Monday, May 10, 2010


I was told that the greatest tribute and correspondingly the best way to immortalize a mother is through the children that she raised. What kind of adults have the children become? What role did the mother play for what they have become?

My mother, with some help from my father, raised seven children to adulthood. Two of them are boys and 5 are girls. Two were Valedictorians, two Salutatorians, three Beauty Queens but all were honor students. One became the first and only American Field Service International Scholar in his high school. One received the Abbott's Award and Philippine Presidential Award for Academic Excellence and Leadership in college. One studied priesthood but eventually became a Mechanical Engineer. He was too handsome not to attract beautiful women nor to resist them. Six of us went to Catholic universities or colleges. One was chosen as one of the Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (TOFA). Two became Nurses, two CPAs, one Teacher, one Engineer, and one Lawyer. If you count the three dozen boarders over the years in our small house in G. Tuazon, Sampaloc, Manila, who also became successful professionals with my mother’s quidance and kindness, you would have an efficient, effective and competent group of “Galing at Talino”, who appreciate “hirap at tiaga,” and the value of education, and deal with real life experiences with humility, honesty, hope and honor. Together, they could run a country and run it well.

An Asian Philosopher once said, “if you want to plan for one year, plant corn; if you want to plan for 30 years, plant a tree; if you want to plan for a hundred years or more, plant men (and/or women)”. My mother was into the planting of men (and/or women). She was a school teacher. She eventually became a School Principal training teachers. But she was a teacher foremost and in fact, a model teacher demonstrating to other teachers how to teach in a classroom.

The teachers in the Philippines are the most underpaid professionals. And yet, the last time I checked, there are now more than 100 teachers in our family, counting those who retired. It is indeed the noblest profession. Last year I went home to attend the funeral of my eldest sister who was a teacher and was being honored by her fellow teachers, the same way they honored my mother when she died. The common greeting was, “long time no see”. The most common answer was “oo nga” (oh yeah). I was told that the tagalog translation of the greeting was, “matagal nang walang kita”, the literal English translation of which is “no income for a long time.”

When it was my turn to speak, I told them the difference between the Nursing profession personified by my two other sisters in the US, and the teachers represented by my eldest sister. I said, “both are noble and raised as visionaries, but somehow, the nurses have greater vision than the teachers” which obviously surprised my audience. Before I incurred their anger, I immediately explained. The tagalog translation of vision in this case is, “kita” or income, so I meant the nurses in the US have higher income than the teachers in the Philippines.

So, how did my mother do it? There were no student loans and no grants. There were only full scholarships for Valedictorian and half for Salutatorians, that’s it. And yet to top it all, she offered to give the equivalent amount of the scholarship as an incentive for us to maintain it. With the meager salary of my mother and my father who was also a teacher, it was definitely not enough. We had farmlands but they were just enough for us not to worry about rice and vegetables. Oh yes, we had a piggery where each pig had been named and allotted to each child so that when sold, it would go to his college fund. I made sure that "pig Ben" was well-fed and fat.

The most helpful really was the valuable tradition that the older siblings would help the younger ones once they finish college and start earning. Although the eldest was a teacher, the next three were high earners, two nurses and a CPA who even worked at the Central Bank. I was lucky to be the second to the youngest. I still think it was a minor miracle for my mother to have achieved a feat like that.

My mother was a very religious woman. She prayed the rosary, said the novena and went to mass on a regular basis. She made sure we all learned to do the same thing.

As a model mother she also raised model mothers. Eldest Manang Herminia raised a daughter, Erika, who became an accountant and today lives and maintains our ancestral home and inherited farmlands in the Philippines. Erika is herself a mother of three smart and good-looking boys.

Manang Perla raised two successful professionals. Both children, Mary Euleen and Dean have graduate degrees. Mary Euleen is now a mother of a smart and beautiful girl.

Manang Loreto raised three boys: Carlo, Jun and Aron. Carlo and Jun graduated from San Beda, my Alma Mater. Carlo was an Eagle Scout and received the highest award as a Youth Leader from the Philippine President. Jun is a CPA, came to the US as a scholar of the Central Bank where he works. He has a Master’s Degree in Finance. Aron is graduating as a Nurse on May 22nd in San Diego.

Manang Nelly is as amazing as my mother. She raised six children: Michael, Rebecca, Mannie, Marcus, Maynard, and Homer. They all graduated from University of California, Berkeley, a public IVY school. Some if not all have graduate degrees, in fact, graduating with high honors. Rebecca is also raising really smart, cute and sports-minded boys of her own.

Mila is our youngest. She has a beautiful daughter, Claudia who became a Captain of the US Air Force at the age of 28. Her career should put her on a path to become a General in the future. Mila’s son, Eugene is a scientist.

On this Mother’s Day I am attributing most of the success to my mother and to the mothers among my sisters and the mothers among my nieces. The fathers obviously had something to do with it. In fact, my good looking father, who finished primary school in 5 years, high school in 3 years and college in 3 years was himself outstanding. But that is the subject of another day.

For many years now, I have been introduced or described as the son-in-law of somebody famous. I was proud of it and continue to be so. But now and for the rest of my life, I would be prouder if called, introduced or described as the SON of FLAVIANA GAL-LANG MAYNIGO and ANTONIO BALLO MAYNIGO, Model Teachers.

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