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My mother, my hero

12 November 2019

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

(This eulogy was written for my mother, Francisca Larin Mandap, who passed on peacefully on Oct 15 at age 93. Sharing it here as a tribute to all mothers, especially OFWs who choose to stay away from home so they could ensure a better future for their family. May their children recognize and value the immense love and sacrifice behind this selfless act). 

My Ma was a simple woman who lived a simple life but dreamt big. For us, her nine children, especially, so we may live a better life, bound by love and the same desire to make the world a better place for our own children.

Our mother was a simple woman, true. She enjoyed eating with her hands – the only one allowed to do so in the family – and preferred paksiw and pinangat over any fancy meat dish.

But she was also very intelligent, decisive, and fierce if necessary.

Many of those who knew her will probably remember her as the one person who didn’t smile a lot. She wasn’t the easiest person to please because she was a perfectionist. She did everything meticulously, from cooking a myriad of dishes to sewing, embroidery, crocheting, and ironing.

To this day, I still regard her as the best iron woman — or man—who ever lived, meaning she could iron out the tiniest crease in a barong or an organza gown and make them look like they just came from the laundry she once owned.

She was also legendary with the way she washed clothes. Even with heaps of clothes to wash she never compromised on her 2 + 3 routine. This meant washing clothes twice with soap, and rinsing them thrice. If they had a stain, they should first be dabbed with calamansi juice and left out in the sun.


One memory that has stuck is of her going down on her knees and scrubbing the white tiles in our bathroom with muriatic acid until they were spotless, and all the while singing in her high-pitched soprano voice. We used to get annoyed being awakened by this in the mornings, until we realized our neighbors actually looked forward to hearing her sing.

She had helpers on and off, but she did many of the chores herself, especially the marketing and the cooking. And the partitioning. With 9 kids to feed, it was very important that we all got to eat as much as the others.

She was well-known for her ability to divide any kind of food – including a watermelon – into 9 or 11 equal pieces so you’d be hard pressed to choose which portion is bigger.


She was also very intelligent. It’s an acknowledged fact in her family that though she chose to give up her studies so she could help her younger siblings get a degree, she was the most promising among them, having been accelerated twice in school when she was young. That says a lot about a family that produced a topnotcher in a national teachers’ exam and a brother who passed the CPA board at 19, even before he could graduate from college.

She brooked no disobedience from us because she was most obedient to her own parents, especially her mother who was a tiger mom herself. She once told us that she had to forego an offer of a singing scholarship in Japan because her mother said no.

Their widowed mother, a Chinese mestiza who wasn’t given a chance to pursue higher learning, had better plans for her brood of four. Seeing not much future for them in their hometown of San Luis, Pampanga, my grandmother decided to bring her kids to Manila, where her eldest, my mother, took it upon herself to help provide for the family by doing odd jobs, including working in a cousin’s laundry shop, before eventually owning one herself.

Having lived through the war with hardly anything to live on, my mother and her only brother teamed up to provide food for the family. Both would tell us later of walking for miles on end while selling stuff like cigarettes, and surviving only on watermelons that my uncle swore off eating when his life became more comfortable.

The war also brought out their nationalistic bent. My mother and her siblings, along with a few cousins, joined the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), a movement originally formed to resist Japanese occupation in the Philippines. This was how my mother became a recognized war veteran for which she was paid a pension in her later years

My mother used to tell us stories of how Japanese soldiers loved her singing that she was often asked to sing to them. But I was to learn later on that she did more than just this. An aunt recently told us that my mother and a niece who also sang well, managed to save several guerilla lives by making their release a precondition for entertaining the Japanese troops.

A lifelong learner, my mother acquired many other skills, like sewing. This came in handy for someone with seven daughters. We never wanted for new clothes because she would always sew clothes for us on special occasions, like the debut of our two eldest sisters, our junior-senior prom, our graduation.

Most of the time, our dresses were fashioned out of cotton sacks used for chicken feed which she got from an uncle who owned a poultry, but we didn’t mind. We felt spoiled enough to have new dresses made on special occasions.

I will always remember the time I asked her to make me hot pants which were in vogue at the time. She spent a long time figuring out how to make it, but she did, eventually. Those hot pants, red orange in colour, will always remind me of how much love she had for us, though she wasn’t much for hugs or kisses.

But her best legacy to us was her dogged determination that we all stayed in school to get a degree. Her frustration at not being able to get into college made her very determined in making sure we got to where she dreamt of going.

That determination, combined with real tough love, proved contagious for all of us. We mostly studied and worked at the same time, as eager to share her vision and earn her approval as much as we wanted to secure a better future for ourselves.

We are very lucky and thankful that our mother got to stay with us this long, because long after we got married and had children of our own, she remained a strong guiding force to all of us.

All of us, down to her great grandchildren, benefited from her vision, generous spirit and unselfish love.

In my case, in particular, my mother was the first to come to my rescue when my helper got very sick soon after I had my first child. She took leave from work, flew to HK, and stayed with me until I found a new helper.

She rushed to my side again when my youngest, who was born with a hole in her heart, got so frail I decided to have her baptized immediately. The problem was, the Catholic diocese in HK was firm about requiring my and my husband’s birth certificates.

To this day, I don’t know how my mother managed to secure both documents, mine from Pampanga and my husband’s from Pasay City, and fly to Hong Kong within days, and with a baptismal gown to boot.

That’s our mother. The superwoman without whom we wouldn’t have managed to stand on our own feet, and raise our kids in the manner she taught us well.

Our mother was one of a kind. We are eternally blessed to have been gifted with someone like her.

Goodbye, Ma. Thank you for everything. Go now to our Lord’s loving embrace.
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