Saturday, May 10, 2014


But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin.” ~ Mitch Albom

by Ivan Ignacio

This week, we celebrate an important occassion and honor 
an important person in our lives - our Mothers!

BP Mau and baby sister Alou and their mom!
When we do our routine of traveling and backpacking, we subject ourselves vulnerable in the outdoors. Our parents can only wish us a safe and fruitful trip. That is, if they know where in the world we are. Number one rule is to always let your families know where you are going! But some of us are guilty of not doing this. BP Ralph would crack a joke and say "it's better to ask permission when we are already in our destination so as to avoid long discussions!". Long discussions are also what BP Mau has been avoiding every time he goes miles away from home. "In the middle of partying, I would receive a text message from my mom asking me where I am," Mau would narrate. Sometimes, I would even get a text message from his mom asking me his whereabouts! Her mom will usually say that she's worried that he may not be able to open because the gate's locked. But we all know it's more than just the gate.

A lot of The BACKPACKERS have shared interesting discussions especially with our moms about our passion in being with Mother Nature. For instance, there's BP Jovy who during our early months of mountain climbing was constantly subjected to interrogation and inspection from Tita Jing, her mom. I remember Jovy narrating to us, "She would always ask me - what the hell are we doing climbing mountains? What do we get when we reach mountaintops - gold?!" And between Tita Jing and Jovy, trust me it would be a looong conversation. But it always closes with a white flag waving from one party. "My mom would give up and by the end of the day, she will let me hand her my dirty clothes (perhaps with mountain dirt and sweat or whatnot) and wash it for me." 

BP Bogs and her one and only treasure - Katkat

Another example was when I posted something in facebook about the recent Survivor Pangasinan being an epic success. I joked around and followed it up with a line: Survivor Basilan is up next! Next thing I knew, I woke up with tons of text messages from my mom asking me "What are you guys (The BACKPACKERS) thinking?" Of course, Survivor Basilan was only a joke, but for my mom - knowing how addicted I am to traveling - held nothing to scold me. She even told my father about it. And my father warned me not to go to Basilan. Classic! But these sweet misunderstandings were testament to how our moms truly care.

Sometimes in our travels, we are fortunate enough to meet our other "Moms" down the road. And it is like a safety blanket walking alongside our heavy backpacks whenever we stroll around faraway lands. It is a good feeling when we are with someone keeping track of time and yelling, "Children, you only have ten minutes left. Ten minutes!". Or whenever we are super tired from hiking, there is a person who will make sure that we have a decent meal to eat in the camp site. It feels good to meet someone who "just wants to make sure you get in and out of Pangasinan safe". Or a restaurant owner, and a mother, who will make you feel at home inside the premises of their establishment while you party your hearts out.

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall;
A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” —
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Mommy Evelyn is a regular viewer and a self confessed 'fan' of The BACKPACKERS website. And we finally met her during our most recent stint in Pangasinan which is her hometown. She was hands on in every detail and needs of the group. She went with us during our ocular and was almost an alternate castaway when one person backed out the last minute.

"It's been a year since I start inviting people to see my hometown in Burgos, Pangasinan. And The BACKPACKERS is one of them. I am so glad that they had their event in one of the private resorts in Pangasinan. Before when I was just browsing their site, looking at the pictures of these individuals, my first impression was this group is like sozy, they may not like our barrio. But when I pushed with the invitation,  they eventually came!"

Mommy Evelyn has a very accommodating and warm persona. A mother of three, the early life of being a mother was easy for her because they were well provided. But a challenge was presented when she got separated with her husband in 1989. "My husband left for Saudi and maybe because of the lack of strong foundation, we got separated. My kids were still young back  then. I applied for work abroad and became a DH for six years. I liked the income derived from my job so I stayed."

What mothers can do for their children are some of the most wonderful things of reality. Because she went away for several years, it has been the most challenging experience for her as a mother.

"I worked in Dubai and Hongkong for a total of ten years. I did not see part of my children's growing years. Now the challenge comes in - I am trying to be closer to them. But now that I am not working anymore all I want is to see them everyday. But my once babies have grown up and they have their own lives."

