“Mama, ok ka lang ba?” Arma snuggled beside her mom.
“Mabuti ako, anak.” Essa wrapped her arms around her daughter and they sat gazing at the night sky.
“Mama, do you miss your dad like I miss mine?” Arma’s tone was quite feeble.
The question startled Essa. She kissed her on the forehead and replied, “Oo.”
“Mama, where’s my dad? Why is he not with us? Did he become a star like grandpa?” Arma was curious like an inquisitive student, desperate for answers to a math equation.
“No, he didn’t become a star. Long back, he went to some faraway realm. We haven’t heard from him since then.” Essa looked at her daughter. Am I scared to dig into the past, or am I anxious about the outcome?
“Mamma, please tell me all about it. Pakiusap po. Gusto kong marinig ito.” Requested Arma. “But first lemme make some hot kape for both of us.”
“O, sige!” As they sat sipping their coffee, Essa entered into an infinite space full of memories and emotion. She took a deep breath. Maybe it’s time to tell her the truth. She’s old enough to understand and deserves to know it anyway. Let it be today, then.
Essa lived in a barangay with her parents and three younger siblings. Her father ran a small grocery shop and her mother sold home-cooked pies and chips to earn some extra bucks. Life wasn’t easy, yet, they never ran out of happy chemicals. After completing High School, she enrolled to study Business Management. Every day she prepared notes, sketched plans and designs and shared them with her professors for evaluation. Essa was career-oriented and kept honing her skills. She was keen on entrepreneurship and wanted to join the bandwagon of women entrepreneurs. She wanted to stand out from the crowd and do something different.
Her life was meandering smoothly until the breeze of adolescence tickled her heart. Essa met a guy in school and fell in love. Not that he looked like Derek Ramsay, but she fell for his charming personality. It was a teen flick that made her live some carefree days. And then, like a disoriented trapeze artist, she went blank in midair and tripped. It wasn’t too long when she realised that it wasn’t a fairy tale love story. Eventually, their relation became bitter and they broke up. But she got shattered into bits; quite like the broken pieces of glass.
They say we are expert in sensing threats. Yet, many a time, we ignore our sixth sense and act at will. Essa’s actions resulted in the birth of a new life that left her quite distressed. She got mislead by illusion and fooled by her own perceptions. She was like the painter whose imagination and tools got robbed, right before a contest.
“Sayang! Wish I was there for you.” Arma expressed her concern. She finished her coffee and rested her head on her mother’s lap. “Mamma, do you think dad looked like Daniel Padilla?” Arma chuckled playfully.
Essa looked at her daughter and smiled. “Maybe.” He did resemble Daniel, I must admit. “Ok, let me continue, will you?” Essa frowned. She wanted to avoid talking about the guy who left her to suffer alone.
“Sige po! Sorry, go ahead na.” Arma was in her early teens and the mother-daughter duo was more like friends.
Essa became disconnected; pain did that to her. The counselling sessions didn’t ease her mind. And then the newborns cry irritated her. The postpartum stress added to her misery. It wasn’t the baby’s fault, yet she was paying the penalty of her parents folly. With the father gone, with the wind, she got deprived of her mother’s affection too. The happy days got clouded; the waves of laughter got stilled, wishes and hopes rambled like vagabonds.
She was in a miserable condition; completely lost in her own grim world. While Essa’s family took care of the baby, she sat like a detached frozen leaf; watching all in silence. Essa did not have the vigour to act or react. She felt dejected and cheated, and with each passing day, she succumbed a bit more, to her pain. Essa was in depression for more than a year. Her family kept trying their best to help her to regain, but she was too lost to reciprocate.
And then, one fine day, she decided to gather her leftovers and compose a better version of herself. For, she believed that life was too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering the wrongs. Essa decided to be a nut, with self-belief. All she needed, was a second chance. She wanted to utilise that opportunity to fix and build her life, for good.
“Kaawa-awa! I’m sad to hear that you went through so much pain.” Arma remarked in a sombre tone. “So dad left us even before I was born? Tama ba ako, nay?”
“Oo!” Essa gulped down the bile in her throat. A sudden flow of emotion gushed in. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. A drop of tear sneaked out but she quickly wiped it off. Some scars keep hurting for life.
Arma broke the reverie. “You know mamma, lola says we need to be strong all the time.”
“Yes. granny is right. No matter what, we must stay strong, always. We need to trust god and never give up.” Essa believed the same and felt delighted for not giving up.
With a smile, Arma rested her head on her mother’s lap. “Ok, let’s continue.”
