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My Mother

The world is shaped by mothers. That is why we celebrate Mother’s Day and that is the same reason why we should not confine celebrating mothers to one day. Everyday should be Mother’s Day. I was once asked a question — what was it in your childhood that made you the successful person that you are today. My answer was simple and straightforward: Nanay Curing. 


My mother’s full name was Curita Bamba Villar. She was born in Orani, Bataan. Among the many stories she told me was that she was called a “walking calculator” because she was very good in arithmetic. She was an intelligent student having graduated valedictorian in elementary school. She came from a poor family so she would help out by collecting empty tin cans and sell these to bagoong dealers. 

When their house was destroyed by fire her family was forced to move to Tondo where they rented a room. She became a self-supporting student at the National University, sewing clothes at the Hollywood Shirt Factory in Ongpin. She would excitedly remind me that one of her classmates was Jaime de la Rosa, brother of the famous movie actor Rogelio de la Rosa.

My mother met the love of her life in the most interesting scenario. My father, Manuel Villar was tasked by Japanese authorities to get food for their soldiers and officers. Performing his task, he stopped three women and demanded that they surrender the fish to him. My mother urged and convinced him to let fellow Filipinos enjoy the fish instead of stealing it for the Japanese. Apparently, my mother was also great at logic and debate aside from math because she convinced my father to do just that.

Nanay Curing’s world revolved around her family and the market. After the war, my father, who at that time was working for the Bureau of Fisheries, got a scholarship for higher education so they moved to Moriones, Tondo where I and the rest of my siblings were born.


With enough money from her savings, Nanay Curing got her own stall in Divisoria Market. It was in stall number 2245 where my mother sold fish and shrimps to pull her family out of poverty. It was also in that small stall in Divisoria where Manny Villar, the entrepreneur, was born. I became her assistant starting at age six. I would carry and arrange the fish that we acquired at the market auction in our stall.

That was a very enjoyable part of my life. I loved watching Nanay Curing at work. She would talk to everyone who came by our stall. She showed everyone respect. She never cheated her customers, always giving them the best deals possible. She was a legend in that market. I enjoyed helping my mother so much that I preferred working in Divisoria over going to school. But she sternly told me to value education and to take my studies seriously. I cannot imagine what would have happened to me if I did not have my mother by my side giving me all those precious advice. 

Sometimes we forget how important our mothers are in our life. Perhaps it is because they are always there guiding us to the right path. But I cannot think of an important crossroad in my life where my mother was not a part of. Even after she died at the age of 92, I find myself remembering those pieces of advice that remain true to this day.

I miss my mother. I miss seeing her confidently standing in that market stall engaging her customers in light banter and price negotiations. I miss seeing her eat her favorite meal which was rice, banana and bagoong. I miss seeing her in the kitchen, cooking while singing Frank Sinatra’s “Stardust.”

Happy Mother’s Day to my Nanay Curing in heaven. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there who are the epitome of genuine and unadulterated love. Tell your mother you love her everyday. Love and take care of your mother; create memories with her while you still can. Make everyday her day because she makes all of her days your day.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar