Love is all the better because I have Ruth Garcia Prudente as friend, confidant, and most of all, mother
Dad concurred that red has been Mom’s color from the time they met. No strictly boring, conservative black, beige, and navy for her, if she can help it. Those are my colors. Every attribute associated with red is Mom’s, too. Assertive. Passionate. Outgoing. She is fun to be with. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. One can’t stay sad or pessimistic for long in her presence. She is a vitalizer and one with a deep and tolerant understanding of life.
Red-lovers are said to be leaders rather than followers. They initiate. That’s Mom. World War II toughened her. She was a teen when her father was transferred to Bilibid Prison from Fort Santiago on the day he was sentenced to drown for his underground work. A Japanese officer who had been his dorm-mate at the YMCA in America saved him. After the Battle of Manila, she volunteered to ride ambulances and help with the injured. She became a registered nurse and moved into social work during the 1960s. Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation (KKFI) in Sampaloc, Manila that she headed had begun in 1950 as the social arm of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines. As director until 1972, Mom made it an NGO (non-governmental organization) before the term was coined. It is anchored in social justice for all and continues expanding its services in education for the poor, self-help programs for women, and assistance to the underprivileged. We always had papaya pickles, nata de pinya, and nata de coco at home having to buy our share to keep the micro enterprise program alive. One learns compassion and respect for humanity living in our family.
Red is the color of courage. Mom needed courage single-parenting two teens overseas through high school and college. Dad’s advocacy for liberal education and its associated freedoms pushed him underground when Martial Law was declared. The mother-daughter confidences we shared then as uncertainty threatened the family transformed into woman-to-woman intimacies, the kind that spontaneously weaves philosophy, psychology, and faith. We refused to live a soap opera that thrives on ruptured emotion and self-inflicted chaos. Sure, there was hugging and lots of it. But our inherited family culture salutes clear thinking and even stoicism. Mom had to be brave for everyone. And so did I.
We celebrated that after 1986 the family could normalize. Mom retired in her 80s, the church having kept her on as a missionary for women’s self-empowerment. It was then that we had more girl time lunching and laughing away as we shared beauty and spa time. Mom always reminds women that a little vanity is good for the disposition. When Dad—the educator Nemesio Prudente—died, we made it a point to spend increasing time with Mom who adores showing off her ornamental and vegetable garden.
Achieving, attaining, succeeding are supposed to be the spontaneous expressions of a red woman. Age does not prevent Mom from setting goals. She even knits skullcaps and scarves for a homeless project. Her wisdom continues to be shared as KKFI chairman emeritus. With a mother like mine, one learns to use time meaningfully. Much of what I value from my family, I learned by example.
We refused to live a soap opera that thrives on ruptured emotion and self-inflicted chaos. Sure, there was hugging and lots of it. But our inherited family culture salutes clear thinking and even stoicism.
At 95 years old, she continues casting her light, bringing its intense energy into my placid pink, mystical purple, and contemplative blue life. Love is all the better because I have a woman in red as friend, confidant, and most of all, mother.