#LifeLessons from Mom

WithMamaMay is Mother’s month for my family. Mom was born on May 8, 1948, baptized sometime in May, got married on May 30, died on May 4, and buried on May 8, 2007. My grandma once told me, that it takes a special person to be buried on the day she was born. Indeed, Mom Perla was special.

After Mom died, my sister and I agreed we would celebrate her life on the day of her birth, which usually happened around Mothers’ Day. We’d find ways to celebrate it despite our living miles away from each other. This year I found one of her old letters. Quite precious and confidential, except for this part:

Feb. 14, 1996

To my two lovely dahling daughters Mutya and Bi,

Verde Island is on my right as I write this letter to you. I thank God everyday esp. this day as I cross the bay, for giving me 2 lovely, intelligent, smart & gifted daughters. It’s a very nice & lovely feeling to be a mother who is very proud of her children — all gifted in his and her own way. Indeed, we can’t thank God enough for giving us so many wonderful things together esp. our being one family — loving each other, respecting each other — (I hope). As you grow and mature you will know what I mean. It is the love of God and of Christ that should be in you and it will show in the way you treat each other.

She often told me about her daily prayer: she hoped that all her children would become part of the Kingdom of God. “Thy Kingdom come, in our lives and in our hearts,” I heard her pray several times. She prayed that as we grew older, we would choose to walk according to His Way, Truth and Life, and encourage others to do so.

Mom would often bring me along whenever she took my baby brother Ysrael (then 4 or 5 years old) to the Children’s Hospital. “Matapang ka kasi,” she would tell me. She couldn’t stand the sight of her baby being punctured by needles for blood tests, so she would ask me to hold Ysrael’s hand as the medtech would draw blood, and then she would look away. Ysrael and I would look at each other, and then watch the blood coming out from his arm… he never complained, and I would always call him “our brave boy.” During these trips she would often share with me her greatest wish: “I want to see all of you there, in the Kingdom of God. I want us all to be together in His presence someday, for eternity.”

Ysrael died of a mysterious bone illness when he was seven, and as I witnessed how Mom’s faith helped her through that ordeal, I became inspired me to know more about God and seek Him as my Savior too. There are so many anecdotes of how God answered Mom’s prayers, and I will share about them as we continue to celebrate Mother’s Month of May.

For now I am inclined to share one of the first #LifeLessons she taught me: Counting from 1 to 10. As a child, I would often have chest pains whenever I was physically tired, or frustrated and emotional. (It wasn’t until I was 20 that I found out I had CHD). Mom taught me how to handle the stress by counting up to 10 and down again, until my emotions calmed down and pain subsided. It was hard to do at first, because I was a kid and panic attacks hurt, but she helped me count aloud, or if we were in a public place, she would tell me, “Count in your head. Breathe.” This probably saved my life more times than I can remember, so I teach the same to my kids. I am just thankful to God that my children are healthy, and wiser than I was at their age, too.

I remember when Ysrael and I were watching a documentary about elephants in the Kalahari. We watched in horror as a baby elephant was attacked by crocodiles… the mother elephant came to the rescue and was able to to fend off the predators, but was wounded in the process. Ysrael and I felt so bad for the “mommy elephant” so much that he asked, “Mommy, are mommies really like that? They will charge against crocodiles just to save their baby?”

“Of course!” was my Mom’s quick reply. “Mommies would give their lives for their babies because we love them.”



Top 12 Toys for the Holidays

It’s no secret that my kids and I love KidsCompany. Whenever we go to Quezon City, we try our best to drop by their HQ at the RGI Corporate Center, #34 Scout Torillo St. Corner Sct. Limbaga, Brgy Sacred Heart, Quezon City.

You see, hubby and I look at purchasing toys as making an investment: we look for authentic, quality brands that last a long time — and try to get them at a discount. Many times we wait until they go on sale, so we can get toys at 50% off — which makes us all happy. At the same time, my kids learn that “all good things come to those who wait.”

This has served us well, because many (if not all) of the toys that we bought for our firstborn 10 years ago (like Megabloks, Lego, Barbie™, Hot Wheels, etc.) — still look great and are now being enjoyed by his younger siblings who came 7 years after he was born. That’s a huge ROI, if you ask me.

