My mother turned fifty-years-old this past January. I always seem to forget how old she is or that she’s spent about half of her life being my mother, our mother. Maybe it’s because she hardly ages? She’s looked the same for as long as I can remember — no signs of fine lines or wrinkles. Her smile is still bright and full and her laugh — that laugh — is still a contagious echo that can be heard as far away as the Grand Canyon is deep! But I’ve seen her struggle. I’ve seen her in pain. I was even with her when she ran away from it all. She’s a fighter, a quiet fighter but with the most courageous heart. I have painful, almost disturbing memories from my childhood of what I have seen her go through. The Philippines wasn’t always a pretty place to be in. There are people you can’t trust. There are more people who’ll take advantage of you, they’ll do it without a problem, even in front of your children.