Experts say that our brain is not designed to create happiness. It evolves to promote survival. And Essa had to fight for her survival. Finally, she decided to bounce back. She searched for ways to move forth, as going back to continue her studies seemed awkward. But, by then, the fervour to attain her old objective, faded. Her soul was scarred; her mind, confused. She doubted peoples intentions even if it came as a piece of advice. Every hand that came forward, filled her with a strange fear. She was like a kid who was long lost in the dark alleys of some unknown land. And now, she was afraid of the light; too scared to trust herself or others.
One morning, when the baby was still asleep, Essa went into her room. She stared at her daughter in awe; for, she missed being there during her growing years. Arma was a beautiful little princess, with curly brown locks and the looks of her father. When Essa gently placed her finger on the baby’s palm, she reciprocated.
With soft tiny hands, Arma gripped her finger as if to say, I am here for you, mommy. It was an amazing feeling that she missed for long. Essa held her baby tightly and cried her heart out.
An unknown strength crept into her soul. She felt alive after long. And that experience came as an assurance; a hope. Henceforth, their bond grew stronger with each passing day. They found comfort in each other’s company. Happiness found its way back.
“Ang sweet naman, talaga. We must have missed each other so much. Di ba, mamma?” Arma said, smilingly.
Essa smiled back. “Syempre, naman! I was so lost that I couldn’t take care of you. But at that moment I realised how much I missed you. Hope you forgive me, anak. I didn’t mean to behave that way, but…”
“It’s alright, mamma. I can understand. It’s good that you stayed strong and fought back.” Arma kissed her mother’s hand. “You’re the best mom in the world. Mahal na mahal kita, mamma.”
Gradually she started to engage herself with the mommy chores. Arma’s bright smile roused hope in her. Her family heaved a sigh of relief. Soon the giggles made their way back into their lives. There was a grand celebration on Arma’s second birthday. The previous year went in remorse, so they geared to make it up to Arma. Essa’s transformation was right on track. She took a job as a Sales Assistant and the paycheck came as a motivation. She was thankful to her family for their support and love to both Arma and her. But it was her time to move forth. She was all set to face the reality and shoulder her responsibilities.
Out of the blue one day, Essa received a message from an old friend. It was about an overseas job. But she was unsure and hesitated to reply. The last few years of disconnection, dampened her spirit. She was scared, for she didn’t completely get her own back, yet then. Her mind was still cloaked with a grim layer of confusion and indecision. She knew it was time and maybe the second chance she has been waiting for is there. Maybe that was it; the bigger, better door. All she needed was to muster her guts and step forth.
Life tiptoed in with a gift for Essa. The gift of a second chance. It was up to her to embrace the opportunity that was knocking at her door. Finally, she replied seeking the details. Her friend Ann, appreciated and encouraged her to go ahead. She worked in the same company and assured to help Essa. It was a difficult decision, but with a heavy heart, she opted to move overseas. Essa’s prime concern was to provide good education to her daughter. She wanted Arma to have a comfortable life and get the best of everything. And for that, she needed to earn some fair money. Moreover, she wanted to shift from the place that kept scratching her wounds. Once more, she felt the blow of parting. This time, from her beloved daughter and loving family.
“Mabuti yan! At least you were trying, and tita Ann came as an angel in disguise.” Arma gave a big smile.
“You know, lolo used to say, “Panahon ang makakapag hilom sa lahat ng sugat.” (Time heals all wounds). So I believed it will heal mine too; it had to.” Essa pecked her on the cheek, “Well, you have been my biggest motivator.”
“And you are my idolo.” avowed Arma. She was genuinely a mamma’s daughter. “Now tell me what happened next.”
Bemused by the hustle-bustle of the foreign land, Essa wondered if she would survive there. She missed her family, especially Arma. During the initial days, she felt quite low and doubted her decision. Her colleagues were friendly and tried to cheer her up. Gradually, strangers became friends and she found solace through work. Soon, she chucked all the missing and longing and geared up to start afresh.
Her goal to make a mark in the corporate world was a thing of the past. Essa knew she won’t get back the days she lost. She made a mistake and paid for it dearly. But she didn’t want to let her past, ruin her future. Most importantly, Arma’s future, since they were entwined now. All she could do was to make the best use of this second chance life blessed her with.
In the following years, Essa faced various ups and downs, but she stayed deep-rooted. Time was moving at a fast pace. Arma was in the 1st grade by then and was doing well in school. She often connected with her daughter through online chats. She made sure not to let distance obstruct their bond. Arma’s smile boosted her fervor. Each time they spoke, the happy chemicals ruptured in joy. And she was caught amidst emotions that can’t be expressed in words.
