[Letters from Mama] Optimism, thanks to my children

Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

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[Letters from Mama] Optimism, thanks to my children
The Philippines' Tourism Secretary writes about finding hope through her children

Mother’s Day, admittedly, is a manufactured “holiday.” What isn’t manufactured, however, is the affection we feel towards our mothers – whether they’ve been our mothers since birth, later in life, at work, or whenever. Mother’s Day is a perfect opportunity to be cheesier than usual and make sure the mothers in our lives know that they are loved, they are appreciated, and that no matter what we say, we need them in our lives. 

But this year’s Mother’s Day comes at an extraordinarily trying time – a pandemic forcing most of the world to seek shelter in their homes as essential workers struggle to contain the deadly novel coronavirus. So for Mother’s Day, we asked mothers from different walks of life to write a letter to their children as the world braves this pandemic. 

The first letter in our series is written by Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the Philippines’ Tourism Secretary. Puyat, like most Filipinos, has been quarantining at home with her daughter Maia – save for 21 days when she had to self-isolate after exposure to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Prior to her current post, Puyat was an undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture. She is a single mom to Maia and Vito. 

Dear Maia,

Before the world went on quarantine and travel came grinding to a halt, I was in constant motion, flying across the country to deliver a speech, only to transit at the airport and head off to another panel, summit, or tourism conference. Even when I was in town, I would be busy with meetings, always planning for the future. I remember, one day stuck in traffic, looking at a photo taken of us together one Mother’s Day, and commenting how I missed spending time with you.

Fast forward to today, and somehow, I got my wish. We have been at home together for nearly two months, minus the 21 days I had to quarantine alone in my room. You were the one who kept me in good spirits by sending me photos of how forlorn Biggie looks. You are the one who looks out for the seniors in our family, reminding them to stay the heck home, in your gentle and loving way of course. Thank you for making sure I look presentable for my online meetings even though I haven’t done my hair in ages.

Our weekly meals with the family have been whittled down to just you and I, every night. I’m so glad I get to share these unhurried moments and be completely present with the beautiful, intelligent, and caring young woman you have grown into. I know you can’t help but fall into pockets of anxiety, as we all do, but if there’s anything that keeps me optimistic about the fate of the world, it’s that it is the hands of people like you and your brother.

Photo from Berna Puyat's Instagram

Dear Vito,

I must admit that as much as I’m very proud of you, I’ve also been worried. You are one of the many Filipinos who have been stranded far from home due to the ECQ. Safe at home is where you should be, where everyone should be, while the world battles this terrible pandemic. Instead, you, like many Filipinos who left home to work in a distant province, got stuck there as borders closed and airlines stopped flying.

I know you’re not going hungry, or lack any of the essentials. It’s probably amazing where you are right now, as you observe the conditions of the ocean, the resiliency of the coral reef, without any people around. But I worry because I know you’re worrying about all the people whose livelihoods have been put on hold or worse, lost because of the lockdown. You’ve been working on environmental sustainability programs in the tourism sector and you’ve seen first-hand how important sustainable practices are to weather any condition or circumstance. You’ll come out of this period much wiser and more empathetic than you already are, and for that at least, I’m glad you had to go through this on your own.

You may or may not come home soon. When you do, will we get to hug, or will you also have to spend 14 days alone in your room, while your sister and I attempt to normalize the new normal? Will our family celebrations be held on Zoom? On the other hand, I know you won’t be going on a lot of dates, and you’ll be watching Netflix with me, haha.

We miss you so much and can’t wait to see you again.

– Rappler.com

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