By: Maria Joby F. Zulueta
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect. Whoa! Big word.
When someone says “respect”, the first thing that comes to my mind is “respect begets respect”. I picked it up sometime during college few years back, and it never left me since then. Though I must admit that, back then, it was not a big deal for me. Hey, I know how to use po and opo, and have always been polite especially to elders and school personnel, but now I realized it’s much, much deeper than that.
Let me tell you about Lola. A geriatric woman I took care of until she passed away. Lola is an illiterate. She can only write and recognize the initials of her maiden name. That’s because after second grade, she was forced out of school by her parents. While her five siblings went on with their studies, Lola had been sent to take care of the elderlies in her family, one after another. Either way, Lola grew up to be the most hardworking woman in their barrio. She got married and was blessed by six children, all of whom she was able to send to prestigious universities in Manila. Two of them became doctors, one was a veterinarian, an engineer, an architect, and her only girl, a nurse. She was so amazing that among all her siblings, Lola was the only one who was able to accomplish that, and be able to acquire properties at the same time. Stories has it that her husband often felt belittled because of her independent and hardworking trait. Her husband died in the late 1970’s. And needless to say, Lola went on proliferating their rice fields alone while her kids went on to build a career of their own. The elder doctor and the nurse had practiced their profession in the US. The engineer went to an Arab Country, and the rest stayed in the province with her. I’ve had the opportunity to meet them all, and hear stories about the family. There were also times that I was able to witness some family dramas, and even became a confidante. Whenever the US-based doctor came home to visit, Lola becomes extremely happy and fusses over everything. Yes, he was her favorite. His visits to their old home had consisted of chatting with Lola almost every day, going to the market and cook for her, and basically looking after her, as a way of making up for the lost time spent miles away from each other. On the contrary, whenever the US-based Nurse arrives, Lola seemed to be always so busy with work and would just hire helpers to do preparations for her daughter. Whenever the Nurse visits, she would renovate the house, replace old furniture and decors. From pots to plates to utensils, she would replace and discard the old ones. She would visit relatives and childhood friends, and go around to see places. And almost every visit, Lola and her daughter would have a misunderstanding. Once, Lola’s daughter had cried to me. She told me how unfair Lola was to her, and how the elder doctor has always been their mother’s favorite. I felt sorry for her, but I was speechless then. For I didn’t know what exactly to say. I wouldn’t want to meddle on things like that too. But I do understand her from the way I see things back then. Years went on and things like that had almost always became constant. One day, I had the courage to ask Lola why. Why is it that she favors her eldest son the most, and does not appreciate the things her daughter got for her. She then told me, “Roling was my first born. He was with me during the hardest times of WW II, and we survived it. The bond that we have does not change over the years and even miles apart. He was always so respectful. And would only want what’s best for me but he would never order me around. He was a professional doctor, and yet, he would accompany me to see an albularyo and even supportive of the rituals the albularyo had told me to do. Why? Simply because it is what I want. If he was insulted because of it, I didn’t know. He never made me feel low or complained over what I want. My daughter, I love her. But whenever she’s here, she would dispose everything that I had worked hard to have just because it’s outdated, and it doesn’t fit ‘us’ anymore. She would not ask what I prefer and would not listen to what I say. Why? I suppose she knows better now. She’s well established abroad and had earned the highest degree of education. I am proud of her.” I was in tears as realization hit me. Most of us tend to forget to look back to our humble beginnings, and worst, we look back only to criticize and correct who were left behind. It is never wrong give constructive criticism for it may greatly help others. But, we should also respect others’ preference on how one wants to live her life. Growing up and being someone does not necessarily mean we know better than the rest, that we could manipulate others because it is us who knows what’s best for them. That we are solely on the know-how of everything, thus must be obeyed. Status, age does not give you an excuse to disrespect others. Neither does it become a ticket for you to be respected by others.
Respect begets respect. Respect is not something you can force out of people. Yes, you can order subordinates or any other people to follow you but it’s far different from them respecting you. It is more on what you do and how you do things that determines the kind of person you are, and how people will react towards you. Everyone has their own story that you know nothing about. Respect one another. It does not matter if you memorize the verses, what truly counts is if you are able to live according to it. Walk the talk. Anyway, one cannot instill values to others if the person does not have it himself.
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