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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The ‘Pac-Mom’ we love

BEAMING on the cover of Yes! Magazine’s August issue, in a beaded violet gown, her hair down, face made up and looking at least a decade younger than her 60 years, Ms Dionisia Pacquiao shows us why these days she’s a budding commercial endorser, with movies and TV appearances lined up, a celebrity in her own right.

No one could have predicted this turn of events for the “Pac-Mom,” a play on “Pac-Man,” which is her boxer son Manny’s professional moniker. She first burst into public consciousness in one of Manny’s early international fights, when she was shown by TV news footage holed up in a room in her GenSan abode, fervently praying the rosary in front of an image of the Blessed Mother and refusing to watch her son getting pummeled in the ring, even if only through television.

As Manny moved up from one weight class to the next, earning bigger and bigger purses, Aling Dionisia’s shtick got livelier. At one time, she even fainted well before the final bell, sending friends and relatives scrambling to revive her.

One TV network even dared to create a mini-telenovela in the wake of another of Manny’s victories. They interviewed Aling Dionisia and her estranged husband Rosalio, father of Manny. Through the magic of TV they were interviewed side-by-side, although they were in different places. But Aling Dionisia earned my respect and admiration when, asked if she was willing to reconcile with her wayward spouse, she replied sharply: “But he already has a new family. He was the one who chose to leave, and if he wants to come back, he will have to leave his new wife and children behind.”

No pandering to the news anchor’s teasing, no concessions to public sentimentality. To this day, as she tells the Yes! interviewers, she’s resigned to the fact that “Wala akong suwerte sa pag-ibig [I have no luck with love].”

* * *

IT’S that brutal honesty and the unabashed joy she takes in enjoying the fruits of her son’s success that, perhaps, have made the Filipino public take “Mommy” Dionisia to our hearts.

In a way, she reminds many Filipinos of their mothers back home: hard-working and self-sacrificing, but sharp-tongued and combative when needed. The sentimental view of mothers emphasizes their willingness to put their husbands and children before themselves, letting their families eat first and take most of the food before sitting down to dine on the leftovers. But a more realistic take is that, when good times come rolling in, the Pinay mother is just as likely to demand her rightful share of the goodies as any other mother.

The Pinoy mother will nag the successful children to see their younger siblings through school, and to support the less fortunate members of the family. She will intercede on behalf of hard-up relatives, telling one hard luck tale after another. And she will tease, cajole, bargain and beg, if need be, for more fruits of a child’s material success. If all else fails, there is always guilt with which to manipulate a child’s feelings.

And in Mommy Dionisia’s case, she has more than earned the right to lay claim to a share of the wealth that Manny now enjoys.

* * *

HER life story is certainly the stuff of melodrama.

As a child, she and her eight siblings were abandoned by her own father, leaving them in the solo care of her mother, Cristina Dapiran, now 88. This sad history would repeat itself, not once but twice for Dionisia. Her first husband, Alfonso Silvestre, left her when their daughter Lisa was just a year old and she was just two months pregnant with son Domeng. Rosalio entered her life four years later, and they had four children, with Manny the second oldest and first boy.

But even this relationship, which lasted for 19 years, came to an end when Rosalio strayed, or as Mommy Dionisia puts it bluntly: “Nambabae.” Left with six children to feed, shelter, clothe and educate all by her lonesome, Dionisia sought work wherever it was available: in a factory line, then selling snacks and native pastries in the market. She budgeted her money and food so strictly, that at times, after her children had eaten, she would simply forego eating, developing bleeding ulcers as a consequence.

Manny discovered boxing early in life, and deciding that this was his ticket out of poverty, stowed away to Manila and fought his first professional bout as a teenager. Not even the most skeptical of observers would begrudge Manny Pacquiao the fame and fortune he’s now enjoying. And surely, no one would dare judge the Pac-Mom for basking in the reflected light of her son’s glory.

* * *

BUT it’s really strange how popular sentiment works. Why, all of a sudden, we would latch onto the persona and quirks of a 60-year-old grandmother who marked her recent birth anniversary with a grand party in which she displayed not just a veritable fashion show of gowns bought in the States with matching bling-bling, but even her skills on the dance floor with a succession of dance instructors.

This is the life many of us wish we could have given our own long-suffering mothers: enough leisure to pursue their own interests, enough financial security to indulge their whims, and good health to let them enjoy the fruits of their labor. But it’s not just this. It’s also the Pac-Mom’s unabashed joy in the freedom and luxury she now enjoys, her guilt-free attitude toward her and her son’s good fortune, her open-hearted generosity toward relatives and town mates, and her firm belief that all this comes from God.

Why do we love Mommy Dionisa so? Maybe it’s also because she’s showing us a good model for gracious aging.

Source: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090726-217248/The-Pac-Mom-we-love

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