My mom told me not to believe in Cinderella

Published February 16, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Anna Mae Lamentillo


Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo
Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Most of my friends are kinda surprised when I order Sinigang, Tinola,  or KBL for breakfast. To me, it was routinary. We grew up with sabaw on the table. But now that I’m old enough to know — I thought about all the years my mom – Nora Yu Lamentillo – had to wake up extra early just to cook.

Took me a while to know — she never ate a single piece of the chicken tinola she frequently prepared. She never told us about it — she’d simply cook it like it was the most natural thing to do.

When her friends surprised her with a feast — the starring dish was Kadyos, Baboy, Langka,  or KBL. I guess they assumed it was her favorite considering the amount of time she’d usually spent cooking it or sourcing the ingredients she could use. What they didn’t know was that — it was my dad’s favorite as well as mine. My mom would be happy with paksiw.

Every breakfast, when we were much younger, mom would remind us we could be anything we wanted to be. There was nothing that was beyond our reach.

Cinderella, Snow White, or Red Riding Hood wasn’t our role models. We were taught from a very young age that girls need not be saved — that they can be heroes, protagonists of their own stories. Girls are not inferior to men, not in this generation or the one before it.

During our toddler days, we were made to wear a petticoat (almost) every day (even for Jolly Spaghetti.) My mom would also comb our hair 100 strokes a night. But when we were mature enough to decide, she allowed us to choose our own identity and style. It didn’t matter if people perceived it as a bit odd or eccentric or aggressive. Identity was an important aspect of growing up and she respected it.

Back in high school, I told my mom I was called to the principal’s office for initiating a signature campaign to be senior muse. Instead of scolding me, she said — “Karapatan mo yan, anak!”

In the family, we were not expected to subscribe to traditional gender roles. Whether or not we wanted to cook, or dance the ballet, or play the piano — was our decision. We need not play the part of a princess or a damsel in distress.

My mom often reminded us that it was important that we are able to write our own stories, that our potentials be realized, and that we are confident enough to tackle the boulder ahead of us.

After all, a turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out. But she cautions — success is not final, and not possible without hard work.