Mothers of the Heart — The Real Reason We Celebrate Mother’s Day

My mom in a happy pose with a dolphin.
My Mom in a happy pose with a dolphin.

by Lizette Barretto-Gueco, |

This Mother’s Day, my thoughts are on my Mom and how very special she was. Strong, yet tender, loving, compassionate, forgiving and resilient.  I may be biased like most daughters of loving mothers, but I have never met anyone quite like my mom. Truly a woman of substance! It gives me great joy and pride when people say I am like her. She is my idol. How I wish I could be at least half the person she was and be a reflection of her joyful shining light.

But this article is not about how great she was as a mother to me.  This is about the unique and wonderful relationship that she had with her stepdaughter, my sister.

Lots of women can conceive a child, carry it in their belly for about 9 months, go through labor and have the baby in the end.  They are the biological mothers and go through Gods plan of bringing forth His children into the world. But for some of these women, it ends there. The Mothers of the heart, as I like to call them, are those that follow through on God’s special plan.  They raise and nurture and love that child whether they are their natural child or not.  They have an overflowing supply of love to give and are committed to be the best mother they can be for the rest of their lives. For me, these are the Mothers that matter, the real heroes that we celebrate every Mother’s Day.

My sister Ruby with Mom
My sister Ruby with Mom

My Mom bore 8 children but was mother to 9. I am my mother’s firstborn. My Dad had a child, my sister Ruby, from a previous relationship. I am a month older than Ruby.  Growing up, Ruby would flit in and out of our lives. Sometimes for a few days, sometimes for the whole school year.  She divided her time between her real Mom’s family and ours. Mom never treated her any differently from us, her natural children.  Whatever I had, she had too.  In the choice of schools, Mom agonized over not being able to put my sister in the same all girls Catholic school that my younger sisters and I attended. She had to go to another school for the reason that she was illegitimate and was not allowed in our exclusive all girls school. What a tragedy back then! This was one of Mom’s greatest regrets regarding Ruby. She told me this not too long before she passed.

The Barretto siblings with Mom

Fast forward to years later.  Ruby’s wedding. Ruby’s real Mom was there, naturally, standing as the mother of the bride. I was the maid of honor. My Dad gave the bride away and stood to pose for family pictures while Mom watched in the back.  A difficult situation to be in, I now realize. In my teenage memory, my Mother stood out as the most regal, poised and composed woman in the church. She bore it all with grace and dignity even if the situation made her uncomfortable and pained her somewhat.  Everyone else was oblivious to her turmoil as she participated and made merry with the rest of us including the mother of the bride.  Mom was consistently a nice person. She never wanted to call any attention to herself.

My sister Ruby became a very successful cosmetic dentist after she moved to the United States with her 2 children. Mom and Dad had also migrated to California about the same time. Through the years living in America, Mom and Ruby became closer than ever. They were Mother and daughter in every sense of the word except biologically. Mom was Ruby’s confidante through all her hardships and heartaches and always gave her good advice and emotional support.

During Mom’s final years battling Cancer, my sister Ruby was a pillar of strength for Mom and for us all. She made time in her busy schedule for Mom’s needs always. Her opinions regarding treatments, diets, doctors and mom’s care carried the same weight as the rest of us. She contributed monetarily to Mom’s needs as we all did.  One of Mom’s final wishes was to dip herself in the Holy Waters of Lourdes. She wished that all 9 of us could accompany her.  7 out of the 9 of us managed to go with her, Ruby included. It was a special time with Mom, the 7 of us in Lourdes and Barcelona.

Together at Lourdes
Together at Lourdes

When Mom finally said goodbye to us, 3 months after our Europe trip, we were all together once again in LA. Ruby and her 3 kids were with us at Mom’s bedside during the last few weeks, whenever they can get away from work and school.  At Mom’s memorial Ruby and her daughter KC separately gave a very emotional, heartwarming and poignant eulogy. They talked about what an extraordinary Mother and grandmother she was to them and how she was going to be greatly missed.

And she is greatly missed for the last year and a half since she left.  Today, on Mother’s Day, I celebrate our Mother’s life and honor the wonderful human being that she had been to all who knew her.  Mother of the heart, she truly was. Heaven has gained a special angel in my Mom and lucky are we, her 9 children of the heart, to have someone like her watching and praying for us.

In memory of my Mom, I will be making polvoron with pinipig.  She loved to make this to give to her nurses at the hospital. This recipe was taught to her by my Sis in law Ludette.  Together with my flowers, I will bring some to share with her when I visit tomorrow.


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  • 1 cup sifted All Purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Alaska powdered milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup cooked pinipig

Toast the flour in a frying pan till light brown. Transfer toasted flour to mixing bowl and add in the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well. Use a polvoron mold to form. Arrange in a tray and refrigerate at least an hour till it hardens.  Wrap like candy in Japanese paper or cellophane.

Happy Mother’s Day!  Enjoy!

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About the Author

Lizette Barretto-Gueco
Lizette Barretto-Gueco

Lizette Barretto Gueco is a regular columnist at  She writes about her life’s passions which are family, home, food, relationships and how they fit in perfectly in her scheme of things and in the circle of life.

Lizette is now a busy home based mom after working in marketing and the travel industry for some time. She also ventured into jewelry design while she was a partner at a prestigious jewelry store at Greenbelt 5. Aside from juggling family schedules and managing the home, she also finds time to bake and sell her sweet offerings from her home as well as indulge in her other hobbies like jewelry making and arts and crafts.  She is an amateur filmmaker, traveler, foodie, dreamer and lover of life.

Lizette is a graduate of AB Communication arts from the Ateneo de Manila University.  You can email her at

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