I received a text message from my mother early this morning from the Philippines. The ever warm concern in her voice is evident as I read her message half awake, asking me if I’m OK, if it’s safe where I live because if not, she would rather want me home.
What happened to the voice that ever propels me to move forward, why so sudden it calls my retreat? She must have been watching the news lately about some overseas Filipino workers in Libya trying to flee the country in siege and the worsening insurgency situation where many Filipinos are trapped and some are even held hostage in their work place calling for help. But more than that, I understand where the sudden fear of my mother coming: The recent earthquake in New Zealand left our family in deep sadness with my cousin still missing among the rubbles of the CTV building that collapsed during the February 22 Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake. We are in agony after days of waiting and still with no official confirmation if she’s been found. I feel for my Aunt. I feel for my mother who must be so scared back home thinking of my safety being away from home and alone, which made her send that message calling my retreat to return home.
I replied reassuring her I’m OK and not to worry, and rather asked her to pray that I would do well on the very important event in my journey as an artist on March 5 that would mark my first attempt in trying my chances in the Art field with my scheduled whole day appointment at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a group interview. My mother never made me feel she ever doubted what I’m capable of doing even as I was just starting to draw at 3 when she taught me my first art lessons at home drawing flowers. She made me believe at such a young age that my gift could send me somewhere to some doors that would open great opportunities for me. She is the voice that continue to propel me in my journey.
But today, when I read her text message, I am turned between listening to her voice that once fueled my young imagination to reach this doorstep where I am waiting for some hand to open the door for me, and the voice calling my retreat to come home. My will is being tested to move forward or withdraw from the journey I started to trod long ago when she first handed me a pencil and a paper that made me draw my way to this chance within reach.
My mother’s message shows to prove her unconditional love. Love that is not measured by how much accomplishment I take home, for more than anything, she’s more concern of my safety.
The voice of my mother remains a powerful propeller of my journey – it is the voice that sends me to distances trying every chances. But it’s also the voice that could call my retreat to return home.
I wrote this piece to understand the depth of her message. I wrote this piece to reassure my mother I am safe.
Lorna, mother/grandmother/great grandmother
It’s my first drive interstate,
His first claim of the sky.
Me, cruising country roads,
Him, embarking on a flight.
Our paths interlaced
Like unlikely threads in the loom
Woven to a peculiar story:
The Whooping Crane
Their natural wildlife refuge,
My birthday weekend getaway.
I hear the flocks’ hooting cries.
While alone in the car,
I drive, holding a quiet cry.
The mother crane
Trains his wings for migratory flights
Like my mother once propelled me
To arrive here.
How far love
Could send their offspring
To boundless possibilities?
The migratory crane
Claiming our corners
Of the world,
In the skies of infinite chances
On parallel flights
For different reasons
Aiming dissimilar destinations
Loved by our mothers
“Tyke Oar,” oil on canvas 18×20 by Jeques B. Jamora, 2009
I call her mamang, she taught me make my first paper boat and paper plane that made my imagination fly and sail to reach boundless possibilities. She showed me and taught me and gave me simple wisdom so I would reach distances from simple beginnings. Mamang knew it in her heart early on that my vessel, frail as it seemed, would take sail in time. She believed. She prepared me for it. She gave me the best gift as a child: an oar so I could paddle my vessel, cross the ocean and arrive to places she may not see in her lifetime, but dreamed for me to conquer.
I remember my first real boat ride as a tyke, it was the first time I was going to travel the ocean on board a motor boat, but what made it memorable was when she showed me another way a sea vessel moves forward telling me about the propeller, and brought me in the rear of the boat to see how it works. That simple tour to that part of the boat, the simple knowledge I learned that day and the many things mamang taught me were genial whisks that propelled me: empowering my young mind not to fear to embark in life’s voyages and to dream about arriving to distant shores to find my harbor that all begun from my first boat ride.
