I approached the Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC - locally, they call it weemsie) front entrance and the security guard checked me for weapons. He didn’t inspect my bag when I told him I just arrived from Manila and was there to see my mother on the third floor. I then rode the elevator then asked the nurses at the nursing station where room 324 was. After all those years being gone, I was about to see my mother again, though not under the best circumstances.
The last time I was in Zamboanga City was for the funeral of my father 13 years ago. Mama was still very much in charge and choreographed the visitation, wake, and funeral with ease. At the time Mama portrayed strength and determination to see things through during Papa’s final farewell, as I’ve never seen her done before.
I knocked lightly on the door of room 324 then entered. My first glimpse was of cousins Mary Cate and Claire, and Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita. As I approached, I saw dear Mama to the left in bed. I excused myself from my relatives and greeted Mama first. In the best American accent I could muster, I said “Mom, I made it!”, then held her hand and kissed her on the forehead. A faint smile came across her face. I wasn’t sure if she was expecting me to be there with her so soon. In her weakened state, she wasn’t able to talk very much but our shared silence spoke enough volumes of the gratitude we had being together again after more than a decade of separation.
I turned my attention to our relatives who until about a couple of months ago didn’t know about Mama’s worsening condition. It was through Facebook that I found one of my cousins (the younger brother of Cate and Claire) whom I never met in real life, and asked him to inform his Dad and Mom – Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita, about Mama. They had been visiting Mama frequently since then. Uncle Dante is the last remaining sibling of Mama who is alive.
Half an hour after I saw Mama, the Pabellon Family arrived. Kuya Vic, Ate Chit, and Jing came from the airport where they went to pick me up. But because of the plane arriving 10 minutes early and my quick exit from the terminal, we missed each other. Pretty soon, photos with Mama were being taken, knowing that the opportunities of doing this were dwindling in the coming days. These photos will be cherished forever.
Mama asked me what I had in my luggage, knowing full well I had brought chocolates as she requested. I opened my bag and unloaded a dozen 6 pack bags of fun size chocolates of all kinds (boy, have they downsized those things!). Mama proceeded to verbally dole them out to those present. I didn’t keep track on who got what and how many. They were Mom’s goods to give out however she desired.
My brother Larry arrived the next evening and we were able to fulfill the first of Mama’s last wishes – the three of us being together. Thank you, Larry, for asking me to come home much earlier.
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