<body scroll="auto">


Paper Promises

A familiar voice called me up yesterday. It was the voice of a mother ranting about her daughter.

I have witnessed this scenario many times in the past but this time, the altercation got so bad that her daughter packed up together with her granddaughter and left. It all started with the daughter telling her child that her grandmother is a bad lola because she wouldn't let her play with her cellphone.

The lola shed tears and recited the litanies of her life: "Where have I gone wrong?"

"After everything I have done for her.."

And the undying line: "I can't take this anymore."

After the third litany, I was inches to saying Amen to put an end to it.

I started thinking. Twenty or so years ago, I remember the daughter writing me a letter asking if I could send her some paper dolls. I was here in Manila and she was in Bicol feeling dumped by her mother who left for some reason. The daughter was six. And her mother was in Mindanao, living with her sister, leaving the little girl with another sister of hers in Bicol.

I didn't realize how tough this was on a six year old as her letter would end with: "Wala kasi akong kalaro dito."

June 2004. The daughter now had just given birth out of wedlock and her post natal blues quickly became aggravated by the deeply-rooted resentments towards her mother. A small conversation in the living room would eventually erupt into a confrontation.

Words were tossed around like a tennis ball in a court. Anger trickling. Tears flowing.

It was uncomfortable bearing witness to such an intimate familial confrontation. The mother had an issue with her daughter not "respecting" her. That her daughter would always tell her friends that it was not her who took care of her but her eldest brother. She countered by saying that she had no choice but to leave the country to fend for her family because she was a single parent of five children. The first four from her husband -- who died while serving in the military -- and the youngest from an affair with a married man.

It wasn't so much her mother's going abroad that made her daughter resent her but hers were feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Read: She was only six and felt like she had no choice but to write someone a letter.

The mother refused to comprehend more so, accept it.

To her, she was the perfect mother for going through all the sacrifices the world had to bring. "Yes, you went through all those sacrifices but you cannot take away what she felt. Even though she was only six, her feelings were just as real as yours," is what I told her.

It was like facilitating a workshop.

Then, the voice on the other side of the line pulled me out of my reverie and asked "May trabaho ka ba? Baka nakakaistorbo." I said nonchalantly, "Sige ingat. Bye, Ma."

This makes me think, if only I had sent my sister the paperdolls.