There’s solace in the Philippine tradition of commemorating our dearly departed on November 1. While we will all eventually head to the great beyond, our All Saints’ Day celebration is an assurance to all Filipinos that we will be remembered, at least once a year.
Prof. Harry L. Roque Jr.
Call it bizarre. Call it strange. But it is reassuring that, come what may, your loved ones will party at your graveside on that day.
This year’s Araw ng mga Patay is noteworthy for my family and me, because my mother only recently passed away. In fact, I will have not one, but two parties for her. The first is on her 40th day on the eve of November 1, the second is on All Saints Day, which we will celebrate together with all other Filipinos in cemeteries and columbaries all over the country.
I thought I could write sooner about my mother. When my first godchild Atty. Jason de Guzman passed away earlier this year, I managed to write a full-blown obituary about him in my blog, but when it was my mom’s turn to move on last September 21, all I could manage was an announcement on my blog and on my Facebook.
Mothers always have a special place in the hearts of their children. Hey, they carried us in their wombs for nine months and endured our eccentricities no matter what they may be. My mom was no different. She was my emotional punching bag when teenage puberty took its toll. She became a martyr when she bore six children, all of whom grew up to be highly opinionated – before practicing reproductive health control measures. She endured a challenging husband and particularly difficult in-laws. Yet, through it all, she lived life with a sense of humor and with a belief in the inherent goodness of mankind.
My mother, like me, was an educator. But, unlike me, she relied wholly on teaching for her livelihood. Like me, she loved every minute of teaching students. Unlike me, she spent every minute of a 10-hour workday working.
She wrote some books but, to her, professional fulfillment meant teaching mathematics to those who would otherwise not learn it from any other teacher. While she taught most of her life at Universities such as the University of the Philippines and the University of Chicago, she spent her last few years as an educator working with those who would otherwise not have had secondary school certificates in the public libraries, both here and abroad.
Her absolute last teaching assignment was to tutor our kasambahays for their distance learning high-school degree course. She loved this the most, knowing that she was doing it for the most disadvantaged members of society.
Mom started as a conservative having served as a president of no less than the Temperance Union of the Philippines, but as she matured in years, she saw it as her Christian duty to engage in social advocacy. She was a union steward of a teachers union, a staunch defender of equal protection appearing in both racial and age discrimination cases, and, in her final cases, a full-time demonstrator who led mass actions against Joc-Joc Bolante in Chicago. And, while she was already confined to her wheel chair, she still went to the Senate to cheer Jun Lozada on when the latter was testifying in the Senate about NBN-ZTE.
She was a staunch PNoy supporter, but only because he was the son of Cory Aquino and her college buddy, Ninoy. She, like me, could not understand what happened to Pnoy, particularly on the issue of good government.
My mom was a personal fan of my work. Even in her wheel chair, she managed to watch me in the Supreme Court when I argued the case against Smartmatic and against the Visiting Forces Agreement. She did have problems with my stand against the VFA, since she was staunchly pro-American, owing to her experiences during World War 2. But she tolerated my tirades against the US on the grounds that her great-grandfather killed the highest ranking American military officer during the Philippine-American war.
Of all my advocacies, she felt most for my widows: the comfort women of Candaba, Pampanga, and the widows of the Maguindanao massacre.
I do miss my mother. While she and I lived in separate continents for most time of my life, I’m happy that she stayed in my household in her three final years in this planet. She was already ill but was always a source of strength. And while she was in a wheel chair, she made sure that her presence was felt by the entire household with her constant greetings and laughter in our receiving room whenever she was on her way to her own bedroom.Yes, just like any son, I thought mom would live forever but, like all other children, learned that only God lives forever.
Well, my mother is gone, but on the first of November, come what may, she, with all other parents are truly remembered in our islands.
Prof. H. Harry L. Roque, Jr. is an Associate Professor at the UP College of Law and the Chairperson of the Center For International Law. This piece originally appeared in his website on October 31. We are re-posting it here with his permission.