NANAY SAYS: A sweet goodbye
When Dulce “Mama Bebie” Retulla Gamotan confessed that she left her job to be really present at home as her three sons were growing up, I told myself: “Here’s a woman I could never become; so selfless, so giving that she is willing to lose herself for those she loves.”
Her revelation happened during an interview about her kakanin business last March 2018. I went to the house where the Gamotan family lives in La Paloma Subdivision in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City to see for myself how this woman from Hilongos, Leyte makes her bestsellers.
I was literally welcomed with a variety of treats. Her long list of kakanin products consisted of chocolate moron, budbud pilit, budbud pilit lambid, budbud Magsaysay, budbud balanghoy, cassava roll, Hilongos moron, leche flan, puto cheese and puto maya.
She was the perfect person to feature for CDN’s MSME Corner, a special section that we started sometime in 2008 to recognize the hard work of micro and small entrepreneurs, and inspire others to believe in their dreams and act on them.
During the interview, I asked her if I can call her “Mama” because I did not feel like calling him Mrs. Gamotan or Maam. At that point during our interview, she already shared to me how she lost her husband, Vergilio Sr. from complications due to diabetes. She also shared how she left her job at Dino Enterprises to focus on taking care of her husband and raising her three sons, essentially giving up her Commerce degree from a prestigious university in Cebu to be a work-from-home mother.
She started her business with P1,000 seed capital from the donations given by people during her husband’s wake.
“Up to you if you want to call me ‘Mama’,” she said while arranging the banana leaves which were laid out on the table.
“(Are you) sure?” I asked.
For those who spent some parts of their lives in the province, the smell of steamed banana leaves is a comfort aroma that brings out memories of climbing mountains, cracking young coconuts open to enjoy its water and meat, and gathering firewood all the way from mountain to home after at least a four-kilometer walk.
Standing inside the kitchen of the Gamotan abode as Mama Bebie was wrapping chocolate moron in banana leaves, I felt a certain rush of calmness that commanded me to breathe and enjoy the moment.
Outside of their home, she showed how she steams the finished product. She gets a lot of orders since her son, Vergilio Jr. or Verge, taught her how to advertise her products online. Her Facebook page “Dulce’s Kakanin” had more than 1,000 followers as of March 2018.
Business was good and growing.
She was content in living in Hilongos, Leyte even when his eldest son, Verge, was based in Cebu since 2004 for school and later for work.
She was also taking care of her second son, Jeffrey, who has Down Syndrome. But in 2012, she decided to leave Hilongos and settle in Cebu as her youngest son, John Duver, was accepted at the Cebu City National Science High School.
Her son, Verge, has since become the family’s breadwinner. He was already in New Zealand when he was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in April 2017. He had a surgery in December 2017 and further radioactive treatments in early 2018 with the help from Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
Throughout his entire ordeal, Mama Bebie was a strong force of support. She accepted more orders and made more kakanin to help out defray the cost of her son’s surgery.
Whatever worry or fear she felt, she kept it to herself. She chose to provide the positive vibe during that grim situation.
A mother’s love really heals because Verge became better and fit enough to move to Singapore around the last quarter of 2018 to work there.
Mama Bebie may have projected a strong front but deep inside, she was really sick.
On February 11, they went to a government hospital as she was experiencing shortness of breath and recurring fever. The necessary bloodwork and electrocardiogram were conducted. Doctors found nothing wrong so she was released.
But on the day of hearts, February 14, she was brought to a private hospital because she was still suffering from the same condition.
At 11 a.m., she was admitted. The family called for blood donors. At 6 p.m., the transfusion started. But her body was not responding. At 8 p.m., she was already critical.
She was revived eight times before the time of death was recorded at 9:25 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, four days after her son, Verge, celebrated his 32nd birthday.
The doctors said that Mama Bebie had acute leukemia or more specifically, she died from Acute Leukemia Cerebrovascular Bleeding secondary to Severe Thrombocytopenia. She had cancer of the blood — and the family only knew after she died.
Up to her last breath, Dulce Retulla Gamotan stayed true to her commitment of taking care of her sons. She did not give them the chance to take care of her; perhaps because she was loyal to her mantra that mothers should serve her family without any conditions.
She was laid to rest on February 21, Thursday, in Hilongos, Leyte surrounded by family and friends.
Helen Keller once wrote: “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we deeply love becomes a part of us.”
I would like to think that Mama Bebie never really died.
She just became an angel looking out for her sons and kakanin-crazy journalists like me.
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