The Cat Race

Mama loves telling stories. And now that we are all grown ups, she realized that the stories should also “level up.”

Last night, my mom and I had a “love talk.”

She shared a story of a girl, an intelligent BS Economics student of University of the Philippines (UP), who was secretly in love with her classmate. The guy, thinking that they were compatible with each other, made some ways of wooing her. Fortunately, she reciprocated the feelings of the guy.

Time moved on. The girl, being a career woman, decided to work for the government. The guy, with the pride that he should catch up with his girlfriend or else his barkadas will mock him, decided to be a public servant – no matter how worse the government had become when the former President Marcos left it. The girl worked at the Presidential Management Staff; the guy worked at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Subsequently, coup d’etat occured. Worse came to worst. Myriad of government employees were removed from the position. One of the unfortunate workers was the guy himself. The girl was fortunate to stay in her job. The guy was not, and looked for another job that could at least level up to her. Nakakahiya nga naman sa kanya kung ang lalaki pa mismo ang walang trabaho. He became a salesman, a writer, a part timer in his alumni institution. Finally, fate led him to another agency – the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The girl, thinking the guy was not at her level, thought of breaking him up. The boy, who was deeply disturbed, looked for an outlet - to talk the sad incident. He talked with Mama. After listening to the guy’s story, my Mama advised him to move on. “Letting go of the bitterness and making yourself whole is the only way for love to find you again. And love, being an extraordinary thing, will give you a simple counterpart that will never question who you are; never tolerate her pride for you to cope with; and no sky-high expectations for you to reciprocate. Love means simplicity. When there is love, all things are not complicated. All things fall into place.” (The advice of Mama is, of course, in our layman language.)

Years had passed. The man, still working at the government, befriended Mama. They fell in love, eventually…

Ella: Mama, ibig sabihin…?
Mama: Yes, the college guy is your papa, and the girl in the story is the one where your name came from. 

Surprised with the story, I asked my mother how they fell in love, what did my father’s family tell about their relationship, how come papa chose mama among the girls who are career-oriented and independent typed, while mama is only a probinsyana-high-school-graduate-applying-as-a-katulong person?

“Of course there’s lot of issues in our relationship,” she said, adding the monstrous criticisms she received not only from Papa’s family (my father’s siblings are all professionals by the way, an Ateneo grad, him being the UP grad, the UST alumni, and a DOST scholar) but, from papa’s peers as well. Bakit siya? Sa dinami-raming babae sa Maynila.

Mama only repeated what she said as advice to my papa. Love means simplicity. When there is love, everything falls into place. If a relationship makes a life more complicated than it ever was, then it is not love, it is a cat race – chasing dynamism but you can never catch up. What mama and papa have, is love. What papa and his ex had, was a cat race. 

Then, I asked her, “So ibig sabihin dapat I should not be a career-woman just to find what I am looking for?” She disagreed. Rather, she asked me what do I aspire when I reach the age of 28. I answered, “If I have a husband that time, of course, I would be a full-time housewife and a part-time professor. Nothing more.” But she followed up about my aspirations to be part of the Ministry of Finance in Australia, or even a researcher in Asian Development Bank.

I hesitated to answer.

“Love is simple, Ella. You don’t have to prove anything. Hindi mo kailangang makipaghabulan. Hindi mo kailangang magpakataas para sa mahal mo kasi hindi iyan ang kailangan. You just have to be who you are. Anuman ang dreams mo, reach for it. But don’t chase another’s dream for the record of job well done and the prestige that it can bring to your peers. Ang pag-ibig hindi isang tropeyo na palaging pinagmamayabang sa pamamagitan ng pag-display nito.”

I appreciated the story Mama. I love the way you differentiate the love and the cat race. If I would be with someone in the future, I wouldn’t allow myself to engage in cat race. After all, what I am now is what I will be in the future – he just has to accept it. If not, then it is not love at all.