Her eldest is now living in London. Her second is a teacher and her youngest is an architect. Mommy Evelyn narrated, "It makes me happy when my youngest come and visit me every two weeks. Whenever she's around, I really don't go out. It's my simple joy to cook for her and I make sure that I only serve the most delicious cuisine of all."

According to her, the best thing about being a mother - is being a grandmother! 

“My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart—a heart so large that everybody’s joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.” —Mark Twain
The BACKPACKERS partied all night last December in a very beautiful and cozy restaurant in Baras, Rizal. It was here in Park, Rest and Dine where we met Mommy Meludy. She is one of the owners of the establishment, and one of the most hospitable person I met in my life. We were welcomed so well that for two days, we thought that the place was ours! And they did that in the most genuine sense. She would even remind us that "You are like my children. Treat this as your home sweet home."

Mommy Meludy is a mother of two. "The best part of being a mom is when you see your children happy and have already pursued their dreams. When your kids became adults and can take care of themselves, you can just pat yourself at the back for doing a good job." Probably the sweetest and most memorable complement that Mommy Meludy was able to hear from her children is the phrase "I've had a great childhood. Thank you."

But you can not resign from the job of motherhood and Mommy Ludy knows this. As of now, she is busy managing her business as she constantly communicates with her kids. She is very enthusiastic in everything she does and her motherhood really resonates.

According to Mommy Ludy, the hardest part of being a mom is the pressure that she has to do everything right for her children. Every decision that she makes is affecting the rest of their lives. But the most especially challenging is "when I am not able to fix their broken hearts...that's a challenge!"

“My mom had four kids, one with special needs. She had a full-time job, and she still came home and made dinner for us every night, from scratch. It was amazing.”
Eva Longoria
Miss "Ten Minutes" or Mommy Ermie, is one of the most incredible person we met last year! She is an advocate of Empowering the Young to Read - facilitates requests for donations in populating the libraries of the public schools in Ifugao. And this is where and how we met her. We volunteered to carry the donations during our Ifugao Outreach - Sending Love to Even Greater Heights project. It was guised as a mountain climbing expedition (conquering Mt. Humalophop) but with an intent of performing a social obligation by giving out the donated supplies. We first saw her when she explained our itinerary for the activity in the province. And in no time, she got closer to us and she would even scold us when we were like little children playing in the vast view deck of the famed Banaue Rice Terraces. "Ten minutes children! Ten minutes," was our all time favorite one liner from her.

You can't help admiring her advocacies and strength of character. And aside from these, she is a mother of three. We were able to meet Renzie and Chester in some of the activities of the group. But she is especially a proud mom to his loving Christian, "I am super patient, understanding and loving to my youngest child who manifested symptoms of ADHD. His little successes in his activities really warms my heart." 

"It's definitely a challenge giving the best things my home and family deserves such as food on the table, education and the most basic needs. Then you also have to teach the right values that starts at infancy stage. These may define my children of who they are when they get older."

But the most challenging would be showing her strength in times of adversity as her family usually draws strength from Mommy Ermie. She is a cancer survivor and it was certainly a challenge battling it while raising three kids. "With three years (and counting more years I hope) being a survivor of the big C, it's a deal to be brave and to be with happy and positive disposition since these eventually radiate not only to the members of the family but to the community as well."

Albeit the challenges, nothing can compare to the rewards Mommy Ermie get in being a mother. "From having them in my womb, and conceiving them, to giving out myself to nourish and nurture them while growing up, until they said the word 'mama' with their open arms for embrace and their infectious laughter. These expressions of pure love automatically wipe out stress and tiredness."

In sharing the shortcomings, successes, fears among others makes her one proud Ifugao momma. And we are very happy to meet and be friends with her. 

