What is a Mother?

May 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm 14 comments

Lorena Barros (Photo from E. San Juan, Jr. Archive).
One Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to translate into English a poem written by Lorena Barros to her mother. She was a poet, writer, and student activist who went to the hills and became a guerilla fighter in the 70s when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines in order to stay in power.

In 1976, she paid the ultimate price when government forces caught up with her in a hiding place in the mountains. When democracy was finally restored, a wall of remembrance containing the names of those who died fighting martial law was erected. She was one of the first 65 martyrs who were honored and enshrined.

When she died, she left a child motherless. but in the process, she became a mother to all freedom-loving Filipinos.

Here’s the poem published with her story written by Maita Gomez in the book, Six Young Filipino Martyrs.


Ano ang isang ina?
Mayamang hapag ng
gutom na sanggol
Kumot sa gabing maginaw
Matamis na uyayi
sa naghahapding sugat.

Ngunit ano ang isang
makabayang ina?
Maapoy na tanglaw
Tungo sa liwayway.
Sandigang bato.
Lupang bukal ng lakas
sa digma.
Katabi sa laban’t
Alalay sa tagumpay
Ang ina ko.

She’d probably frown at my attempt of translation and ask, “What for?” Well, I haven’t seen it translated before. For all its worth, I just feel it needs a wider audience.


what is a mother?
sumptuous table
to a hungry child.
blanket on a cold night.
sweet lullaby.
to a tender wound.

but what is
a patriotic mother?
fiery glow
leading towards dawn.
rock to lean on.
wellspring of strength
in battle.
beside me in the fight and
a hand in victory
is my mother.


Entry filed under: Blogroll, daily prompt. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

philippine elections 2010 a failure of elections it ain’t

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kimmy0808  |  May 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Very nice poem.. I supposed she’s listed in your country’s hero right?

    • 2. plaridel  |  May 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm


      yes, she’s recognized as a martyr and hero(ine) as well as the other student activists who died during the martial law years.

  • 3. slpmartin  |  May 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing this poem…it is always good to hear about individuals who gave their all for their country. Many thanks for this post.

    • 4. plaridel  |  May 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm


      i’m glad you liked it. i hope that someday her poems and writings will be compiled and published for posterity.

  • 5. Cindy  |  May 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Great points! I will be checking back here often!

    • 6. plaridel  |  May 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm


      thanks for the visit. please come again. 🙂

  • 7. sub  |  May 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    i thot her name is leila barros..or leila is a different person? hmmm, xenxa na plaridel, dami ko angst when it came to my mom. i cant share anything good without being impartial…youve been reading my blog diba? i guess you know why…but i love her. i really do. she’s my mom afterall.

    • 8. plaridel  |  May 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm


      that’s her real name. she was a graduate of the university of the philippines where a hall was named after her. she founded makibaka. read the six young filipino martyrs book and be inspired.

      mothers belong to a diiferent generation, so a disconnect sometimes happens. that’s life.

      • 9. virtualanimosity  |  May 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

        yeah, thats where i saw her name. i know leila although not by heart… 🙂

        • 10. plaridel  |  June 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm


          some misunderstanding here. when i said, “that’s her real name,” i meant lorena not leila. her complete name was maria lorena barros. a hall at the university of the philippines was named in her honor.

  • 11. Ruchi  |  May 20, 2010 at 10:04 am

    It is such a beautiful poem! 🙂

    I am definitely going to look her up & get some of her published works. I just hope they have them pre translated in english!


    • 12. plaridel  |  May 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm


      she used to write in english before joining the underground. she has become a legend in her own right. you can google her on the internet.

  • 13. arjun_shivaram  |  April 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Was nice and soft to read 🙂

    • 14. plaridel  |  April 27, 2017 at 3:27 pm


      thank you. i’m glad you liked it.


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