My mother—bless her—thinks that I, at 40, am still a baby who needs pampering. (I am.) She thinks I am too thin (I wish), and has someone buy me beef rice from Dimsum Break for early afternoon merienda: beef, peas and shrimp piled over rice and drowned in MSG-rich sauce. "Eat, eat," she urges, and waits as I chew. She prepares for my return to Cebu the only way she knows how: she feeds me.
One of the characters in a story I have yet to rework carries after my mother. Perhaps it is true, what they say, that all fiction is in some ways autobiographical:
"Mama at seventy-eight years has survived a war, eloping at eighteen, working through three miscarriages, selling tocino on the side to raise tuition for seven children, a stroke, a heart attack, kidney stones, diabetes, a recidivist philandering husband. From all these she was shielded by her crusade that nothing bad—nothing—will happen to her brood. She believes in the Family; there is little redemption outside it. The world can change governments, another Mexican soap opera would invade television, roads are given new names, but my mother would not know or care. She has the public schoolteacher’s simple convictions that are renewed every time she feeds us."
—from Home, a work in progress