So when they asked me to make a Top 12 Toys list (based on sales and interest/queries generated from their customers), I could only say yes! Here’s what we put together for all of you who are still looking for gifts for their little ones this Christmas, and beyond. [This was published on The Philippine Star last Dec. 9, 2018. Thank you, KidsCompany!]

#ThankSeries: A Wall of Strength

Confession: I started writing this piece last March 5, so I could post it on March 13, which is a special day because it marks the birth of a special sister of mine. But life and my poor health got in the way. Today I told myself, I have to post this because I may no longer be able to do so, if I postpone it any longer. Time is such a precious commodity in Life, and if there’s one thing I learned this year it would be this: When you feel like giving tribute and thanks to people you love, do it ASAP. Some people say Carpe Diem, but I say #SeizeTheTimeNow, because you never know when it could be your last.

Psalm 90:12 says it best: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” This is why I decided to write a series of tributes and thankful notes to people who have helped shape who I am today. I’m starting it with one of my favorite women (because ladies first), someone I have looked up to, literally — since we were kids. Growing up, she was almost always the tallest in our class, maybe even the whole school (at least from my viewpoint). A gentle giant, and a natural leader.

Continue reading “#ThankSeries: A Wall of Strength”

“May Awa ang Diyos.”

I heard my Lola Estrella Rustia say this a lot when I was a young girl. Pagkatapos magmano, I would greet her, “Kumusta po Mamang?” (How are you Mamang?) And she would always answer, “May awa ang Diyos… (God has mercy…)” Her look and tone was thankful and hopeful at the same time. This morning I woke up missing her, and the way her small feet shuffled as she walked around her home in Santiago City.

As a first grade teacher, this “statement of belief” is one of the many lessons that Mamang would pass on to us: Everything that happens to us, comes from God’s mercy. Having this mindset teaches us to be grateful for every moment, be it a time of joy or a time of sorrow. We live each day by God’s grace alone. And because we are recipients of His mercy and grace, we ought to have compassion, to be merciful and gracious to others. There is no room for conceit in a heart that is always grateful for God’s mercy that is new every morning.

It is also a source of comfort during times of despair and hardship. May awa ang Diyos, therefore have confidence in God’s merciful nature – and you will soon see deliverance. There is no room for defeatism, in a heart that has hope and faith in God’s mercy that never fails.



To the Young Women of Malolos

My grandfather, Honesto Rustia Sr., translated this inspiring letter by Jose Rizal to the young women of Malolos into Ilocano. I was a young girl when I saw the published booklet in my Mom’s files, but after Mom died I lost track of it. Recently, I have been looking for a copy of his translation. The words of Rizal are stirring, especially today. The friars were the ones who had “power” at the time this letter was written.

Continue reading “To the Young Women of Malolos”

Everyday is a gift.

On August 18, 2012 (five years ago as of this writing), we received one of the saddest news: Capt. Jessup Bahinting was in a plane crash with his Nepalese co-pilot Kshitiz Chand, and two passengers: Sec. Jesse Robredo and his aide. At that time I only knew of Sec. Robredo as the DILG Secretary, a former mayor of Naga City who was loved by his people. I was more affected by the news about Tito Jessup crashing, and couldn’t believe that our hero pilot / pastor was really gone. He had flown a lot more dangerous flights before, and had even flown through a typhoon to deliver anti-venom medicine that saved the life of a young man in Cebu who got bitten by a cobra. He had to be alive!

Alas, three bodies were found three days later, Aug. 21. We were at the Global Day of Prayer for Peace in the West Philippine Sea held in Makati, and I remember we had a moment of silence to honor Sec. Jesse, Capt. Jessup and his co-pilot. These men were husbands, fathers and brothers to their loved ones, and to many others (myself included) whose lives were blessed by their friendship. Continue reading “Everyday is a gift.”

Perla’s Miracles

She looked peaceful, but unnatural. I wasn’t used to seeing her so still. I snuggled up to breathe in her comforting scent, and rubbed her arms with a prayer for her life force to return. It felt so unreal. Up until that point, I had lived a somewhat “sheltered” life, and Mom’s nurturing love was like an enormous bubblewrap that shielded me from the outside world. Six months pregnant, I was looking forward to giving birth to my firstborn with Mom beside me. I wasn’t ready to let her go just yet. I read somewhere that some comatose patients can still hear even if they can’t respond. Selfishly, I whispered to her: “Mom, you promised you’d be there when I give birth. Please be there. I need you.”  Continue reading “Perla’s Miracles”