My mother is the real propeller of my journey. She doesn’t teach professionally, but I thought she’s the best teacher we had as kids. She knew her students too well. Her maternal instinct clearly dictates what we are capable of doing. She gave up her dreams too young and started a family with our father – the real educator – and we became her dream, choosing a lifetime career of a full-time mother to her four children. She doesn’t get any recognition for her hard works, never got a promotion, but was given many titles through the years. Her nurturing extended to her nine grandchildren and now to her great grandson, adding yet another title of great grandmother to her multi-tasked vocation. My father retired from his job as a professor in 2004, and passed away in 2008, but Mrs. Lorna Bantillo Jamora remains our teacher at home ever nurturing; taking added responsibilities as matriarch to the still young and growing family orphaned early by the late Dr. Leonardo Jamora.
Mamang remains tireless like a propeller going circles, doing routine works at home, pushing the family to directions that our individual journeys are taking us. It took me many years to fully understand the depth of her sacrifices. In 2006, I migrated to Chicago, leaving my hero not given the honor she deserves. My travels took me to Wisconsin last summer for my birthday to see the magnitude of her heroic deeds for the family reflected in the open skies of Kenosha in an unusual encounter with a flock of whooping cranes: the mother crane training her offspring to fly. The scene mirrored the love of all the mothers in the world for their children; it mirrored the propeller that once pushed my fragile vessel to reach the distance at 37.
I started to draw at 3 just when my grip was strong enough to maneuver a pencil. The moment I first held a pencil, I knew it in my heart it’s something I would love to do for a lifetime. It was like a-love-at-first-grip kind of thing, and it was my mother who introduced me to my first love. Mamang discovered and guided me refine my first artistic attempts of senseless dots and taught me to connect them with rough lines forming my first art subject of flowers. She stopped teaching me when my flower sketches looked nicer than the ones she taught me and became my first fan and follower who acquired and collected my earliest artworks lost to termites of time, but never in my memory.
“Flowers,” pencil and pen on paper drawing collection by Jeques B. Jamora, 2009
My first art portfolio was her record book, and my first exhibit was in her store when she showed my drawings, filed in her store’s record book to friends. My daily drawing sessions with her before I went to grade school was my version of an art institute that I never had the chance to attend since my father was against the idea of my becoming an artist. He was my first critic that made me ripped pages of my earlier works and tossed them to the garbage, but in many instances I picked again motivated by the ever nurturing words of my mother who through the years inspired me to salvage my gift from the rubbles of lost hope and elusive chances. She was the only person I would seek as a kid to show my works every time I would come out of the room where I used to lock myself to do my arts – away from the criticism of my father who thought I could be anything but an artist. When my father discovered I was left-handed, he trained my right hand and lost my direction, straying in the map to my destiny printed in the palm of my left hand that used to draw rough dots and lines that my father thought insignificant. He never thought I was good enough as a son, but I tried and became a nurse to please him, and thought I would never have the chance to draw again. It’s the magnanimity of the love of my mother that helped me redeem my gift and made me understand the relevance of my father’s purpose to my arts: like the waves in the uncertain ocean, his opposition to my dreams challenged me to find my way amidst the opposing current of the tides, and I did. I’m grateful to my father for training the muscles of my will to persevere. I thank my mother for standing by me through the turbulent seas.
Just like in the past when my confinement in a room was the time spent to do my arts, it was solitude working abroad that reconciled me to my first love: revisiting the yellowed pages of memory, finding the lost map now printed in both my palms re-discovering my gift after the storm; only now I’m not anymore locked in my room, but away in a foreign land finding the elusive chance to follow the will of my heart. And that’s how I started painting again. More than the material things I regularly send home, it’s my art portfolio that I’m most proud about to show my mother during my home-coming after I finished my first painting collection, “While You Are Away: Memories from Home.” It chronicles my enduring love affair with the arts and pays tribute to the caring hands that accepted my flaws, and once guided my left hand to create beautiful flowers as a child. My mother, the unsung propeller of my vessel, continually propels me to defy charted terrains to find the harbor of my future. She is content watching me sail, ever supportive. Her life remains confined in the bottom of the vessel of our family like a tireless propeller going circles, keeping our home so life would be easier for her children, grandchildren and now for her great grandson. She did the extreme sacrifice so we would all reach the distances she doesn’t dream for herself, but believe we would conquer like the mother crane training her offspring for migratory flights.
You’re more than everything I asked for,
More than anything I need.
