Last week, two days after Valentine’s day, I received a love letter. A handwritten, enveloped love letter from Manang’s daughter, Ella Marie. The last time I got a letter written in a pretty stationery was way back in college. Needless to say, I was so excited to read the letter. Ella is 13 years old and wrote candidly. I could almost see her smiles and hear her sighs thru the words she wrote. When Manang went home last week, she brought a lot of pasalubongs from her me and from my mom. I gave the first blouses that I bought from my first pay check. Some toys for her younger kids. And for Ella, I sent several pre-loved dresses and gowns since she will be attending her first prom next year.
She wrote me a love letter to say how thankful she is. But really, after reading the letter, I realized that I actually owe her a lot. Even though she did not mean to, the letter made me feel sad and really guilty.
She started her letter with this:
“Nagpapasalamat po ako na kayo ang naging amo ng mama ko. “
I never considered myself as an “amo”. I never said “Ako ang amo dito” even during the times when our ex-helper, Jane, was getting problematic. The word Amo just makes me uncomfortable. It such strong word for me. I treat our helpers like family. I always say thank you. I never raise my voice at them. Some moms may be uncomfortable when their yayas kiss their kids. Me, I always ask Aki to say thank you to Manang and to give her a hug and a kiss before we sleep.
In the next paragraph, she says thank you for keeping up with her kakulitan and to talking to her once in a while. Her exact words were:
Pasensya na po kayo kung makulit ako sa text. Alam niyo po, tuwing nakakausap ko kayo, gumagaan ang pakiramdam ko. Mula po kase nung umalis si Mama, dumami na ang trabaho ko dito sa bahay.
That is the part that made me real feel bad about myself. While I have the luxury if sleeping a little longer while Manang prepares our breakfast, somewhere in Samar, Ella needs to wake up early to cook for the family. Manang said, sometimes Ella wakes up at 4AM. While she is cooking rice, she is also reviewing for her exams or making her report. While I have peace of mind because someone competent and who sincerely cares, looks after Aki while I am at work, Manang’s youngest, stays in community day care. While we get to enjoy delicious and healthy meals, Manang’s family has been on a ginataan diet. Because I don’t know how to operate a washing machine and can afford someone to wash our dirty laundry, Ella now spends her Saturday afternoons washing her family’s soiled clothes. When I was 13, my only chore at home was to bring my plate to the sink after eating. Ella on the other hand, has to take on the jobs that Manang used to do. All these realizations make me feel guilty. I feel like I am the worst biggest brat. I wish Manang’s family lives next door, so she doesn’t have to be away from them.
This is my first time to have a yaya who is married. The yaya’s that we’ve had since we were kids were mostly old maids, or single 20-ish girls. I realized that having a married helper, in a way, means borrowing someone else’s wife and mother.