“Mamma, do you remember the dress you sent for my third birthday?” asked Arma. “I loved it. And I kept my promise di ba? I studied well and never troubled anyone at home or school.”
“Oo!” replied Essa. “You looked very pretty in that dress. You understood your mamma; you’ve been a good daughter. I’m proud of you, anak.”
Life seldom gifts us with second chances. But when it does, we must take advantage of it and use it to the best of our capacity. Essa was determined to use that opportunity as a stepping stone. To improve and to prove herself worthy. At work, she bagged praises and criticisms; warnings and accolades. She wore a smile each day, took all in a good spirit and moved on with steady steps. For, she could not afford to get mossed.
A year after, Essa’s promotion came as a blessing. She felt a colossal load of tasks but managed to balance everything perfectly. She had to; at least for Arma, who was the driving force behind her success. And she didn’t want to let that go in vain. Endurance and persistence befriended her while she steadily glided through the tidal wave of emotions.
Years passed, and it was time for Arma to attend High School. Essa worked extra hours to earn a few additional bucks. She didn’t go home during her annual leave. As much as she missed her daughter, she knew she had to double her savings. They say hard work pays off. And so did Essa’s efforts. She got her second promotion. Though her responsibilities increased five-folds, she was immensely thankful. Those were the much-needed perks that restored her confidence.
“Wow! I’m so proud of you, mamma.” Exclaimed Arma. “Ikaw ay isang inspirasyon.”
Essa smiled. “Salamat, anak ko! I got my strength from you and lolo. Couldn’t have done it without everyone’s love and support. But grandpas sudden death took away every joy. He was the backbone of our family. My heart froze when I got the news. I had no idea how to cope with such a loss.”
“Opo, mamma! When grandpa went to heaven, granny was too depressed. We were all very sad.” Added Arma.
While everyone was trying to cope up with the recent loss, Essa was bothered about Arma. Worry and concern confused her, but she did not have a choice. She had to continue at her job ‘cause the generous paycheck was essential. She needed that for Arma’s education. It was her mother who came up with an option. She suggested a modification to their grocery store. It sounded like a stepping stone to her long lost dream. She thought of giving it a try. That way, she could stay with Arma, and work hard to meet up their needs.
Essa served till the end of her contract and set off on a journey towards a new challenging life. Shortly after, she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She revamped the shop, expanded it and provided employment to many. A grand opening, smart marketing techniques, and excellent service yielded outstanding returns. Soon their store became a known name for every household; the first choice of most residents in their barangay.
Essa gained a lot of experience during her work abroad and she utilised it to the fullest extent. She believed that no B-school could have taught her what she learnt by working with great mentors. That platform prepared her and armed her with the required skills. The happy chemicals found their way back into their life. A year later, they rejoiced the success of the business and Arma’s graduation.
“All’s well that ends well, right? I feel blessed to have a mamma like you. You made us all proud.” said Arma. “So dad never came to look for us? Did he know about me?”
“Oo. Everything happens for a reason. The heartbreak, Ann reaching out to help, grandpa’s death and you – everything had its purpose. Yes, after I returned, your dad came to meet me. But people who are inconsiderate of our feelings, don’t deserve second chances. He wanted to meet you, but I refused. We are enough for each other, right, mahal?” Essa took a deep breath and looked at her daughter.
Arma saw a silent pleading for forgiveness and acceptance in her mother’s eyes. In her daughter’s eyes, Essa saw a spark; full of promises and gratitude. They gave each other a bear hug and went off to sleep with a smile of contentment.
Looking up at the sky that night, Essa made a silent prayer. To thank the universe that conspired to design such a worthwhile journey of her life.
ok ka lang ba?- are you ok?
Mabuti ako, anak- I’m fine, baby/my child
Oo – yes, as an expression.
Pakiusap po. – Please. Po is an expression of respect. Like ‘Ji’ in Hindi
Gusto kong marinig ito- I want to hear it
Kape- coffee / O, sige!- yes/ok
Sayang! –Alas/ too bad
Derek Ramsay/ Daniel Padilla – Filipino film artists
Kaawa-awa!-Pitiful / Di ba?- isn’t it?
Tama ba ako, nay?- Am I right, mamma?
Lolo- Grandfather / Lola- Grandma
Ang sweet naman, talaga- That’s so sweet
Syempre, naman!- of course
Mahal na mahal kita, mamma- I love you so much, mamma
Mabuti yan- That’s good / Tita – aunt / Idolo-idol
Ikaw ay isang inspirasyon.- you are an inspiration
Salamat, anak ko- Thank you, my child