You are my child, my beloved.
You breathe me life so I may live,
You’re the reason of my existence.
You are my mother,
My life, to you I am indebted.
HAPPY 63rd BIRTHDAY to my mother, LORNA B. JAMORA on November 27, 2010
My Mother and I (Baguio City, Philippines, summer 2010)
Happy Mother’s Day to Mamang, my Sisters and all the mothers in the world!
For all the lines that I have written,
And every word that I have spoken,
A piece of me is taken.
For every time I send my greetings,
It is my heart that I am sending.
Jeques, 2010. From his “Traveler’s Soliloquies” poetry collection.
A free-spirited cub
Laid on the holy slab
Donned by my mother white.
A willing sacrificial lamb
To get the approval of my father.
He offered me to the altar
In fulfillment of a promise
To pay his dues,
And left me waif outside a shut door
Of a dome I din’t belong.
He dropped me off the road, unknown,
To a journey never understood.
A life he ordered me to live,
Without a map to follow
And lost myself along the way.
I strayed into the wilderness,
Cruel and unforgiving,
Like a vulnerable cub
Bullied by laughing hyenas.
There was no armor
To shield me in the battles
I didn’t expect exist
Inside the dome
That I thought was holy.
I was an easy prey
To predators in school
And the obloquies of my father
When I returned home.
The life raft
I thought I could cling on
In times of storm
Pushed me away,
Drifting, hitting rocks in the shores
That would not welcome me.
I sustained wounds
That bleed inside me
I leaked many years in silence
To healing ~
Nursed the white cub inside me
And made myself whole again.
I was a reject at 13,
A loser at such a young age.
A picture of defeat,
Expelled from the dome
That many thought
Would determine my future.
The once free-spirited cub
Suddenly became a pariah
Retiring to his digged burrows
Leaving behind no egress,
To a different kind of confinement.
I tried to mimic the hyenas
For awhile to earn my protection
From the harsh world.
A symbiosis I welcomed
Like the anemone
To a clownfish taking shelter
In its stinging tentacled folds
While I build my backbone,
Training my fins to swim
And find the lost me again.
It was a moment
I’m not proud about, and remorseful.
I feel for the souls I stung with words,
For who could understand them better
But me who once was a dartboard
Of ridicules of the hyenas.
I learned to sound like their laughter
But never become them,
For caged within me was a crying cub
I heard clearly
When I chose solitude.
I didn’t belong to any herd
And refused to take their colors,
For I chose to become a new breed
That grows its claws
Not to harm, but to protect.
To weave words not to distroy,
But to re-build the broken spirits.
It took me years
To understand my purpose,
Like the clownfish to survive
Free of my imaginary anemone.
It took me awhile to recognize
The true sound of my laughter
Muted by the loud hyenas.
In solitude I redeemed my voice
I once lost in my desperate attempts
To seek the approval of my father.
I swam the ocean, arrived in the shore
That my creator intended me to be
And found the white cub still clad in white
His mother once donned him,
But now grown
HAVE A WONDERFUL YEAR OF THE WHITE TIGER, EVERYONE!
I wish you well.
Here I am pursuing
In endless circles
On and on
Where’s this circular course
Where’s this ring going?
Like the fan blades
In the dining,
Grating, squeaking in the ceiling
Like the propellel
At the boat’s rear
My mother once showed me
Stuck in my memory
Of things turning
Around an axis
I did my laundry
The other day,
And lost myself
With the motion
Of my clothes spinning,
So did my head
Juggling with thoughts
As the Wheels,
The clock running
Round in circles
Where is it going
When it ends where it begins?
I hear an alarm
Of high pitched signal,
My laundy is done.
The machine pukes
My clothes smelling the scents
Of spring and renewal
Like my mind
Finding new meanings:
The fan in the dining
Brings me air
Of homey comfort
Makes beef stew rice topping
Tastes like what my mother
Used to feed me
From my distant memory of home.
The propellel at its rear
“Mamang” directed my young mind
In my first boat ride
Brought me faraway,
Closer to my destination.
As the Wheels,
The clock running
Round in circles
And me pursuing
This ring course,
That some day,
My nephews and nieces
Would grow up
* “Mamang” a name we call our mothers in some regions in the Philippines.
