sounds, so does the hurried
pace of a hands-on day with Baby.
Bauat subu, macasabe ia pa ing, "Ummm, niaman, o sssarrrap na,
Mama co. Bilis, bilis, simen mu pa, laco mu suksuk ing daing.
Maw, maw, babacnal cu, mamam cu!"
A duet of contrasting laughters, one so refined and the other so
deep and full of life. It is a communion of souls between Mother
"Bwaha, ha, ugh, ugh, ugh." Y Mama, dinampi nala ding palad quing
gulut, miliuas a tapic ampong apis. Mipasno. Anti mong mitacutan,
minurung ing bacnal. Peinuman nacu. Tsaca ia tiniman, "Caburi mo
ne ? Eca mandalas, tatanuran daca, ena cu man maco."
"O, o, come na, Baby, open your mouth. Let me see a big ah, sooo... sarap."
Baby complies as coached and her toothless gums chew on finely
chopped food. She smiles and looks at her ice cream. She likes
ice cream to go with her meals—a rotation of Pistachio, Berry,
Strawberry, Vanilla, Macapuno, and Mango. For every spoonful of
rice and viand she gets a reward of a spoonful of ice cream as
well. And, her fresh fruit of the day by the teaspoon.
Uyan ing durut ning bie da reng micalugud a Ima at Anac. Alang
pasubali, alang patlang. E balabaliquid at bibilang oras numan
caluat bayu ne ayalduc ing bauat subu. Uling iang panyugling bie
ing bibie mung lugud macapalaman quing bauat subu. Maigit quing
tidtad mapinung bibie mung pamangan ing lugud a singcap iang
babie aliuang niaman quing bauat subu ning Ima quing Anac.
Bie Ning Anac 1: The Day We Become Daughters
Ecu calinguan tauli nang pamamangan, Duminggung bengi. Kilayin ampong
aduang pisnging mangga. Asne cabsi. Ala cung gunam-gunaman.
Life gives you something, and someone else is taken away from
you. Each encounter with its own time cycle. No human
intervention can push life beyond the limit given by the One who
gave it. He breathes life into every creature. He takes it away
in His own good time.
Matras ta pang bagia. Balu cu na ngeni capilan ia mibie ing bie
iniauad cu pang dagdag.
Mayu 2006, asnang pali niang abac. Caibat ugtu menuldul,
mangataram ing kildap, bubulus ing masican a uran. Aniang
migpatna, dindam que ing pangunacan. Ilang melaquan cocina cabang
lalaco cu ing mengacumpul a bulung malangi caring alulud. Miagnan
ngalngal ampo gulisac, "Mama, Mama! Auntie, y Mamaaaaaaaaaaa!"
Ita mu, ginalgal cu mabilug pamicatauan, milayi palub bale.
Macabalag ia ngan buntuk, gamat, at ating mabasa quing
I turned into three personas. (My niece said so later, when
everything was over. It became a recurring soap opera throughout
the hospital stay.)
"Ma. Mama ko."
"Get a blanket , put it on the floor, find me
pang-blood pressure." I lift her from the chair away from the
tight embrace of my near hysterical niece. While she hastily
finds a bedsheet, I am feeling her pulse, checking on her pupils.
There is hardly a pulse, pupils dilated.
"Go out, get a neighbor to help you. Don't just stand
there! Move, call your Daddy. Get them here, call your
Niongniong." (Everybody calls their uncle, my middle brother,
their Niongniong—for Ninong.)
"Mama co, Mama, please, please... ali, ali mu cu
I put her down fast enough, all in a span of less than
one minute on the floor. I can see her changing to a violet hue,
her fingernails, and toenails. I give her one precordial thump,
knowing it as a witnessed arrest and started CPR. I blow into her
mouth in a practiced manner, just like the times I'd done in my
CPR classes, on the mannequin, training my students, and in other
actual situations to save lives. "And one and two and three..."
Only this time it is not a victim. It it is my mother.
"Marjory, get back here. Find me a flashlight, get me
a blower, get on the phone. Shut up! Don't cry!"
"And eleven and twelve..."
"Dios cu naman po, ali ye, ali ye cucunan canacu...
