Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ode to Ms. Javellana

[Note: When my mother turned 60 we had a big celebration. Old family friends flew in from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. “Ode to Ms. Javellana” is actually an excerpt from my speech during Mama’s 60th birthday, June 6, 2005.]

A couple of days ago, May, my classmate in graduate school, called the house to ask my mother the telephone number of a dorm in Ateneo. May told me she said, “Can I talk to Mrs. Vandenbroeck please?” Ma, who answered the phone, replied, “Mrs. Vandenbroeck? No, Ms. Javellana!” When May told me about the exchange, I laughed and explained to her that one of the many reasons my mother offer for this decision to keep her maiden name is that even though she loves my father, she doesn’t look like a Vandenbroeck and therefore she should not take my father’s name. Heck, my mother has always been Ms. Javellana ever since I can remember which is the reason why when people discover she’s married, Pa often gets addressed as Mr. Javellana.

Many times it has happened that when we have guests over for dinner, the shameless Ms. Javellana nonchalantly removes her bra right in front of us, while everyone’s eating. Then she’ll flap her skirt like it’s some sort of paypay (fan), kay init daw lagi (because she says it’s hot).

Sometimes when I’m having my friends over I have to remind her, “Ma, when they come, let us make our project ha? Ayaw silag i-agaw sa ako ha?” (Don’t take them away from me, okay?) ‘Cause if I don’t tell her that, she’ll keep talking to them and interviewing them about their work, how their parents are doing, etcetera and then my friends and I will never get our work done on time!

Last March when she came to Manila to attend my thesis proposal defense, I was so nervous that she’d join the panel discussion and contribute her own suggestions that I told her about ten times, “Ma don’t ask questions ha? Ma, don’t interrupt ha? Hilom lang ka ha?” (Just keep quiet okay?) So on the day of the defense, Ma was sitting there at the back of the room watching me. She was wearing her glasses and taking down notes of what everyone was saying and nodding her head vigorously. “That’s right,” “Good,” she kept on saying. Hay naku! (Sigh!) My mother can’t keep her mouth shut. She always has to participate in some way.

One story that really cracked me up was when Ma was in college, she saw a suspense movie with a bunch of friends. In one scene, the main actor was being chased by the bad guys and running as fast as he could towards a small plane that was about to take off. Ma was so engrossed in the movie that in the middle of the dark movie house, she stood up and stretched her arms, “Wait!” she shouted and everyone turned to look at her.

When we went to Thailand last year, while Pa was busy attending a meeting, Ma and I joined a tourist group and saw among other things, the famous floating market. We were traveling in a van with a French couple, a Japanese couple, an Indian couple, a Korean family, and a Turkish guy who was interested in the Muslims of Mindanao. I didn’t have the energy to talk with him so I asked Ma if we could switch seats ‘cause I know she doesn’t have to feign interest. She is always genuinely interested in people. So she ended up telling the Turkish guy the story of Mindanao – how the Lumads were tricked into exchanging their land for tobacco first by the Malay settlers, then by the Spaniards. She told him about the struggle for independence by the Bangsamoro and their clashes with the government troops and how the people in Mindanao are so religiously and culturally diverse that everyone practically agrees to disagree. So you see, whatever Ma’s “interventions,” social justice is always, always never far from her mind.

A case in point was when Bayani and I were still little, Ma, Pa, Lola and uncle Ludo went to visit the Vatican. What I remember most of that visit was Mama’s anger. I remember her looking at all the gold and marble, the beautiful paintings on the ceiling, the statues and then lamenting to Papa, “Sus Arnold! Ka datu sa mga pari!” (Arnold! The priests are so rich!) Then she bent over and explained to Bayani and me, “The church got a lot of this wealth from the Philippines that’s why our country is so poor!” That’s typically Mama.

When we moved into our house in Trinidad Greenhills, same thing. Those first few months Ma was always complaining that the house was too big and that it’s ironic that the simple family of Arnold and Norma whose work is to help the community, are now living in a house as big as a church. So then I knew that to get her angry, all I had to do was to tease her, “Ma, lets eat in La Toscana tonight. It’s really a great place. Lami kaayo ang pagkaon. (The food’s delicious.) Medyo mahal pero datu bitaw ka Ma.” (It’s a bit expensive though but that’s okay because you’re rich Ma.) Of course I never got my way if I said that and we’d end up eating dinner in low-key, cheap Dimsum Diner.

