Friday, May 11, 2007
BABAE SA PIER
BABAE SA PIER
24” x 35”
acrylic on canvas
This work is based on an old picture postcard of turn-of-the-century women who were workhorses at the pier. They carried heavy sacks on their heads from the dock to the ship.The postcard pictured women who worked hard with loads on their heads, and yet wore beautiful sayas reminiscent of those times. I wondered how their lives were.
And here, I chose to tell the story of another woman.
Our mother was Superwoman. At the drop of a pin, she can change the whole set-up of our house in a day. She’ll move cabinets ten times heavier than her, move around furniture, change the color of the house, replant the whole garden and still have time to cook dinner for her boys.
There were times, my brothers and I would be staring at our house after school and wonder if it is the same house we left from that morning. Many an afternoons, I’d come running into the door and I’ll trip over a furniture that wasn’t there that morning. It’s like every day for my mother is a Let’s-Change-The-House Day.
I remember one hot afternoon of my fourteenth year, my mother asked me to climb the tree to cut some overhanging branches. “You’d have to cut it NOW because it gets in the way of the laundry line”, she barked. “I’ll do it later when I’m done here”, I yelled from my room. But I never did budge from my bed until it was time for dinner. I walked out of the room and didn’t see any food on the table. My younger gave me a hungry, knowing look and said, “She’s up in the tree in the yard. Since you won’t cut the branch, we won’t have dinner.” That night, I went home to bed with ant bites on my arms and legs, a few small cuts from a stubborn tree and an aching back… but I did have my dinner and a mother who’s still thinking of other ideas to do around the house.
As Superwoman, she also had a super temper. She was strict with us when it comes to finishing our food. “I SAID EAT!” was her famous battle cry at the table, and we’d grudgingly oblige. “Not one morsel should be left of the food I cooked for you. You’re lucky you’re not like one of those children who don’t have food to eat… blah-blah-blah…” Our ears would ring of her litany while in our minds we thought that we’re like slaves being forced-fed for fattening and be placed later on in the house of the gingerbread witch. But of course, there never was a witch, only our mother who made sure we finished our food.
She once caught our older brother smoking with some of his friends in the basketball court near our house. She calmly and sweetly asked him to come home as if there’s a cake waiting for him. But my brother knew the scent of the angry dragon when he sees it. I was in my room when I heard my mother lock the main door behind them. In an instant all hell broke loose. My mother never spoke a work and I dare not go out of my room. I heard whacks, some thuds, a whipping sound and my brother whimpering and promising never to do it again. A few minutes later, my brother came into the room, shaken and cheeks tear-stained. He went straight into the corner, sat and silently cried. I approached him and asked, “Masakit?” (Does it hurt?)
A few days ago, my mother was sitting in her bed watching her favorite soap after one of her usual long and busy days.
“Son, did I raise you well?”
“Aside from the fact that you made me climb trees like a monkey so you can stretch your laundry… hmmm, I’d say overall, it’s been okay.”
“If we were only a bit more well-off back then, I would like to give you and your brothers something more. I would like to have given you a better chance in life, better food, better toys…”
“Oh shush Mamu. You’re our mother, and you and Tatay gave everything we needed. It’s enough for us.”