The Last Time I Saw Mother


I have decided to make my journal an educational outlet (at least for some of us) by writing my thoughts and opinions about the books I have read during the week.  I guess it’s going to be a new pledge for me as I try to finish one by the end of the week.  I’ll try to do both fiction and non-fiction, though I cannot promise so much.  Hopefully, someone can come across this page and see what I have done with it.  Yay!


I am once again reunited with my favorite book of all time, “The Last Time I Saw Mother” by Arlene Chai.  This is a very good book.  It’s like having an intimate talk with a friend, as she slowly unveils the story of the four most powerful female characters she has ever met in her entire life.  Something about this book never ceases to appeal to me.  Perhaps it’s because of the fact that the author didn’t fail to capture the humanity and heroism of women from so many generations, upholding family tradition and creating their own.  Everyone should grab a copy of this.  It’s a real treasure to have on top of your bedside table or in your bookshelf.


Anyway, there were a lot of quotations that I now find very much applicable to who I am now.  I guess this is also a reason why I keep reading it over and over; I find my words lost in its pages and reading them brings them to life… at least, for me.


“Every unhappy person thinks her unhappiness is unique.” (p. 14)

Absolutely true.  There are people you will meet in your lifetime who will share their lamentations with you and end it with “you don’t understand what I am going through.”  Maybe some time in our lifetime we have said this line already.  I find the selfishness of human emotion quite outstanding; they talk about their pain, but they don’t want consolation.  They speak of their burden and how the world is on their backs, but they don’t want to share the load.  It is almost quite insensitive of them to actually assume that the person they are talking to is apathetic of their grief.  In doing so, they do not realize that with that assumption, they leave that person wondering how in the world can they help this friend when they “don’t understand what they’re going through.”

“Migrants, I think, are people who are never whole, never completely in one place.” (p.17)

My cousin got married just this July.  In preparation for her wedding, she came home some time in April.  Although I can see how much she had missed the Philippines, I guess it has always lingered in my mind that she also missed New Jersey.  They migrated there about 10 years ago, and only come to the Philippines after every two or four years.  So she was born here and became a lady there, graduated high school here and college there, had her first kiss here and her last first kiss there.  I guess in a way she does have two homes.  Sad part is, she can’t be home at the same time.

“The poor are not far from sight.  They live in little pockets on the periphery of these affluent subdivisions.  A constant reminder to the rich that there is another side to life [sic].” (pgs. 30-31)

Just this February, I accompanied a friend to paint a mural on the 29th floor of the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.  From there, the view was amazing.  There was a big glass window opposite the wall she was painting on, so when the sun begins to set, you can definitely see the colors.  Slightly tilting my head, I can also see (in spite of my great fear for heights) one of the premiere hospitals in the Metro – the Makati Medical Hospital.  Right behind the wall of that hospital is about 60 families living on someone else’s land – squatters.  When the other side of the wall gets cured of the gravest illnesses, the other side dies from some of the simplest.

“There is something I have learned about the dead.  They live on.  They turn into dust and they become part of the earth and the wind blows them up.  They are in the very air we breathe.  And their words live on with our minds, returning without being called.” (p. 50)

Need I say more? 

This book has proven to be one of the most compelling dramas in Philippine literature.  Not only does it highlight the suffering and hardship of the Filipina, it also gives you a clearer picture of what the past was like.  Somehow, that picture gets to you and reeducates you to be a more critical member of the society we live in today.


There are a lot more lines from this book that has proven its worth in my life.  I am sure that when you read Arlene Chai’s The Last Time I Saw Mother, you too will say the same thing.  I believe that the most compelling part of the book, the line that sums everything up, is this:


“Right and wrong are judgments we make on hindsight.  But at that moment of choice, we make our decisions the best way we know how.” (p.328)


It’s a comforting statement for those who regret something they have said or done in the past.  Relieving even, if I might add.  I know now for a fact that people, after reading this book, become more critical of their life experiences, find that it’s better to listen than to talk, and have a new found respect for the Filipina that they never knew.


Lemme know what you think.

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