(Jeques, 2009. From his A Traveler’s Soliloquies poetry collection)
“Childhood” oil on canvas, 24×30 by : Jeques B. Jamora, 2009
Art museums and galleries are the places I often visit, and the Art Institute of Chicago is my favorite. It is like the secluded dusty paths I used to trod when I was a child pulling my carts to endless directions in circles that my young mind then imagined.
I am naturally solitary.
There are things that I grew up doing alone, and they are what I really love to do. Against all odds, I silently fought for these things and from where I stand now, I look back to claim my rewards from my little triumphs.
In one of my quiet strolls in the museum communing with the spirits of the artists gone and living, I observed young students in a group sketch session. I was deeply moved, I felt envious and sad. Some thoughts dawned in me: I always do my arts alone, closed doors, dettached from the world. My father was highly critical of my early works, he is the first battle I fought to shield my natural gift from the many forces that discouraged me and my early pursuits in finding my voice as an artist and my soul in my works.
Watching this young students brought me back to my sketching sessions as a kid. Any empty paper and writing tools are my art materials then – give me anything I could sketch on and I could survive long hours alone away from people. I envy these kids doing there arts in the company of their classmates, enjoying art moments with their friends. When they are my age years from now, and they would stroll through this quiet room, these paintings in the wall would remind them of this moment, but more than that, the walls would echo their whispered giggles that would bring back happy memories.
As they weave their memories unaware, I went back to my own. I visited my solitary self struggling to find meaning in what seemed to be senseless dots and lines I put together to create images that was so insignificant then. Little did I know that those dots and lines would bring me to this point, to look back and find the trails I left to guide me back to how and where my journey started.
I started sketching when I was about 3 years old before I learned how to write, when my grip was strong enough to control a pencil or a pen. The moment I first held a pencil, I knew it in my heart that this is something that I would love to do for a lifetime. And that is how my romance with the arts started, like a-love-at-first-grip kind of thing. I remember my mother was my first teacher and our first subject were flowers. She stopped teaching me when my flower sketches look nicer than the ones she taught me. I outgrew the art lessons my mother gave me quick. And then she became my first admirer, my first fan, my first follower and collector of my works. My first art exhibit was in her store as she show my drawings in the pages of her record notebook to friends. That was my version of an art institute.
“flowers” #1 pen and pencil on paper by : Jeques B. Jamora, 2009
But there was a negative energy, too, my first critic: my father. He thought my works were insignificant and told me to do other things. I think the hardest thing he did was when he forced me to use my right hand ~ I was born left handed ~ and at 16, when I was so sure of my decission to take up fine arts, he put me to a nursing school.
I was caught in the middle trying to keep my balance early on: between my encouraging, nourishing, consenting mother and my highly critical, discouraging, tormenting father.
I never had formal education in the arts. The gift is ingrained, I was born with the passion, not even my father was able to control from florishing. So in my room, close doors, alone, I had my sketching session as a kid. It was lonely. There was only one person I would seek every time I finish a piece: my mother. Her sincere appreciation of my works nourished me to keep going. But I have to admit all these years, I seek for the approval of my father which he never gave. After my father died in 2008, I thought I’m free now. I always was!
“The mind and the heart and the soul, like the birds, are meant to soar, set it free. Allow your spirit to fly!”
I walk fast many more group of young kids in drawing sessions while I brouse through the paintings on the walls that flood me with mulititude of thoughts from the past, present and future. Nothing has changed in me much, I still am the kid and art is still a solitary life for me and perhaps I would spend it that way for the rest of my life. I have come to terms with myself and solitude has become a bliss.
I, too, am still that kid who would seek my mother’s appreciation everytime I finish an art piece to get her nod and nourishing words of encouragement for me to go on. Only now I seek that appreciation from people who would chance upon my works, like my mother’s friend in the store she would show my drawings of flowers as a kid.
I still am that kid who fear the criticism of my father that made me rip many pages of my sketches, and toss away many works unfinished. Deep in my heart, I have to admit I still seek for his approval that he was so selfish to give.
