Whenever I look at Iná, my mother – Yolly Peñaflor-Rodil – I feel a huge tingle of pride run through my entire body. Why? Because she and I personify the cliché, “Like mother, like daughter.”
Indeed, in so many ways, I look, think, feel, believe, behave, laugh, cry, eat, drink, sleep just like my mother. I thank this woman whose womb God saw fit to be the vessel of His gift of my life not only because I literally owe everything to her.
One, I got my vanity from my mother. Iná was always properly dressed, well shod, and no wisp of hair askew. She feels good when she looks good and no circumstance in life can ever justify not looking beautiful. And she matches that deep understanding of beauty with her flair for the good things in life. We were never filthy rich but we were never dirt poor either – and Iná saw to it that I developed the hunger for the taste of the finer things.
I also got the special blend of grit, courage and tenacity from my mother. Her forbearing, never-say-quit attitude in life was what always saw me through the hard times. I read somewhere that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. That describes Iná perfectly. She is the type who gets stronger with every challenge hurled her way. There’s a fierce Tagalog way of putting it: Habang nasusugatan, lalong tumatapang.
Our family went through some very dire financial straits at the time when I was deep into my dental studies at the Centro Escolar University. Ina called me up one day to break the dreadful news that she had nothing to send to me anymore because everything was gone. The money I naively thought would never dry up just did.
As I chewed on the prospects of not being able to finish my dentistry course, Iná was quite adamant that I must continue with my studies. I suggested that I could help by finding a job but she gave me that look which said more eloquently than mere words could ever say that she was going to move heaven and earth just for me to not stop schooling. She told me, “Hindi ka magtatrabaho. Kapag kumikita ka na ng sarili mong pera, tatamarin ka nang magtapos ng iyong pag-aaral.”
The best solution was to transfer to another school; less expensive but, with dogged diligence on my part, would give me a college diploma. As I write this now, I want to cry. Had I followed my own way and ignored the wisdom of my mother, I wouldn’t be the dentist I am now – and Dental Focus would have simply remained a figment of my over-reaching imagination.
When I say Iná is tenacious, I don’t mean to say she does not cry. Because she does. And the sight of her tears shreds my heart. There was a high school student who once asked me where I find the determination to go on whenever life’s trials become quite insurmountable, I gave a different response but the real answer lies in a story that stays in my special chest of treasured memories.
In one particularly dark moment in our life as a family, I saw Iná cry. A creditor was deaf to her pleas for mercy and flatly denied her request for a debt restructuring. I saw panic replacing self-pity on my beloved Iná’s face. Then, left with nothing else to say, she bowed her head. When she looked up again, her countenance was drenched with tears. That was the moment I vowed to myself that I would do everything I needed to do to ensure that no tear shall ever stain Iná’s face ever again. I would work day and night, in both rain and sunshine, to restore my dearest mother’s smile.
Indeed, to me, a smile is everything not just because I am a dentist but because, deep inside, I have learned to plumb profound layers of meanings even in the simplest smile.
Iná was a dutiful wife to my Amá. She proved her love not only during the good times but even more so during the bad. And the bad times were quite plenty. Amá was not a saint. But Iná bore it all with the quiet dignity that, for me, has come to define her.
One time, during the now many together moments we have, she intimated to me, “Walang perpektong tao. Pero sa pagpuno sa mga pagkukulang, sa pagpalagpas ng mga mali, sa pag-unawa ng mga kahinaan, sa pagsuportahan sa panahon ng pagsubok, ang mag-asawa ay nagiging perpekto para sa isa’t isa.”
Today is Mother’s Day. Deep within me, my heart is bursting with love and gratitude for my mother. Iná, I love you. Very much. Very, very much. My constant prayer is for God to allow me all the time there is in the world for me to be able to shower you with everything that your heart desires. All your life, you have been giving of yourself to Amá and to us, your children. Now, I shall see to it that you seize every opportunity there is for you to give of yourself to yourself. If it is true that the essence of being a woman is to be a mother, you have magnificently lived up to your essence.
Happy Mother’s Day!