Meet my Mama, Bessie B. Legarda

by Sen. Loren Legarda
Young Loren with Mommmy Bessie

I tried to make my mother proud of me by excelling in the academics when I was younger, by the recognitions and awards I gathered later on as a broadcast journalist. If she were alive today, I know how full her heart would be in witnessing my accomplishments as legislator and a public servant.

I will not be who I am today if not for my mama. Let me share some life lessons from my late mama, Bessie Legarda.

Education should be taken seriously. Growing up in a middle-class family, my mama would tell me that she and papa worked hard to give us a comfortable life. They only asked that we focus our attention on our education and not worry about anything else. I tried my best to excel in my academics, not to earn recognition or praise, but as an expression of gratitude to my parents for their hard work and sacrifices.

Make time for family and friends. By my mama's example, I learned the importance of attending family and social obligations—returning calls, remembering important occasions for friends and relatives, visiting the sick, arranging get-togethers. She drew people of all ages and became friends with those from all walks of life. She spent countless hours with them on the phone. She went out of her way to visit and to talk to them.

Only when my mother battled with cancer did I realize what she had been trying to impart to us all along. When she was in the hospital, countless people trooped to visit, comfort or just be with her. It made me see that while time, career and possessions would one day pass, other more important things would endure.

Raise your children with respect for their individuality. I learned from her how to raise two sons who are as different as day and night. My brother Gary was usually reserved and quiet while AA was very playful and light-hearted. Like my brothers, my two sons have different personalities and interests.

Count your blessings. She was a devout Catholic. She brought us to Church every Sunday, taught us how to pray the rosary and fulfill our religious obligations. But more than the rituals, I saw in her the importance of thanksgiving to God for His blessings to our family. When she was suffering from cancer, never did I see her complain even when we knew that she was going through so much pain. She remained strong and unwavering in her faith in God.

Live each day like it's your last. Mama was full of life and optimism. She juggled her time between work, family, friends and other obligations. She always had so many lists of things to do and so many people to talk to or visit. There was never a dull moment, no wasted time when she was around. Like her, there are so many things that I want to do: at work, for my family, my friends and myself.

Be disciplined, productive and responsible. I am a self-confessed workaholic who demands the same dedication from my co-workers. Some may even think that I am too ambitious for trying to accomplish things that are seemingly beyond my means. But to me, it simply is just doing what is expected of me. I am a public servant and I owe my position to the millions of Filipinos who voted for me. My mother raised me as a responsible person. I would be doing Filipinos injustice if I did not work hard to be able to address their concerns, respond to their needs and protect their rights and welfare.

Girl-power—Be your own woman. In her time, a woman with a career was not in style. My mother, however, took on a job even when she did not have to. My father, in fact, provided well for the family, but my mother insisted that her job was her way of helping secure a better future for my siblings and me. That did not mean that her relationship with us was sacrificed. In truth, because she was so good at juggling her time between her job and the family, I admired her even more.

Crave for learning and self-discovery. For the most part of her life, my mother was a bank employee. She was executive assistant of the late Panfilo O. Domingo, who was then president of the Philippine National Bank. She always had a flair for writing. She kept a neat compilation of her literary pieces, wrote poems and love letters for my father, her children and just about everything she could ever think of. When she eventually retired, I was able to convince her to write a column in the Philippine Star.

Keep beautiful memories. She taught me to keep memories alive by keeping albums or files of photos taken at every occasion, every trip around the country or abroad, or any gathering with friends and relatives. She painstakingly kept scrapbooks of our grades, medals and awards and any other memento she could keep.