Monday, May 15, 2006

Girl leaves mother to be ‘child of our times’

this is an inspiring story of selflessness and courage. i don't consider this a sad story but it made me cry.


Girl leaves mother to be ‘child of our times’
First posted 01:37am (Mla time) May 14, 2006
By TJ Burgonio

THROUGHOUT college at the University of the Philippines in the late 1960s and even afterward, Molly stayed away from protest rallies.

Not that she detested mass actions, she said. It was just that she was more into meditation.

Thus, only her own convictions and spirituality repared her for the day her own teenaged daughter Erika quit high school to go underground.

But Molly, a widow juggling her time between family and business, did not fall apart. She accepted Erika’s decision and let her go, albeit with a heavy heart.

And thanks to regular meditation, she learned to accept Erika’s long absences, broken only by lightning visits, for six years—and ultimately her daughter’s death in Bicol on March 29, the 37th founding anniversary of the communist New People’s Army.

Erika was only 20 then. She would have turned 21 last May 8.

“The day she joined the movement, she was no longer our daughter. She was the daughter of the society at large. She had a role to play in society,” Molly, now 57, said in an interview at a coffee shop in Quezon City. She requested that she be identified only by her nickname.

“Remember the Kahlil Gibran saying, ‘We are not children of our parents; we are children of the times’?” she said.

Degree of commitment

Molly was aware of her daughter’s involvement in activist work at the UP Integrated School in Quezon City, where she attended high school. She did not, however, know “the degree of Erika’s commitment” until much later.

Erika was only 13 or 14 then, but Molly, a fine arts graduate, said she never “dictated” to the child what to do with her life.

She said she had always treated Erika and her five other children as “co-equals.”

Molly said she could not recall Erika reading books on, say, the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, but had expected her to be drawn to such works “because in a public school like UP, they were more aware of social issues.”

“We had an agreement that if she wanted to let off steam, she should just do it at UP,” the mother said.

A couple of years later, when Molly saw on TV the familiar smiling face with the chubby cheeks and slit eyes in the middle of a huge protest rally, she was not alarmed.

“I brought up my children to be aware of others and to do what they believed in, as long as they were ready to stand by it, and they knew the consequences,” she said.

But the footage—which disturbed some friends and relatives— prompted a serious talk between mother and daughter.

Said Molly: “When we talked, she knew how to answer. I believed what she was saying, and that she knew what she was doing and was aware of the consequences.

“It was so hard because when she answered me ... [I knew] deep down that she was saying the right things.”


By Molly’s account, Erika was born in 1985 to middle-class parents who ran a furniture export business.

The fourth in a brood of six, she attended an exclusive preschool in Makati City and finished grade school at the Colegio de San Agustin before moving to UPIS.

As a child, she was prone to tantrums; she would slump on the floor if she did not get her way, kicking and screaming until she was hoarse.

But when she turned 10, three years after her father died of a heart attack, she consciously “criticized” herself because she felt that everyone disliked her. It was, Molly recalled, a huge transformation.

The day she brought home a classmate physically abused by his father and expressed her intention to bring the case to the attention of the barangay chair remains fresh in the family memory.

It was not long before Erika quit school in her junior year in 2001 and prepared for a “two-week exposure” in the countryside.

As Erika was leaving, Molly told the maid to go after her. But she flashed her impish grin and waved until the tricycle she was riding in disappeared from view.

Like going on vacation

“It was so light; it was like she was just going on vacation in Laguna or Cavite,” the mother recalled.

Stopping her would have been next to impossible: “I couldn’t convince her otherwise. Whether I liked it or not, she left. I couldn’t tie her down to the house, even if I wanted to. It was that strong in her.”

It was never the same again for the family.

For the next few years, Erika would arrive at the family home in Quezon City at ungodly hours and leave as she came, never staying long enough to go to the mall or to the beach with her siblings.

“She would just pack up and leave,” Molly said. “Once, she reminded me, ‘Didn’t you tell us, ma, that children are just visitors in a house?’ How could you argue with that?”

It took some time, emotional wrangling and reflection before Molly learned to accept the role she had to play for “this particular child,” as well as the hard facts that Erika was “no longer ours” and that “whatever she was doing, it was her purpose.”

“It was hard; you had to have some sort of belief in you,” she said.

‘Always looked happy’

Still, Molly was half-hoping that the next time Erika came home, she could convince her “Chinese baby” to stay put and enroll in a course in, say, the culinary arts.

“She always looked happy when she came home. What could you do?” the mother said, unable to recall any instance when Erika complained, not even when she returned with a foot injury she got while working with kaingin farmers.

Erika became a full-time “integree” at 16. But at 17, she was told to return home because she was underaged.

When she turned 18, however, she returned to the same path, working with impoverished villagers and educating them on social issues.

That afternoon of March 30 when Erika’s friends came to the house, Molly did not expect to hear tragic news.

But somehow, she said, she was prepared for it.

‘Just so young’

“Tell me, was she shot? Has she been killed?” Molly recalled asking the visitors.

She said she met the answer with shock, which soon gave way to acceptance.

It helped, she said, that she had been doing “transcendental meditation” for the past 30 years: “The impression is not so deep that I lose my center of self.”

But then, she could not but lament: “She was just so young.”

Erika was killed along with three others when government troops overran a supposed NPA camp in Barangay Patalunan in Lupi, Camarines Sur, before noon of March 29.

Her father died on the same day 14 years ago.

“I have no anger toward the man who killed her,” Molly said. “She was doing her purpose and duty in her capacity, and he was also doing his. I can’t say there’s something wrong and there’s something right.”

Wooden coffin

Molly traveled by bus to claim her daughter’s body.

Outside the municipal hall of Ragay, the town next to Lupi, she found Erika, like the others, lying in a wooden coffin and dressed in an unfamiliar pink dress.

Passersby and motorists stopped to look in the direction of the coffins and then moved on.

Molly said she could not forget how some villagers, without uttering a word, seemed to tell her: “We knew your daughter.”

“They made you feel they were one with you,” she said.

In conversations with the local folk, Molly learned that Erika not only mingled and worked with the villagers but also treated their ailments with herbs—something she had taught her daughter—and acupuncture.

“Suddenly,” the mother said, “that place became beautiful in my eyes.”

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