Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Disaster moms


published May 12, 2014 - MST 
We celebrated Mothers’ Day yesterday by paying tribute to the mothers we knew and expressing our appreciation for the things our own mothers, or mother figures, have done for us.
Flower shops, just like they did on Valentine’s Day, made a killing from all the flower-buyers willing to spend money to make their mothers (or the mothers of their children) feel extra special.
Small children made artwork, wrote cards or letters or anything crafty for their moms. Greetings flooded walls and inboxes on social media.
It is the same for those whose moms have passed on, though with a tinge of nostalgia and pain.
All these gestures show just how big the role of moms are in the raising of kids, formation of their values and the quality of the decisions they will make later on in their lives. Everybody else will love you for a reason, but mothers will do so unconditionally.
But in the context of disaster, mothers raise the bar of heroism and sacrifice altogether.
When typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas six months ago, mothers clung to their children as they climbed trees or roof tops to escape the wrath of the storm surge.
Many gathered their kids as they made their way to evacuation centers. The fathers chose to stay behind to watch over their property, and in the mayhem that followed when the storm made landfall, mothers had to be strong even as they did not know what had happened to their husbands.
Indeed, Yolanda left numerous husband-less, fatherless,  son-less. 
In the aftermath of the howler, mothers also had to be strong even though all hope seemed lost. For example, seeing one’s home and all of one’s properties washed away would be enough to occasion despair. And yet, there remained the challenge of living from day to day. Families still had to meet their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. Many mothers stepped up to the role of ensuring their kids had food to eat and water to drink.
The women of an island village in Pontevedra, Capiz, for instance, go out to gather “tuway”—a form of shellfish —which they sell for P40—P50 per pail. This is to augment the income of their husbands who work as daily “extras” for the fishponds that are yet being rebuilt after the storm.
They also prepare the shellfish in varied ways. “You can use it for adobo, lumpia, and many other dishes,” they said. The creativity prevents their children from noticing they are having the same fare day after day.
Rebuilding is another challenge. In a bunkhouse in Palo, Leyte, we chanced upon a woman hanging sachets of shampoo and powdered juice on the walls of her house. She has 14 children and a sickly husband. The sari-sari store would be a good complement to her other job as a laundrywoman to support them all.
In yet another bunkhouse in Concepcion, Iloilo, a woman sells barbecued “isaw” (intestines) for income. She has three children, one of which is a special child and has greater needs. The summer heat is too unbearable and the child has difficulty falling asleep at any time of the day, or night.
Many public servants who are at the same time mothers also found themselves in a dilemma on where to be at that time of great need.
A municipal worker in Concepcion for instance has a granddaughter under her care. She had to be at the municipal hall however, as early as the day before the typhoon struck. She had to make the painful choice of leaving behind the child (and elderly mother) at a house away from the shore while she performed her duties.
They were unharmed, but the worker cannot her family out of their mind as she was doing her job securing other families, and other children, in more vulnerable areas.
Many were not able to come home to their families until many days after the storm, because the roads were clogged with debris and the needs of the community they were serving were just overwhelming. A social worker in Capiz says it was a good thing other members of the family looked after her own children, who thankfully were at least big enough to manage by themselves.
These workers showed their exemplified great motherhood, too— to other people, mostly strangers, who needed them most.
The usual saying is that fathers are the foundation of the home—providing strength and structure—while the mothers are light providing warmth and guidance. Times have changed and today’s challenges have blurred these delineations.
Here’s to mothers who wear all kinds of hats for the sake of their children—their own, or others’.

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