MY MOM, COROY: OF NEAR LOSS AND…REDEMPTION!
By Cathy da Roza – Romero-Salas
I love my mom, Coroy. She is my rock. She had me at 19, and my brother, Robin nearly two years later. When I was 19, she, my step father and two younger sisters, Andrea and Martine, moved to Hong Kong. Robin and I were in college, and decided to stay. They moved briefly to New Delhi and finally, settled in Los Angeles where they lived for the next 25 plus years.
In 2014, my beloved husband Jose Luis, was battling cancer. It was then, that my mom decided, it was time to come home. So, after living abroad all those years, she moved back to the Philippines and lived with us.
Sadly, in January 2015, the love of my life was called by our Lord from this earthly life. And even if we had long surrendered to His will and prepared ourselves for that day to come, it was most painful. I am grateful I had my mom by my side through that.
Fast forward to 2020, I am still healing from the loss of my love, when the pandemic starts to take hold and suddenly, my world is again rocked by fear! I will always remember the promises I made to Papa Dios, as I fervently prayed for Him to save my mom’s life.
Growing up with a single parent had its challenges, but we were never short of warm cuddles, love, or something delicious cooking in the kitchen. Preparing great food has always been my mother’s primary language of love. So it’s really no surprise that my mom’s mission in life is to feed the poor.
Volunteering to cook for soup kitchens since I was young, there was never a time she was not involved in one feeding program or another. After Taal Volcano erupted in January 2020, she went into high gear. We would drive twice or thrice a week to evacuation centers in Calaca, Balayan, Talisay and Agoncillo. Week after week, we would bring vats of adobo rice, monggo soup, canned goods and water to very grateful recipients.
However, soon after the Taal eruption, news of COVID-19 began to flood the media. We all suspected this could be the “Big One”. And sure enough, as we would come to find out, it was.
Despite the health risks and constant lockdowns, my mother’s desire to feed those in need carried on through the pandemic. Moved by the loss of jobs stemming from the lockdown, my mom prepared at least 200 meals each day to distribute to nearby communities.
Initially, the team included my mom and every member of the household she could rope into helping out. But eventually, after hearing what my mom had been doing, our generous neighbors in Magallanes Village stepped in to help. A steady wave of donations began pouring in–bigas, chicken, canned goods, vegetables, and more arrived daily! Other families wanted to help too. It wasn’t long until we were loading 500 to 1000 packed meals in my Starex daily. We went from Tondo to Macapagal, down South Super Highway to Maricaban, Pasay to deliver the much-needed food.
Mom would make posters thanking donors and sent them though chat groups. From this, the momentum kept going. Donations continued to flood in. We felt so blessed to be able to do this, as so many fellow people were on the streets, begging, hungry, and in need.
All was going well until one day, late in September of 2020, my mom abruptly stood up from the dinner table. She announced she was not feeling well and quickly hurried to her room. By this time, each home had its own protocols for containment as we tried to navigate life with this unknown enemy in our midst. Mom quarantined in her room as we waited for her test results to come in. Then the unthinkable happened – to our horror—she tested positive!
As a cold wave washed though me, I prayed: “Lord, please guide us!” We should have gone immediately to the hospital. But out of denial or ignorance (or both!), we decided to home quarantine. It was okay at first, and no one else tested positive. However, a few days later, mom’s breathing become more labored. It was apparent we needed to go to the hospital.
On September 23, 2020, I followed the ambulance to Makati Medical Center. My mom only had time to tell me, “Please take care of my feeding program,” before they whisked her away to the COVID ward.
Once she was out of sight, I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and with a stream of tears running down my face, I prayed deeply. “Please, please… dear Papa Dios, we need her. Please heal my mama. She is in Your hands.” I knew we were in for the battle of our lives.
I am sure you all remember the fear we experienced in the early days of COVID. Fear of contracting it, or having it and not knowing! Fear of going to the hospital, of being with other patients, of being alone, fear of isolation from your family, fear of the treatments, and most dreaded of all… fear of dying alone. All these fears became a reality, not only for my mom, but also for me, my whole family, and everyone who loved my mom. We were so afraid.
On the third day of confinement, with her oxygen levels dropping, the doctors informed us that she needed to be intubated. I cannot tell you how devastating that was. Placing our trust in God and her medical team, she was induced into a coma and a tube was inserted in her throat with a line directly into her lungs.
For the next 15 days, my mom hung precariously between life and death. We were able see her through a few video calls facilitated by the nurses, bittersweet moments that always left us in tears. We just didn’t know if she would survive. Through it all, we prayed.
As promised, we kept running her feeding program throughout her confinement, now including food for nurses at various hospitals. It was not easy to pick up from where mom left off and manage her responsibilities. All of this, on top of the constant worry and my already full plate, left me like a zombie.
But this is where I can tell you that the Lord listens and He finds ways to answer our prayers.
Just as my siblings and I were feeling overwhelmed, the healing strength of prayer and the love of family, friends, and our community came alive in a very powerful way for us. As soon as people had heard of my mom’s situation, prayer vigils were held three times a day, led by mom’s Assumption and St. Scholastica classmates. Magallanes Church groups prayed the rosary daily for her. And our neighbors took over cooking some meals so that we would not have to. A touching video was made for her by the community she feeds in Tondo. From all over, there was an outpouring of prayers, love and generosity, much needed at that time and it was truly humbling.
On October 2nd, during a period when my mom was not doing well, an incredibly beautiful mass was celebrated by Monsignor Matt for her. The mass was attended by more than 100 people and was dedicated for her healing. The power of everyone’s collective prayers truly carried us though this awful time.
Without a doubt, it was what saved my mom.
Every day was touch and go… but thankfully, by October 12th, mom was well enough to be extubated. Finally, on October 17th, after nearly a month of confinement, she was allowed to come home.
We were very close to losing my mom. I am forever thankful for all those who prayed with us. So now, whenever my mom does something I used to complain about… I quickly remember all the promises I made to Papa Dios and say a prayer of thanks that I still have my mama.