By Tara Aquino
So, let’s start with what was the most relatable.
Everything I say, you always have an opinion. You’re so stubborn—especially when I say you always have to be neat.
[Laughs.] Yeah, I thought about that when her [Lady Bird’s] mom made the bed in the hotel room.
I don’t want other people to think that you weren’t raised right.
The Catholic part of the movie also hit me. Obviously, private school was so expensive and we didn’t have a lot of money—why did you put yourselves through the stress of having to afford that?
Because we wanted to raise you right. We were scared of the environment, especially in L.A. I know we could’ve spent our money buying a bigger house and fancier things, but the most important thing for us was you and your brother’s education. Nobody could take that away from you guys.
You said earlier that you didn’t want people to think I wasn’t raised right. As much I resent having to care about what other people think, I’m starting to realize that a lot of immigrant life in America, unfortunately, depends on what other people perceive about you. Can you talk about the struggle to rebuild a life with a family in the U.S. as a Filipino immigrant?
We had to start from scratch, but thank God we had Nanay and Tatay and your titas and titos here to take care of you when I had to work instead of a daycare of strangers. In the Philippines, I was in banking. The [potential employers here] always asked me what my experience was working in America—none. But I told them if they don’t give me a chance, I won’t be able to have any experience here. I want to prove to you that I’m capable. Your dad, too. When I left your dad in the Philippines, he was a manager of a computer sales business.
How old were you?
I was 29 when I first came here. I went back to the Philippines to get married, and when I knew I was pregnant, I came back because I wanted to have you here.
Speaking of Dad, did it ever hurt you that I was always closer to Dad?
I told Dad that that part reminded me of you guys, even down to the financial aid for Fordham. I knew you and your dad were keeping secrets from me, and that was alright. But it hurt to be the villain all the time. Like I told you before, kaming mga babae [trans. ‘us women’], especially me, I would be upfront with you—and your dad would be cool. But really, he would complain to me and he’d never say it out loud. That’s the reason why I’m always the bad guy!
Your dad and I thought it would be too overwhelming for you to have two ‘bad cops’, so I took that role.
You and I used to have blow up fights. I was dealing with a lot.
Yeah, I would pull over and leave you. [Laughs.] Or I would give you the silent treatment because I wouldn’t know what to say in the situation anymore. I just wish you would tell me what’s going on—you were always just so standoffish and short-tempered.
You know why. And I’m sorry.
It’s funny when they were together in the movie and she and her mom did their favorite activity of seeing open houses. I miss those days when you’d ask me to go out with you—movies, the mall, Chuck E. Cheese. That was our thing when your dad wasn’t here—you and I would go to Chuck E. Cheese every Sunday. Now, I hold onto every moment you come home just to do laundry. Now, I show my love by preparing your bed, folding your clothes—it makes me happy to be able to do little things for you because I’m so glad you’re here.
When you were in New York, I wanted to text you daily but I couldn’t do it because I was afraid you’d say, “Ang kulit naman si Mommy!” [trans. “Mom is so annoying!”] But I just wanted to text you good morning.