When I was about to graduate from college, Ma and Pa would brainwash me, “You know Maya, whatever work you choose, the important thing is that your work should have something to contribute to the society.” It’s my parents’ way of psychologizing me not to leave the Philippines and work abroad to earn lots of money and become rich. It got me thinking that if I did this – go abroad like all my other friends – my parents, especially si Mama, would disown me.

Mind you, it can sometimes get quite stressful having a mother like my mother. When we were living in San Jose, Antique, Ma would always challenge Bayani and me to reason out. She seemed to enjoy provoking us. “Oh, sige pa Maya, ayaw pag-undang ug tubag,” she’d say. (Maya, don’t stop reasoning out.) Invalid answers she’d dismiss and if we gave up in the middle of the debate, we lost.

Nowadays, the stress comes from having to listen to her endless discussions ab
out how to save the watersheds and how to make the multinational plantations adopt more environmentally-friendly ways of cultivation. In the early days of IDIS (Interface Development Interventions), Ma constantly attended the “scoping” meetings wherein representatives from Dole and Stanfilco would answer any questions the community had about the plantations. Such meetings could get very intense due to the conflicting interests of the different stakeholders. Ma would always know what to ask during these “scoping” meetings and she did this which such bravado that often, the representatives from Dole and Stanfilco would be groping to cover up the loop holes but then be rebuffed again by Ms. Javellana who seemed to know everything about the plantations.

The first time Bayani, I and Papa attended such a “scoping” meeting was to support Ma. Sus biliba jud nako sa iya when she’s in her element. (I’m really impressed with her). This is one woman who can’t be fooled, can’t be cheated, knows what to do, what to say. Oh yes, she can be very persistent and frank and aggressive, a fast-thinker and a fast-doer, and that’s precisely the beauty of her. I would never be the person I am today without my mother and I continue to aspire to be like her in many ways.

Happy birthday Ma!


Peter Chen said...

Magandang tanghali po, Maya,

Kumusta po kayo? It is now 1.33pm Malaysia time, should be almost the same, so that is why Magandang tanghali po.

Just poping by to thank you for your kind words you expressed in my post How to add a Link List for New Blogger and the links plus the tribute. Curious to read it. Where is it?

Salamat po,

Peter Blog*Star
Testing Blogger Beta (now New Blogger)

Peter Chen said...

Magandang umaga Maya,

Thanks for leaving a comment in my post Testing a HTML for hyperlink for a blogger. I have responded to your comment.

Peter a.k.a. enviroman
Enviroman Says
(floods in England, polar ice and ice caps at moutain peaks melting, I think more severe and frequent hurricanes in US, rain when it is supposed to be a dry season in my country, someone from Queensland recently contacted me if I noticed the weather changing. I replied when I was young I had to sleep under the blanket, but now I sleep topless. If I remembered, he said it is freezing in tropical Queensland and now he has to sleep under a blanket. Please folks, take good care of our one and only Spaceship Earth which have no lifeboat. It may not affect us severely now, but it has every chance of severely affecting our future generations. Then they will have lots to be "thankful to us)

Peppermint Streak said...

wow. i feel so lucky to have met Ms. Javellana. :)

Bam the Great said...

Tradition na pala talaga ang DIMSUM DINER. Hehe.. :)

Nakangiti lang ako habang binabasa ko to. Nakakatuwa. :) Makes people happy. :)

* Ma'am maulaw gihapon ko sa imo hangtod karon. hehe.. ^-^;

A CO Trainer’s Notebook said...

Dear Maya,

Sayang talaga na hindi ko narinig ang
Ode mo kay Mama mo nang magcelebrate siya ng 60th birthday niya. Walang pambobola, talagang Normang Norma! Nakaka-touch. Nakakatuwa. Nakakaiyak din (tears of joy)dahil sa inabot mong galing. A great mother nga talaga si Norma!
Mabuti na lang at isinulat mo ang Ode mo kay Mama mo dito sa blog mo!
Thanks for sharing "Ode to Ms Javellana" with friends at Friendster.


Anonymous said...

oh, i missed ms javellana, ma remember nako sauna, kato ng visit ang GK sa house n mam maya, dli jud ka lung-an sa iyaha mama. Mg
cge xa ask about your family, your livelihood, business, etc...

Kaya ako before, di talaga lumalapit sa kanya kac natatakot ako sa mga itatanong nia... Well, when you belong to a poor family... ma insecure jud ka!...

Pero in fairness, grabe ang suporta ni ms javellana sa gk group....

Wish i could see her again c",)