A Dining Table
Naguilian Road, Baguio City,
May 30th, 2022
For the longest time, I believed that you did not love me. I trusted the idea that you did not love me. I
mean, how could you? I’m an eldest child riddled with mental illness and a prickly personality robbed of
a spine. Who could love such a disappointment? And like all unchecked cancers, it festered and ate me
alive until I was a walking corpse.
Plus, I didn’t know if I loved you either. You always seem angry toward me and my siblings. And to me,
it felt like you were so indifferent to us. You let us get beaten on the street, heckled, and punished for the
tiniest of reasons. How could any child love a mother as cruel as that?
It took me a long time to forgive you for not being able to protect me. I was hurt, and I was in pain. And
for the longest time, I made sure I was protecting you. I knew your heart would never be able to handle
knowing what those men did to me. I never regretted my decision, but I resented you for it.
I was angry. And was very scared. Attachments come usually flushed with longing and fluorescent with
pain. And I know I’m arrogant when I say I’ve endured a lifetime’s worth of suffering to justify my fear
and mistrust. You’ve never protected me when it counted.
And yet, like the patient mother that you are, you coaxed yet another one of your eldest children to step
into the light. You managed to pry my stubborn heart open. And I wasn’t the only one. Beyond the salvo
of your own cancers, your children started to paint you in a vibrant, unmissable, shade of pink.
Of course, at first, I was resistant. I’m an Olympian when it comes to running away from what I can
consider problems-to-be. No, I don't want to hear the songs, I don’t want to see the murals, the paintings,
the works of art that were born because of this blooming love for you. I don’t want to be swept away. I
can’t trust you.
But I still couldn’t resist your call. In the days leading up to one of the most decisive moments in your
history, I found myself checking on my siblings. At first, I was just taking a peek, trying to see what they
saw in you. However, I was enthralled by what I saw and I found myself craving to be part of it. Streets
were flushed with joy and passion. Art bloomed in the tiniest of crevices. People started to not fear the
repercussions of their love. I’ve never seen such a raw kind of kindness and power that emanated from the
huge crowds that rallied under your cause.
It was here when I realized that you weren’t as cruel of a mother as I thought you were. You are actually
someone so kind and compassionate and generous to her children. How many lifetimes of pain you must
have endured and yet you still take your time to love your children — me, even though I was an
ungrateful brat who took out my own unresolved issues on you.
The moment I heard everyone sing your song was the moment I said to myself “well, shit.” I didn’t know
what it was at first but I felt it, the burning sensation one would only get when they realize that their
nationalism has been lit like a thousand suns. I’ve honestly never felt anything like it and I fear you have
ruined me for anything else that would come next.
I unpacked my revolutionary courage buried deep in my intestines. And with that, a growing affection for
you. I joined my fellow Filipinos on the ground and did whatever I could. Only weeks before the election,
I had felt that it was too late to actively go out and convince other people to vote, but it was clutch time.
Everybody knew what was at stake and no one had the luxury to doubt.
This election season has been a roller coaster for many Filipinos. Your children have never been so
restless, so divided. I thought maybe they would listen to someone who was undecided only moments
before. Maybe they would see their likeness in me, as I have seen it in so many others in the many months
that I was just an observer.
Maybe... maybe... maybe.
I dread the unknown, but I was willing to bet my all that this would be enough. I had hoped, like many of
my countrymen, fervently, that what we did was enough. But, as life proved many times before, things do
not always go the way you want...no matter how desperate you chase, beg, and plead. Sometimes the
indifference of the universe is cruel. I know this more intimately than others.
I became a high-functioning catatonic—I knew, objectively, what was happening. I felt sick at what was
happening. Our Motherland lost, and another tyrant-to-be has firmly planted himself in the seat of power
and would likely suck the nation dry. But I think... I think one of the biggest blows is how we’re treated
like scum because we refuse to lick the dirt off his designer loafers.
My depression has taught me to not feel. And for a while, I was bereft of emotions. My friends would call
me crying, voicing out their anxieties that I share but refuse to say. I sullied my mindscape with my fears
that I was too paralyzed to entertain.