"And fifteen." Blow. Blow. Blow. All of my life. All
air power I had in my lungs I breathe into the unconscious figure
helplessly limp in front of me. I put my hands, clasp with
elbows, straight, "And one..."
Sounds of people coming through the door. A neighbor, Mang Gil,
magdala yang pang-presyun. He gets on his knees.
Another one comes in, an old neighbor, about ten years younger
than Mama but her contemporary I'd say, blurts in, "Atche, atche
co. Ospital, ospital, sacluluan ye..."
"Marjo. Get everyone out, OUT! We need fresh air...
. Did you call your daddy yet?"
"Ma. Mama, please, bibie cu ing bie cu..."
Mangaga ku, maibug kung maspac salu, malilyu cu quing angin a
bibie cu para misuglungan ia pangisnaua y Mama cu.
"Mang Gil, presyun na? Ding taliri ng bitis, massage yu
la sopan yu cu." And I blow, blow, blow...
"Marjo, get a bag, pack clothes and things for the
hospital. Get back on the phone. Get me pillows, my bag. My
phone, dial it cang Niong mu, bring it here."
Mang Gil gets a reading on her blood pressure. It was way too
weak: 90/60. But he tells me, "Sister, mamaco ing manuling corol
"Warm her hands. Bie yu ing pali yung gamat, mapilan
penandit ulitan ye pulsu. Duangan yu cung flashlight..."
(Her pupils show a slight reaction to the light.)
"Ma, Mama co, magbalic ca. Emu cu lalacuan. Ali, ali
pa pu..." (I bite my lips to control hysteria from taking
Marjory puts the phone on my ear. "Coya, Mama milaco
ya animu, mengulor yang balasenas, mengapali ne. Piniklat que
talucab mata, macadalangat nala. I'm giving CPR. It happened
about 15 to 20 minutes ago, her pulse was weak. We got a blood
pressure of 90/60, tell Tito Vic (our family friend and Mama's
"Coya, Coya, malapit naka? Lagua yu, dala yu que
ospital." (Mangaralgal nacu boses.)
Blow. Blow. Blow. "And one and two and three...,"
until I get to fifteen. And the cycle goes on.
Mang Gil reports on a second BP, "Sister, mag-improve ya ing
presyun ng Ima—100/70, at milaco ing manuling na bitis. Papali
ne, babalik ya corol pati taliri."
Sounds of vehicle tires screeching on stones outside.
It was my middle brother taking over physically. Siclulu ne i
Mama like a fragile crystal doll. I told him, "Coya, quing gulut,
I need to breathe for her—bilis, bilis!"
In this lifetime, I did not need to die to get a grasp of what
What limbo can be like.
What "heaven can wait" is all about.
The trip from our house to the hospital felt like eternity.
It felt like nothing was in motion, everything was suspended in
It was a still frame frozen on a billboard waiting for some
typhoon to blow into shreds so that heaven could wait.
Casalungsungan deng tatalacad ing SM Clark, at nuca man marap
dumalan, macabara la ring jitney, bus, cotsi, tricycle, nanu-nanu
pang pacabalandra. Maybug cung mangulisac. Ing Coya, eman
bubulad, acaquit que alang patugut a laue quing salamin at quing
dadalanan. Calmadung taranta, nung miliari na quecayu muna man
quing bie yu ini. "Miras tamu, miras tamu, ditac namu. Comusta
cayu quen gulut? Maw, Maw, daramdaman mu cu ne?"
Ginalo ia talucab mata y Mama. Misalubung ing babie cung
pangisnua at ing pali ning pangisnaua iba't caia. Bagia mu pero
atin pali. Maili cu, mamagus ing lua cu, meglobu ing sipun cu.
Buri que man pacacaulan y Mama minauat at penuma cu nemu palad.
Tinucnang cami. Minatna cu, macabungad ne ing ospital.
It was the most beautiful view I had ever appreciated. The most
angelic human faces I ever encountered took over. After all the
necessary work done on Mama, we were moved to a suite on the
third floor. Tito Vic assured us, Mama was going to be
Everything swirled and I slept like a baby. This must have been
as it was when I was delivered from her womb and saw the light of
day. I cried for joy at the light and beauty of another world. I
closed my eyes knowing I was secure, out of my mother's womb and
yet in the warmth of her whole being.