I see my father’s image in people who thought my works are insignificant, I find courage in people who tell me otherwise. I still am struggling to find that balance from this opposing forces.
Deep inside this heart, ingrained, is a gift that I’m entrusted to nurture alone, close doors, away from people. I remain that waif inside my room as a child connecting senseless dots and lines to create images hoping that people would find them significant, so I could finally find my grown up version of an art institute, my home, your heart.
and like a desolate soul a lonely waif
I await for you to find me.
May your travels not take you long,
Come fast and love me ~
“Waif” oil on canvas 18×18 by : Jeques B. Jamora
Some live to hunt; I came to life to plant.”
The first living thing I planted is a stem cutting from a “Camote”(sweet potato). My mother uses the shoot tips for her fish stew. I observe her while she’s preparing the food, when my child-like curiosity made me ask her how the vegetable is grown?
“The cuttings,” she replied.
What happened next, she picked and handed me one cutting from the waste box and there I was, 3 years old, planting my first farm of potato in a pot. I would visit my new potted friend each morning patiently waiting for any sign of life from the stem partly covered with earth. I can still recall my surprise one morning finding some changes during my regular check. It was magical to my young eyes seeing tiny greens sprouting from a seem lifeless piece of stem. The sprig grew long with the passing of day, as new leaves replaced the pared parts my mother used for her stew.
The progress are exciting source of story I told my sibling everytime they arrive from school. I have learned from them later on that the steamed“camote” (sweet potato) we ate for snacks are “over-grown” roots of the plant. My curiousity of the leaves waned as I become more interested with the roots, observing the soil closely, digging its roots to check for any growth thinking of the sweetest potato produce from my potted farm.
My childhood curiosity killed my first plant – that same curiosity that once breath life to it. I woke up one morning finding my wilted plant, and no amount of water can bring it back to life – or perhaps I over watered it – and for the first time, I grieved for the first living thing I lost.
“You have touched its roots prematurely,” my mother told me. I know better about plants since then..
This is where my love for plants started. The garden brings back beautiful childhood memories. The passion remains in me to these days, the roots has grown deep in me. I have to mention that at thirteen, I planted my first bonsai tree, I gave it a name: Ethan. I am 35 now, which makes Ethan my 22-year old potted friend. My story with Ethan is still on going. It is crazy, but I miss my plants back home.
Shepherds Of Life (Senryu)
Hunters live to take
While planters exist to give
They’re shepherds of life.
Ethan, my 22-year-old bonsai. I’ll write about him next time.
I love you my precious child, my bliss. You carry the sweetest juice of my veins. My costliest joys come from you. You deserve the fullness of my affection. The brightest and the loveliest of all the fruits I bear in my womb and grew on my branches season after season.
Even when you were just about to bloom out of the bud I conceived from a leaf I shed in october, I knew by maternal instinct, that your fate would be different. You attracted a bizarre mob of insects: bees, bugs, ants, butterflies. They all feasted on your sweet nectar. The wind stole you kisses morning and night, and along carried your fragrance too distant. Perhaps, your spirit had reached faraway lands and shores even as a tyke. You were destined to travel, you will go places.
I cling to you the longest. You mellow in my nourishement. I wanted to embrace you forever, but I know, I could not. The hardest of all my tasks is knowing that I have to let you go when I’m done with my duty with you. I fear that that day, I dread the thought. I stayed awake day and night to guard you. I loath the winds for they might snatch you out of my grip. I curse the insects for they are taking too much of you. I resent their carelessand harsh advances. Because I know, being your mother, that you would live a life far more than all that.
But you are already sturdy as the tree that you would become early on. I am relieve from all my anxieties as you surpass, surviving your initial tribulations. I am proud watching you metamorphose into a tiny precious fruit. I cherished our moments together.
We danced and flirted with the winds. At night, we counted and wished upon every stars. We revered the beauty of wild flowers and sniff their exotic perfumes that permeate the gardens and the fields. I welcome the birds that serenade you on my branches. I nourish you with crystal clear water of springs that my roots sip from the nearby streams. I catch and gathered the dew in my leaves to bathe you in the morning. We are cleansed by the cool ppristine showers of the rain. The sun keeps us warmth and dry. I ask the sun to smile at you, but at noon, I leaned over a canopy of my leaves to shield you from the scorching heat of midday rays.