“Over the years, I learned so much from mom. She taught me about the importance of home and history and family and tradition. She also taught me that aging need not mean narrowing the scope of your activities and interests or a diminution of the great pleasures to be had in the everyday.”
Martha Stewart

A mommy who is no stranger to The BACKPACKERS is Mommy Weng. We first saw her when she was actively writing in "Byaheng Jologs - Nanay Lakwatsera" blog. Then we invited her in an open climb in Mt. Tagapo which was very special to her because it was her "return" climb after twenty or so years! She instantly clicked with the group and since then, she became our "Backpacking Mommy". We don't even feel the age gap whenever we're with her because we share the same passion in the outdoors.

Mommy Weng is such an inspiration. At (insert age here - it's a secret!), she copes up and enjoys the thrills of mountain climbing (hey, we conquered Mt. Apo with her!) waterfalls chasing and even just random backpacking. According to her, "I am only living the life I missed."

The 'life' she's pertaining to was during the time when she became a full time mother to her lovely daughter Kaye. She would remember, "From the time I conceived until the first day I saw my baby - it was mixed emotions. It was scary and overwhelming. Scary in the sense that I knew that I am carrying a baby, a gift, inside my body. I had to be very careful in every way. It was overwhelming in a sense that I was given the opportunity to give birth to God's creation. And by the time that I saw my baby, I had this overflowing happiness in my heart that I have never felt in my life before."

"Everything is ironically challenging and wonderful. It becomes more and more challenging as days go by. From the time that my baby started to drink milk until she began talking. I had to be awake every night to observe her - whenever she moves or becomes hungry or in pain," Mommy Weng added. She was so afraid that she might commit a mistake in taking care of her child. Whenever she's sick, tears would fall down her eyes while she panics helplessly, thinking "what did I do wrong..."

One thing that's admirable about this is that she raised her child all by herself. Being a single mom, she didn't care about the obstacles she faced to send her child to a good school. She took all the hardships to give her child a decent life. And now that her baby, Kaye, is now a professional, Mommy Weng can just stand up proud and say "I won the battle of life being a mother and a father to my child." And this doubles her reward which is certainly priceless! Congratulations Mommy Weng! 

“Mother’s love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there it is as if all the beauty had gone out of life.” —Erich Fromm

The official godmother of The BACKPACKERS - Mommy Ems has been successful in building her own family for ten years now. We first met her in our very first Mt. Batulao climb and ever since, she makes sure to have constant communication with the members of the group. Most of us turn to her whenever we need an advice whether in love, career or just plain life. 

For Mommy Ems, "the best thing about being a mom is having a child because you can never be given a privilege to be called a mother if you don't have one. It's a simple yet deep sense of having someone you can call your own blood and soul. That they came from me." 

It was like several months ago when we were with Mommy Ems celebrating our group's third anniversary. But now, she is miles away from home working abroad with her husband. Nothing's more painful than being away from your kids, "It tortures me. It hurts me to be away from them...especially this far! I am their mom and knowing I can't be with them when they need me is a pure sacrifice. It hurts me that when they are sad, I can't be around to comfort them. If they get sick I can not be there to give them the warmth of my hug." These are the sacrifices that Mommy Ems chose to build a better future for her family. 

"What makes me strong is knowing that all these will pass and soon we can be together again as long as I focus on my save for their future and to bring them here with us."

Mommy Ems' angels are Daniel, and baby Eithena. Daniel is to this day, the youngest guest that joined us in a climb. He was seven when we hiked Mt. Batulao. At seven, he dreams of conquering Mt. Everest in the future. And adorable, cute and beautiful Eithena would be the sweet chain that will forever tie Mommy Ems with us. Six of The BACKPACKERS are godparents of baby Eithena. On the contrary, it's little compared to Mommy Ems who gained thirty godchildren when she became our group's official godmother! We so love and miss you Mommy Ems!


Our moms are the most supportive people in the planet. 

Have you ever said "I Love You" or just show that you care?

Have you ever thanked them for what they have done for you?

 Have you ever had even just one "Selfie" with your mom 
that you can keep for the rest of your life? 

Have you ever had that special dinner with no one else but you and your mom?

Have you ever had that special special travel tale your mom?

If your answers to all these is a NO, don't fret - they won't get mad!
Just make sure that you kiss them and greet them on their special day!

With this, The BACKPACKERS salute all the Mommies out there!

Happy Mothers Day!

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