I looked inside my coin purse. Two hundred pesos and some coins. I didn’t know if the money could make it for the whole day but I could manage. I had to manage. I needed to.
I rode the jeepney with my daughter. We’re off to a mass and then to my child’s school event.
At church, I sat down three pews from the front and my daughter sat in front. My girl would be reading the eucharistic mass’ Psalm. I smiled when my not-a-little-girl-anymore went up and started to read for the mass. I could hear a little quiver in her voice. My girl wasn’t used to it. We always attend mass but never had we tried reading passage for everybody. This was a first time.
But I was very proud of her. She did it. If it wasn’t impolite to clap during the mass, I would have done that. Loudly.
After the mass ended, I had barely a hundred and fifty pesos in hand and we still had a long day ahead of us.
Come lunch, I said sorry to my daughter because I could not take her to Jollibee or Mang Inasal for lunch. The only food I could buy without spending everything we have was siomai and pusô (rice in coconut leaves). But my daughter said it was fine. She said pusô and siomai were her staple food at school.
I wanted to bawl at my daughter’s words. I wanted to cry because I could not give her something she deserved so much. But I got a hold of myself. I did not want my child to see me so weak, you see. I did not want her to feel that I felt so much pity at our situation.
This was a day to remember for her. It’s her birthday!
And so I put up a brave front.
Our lunch went without a hitch and I had fifty pesos less.
My daughter brought me inside her school and showed me the tall buildings. She pointed and named the buildings. I was amazed by everything. I can’t remember the building names but I could see that they were big and tall.
I’d seen her school a lot of times from the outside but it was the first time I’d been inside. My daughter did her enrolment and other school stuff on her own since then, said she did not want to bother me other than looking at her grades.
Then my girl brought me to an office and introduced me to her friends. It was the first time that I’d seen her friends but it was not the first time I’d heard of their names. They were a good group of people, very polite and funny and accommodating. I could very well understand why my daughter was friends with them.
My child said that I should take a rest first since the program won’t be starting until four PM.
I wanted to rest but my mind was running. A hundred pesos left. There was no way that I could buy anything more. I wanted to buy something for her but I can’t afford it anymore. I can’t afford to let go of my spare change. And she understood. She had always been an understanding child.
At about quarter before four, I heard the sound system start and the program attendants were called. My daughter put on finishing touches of our make up and the dress she’d donned. Then we ran to the ground to fall in line.
I felt teary-eyed again. It was crazy but I can’t help it. Especially when my eldest child waved merrily at me from the leading line, just after the school crest. She waved her black cap at me.
The event was about to start.
The procession moved. We marched towards the school’s gym. The students were guided to the center of the gym and the escorts on the bleachers above. But my daughter waved at me again and said I should come inside and not just stay up there. I went down and sat with my fellow parents inside the enclosed area.
The program went on and on. Speeches, speeches, speeches.
Then the culmination came. The moment that everybody had been looking forward to.
A few names were called. Then I heard my daughter’s name.
She stood up. So did I.
She waited for me at the bottom of the stairs while I walked with my head rushing and tears threatening to fall from eyes. My child took my hand and led me up the stage.
I wasn’t hearing anything. Not the emcee saying things, not the sound system. I was feeling a rumble of feelings.
Then a man in a black cap and a black toga gave two things to me.
“Congratulations, mrs,” he said. I only smiled my thanks. I can’t trust my voice. I thought I may have lost it.
My hands were shaking as I was holding the two medals in my hand. I ran my fingers on the silky band that held the two fruits of my child’s labor. And I felt the tears in my eyes trickle down.
My daughter took the black cap from her head and I could see that her eyes were red with tears.
I looked at the crowd. And I felt an upheaval at the pit of my stomach.
I never thought that I would ever reach this moment of my life. I never thought that there would come a time that I would come up on stage and see a sea of black-clad people looking up at me, at us. I thought that the only college graduation scene that I could see was in the teleserye I love to watch.
With my eyes welling, I put on the green medals on my child’s neck. The child that had been through a lot of hardships to reach this part of her life. The child that worked hard for her education as much as I worked hard for them. The child that said she would get a degree no matter what. She did not only get a degree, she also got two medals hanging around her neck.
I am so proud of her. So proud that I walked down the stage with my head held high.
I have no money to brandish around and I have no education to brag about. What I have was a daughter who told me the best words in my life…
“Mama, this medal is yours as much as it is mine.” She took one medal from her neck and made me wear it.
My tears just won’t stop from flowing as I felt the slight weight around my neck.
And while I was running a finger on the grooves of the medal I was thinking that that day was one of the best and bittersweet moments of my life. I who have nothing but dreams for my children, who have nothing but faith in my God, who have nothing but love in my heart.
I couldn’t say that I never dreamed of this because I did. But I could say that tears of joy were for real. I was crying because I am so… happy!
And no matter what, I would buy my girl what she asked of me.
Not only because she deserved it but because it was the only thing she asked that day.
That and my presence on her graduation day.