You know, I always joked that at best, you are going to be plunged into an unprecedented economic crash
where everyone might go hungry. At worst, one day I, along with many others, would be dragged away
by our hair and out of our lives as we know it. We would be tortured, killed, and buried in an unmarked
grave—a new generation of desaparesidos that a new generation of mothers would mourn for. Now, I
honestly do not know what I fear more.
In my desperate search for comfort and camaraderie, I did what anyone would have done: I took to
Twitter. But instead of finding angry rants bargaining with COMELEC or forsaking God, I instead
stumbled on a quote that grounded me. This was from UP IloIlo’s Chancellor Clement C. Camposano. It
“For those who are disheartened, I offer no consolation; only a calm reminder that loving your country is
a burden you choose to carry, whatever is the state of its politics. That pain you feel is proof your love is
I forwarded it to my friend, thinking she would be the one who could resonate with it. But instead I was
reassured. It was like her words grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “Yes girl,” she said, “it’s real
and it’s fiercer than you think.”
It took a while, but I was able to admit (at least to myself) that I was grieving. No amount of my friends
unloading to me could erase that. Indeed, it was a different kind of pain that kept me up for days after the
election. It was fuel to the anxiety of the ever-burning question running around my head: What now?
What of my countrymen? Who will protect them? Who will protect us?
And as with grief comes love as its partner. I've heard that it always comes as a set, and this case is no
exception. It was also love that made people stake their names, their careers, and their lives. It was love
that made me stake my trust, and my fragile glass heart. The Chancellor was right, I do love you. My love
is very much real. It has always been a burden to love and never was I disillusioned to believe that love is
But by God does this hurt like a motherfucker.
But do I regret it? No. And I don’t think I ever will.
Tragedy often strikes at the most mundane yet opportune moments. We as humans are left to deal with the
aftermath. Things may not have gone the way we have planned it to be. But if it’s something that my
trauma has taught me, it is how to make the most of a shitty situation. Pain is a wonderful agent of
change, and if it took me this to open my eyes to your suffering, then I welcome it with open arms.
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to understand how hurt you actually are. We are a masterclass of intergenerational
trauma. We carry the burdens of our mothers, and our mother’s mother’s pain and we pass it on to our
daughters like precious heirlooms.You were your own cycle breaker and I’m sorry it took me this long to
see it. I’m not mad at you anymore. I’m not mad at myself being mad at you anymore.
It still hurts to know that we might not be blessed in our lifetime to have the ability to love you without
dragging shackles on our ankles and targets on our backs. But, I’ve also come to accept that we are
blessed with the privilege to build a nation from our bare palms. And no matter how little, or insignificant
we might think our efforts are, I relish the fact that it is not. I know that this is for you, and for the future
Filipinos who would finally realize how grand you are as a mother, given the chance.
I never actually got to cry about our loss, our grief. I never allowed myself to. The acceptance came
quietly and gently, like my realization of my love for you. The first thing I decided on was to carry out the
message of radical love, and how apt of a description it is. Arguably, it’s the only way to love you right
In this climate, it’s radical to have a love for you. And for my fellow Filipinos, no matter how turbulent
times are. So I must clutch on this love so tightly, be deliberate in my desire to declare it out in the open,
consequences be damned.
So, it’s okay if I don’t feel your love for me yet, or at all – I’ve got all the practice. Meanwhile, I promise
that I will continue to fight, build, and hold the line, until you have the strength to love your children
back. Until you have the strength to love my children back.
And when the time comes that you will hold my daughter’s daughter so tenderly on your bosom, my hope
is that her and her mother would come to understand why I was so fiercely devoted to you.
And I think, ito talaga yung totoong exciting part.
Your daughter, I remain,
Risha Mae Ordas (she/her) is a poet, a short story writer, and a professor. Her poem entitled "Conscious Choices" has been published in Novice's third edition of their annual anthology. She is currently based in Baguio City, Philippines.