This past February, Philippine atomweight contender Jomary Torres (3-0) went back to her hometown of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte, to attend a wedding.
However, while in the neighborhood, she decided to surprise one of the most important people in her life — her 81-year-old grandmother.
“I called to tell her that I had a package delivered to her, but she did not know that I would be coming home myself,” the 22-year-old known as “The Zamboanginian Fighter” explains.
“When I got to our house, I was dressed differently than my family was used to seeing, so nobody greeted me when I got out of the car. Another neighbor recognized me and told my grandmother, ‘Hey, your package arrived! It is a person!’
“I told her, ‘Nay, your package is here!’ And that is when she cried. I guess she missed her granddaughter so much.”
Nay, which is short for nanay, or ‘mom’ in tagalog, is Feliciana Torres, who took care of Jomary since she was an infant.
Jomary and her 1-year-old brother were left under their grandmother’s care after their parents split up and went their separate ways. Since then, Feliciana took on the roles of both mom and dad.
The young Filipina was not eased into the reality that her parents were gone. Instead, she accepted early on that she was being raised by her grandmother, and Feliciana reciprocated with a love so strong that it filled the void her parents left.
“She stood as our mother and father because she raised us,” Jomary shares.
“If she was not there for me, I would not be here. When I was little, my parents did not visit us. My mom never visited us, so that is why my grandma is the one I consider as my mom.
“Even during Mother’s Day, we would look for our grandmother. When we graduated, we also looked for our grandmother instead of our mother.
“She (my mother) has been gone for too long, anyway. We even call her, but she either drops our call, or tells us she is busy. We did not keep her from choosing her new family.”
Feliciana did not have a stable source of income when she raised Jomary and her brother, but she managed to provide for them. She picked up extra work at a school cafeteria, and even sold bananas just so she could make enough money to put them through school.
Also, she was affectionate to her grandchildren almost to a fault. Feliciana disciplined them, but her anger quickly subsided, and things returned to normal.
“Sometimes, she told us not to wander around,” Jomary begins.
“If we did, then we got punished when we arrived home. My brother and I were little troublemakers back then — we would not listen to her. However, after she got mad, she gave us food, and all was well again.”
After finishing high school, Jomary took it upon herself to earn a living so her grandmother could rest. She initially moved to Manila to work as a nanny, but soon thereafter, Catalan Fighting System ignited her passion for martial arts.
With a promising career as a ONE Championship athlete, “The Zamboanginian Fighter” hopes she can persuade Feliciana to relax, and focus on taking care of her great-grandchildren.
“Sometimes, I give her some money so that she can sell something around the school while waiting for the kids, just so she has something to do,” the unbeaten atomweight contender explains.
“We keep telling her to stop already, because she is too old, but she just scolds us, and does it anyway. She wants to stay busy.”
This relentless perseverance is just one of the many things the young Filipina admires most about her grandmother.
Feliciana also taught her granddaughter other important lessons that have helped her succeed in her new career under the strict guidance of her head coach, Rene Catalan.
“I learned how to have a good attitude,” Jomary says.
“She never forced us to do anything we did not want to do, and she taught us what is wrong, and what is right. Her affection also rubbed off on me – even if we were facing difficulties, I learned the most important thing is that our family stays together.”
Now, as Jomary continues to rise up the atomweight ranks, she wants to bring her grandmother’s dream to life.
Feliciana is living with the athlete’s brother and his children, and they currently rent a place in the Zamboanga del Norte province. However, she wants to own a permanent family home, and her granddaughter is determined to help with that.
“She is actually looking to buy a piece of land so she does not have to pay rent where they are staying now,” Jomary explains. “I plan on buying [the land] so she does not have to worry about it anymore.”
Jakarta | 22 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast