Woman in Uniform

by C. Fajardo

Sunken Cemetary on Camiguin Island in the Phillippines I usually see her in her police uniform. She stands with dignity and honor, always ready to serve and protect. She walks with grace and always makes herself available to listen to the complaints of victims of crime or oppression as well as to those who are in need. But to us, her children, she is one tough mama.

She lays down the rules in our house and enforces them. Every day, we have specific missions to accomplish. She has clearly identified our positions and ranks - from older brother or older sister to the youngest. Household chores are assigned in orderly fashion.

When she comes home from work, she conducts a thorough inspection or a tactical interrogation to find out if we accomplished our missions. If we failed to do so, she is transformed into a preacher giving a long and loud sermon. When she’s angry, it’s as if our house is being shaken by thunder and lightning even if the day is bright and sunny. Sometimes, I feel like we were in a jungle being stalked by a roaring lion.

She is strict and disciplinarian. She always reminds us that if we violate the law, especially the Revised Penal Code, she would not help us and, instead, she would personally put us behind bars.

She does not want us to have any vices. Smoking and drinking are absolutely forbidden. And we cannot file a petition for review or a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) because in our house she is the chief justice.

When I attended our high school acquaintance party, she parked the patrol car nearby and kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. She even used her flashlight to find out the identity of my dancing partner. Later she wondered how we could hold an acquaintance party in a place that seemed to have a solar eclipse.

She cannot always be at home, but she makes sure that her orders are carried out faithfully. Our house is always on red-alert status. And our chief conducts regular briefings on how to avoid kidnappers, robbers, thieves and other people with evil intentions. “Be always alert and use your common sense” is one rule she has hammered into our heads.

But behind her tough measures and her strict nature lies a golden heart. She has sacrificed so many things, including her personal comfort, just so there would always be something on the table. She rarely buys new clothes or shoes for herself so she can save money for our schooling. Her dreams and desires she has set aside so we can pursue our own dreams in life.

When she isn’t on duty, she goes to a reflexology and healing center that caters to the sick in both body and spirit – again, so she can serve others and earn a little more for our family.

My father, who was also a policeman, died when I was 3 years old. He was killed in an ambush staged by New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao. Since then, mother has been sweating blood to feed her children.

Although she’s very strong, there were times when I saw her crying in her room. I think those were the times when she needed my father most, when she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of being both mother and father to us. Or those were the times when people spread ugly gossips about her or mocked her dream of seeing us all through college.

Sometimes I cried too. I wished I could help her, but I was still a child then. During those difficult moments, I nurtured the idea of exacting revenge. I dreamed of becoming a soldier so that I could go after the rebels who had killed my father. But by God’s grace, I didn’t become a soldier. Instead, I was led into a seminary and later became a teacher. I am convinced that God makes things happen for a reason.

It is very difficult to have a policewoman for a mother. There were times when we needed her and she could not be around. Although time and again she would explain to us that her job demanded a lot of her time; we must understand there were still times when her presence seemed to matter more than anything else, but she couldn’t be there. At such times, we could be sure that she was doing her duty and going about her noble task of protecting the lives, property and rights of her fellow Filipinos. I am sure that on those important occasions, she wanted to be there with her children and it must have broken her heart to be away from them when they needed her most. I am sure that on such occasions she shed tears.

Yet she remains steadfast and strong. She is focused on her job, knowing that’s the only way she can provide for our needs.

Now we have all finished college. But none of us followed in the footsteps of our parents.

My mother remains in the police force. She serves as the officer of the women’s and children’s desk in a town in Bohol. Most of her time is dedicated to working on cases involving child abuse, violation of women’s right and domestic and family conflicts.

I feel sad when people label all cops as bad and corrupt, because there are still many who remain faithful to their oath and loyal to the service. There are those like my father who died bravely in the line of duty but whose families were inadequately compensated for their loss. And there are those like my mother who sacrifice the time they should be spending with their children to answer the call of duty.

When we were still children and we saw mother don her combat fatigues, we felt nervous and afraid. We prayed hard that nothing bad would happen to her.

I’m grateful to my mother for showing us how to deal the hardships of life. She built a house for our family without anybody’s help. She did all she could to keep our family together and well, even without a father. There were times when she felt discouraged and defeated, but she would pick herself up again for the sake of her children. To us, her children, she is the general who taught us to obey the laws of God and men. It is a privilege and a gift to have her as our mother. 

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