We marvel at the gifts of every sunrise. The sunset blesses us with tranquility and peace. On quiet moonlit nights, I rock you on my cradle to sleep. I watch you close in you slumber, as I sung you lullabies. My soul feels glad at your existence, my heart leaps. I caress your face tenderly with my leaves. One touch, and I felt bliss.
You’re more than everything I asked for,
More than anything I need.
You are my son, my beloved.
Her lullaby fades as she kiss her angel goodnight. She closes her eyes wanting to freeze the moment, but then she, too, falls into a deep blissful sleep.
You breathe me life, so I may live,
You’re the reason that I exist.
You are my mother,
My life, to you I am indebted.
To my mother and all the mothers of writers island and the world.
Happy Mothers Day!
For Writers Island prompt: “Fantasy”
“Childhood” pencil on paper, 07/04/98. By: Jeques B. Jamora
I arrived not knowing what I am here for, where I came from and where I’m going.
At 4 o’clock in the morning on the last day of July, three decades and 5 years ago, another pulsating transient inhabitant came crying on his arrival seeing your light, hearing your sounds, feeling your touch, smelling your scents, and initially tasting the bitter-sweet flavors of life. Am I just another creature born from your womb and would walk the sands of time leaving footprints that would soon vanish with the tides and would be replaced by countless more who would walk your grounds not leaving any marks of our existence? Am I just like another mushroom that suddenly popped one morning from nowhere then gone tomorrow forgotten as you continue to orbit the sun? I came here clueless, just another pulsating transient inhabitant questioning, one more mouth to feed, just another dweller who would explore your every corner and exploit your resources.
You did not stop moving when I came. Sunrise as usual. Did you at least hear my cries from one of the smallest isles in the orient seas where I was born? How many of us where born that day? Do you know where we are now? Do you record the distances we treck? Did you feel our first throbbing pulses in your surface? Are we in some way connected to your core?
Sunrise. Sunset. Days. Nights. I slowly began to come into awareness. I have a mother, a father, siblings ~ a family. My mother is your human manifestiation ~ nurturing. My father is the sky, distant but an authority. My life revolved in that small world I know with my siblings at home as I start to see and differentiate colors; to hear, speak and understand words that formed my thoughts. I rose from my crib crawling, learned to walk and run as I form my earliest memories of failures and falling, of triumphs and flying.
“Unfinished Painting” Oil on canvas, 40×48, By: Jeques B. Jamora
I started to see and appreciate your beauty. I revere the first bud I saw blooming into flowers. Your trees so tall for the small kid that I was, delighted by their leaves that change colors with the seasons. Your majestic mountain ridges where I first saw the sun rising at dawn, only to set in the other side of the ridges at dusk. The canopy of trees in your forests filled with all the diverse forms of life I can imagine. Your grass-carpeted plains and valleys, the springs that run through them nourishing every living things, replenished by your rivers that run to the seas. Your enormous oceans that engulf my size everytime I see it. I feel so small, just a tiny speck, like the single grain of sand when I stand in your shores.
I look at the horizon where you and the sky meet and I begin to wonder what’s beyond your vast seas. That curiousity dropped a seed of dream in my heart, my spirit alight to your other side that my eyes are unable to see and my mind could only imagine. You’re supportive of my dreams. You conspire with all the apparent coincidences that let me cross the seas and live my dreams. You are a pampering mother and in all the events and turning points of my life, I commune with you in silence. Am I a favored child? Have I been a good son?
I realize now you never left me in my years of existence. You never fail to remind me of your presence. I still get surprises from you now and then. I had my first snow at 34.
Every day another bud of flower blooms for me. New seed sprouts, fruit mellows, fish swims to your heart, bird learning to fly, baby crawls from the crib, a boy’s first bath in your rain shower, in your river, in the ocean. I am loved. What have I done to deserve all these? You love all your subjects equally but only some few recognizes how enormous your love is.
And when the pulse of this transient inhabitant would stop to beat, you would welcome my return to your navel. You would embrace this mortal body warm in your breasts as my soul begins to descend to an unknown sleep.
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