Monday, June 11, 2012

A Filipina beauty turns 90

The newlyweds, Evansville IN, 1947
Today my mom turns 90.  Born in the town of St. Antonio, in the province of Nueva Ecija in the Philippines in 1922, she was the fifth child, but the first daughter of Benito and Julia Reyes.  She would later have a younger brother and sister.

She grew up surrounded by the beauty of sugar cane fields and rice paddies, tropical rains, mango trees, and the freedom to run and play in safety with neighborhood friends.

The stories she told me as I was growing up of her childhood were enchanting to me. The raft her brothers built to float down the river, the pigs and piglets she was given charge to care for until the mother pig was offered up as a Christmas barbecue every year that broke her heart...  The strict discipline of her grandmother, Celerina who was raised in the traditional Spanish school of etiquette, and who would pinch her if she squirmed in church.  The invasion of the Japanese during the Second World War, and their hurried escape into the mountains to hide for months in safety from the brutality of the soldiers.  The joy that the Americans had set their country free and driven out the Japanese, combined with the grief of losing her older brother Chrisolito as a prisoner of war during the Bataan death march.

And finally, the day that the handsome young American soldier wandered into Knox Methodist church in Manila, where her brother was the pastor, and she sang in the choir.  That soldier was my dad, PFC Donald Sansom who served in McArthur's headquarters during the war, and married her two years later.

The Filipina who was studious and well educated, married the mid-western all-American boy who took her home to Indiana to meet his family. Life was very, very different.  There was cold weather, snow, and curious eyes to see this strange island girl who had moved into the all-white neighborhood.  My mom was an oddity, but one thing she had was charm and confidence, even when she didn't feel confident at all.  She was invited to speak at all the local churches about life in the Philippines, and became more well known that my dad in his own hometown.

Her first snow, Evansville IN, 1947

As years went by, a masters degree from Boston U, a new baby girl (my sister), decisions to serve as full-time missionaries to Korea, more studies, another baby boy, and the adventure that took them to the war-torn capital city of Seoul in 1957, where I was eventually born, brought out some of the best traits in my mom.  She was resilient, disciplined, adventurous, an excellent speaker and professor, and a very devoted mom with the most welcoming arms and the softest lap to hug and kiss her children.  She was not perfect, but I don't want to list her imperfections.  In fact, coming from the time and culture she was raised in and from the struggles she went through in war time and poverty, I wonder how many other women would have fared emotionally.

The family grows to four in Nashville, TN 1956
One favorite memory is catching her in her daily prayers and Bible devotions, if I was able to wake up early enough as the sun was just rising.  I'm certain that much of the blessings throughout my life are because of her prayers and faith for me, even when I didn't give them any value.  She still prays for me to this day, because I caught her in her devotions early in the morning the last time I visited her in California.  My blessings from her still continue.

My beautiful mom is the sharpest, smartest, most vibrant 90 year old I know.  She survives my dad, who she cared for meticulously until his last day of life in 2010.  She has a wealth of experience, knowledge, memories, love and laughter that she carries within her, and I love her immensely.  I know that her prayers and faith have sustained me much more than I can realize, and I pray for her years to come to be full of blessings - who knows, as healthy as she is, she'll probably reach 100!

Happy birthday Mama!!

Pancake time!


Sandra Cruz said...

So beautiful. Congratulations.
Big kiss
Sandra Cruz

Norma Caceres said...

She is so beautiful Mrs. Evelyn :) Thank you for sharing it is a great story and as they say a mothers blessing reach to us where ever we are :) It is amazing that she is 90 yrs old not many live that long now days but God is the one who gives us the opportunity for more years if we belong to him. I am sure she was great in talking in front of a crowd just like you :)

Rebeca Rocha said...

I really loved to read about your Mom Mrs Evelyn. She is a true survivor, and so much history in her life's story. The way she met your Dad is like a movie from war time.:) But It's so great that now at 90 is happy, healthy and has the best thing of all a relationship with God. Your blessed through her and she's blessed for having you.

Yuli said...

Awww... Happy Birthday to your beautiful mom Mrs. Evelyn! I would like to meet her, I'm sure she's as sweet and loving as you are. She is very blessed to have you as a daughter!

carol Odukoya said...

Wow, what a beautiful story/ testmonie Mrs Evelyn: happy healthy birthday to her indeed! Very inspiring: i have been blessed this night 11:38pm as i read this:

Miss Tara said...

Happy belated birthday to your mom. That was very nice of you to share your mom's story. I am happy you chose to focus on the positive of your mom with us. I am also happy you seem to be grateful for her even as an adult. Mothers are a blessing even as adults.

May God bless her with many birthdays...