Mama, Armi, and Home

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I place an indispensable value on solitude. That sounds so anti-social, but I’ve long since gave up on caring about caring whether people think I’m congenial or standoffish. Miraculously (and I say this with a hint of mockery), I’m a “grown-up” in that sense. True, I still care about what people think, in a context wherein the people whose opinions affect me are those people that I care about and whom I share a relationship with – familial, platonic, social, romantic, etc. Those who do not fall in any category, I’ve decided, do not warrant my time nor my attention. It may pinch and hurt a little at first, yes, when people talk (which, most of the time, they really have no clue what they’re talking about and rather than admit it, try to validate their point by poking fun at you and/or try to reduce your worth to nothing), but then it does really help when you detach yourself from it.

I wasn’t planning on writing anything tonight. To be honest, I have no cohesive or structured thoughts about things, let alone ponder on life, but I felt compelled to, simply because, I thought about my mom, how I missed her, and I knew my head will burst if I just try to swallow this lump in my throat, cry a little, and go to sleep.

It wouldn’t work anyway.

So what triggered it? It was reading the profile of Armi [Millare, songwriter of Up Dharma Down] on Rappler. They did one on her previously, almost two years ago, during the launch of their third album, Capacities. Like almost anything and everything I know about her, it was a no dilly-dallying personal account on how she came to be. This one’s almost the same, but also a little different. You see, Armi reminds me of my mother. It was not a maternal connection, let me clarify that. Age-wise, she’d be like an older sister I never had. She has wisdom beyond her years, but not in an in-your-face smarty-pants kind. It’s subtle. It’s like, watching the golden sunset on top of a mountain, feeling the last of the sun’s warmth on your face, with nothing but the wind and the silence – something close to that. If my mom were alive, I’m sure she’ll like her. I see so much of Armi in my mom – literally and figuratively. They even look a little bit alike: the same freckles on face, the same shape of eyes and nose, and color of skin. Maybe if she were alive, she’ll love the band, too. After all, my mom, whose favorite song in the world is Sharon Cuneta’s ‘Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas,’ tears up a little every time she listened to it, sang along to it, and even after the song ended and the words that speak about the lengths and extremes one is willing to endure in the name of love are still traceable in the air. In my case, that song’s equivalent is Up Dharma Down’s ‘Sana.’

My mother was never a talker. Maybe, that’s why I don’t know a lot about her – in a way. In fact, the little I knew are being slowly snatched away from me by time. I cannot even remember exactly how her voice sounds like. But I remember her face well, prefer to remember it before cancer made her virtually unrecognizable. It seems to me, that the little things – trivial fragments of memories – I remember about her are more potent rather than those I wish I can still recall. Like, I know how she hated it when we don’t use saucers, or how she perfectly smoothens out the edges of the plastic whenever she covers a book (which how I eventually cover books myself), and how she always puts one hand on her tummy when she laughs while the other hand gestures ‘stop’ when someone makes a joke she ultimately finds funny. But most of all, I will never forget how she used to peek in our rooms before she goes to bed herself. Most of the time, my pajamas are pulled halfway up at the back, and she’ll pull it down and tuck me in properly under the covers. Or how she always held our heads – my siblings and mine – whenever we have an exam and we’ll pray. Her best role in life, however short it was, was being a mother.

I don’t say this as a fault, but my mom was almost always running late to almost everything. She’s late during graduations, awarding ceremonies, and all sorts of academic milestones that kids have that require the presence of a parent. There was this one time, when my younger sister was part of her class’s performance in school, and my mom took so long preparing at home, that when she and my sister got to school, the program was over. But if there’s anything that my mom will not allow, is to go home without documenting the event (even if it almost or didn’t happen altogether). She will look for the school’s official photographer and made sure we have at least three photos, with the stage in the background, holding whatever medal, certificate, or form of merit we earned – wearing the dress we are supposed to be wearing. She always made sure it happened.

She loved it at home. She made sure that our house feels like one, incessantly cleaning every day. She loved reading books and watching movies. When she resigned before she got sick, she always said she found it difficult to stay at home when almost half her life, she’s been outside. But I know, she would’ve preferred to be at home any given day.

I guess, in a way, it’s a huge reason why I love Up Dharma Down. As a band, their music has transcended and broke boundaries that reached out to me. Particularly in a time when my mom passed away and I was a meek high school student who didn’t know what to do in life next. As people, I’ve got the chance to know them and see myself, a part of who I am in them. I’m not great with people. I suck at small talk and I prefer to bury my nose in a book or close my eyes while my ears are drowning in sound than to try to come up with something clever or funny to say. I prefer to stay at home on Friday night and during weekends, except on important occasions like, a book sale. And gigs. Music has inadvertently changed my life. I have no talent in music whatsoever and cannot carry a tune, yet somehow, it ranks up on top of the best things in my life – along with books, movies, pizza, cheese, and cats.

I don’t know if my mom loved cats. I never got the chance to ask her. We didn’t own one when she was still alive. But like the sense of home my cat gives me, nothing else compares to what kind of home my mom built for me – one that’s everlasting.

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