I believe mother figures are the first reference we women have for our identity. Depending on what your Filipino household looked like—multigenerational, separated, or partly overseas—Nanay may have taken the form of Ate, Tita, or Lola. We learn about Filipina beauty, femininity, and womanhood by their example before we even have the ability to form our own self-concept.
It’s only as a twenty-something FIlipina that I’ve become aware how so many parts of myself have been formed by my mother’s guidance. Only recently have I come to appreciate it.
In my rowdy childhood years, I'd scrape my knees on the pavement, shatter glass objects, and once, was rushed to the emergency room for a sprained arm we thought was broken.
Whenever I would apologize, she'd gently sing-song, "Not sorry, careful."
It was her way of reassuring me she wasn’t angry, there was nothing to forgive. Nobody had been harmed but myself. Instead, it only mattered because I had gotten hurt.
As we've both gotten older, I've started to echo the phrase back to her as a joke. But dwelling in hypotheticals, how many other reckless decisions have been averted by my mother’s words? How many heartaches have I been saved from because I learned this lesson?
This reminds me of a Filipino phrase we were taught in elementary school: “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of a home). Filipinos have cast Mother as a figurative light that shines and leads us down our life path. What Nanay says comforts, uplifts, and corrects.
I reached out to our community to share the best piece of advice they received from their mother figures! These were their answers: