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TitleThe Last Time I Saw Mother
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Page 1

Study Guide on The Last Time I Saw Mother
Study Guide on Pages 1-55



Based on the introduction, why is the persona writing the story?

The person is writing the story to make amends with her past because there is so much

that she didn’t understand before. She wants to write the story as a testament to the

truth so that she can accept it and so finally “move on at last.”



As the story begins, where is it set?

The story is initially set in Caridad’s house in Sydney, Australia.

Where does the main character have to go?

She needed to go back to her hometown in Manila to answer her mother’s summon.



So far, how would you describe our main character? What do you think of

her as a daughter? As a mother?

As a daughter, Caridad remains to be a very obedient and loving one. Despite the one-

way communication, she continues to write to her mother just to keep in touch. As a

mother, she seems to be very withdrawn. She had thoughts and feelings about certain

things in her family and she would just keep it all to herself.



Describe the kind of relationship that Caridad has with her daughter.

Caridad and her daughter Marla both love each other. Caridad is very much concerned

with her daughter’s general welfare and is very cautious about what could possibly be

her reaction to the inevitable separation of her parents. Marla, on the other hand, is

very free to express her own feelings to her mother. In some instances, Marla would

seem to be the one who “preaches patience” and “plays mother” to her mother.



Who are the people who usually write to Caridad? How are they related to

her?

The people who usually write to Caridad are Mia and Jessie. Mia is Caridad’s first

cousin and best friend. Caridad’s constant communication with Mia allows her to be

abreast not only with what is going on in her native country but with her very own

mother Thelma as well. Jessie, on the other hand, is an old friend from her convent

school days in Manila who turned out quite well as a practicing neurologist.



Why was Caridad surprised to receive a letter from her mother? What did

the letter say?

Caridad’s mother had never sent her a letter before. Thus, it was a surprise for Caridad

to receive something from her mother indicating, “Come home, Caridad. I need to

speak to you.”



What was Caridad’s first reaction to the letter?

At first it was indeed a surprise for Caridad to have received something from her silent

mother. Having read the message and the brief summon, she was fearful that her

mother is sick. Her initial worry was appeased by Mia. However, what lingered on was

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Caridad’s fear that her mother and Mia might have known of her recent separation with

her husband Jaime, something that she had kept as a secret from her relatives in

Manila.



Why did Caridad and Jaime separate? Were they ever in love? How does

she feel about their current state now?

There are many things that Caridad does not understand. One of these is the reason

why she and Jaime must live separate lives. She cannot pinpoint a very clear reason as

the source of her separation with her husband. Because of this, she was hesitant to

share her marital concerns with Mia and even her own mother in the Philippines. She

traces her relationship with Jaime and recalls that it was his ability to make her laugh

which prompted her to give her hand in marriage. Looking at the present situation,

Caridad tells that the laughter in their relationship is gone after years of being together.



What does Meg say about the separation?

Caridad’s friend Meg probably grew up from a different cultural or religious

background. Her friend believes that separation is something normal and that it is a

phenomenon that occurs to most couples nowadays. She also says that as Catholics,

people like Caridad have been living in guilt and sadness. She asks Caridad to lighten

up and take her as an example of a woman enjoying life after being a “veteran of two

divorces.”



How does Caridad describe Migrants? Why does she say, “Ours is a

fractured existence”?

Migrants are people who will never become whole. They move from one place to

another in search for greener pastures and there build new homes. Yet as they move to

a new home, they leave one behind. And because of this, they will forever be torn by

their attachments to both homes—old and new. Thus, a fractured existence is what can

be described of their lives.



When was the last time Caridad was home?

The last time Caridad was home was when she attended her father’s funeral. This was

about three years before she went to visit her mother.



What does she remember about her house?

She remembers the house in great detail. She remembers how it looks like, how it is

built within the village for the old rich. She remembers it for what it once was. Thinking

about her house hurls to the memory of her father sitting on his favorite chair, reading

a good novel and her mother sitting near the window, gazing outside. The house

remains the same, but this time her father is just a living memory.



Describe Caridad’s current relationship with her mother.

Caridad makes up for the distance between herself and her mother by writing letters at

least once a month. She writes about important and trivial things, about Marla and her

life in Australia. She wanted her mother to be still involved with her life. Her mother

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If you were to choose, where would you like to live more?

This question is best answered through personal reflection.



Describe Manila traffic, as seen by Caridad.

Manila traffic is very complex and chaotic. She describes it vividly: she talks about

traffic lights going out, drivers abusing each other, sampaguita vendors knocking on

car windows and basically how everything clogs the streets and creates a traffic jam. In

her words, Manila traffic is imagined as a “series of clogged street arteries”.



Why is Manila a “city of extremes”?

Manila is the city of extremes because of the ever-widening gap between its rich and

poor citizens, who ironically live side by side in one city.



What are the different races present in the Philippines? Describe each.

People with Spanish blood were usually the ones who were very privileged. For a very

long time, the Spaniards ruled this nation and dictated most of the lifestyle, customs

and religious traditions of the country. The Chinese came as a lower class people but

emerged and created a niche by being excellent businessmen. They gained social

acceptance by marrying locals. The Americans were best known for their educational

system and their prestigious, first-world way of living. These foreigners were usually

the ones with great power and resources than the native Filipino in his own land. There

were also the mestizos, or people born out of mixed races.



Why have Filipinos become indifferent to oppression?

According to Jaime, Filipinos have become indifferent to oppression because they have

been numbed already by the experience of about four hundred years of colonial rule. It

is really ironic that Filipinos have only realized the need to shake off oppression after

being immersed with twenty years of a “homemade dictatorship”.



Describe the house of Caridad. Describe her room.

The house has always been the same, as she remembered it. It is as if the pieces of

furniture have been left untouched. It is an old house, elegant and sophisticated in its

own time.



Describe Thelma, Caridad’s mother. What is the first thing that she says to

Caridad?

Thelma used to be a vibrant woman, strong-willed in terms of character. In this part of

the story she is seen as an old lady, aged in wisdom and memory. She welcomes

Caridad by asking her to come nearer and responds to her daughter’s call by saying,

“No, Caridad, I’m not your mama.”



Whose point of view is used in the next chapter?

The nest chapter uses the point of view of Thelma, Caridad’s mother.

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