Let me tell you a story. A true story of a mother and her son , her only child. This happened about twenty years ago. She was a Filipina who belonged to the lower stratum of society . Life was hard . As a single parent, she tried to make both ends meet for her son , her mother and herself. With her limited schooling, she could only do menial jobs . And no matter how hard she tried, there was never enough food on the table—let alone sufficient clothes on their backs and vitamins which her baby needed. Every time she imagined the future , she saw only a bleak life for her son. Probably , she could send him up to elementary school in a public institution . But nothing more than that. And what life would he have with just an elementary school diploma in his hand ? The same sorry life as hers ?
She mustered her courage and made a very difficult decision . She accepted a job overseas as a household helper. Kissing her son good- bye , she made a silent promise of escape from their wretched existence . The mother left as a migrant worker in the mid-1970s . ( Nowadays , she’d be called an OFW. ) That time , her son was just a baby , about a year old. She left him in the care of her mother. In Saudi Arabia, she worked her hand to the bones , doing household chores for almost 18 hours a day. She scrubbed floors , washed the laundry , brushed toilet bowls and took care of her employers’ children . The poor woman was always exhausted at the end of the day . At night , as she laid her worn out body on her bed , she would press her baby’s picture close to her heart and dream of the day when she could hold him again.
This drudgery went on for a decade . She was not able to go home for a vacation during those ten years. Not even once . She was a victim of illegal recruiters and had no legal documents in Saudi Arabia. Thus , it was very easy for her employers to abuse her and deprive her of her rights.
Because there was no internet and cell phone at that time , she rarely got the chance to communicate with her mother and her growing son . Anyway , at last , after a decade , someone offered to help her get out of Saudi Arabia . She also got a job offer for a caregiver in Israel. Without hesitation , she accepted the job . So , from Saudi Arabia —she went straight to Israel where she worked for about seven years . There , she took care of elderly people —- fed them, gave them their medicines , bathed them and washed their laundry soiled with urine and feces . She did for them what their own children could not do.
As before , she sent almost all of her salary to her family in the Philippines. For some reasons again , she was not able to go home for a vacation during those years. Most likely , she had legal problems again and did not know what to do . Or maybe , she took advantage of every opportunity to earn money—thus , opting not to have a vacation . Maybe she thought , the faster she earned money , the sooner she could go home for good.
Meanwhile , her son had grown into a young man. Because the son was just a baby when the mother left , he had no memory of seeing her face to face . He only knew his mother’s face through old , faded pictures . While in Israel , the mother was able to communicate with her family from time to time , by phone. Eventually , they were able to exchange a few pictures— and this only intensified their hunger and hope to see each other again. This was the late 1980s and early 1990s.
One day , this woman was in a bus on her way to work . It turned out , terrorists had planted a bomb in that bus. It exploded and killed almost all of the passengers—including this Filipina. She died instantly . Her body sustained gaping wounds and her face — with the flesh severely torn — had become unrecognizable . Her body was shipped back to the Philippines in a metal casket which was welded to prevent anyone from opening it . Israeli and Filipino authorities decided it was best to seal the casket so that no one else could see the mangled body and face of the poor woman . Outside Israel —the gore , they correctly decided , should be concealed within the four corners of the coffin.
So , finally, after seventeen years, this Filipina went back home. At long last, mother and son were reunited , with the mother in a sealed casket. All those years , the young man longed to see and to touch the face of the woman who brought him to this world. But now , he could only touch the cold metal coffin that hid her cadaver . And all those years in foreign lands , the mother cried herself to sleep, yearning to cuddle her son . But up the end of her life , she was denied that chance.
Could life be crueler than this ?
Maybe , somewhere … in a world better than this …in another lifetime not decayed by violence , they would meet again . The mother singing a lullaby and the son falling asleep in her arms…