As I write this, I cannot help but reflect on all of the amazing achievements of women in history. They serve as an inspiration to many women today for fighting for gender equality, being visionaries, and creating paths where there were none. For me, however, there is no greater inspiration than my mom who has made an indelible mark on my life.
I have been blessed with a mother who is strong, intelligent, courageous, generous, brave, and sacrificial. There is no mincing of words in that statement. I didn’t always know that when I was growing up; I know this for a fact today.
My mom was not raised to speak her mind or encouraged to pursue her dreams. In our Filipino
culture, and certainly in her generation, children were taught to not talk back to their parents, never ask questions, and do whatever they were told. My grandparents had nine children; my mom was the eldest. The expectation was for my mom to help care for her brothers and sisters. There was no time for my grandparents to devote any attention to her. Who she ultimately became as a woman, was innate to her being, and to give equal credit to where it is due, she had my father by her side, and still does, to support all of her decisions.
My parents were both doctors in the Philippines, but not yet licensed in the United States. Decades ago, they came to the United States when there was a wave of professionals coming to America. Living as immigrants was not easy. They did not know anyone when they arrived which made life even more difficult. When I was eventually born, my parents also had to worry about two young children who needed to be cared for, work so we could eat, and study for the board exams so they could practice their profession in America.
My sister and I spent a lot of time with babysitters when we were very young and as we grew older, we were pretty much like every other kid with working parents. We had a necklace around our neck with the house key on it. We would come home to an empty house, make our own snack, change into our play clothes, and play with the other kids on our street. Not every kid I knew, however, had both parents working. One or two of them had the quintessential stay-at-home mom who had freshly baked cookies ready for them when they came home from school. I remember being jealous of that. I wanted to come home to cookies and my mom, but that was not my life.
My mom was not the type of woman who baked cookies. She healed the sick. She served the country as a United States Coast Guard. She became the acting general of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and appeared in Who’s Who of American Women, a dictionary of notable biographies of American women who stand preeminent in their country. She plays the piano by ear and is the world’s best cook. Were their sacrifices to be made? Absolutely.
Looking back, I am thankful for that life because what I learned from my mom surpasses freshly baked cookies any day. She taught me, and showed me through her example, that boundless determination and perseverance, prevails. She taught me that you can change your circumstances with hard work and the grace of God. I am most proud of her for being a woman of God. With this comes her compassionate nature to help those who are less fortunate.
Because of her, I always do my best. She once told me that there was no sense being in this world if I was not here to add value. I learned to not give up when the going gets tough. I learned to find solutions rather than succumb to the problems. Because of her, I came to understand that as a woman, one should be able to have a career and be a mother, without guilt or shame. One’s goals and dreams should not be hindered because she holds the title of mother.
I don’t believe that behind every great woman is a man supporting her. She is fortunate if this is the case. I believe that behind every great woman is the summation of her experiences, the risks she took, the failures she emerged from, and the fears she conquered.
On International Women’s Day, and every day, I honor my mother. She is second to none.