Happy Birthday, Mom, in heaven. If she were alive today, she’d be celebrating her 100th birthday.
Mom was born on December 16, 1922, and died on November 23, 2019, at age 96. She had a wonderful life!
She was six years old when her father died, leaving her mom with nine children to take care of. She was the youngest girl but not the youngest in the family. Two more boys came after her. She was very pretty as a young girl, and her brothers watched and guarded her around her suitors while growing up. After her father died, her mom found ways to become a successful businesswoman in the textile and jewelry industries and a landowner in her own right in a business world dominated by men. She was way ahead of her time. I think Mom got her strong character from my grandmother. All this is documented in my book called “The Iron Butterfly.”
Mom and Dad’s love story started with Mom’s photo published in a magazine, and Dad saw it and became smitten. He sent her letters and postcards nonstop until she finally got curious to find out who this guy was. The correspondence started, and Dad wanted to meet her in person, but she was elusive. It took Dad almost two years to finally meet her.
Their meeting was quite hilarious, and I loved it. Dad was able to find someone to show him where she lived. He knocked at her door, and her mom answered. He said he wanted to meet her daughter. Her mom thought he came for some business because he looked like a successful businessman, and her mom being in business, thought that was the case. Dad apparently made a good impression on Grandma, who told Dad to have a seat in the living room and would get my mom.
In the meantime, Dad saw all those pictures of him on the wall next to hers. When she finally appeared, he pretended to be busy scrutinizing the photos and asked her who was the man next to her picture. Mom lied and said he was a cousin of hers. Dad asked who had sent her the photos and the postcards. She said again it was a cousin of hers. Then he said it happened that he sent someone the same pictures and postcards and then looked at her. Mom stared at him and recognized him.
She said, “Mom told me you are from the next town and have a different name.”
“That is my real name and my real hometown. I live most part of the year in Baguio, where I have a store.”
She was so embarrassed and wanted to bolt out, but Dad was quick and grabbed her arm, but she shook it. They ended up laughing at each other.
When the war broke, and Dad finally made it home from Baguio, Dad continued their courtship. Fearing the Japanese might harm her, Mom finally said yes, and they got married. Their courtship lasted four years!
They have four kids, my three brothers and me. We had a wonderful childhood with Dad’s business going from feast to famine, and Mom was always helping Dad in his business. I admire Mom for her tenacity in the face of hardship, both financially and emotionally. My parents believed their most significant accomplishment was that we all finished college.
After all of us kids left for the US, Mom started making the trip abroad. She started visiting after my son, Matt, was born, and she made the trip to the US every two years. At some point, she stayed for four years and went back home when Dad got sick.
She was always there when I moved to a new home. At my present home, one of my bedrooms is called Lola’s room because she was the first one to stay in that room. Lola is grandma in Tagalog, the Philippine language.
Mom loved to shop, but I particularly did not like going shopping. So, she would go to NJ, and my sister-in-law would take her shopping. While in the US, she moved around between my siblings’ homes: two in New Jersey, one in Vermont (now in Florida), and me in Long Island (now in Charleston). She missed the grandchildren when she stopped making the trip. She was already in her late 80s when she decided to stop her travels.
Mom, thank you for all that you did for me, my brothers, and our families. Enjoy your 100th birthday with Dad up there!