COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
As I consider the women who would shape in my mind as having made an impression on the way I see and deal with the world, the first one to make such a great impression is my mother. She was such a formidable figure that her imprints still lurk in my psyche, and thus extending her influence beyond the grave. She has even been appearing in my dreams in the past years, probably channeling through me the things she still wants done.
Mother was born in the early twenties, and like the few men I knew who were born in that decade she belongs to that set of personalities whom we may associate with true grit. Sometimes, she reminds me of Fernanda in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. She was fired with great passions that she journeyed through life fighting for what she believes. And it was quite a monumental journey.
Named Josefa Sanchez Daclan, my mother had Cebu and Leyte origins. Her maternal grandparents, Damaso Sanchez and Basilia Tabada who were from Cebu migrated to Leyte in the late 1800s, settling in a southern village called Consolacion where Damaso who was a blacksmith opened a shop making bolos and other bladed implements. Later in life, mother would recount to me that her grandfather made sharp and shining bolos for the Pulahans.
The quest for knowledge figured prominently in my mother’s life that she was practically studying till her fifties. Her grandparents sent her to Cebu for the last years of grade school and high school studies, but her college and graduate studies was a long drawn out affair. For at the age of eighteen, she started working as an emergency teacher in the public school two years before the outbreak of war until such time when the family had to evacuate to the hills.
When liberation came she was already in her mid twenties and eventually married the following year. Now having a family to raise, she had to continue working until she retired from service. As a consequence, she pursued her college and graduate studies through summer classes, sailing from Leyte to Cebu during school break. That summer classes being short stretched for many, many years. And then after, she took another graduate course that was offered later in Southern Leyte for further education.
Mother could not afford to stop working in order to study full time, for as my father’s work was missionary in nature and didn’t contribute much in terms of finances she had to continue working. Besides, she had her dreams and one of which was to send her children to Silliman University in Dumaguete starting high school. To realize that dream she engaged in the buy-and-sell business in her spare time, acquired loans, and even went to the extent of mortgaging her farm lots to the consternation of her brother who held sacred their agricultural land.
The daily struggle that followed with the circumstances surrounding family life was intensified by religion. We are Protestants and in those days, it was unpopular if not alienating. Not only did we feel different from the rest of the villagers but there was this constant struggle with keeping the faith. And for my mother who was like a crusader, it was harder to live as a Christian than succeed in life and work.
But live she did like a warrior, facing every challenge that came her way. She was parenting at long distance, writing letters filled with biblical verses in her correspondence. She moved hard in keeping the local church alive, especially when it was marred by internal dissensions or burdened with the plain incapacity to pay for a church worker. She fought against the emerging corruption in the public school where she taught, and at times incurring the ire of her coworkers.
All through the years that I’ve observed my mother she was engaged, intense, and committed. She was filled with compassion that sometimes other people took advantage of her generosity and goodwill. She had such a strong will, oftentimes domineering but ever loving and devoted to her children. And very determined—making things happen, working out her dreams, solving problems and always having a helping hand to others. Such was how empowered a woman had been—in her time.
March 25, 2011