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Mother - Elizabeth O. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My biggest hero and most inspirational role model is, and always will be, my mother. She is the most hard-working person I know, and has always pushed me to do everything to the best of my ability. She has taught me to appreciate all I have in life, and to be careful not to take things for granted. Yes, there are times when we disagree, but hey, what kid doesn’t sometimes fight with her parents? I have the highest respect for my mother.

My mom was one of nine children born and raised in the Philippines. Being in a family of eleven is hard enough, not to mention in a developing country like the Philippines. I don’t know anyone who has had a harder life than my mother. She lived in a house with only two rooms for all the kids to share (the four girls shared one bed, while the five boys slept in another). The only way for the family to get water was to pump it from the ground. My mom used to tell stories of how there was only one water pump in the neighborhood, and being one of the oldest children, it was her responsibility to get up at 3 a.m. each morning and wait in line for the water pump. Then she would carry all the water her family would use for the day back to her house, which wasn’t a short walk. Having to do this every morning, she was always late for school and was punished by her teachers for her tardiness. In her house, there was no washing machine, no air conditioning in the 100degrees tropical climate, no stove or oven, and certainly no television. Her family would have considered all these things luxuries, while we take them for granted.

My mom’s parents made money selling chickens in an outdoor market. This money was barely enough to support them, and as a girl my mother and her siblings would wander the streets, barefoot, begging for money. My mom still remembers a time when she was trying to make money by selling plastic bags in the marketplace. She told me she was so desperate for money she would sometimes chase customers down just so they would buy a bag for the equivalent of a few pennies. Can you picture a child in America begging you to buy something for not even five cents? My mother and her siblings did this every day, just to get by. Plus, they had to survive in a dangerous neighborhood.

One day while walking home from school, my mother was chased by a pack of stray dogs and people refused to help her because they were afraid that action would tell onlookers, “I’m a good-hearted person, so I can lend you some money” - and that was something no one in the Philippines could afford to say. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true - in some places people refuse to recognize others in need, even when they are in need themselves.

When my mom was 16, she and her siblings came home to find that local teenagers had set their home on fire, destroying it. In times of tragedy, however, there always seems to be a lesson to learn. They realized you have to work your hardest to achieve your goals. My grandparents instilled a hard-working quality in their children. They pushed my mom to keep up with her schoolwork, knowing that education was the only path to opportunity in their country. My mom did as they advised, and eventually made it through high school and even got a job so she could pay her way through college. She graduated from the University of San Carlos with a degree in accounting and moved to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. She remained there until she was 26 when she married my dad, became an American citizen, and started a new chapter of her life.

My mom had worked hard her whole life and continued to do so in America. Once she started raising our family, she decided to leave the corporate world and stay at home with her three daughters. She wanted to appreciate the joys family can bring in a way she had not been able to with her parents when she was growing up. She works hard every day for her family and has taught my sisters and me to be goal-oriented.

In 2005, my mother visited the Philippines again for the first time in 15 years. My little sister and I went with her, and all the stories I had heard about her childhood came alive. We stayed at my grandparents’ house - the one they had moved to after the other one burned down - and I learned what it was like to share a tiny, tin-roofed house with 12 other people. I adapted to not having hot showers, a microwave, or air conditioning. One would think I would be miserable, but on the contrary, it was the happiest and most meaningful time of my life. I’ll never forget that trip because it changed me.

I learned to appreciate what is given to you in life, and to live without luxuries. It’s clear the poverty hasn’t changed since my mom left the country, since my Filipino family still lives in the same conditions they did 30 years ago. They are the most hard-working people I have ever met. All the stories my mom told and all the lessons she had taught finally came together on that trip. I got to experience the Filipino lifestyle and gained an understanding of how the Philippines molded my mother into who she is today.

My mother is the unbreakable rock of my family. Through harsh times she has always stood her ground. I admire her for all that she’s been through and for all that she is - a proud, hard-working, intelligent woman who is also a wise and caring mother. My mom is my biggest influence and will always be a hero in my eyes.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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jelly said...
Aug. 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm:
ahm i like ur story.... my mom was also one of the eight child on the family and raised in a simple house like a Nipa Hut in Philippines... =]
 
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