As a scholar throughout my life, sometimes I tend to only credit my self for all academic successes that I have attained forgetting people – family and relatives- who have voluntarily sacrificed a lot more than they bargained for. I know that they do it lovingly, but have I or could I have offered them the same?
In today´s column of Ambeth Ocampo, he translated Mabini’s “Algunos pormenores de mi vida.” This piece reminds me of my struggle to being good at what I do (that is so out of this world), and still be relevant and tangible to people who I love.
“From childhood I manifested a desire to study united with a marked aversion for work in the fields. That is to say that I was not content with the miserable life of a shepherd or labrado, a life that is miserable in appearance but happy and tranquil in the heart.
“My parents decided to spend for my career in spite of their poverty, because when my maternal grandfather began to teach the cartilla to my elder brother, he observed that I learned much faster than he, even if I were no more than a miron, a bystander who was not considered of the right age for primary instruction.
“From then my poor mother set to work with real ardor to spend for my studies. When I was in the segunda enseñanza (second level of instruction), it occurred to me to ask my parents for some good clothing for Easter just like those of my classmates. To please me, my mother sold all of the coffee that she had gathered during harvest time in the barrio of Payala [Lipa] and brought all the money to me herself so that I could buy the coat I liked so much. This show of self-denial and affection moved me such that I resisted the desire to buy a luxurious coat, and I figured that with this money my mother had given me a part of her life and blood. As a result of this excessive work she was led shortly to the grave.
“Due perhaps to my living away from my family since my childhood because of my studies, I became the most beloved of my parents and my maternal grandmother who died a year before my mother passed away. During vacations with my family, my grandmother, casually from her deathbed and pain, advised that in every moment they should not forget to attend and care for my nourishment. My mother always demonstrated a semblance of serenity in those moments when I was separated from her because of my studies, but one day when I was to withdraw to Manila to celebrate the vacation, I heard from an aunt that my mother had cried much because it seemed that I was indifferent to living with my family, far from her. When, shortly before her death, she saw her eight sons left in poverty, she broke down in tears, but calmed down when I promised to look after my brothers. I was moved to tears when I was called from Bawan to her side in the last days of her life.
“Oh, mother, in the midst of my misfortune your memory is not so painful because I am consoled by the idea that your fate spared you the pain of seeing our lot, but fortunate days were coming and my regret is that fate did not permit you to enjoy my well-being.”
How many of us are spared of cleaning a pig´s pen because we have to sharpen our sharp mathematical skills? How many of us have families who have longed to be near us, yet the first ones who push us to leave so that we can hone our skills they vaguely comprehend?
Such is Mabini´s reflection.