Perla Bermudez Santos, who has been based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States since 2005, remains healthy and active as a community worker.
Through her group, MoTHER, Santos promotes physical fitness among members in the Philippines and the US on certain days of the week through virtual Zumba and dance classes conducted by the BMD Dance Crew.
Early on, MoTHER united the community for a common goal, like launching a project to disseminate information on certain issues and linking with the Philippine Consulate to render service to Filipinos, among others.
The group is officially called the International MoTHER Movement. MoTHER stands for Movement for the Protection of Women against Rape.
It was later changed to Movement for the Protection of Women against Rape and Other Acts of Violence.
But times change; so do people’s needs.
Santos thought of making the group more responsive to people’s urgent needs, like good health.
“MoTHER has been promoting physical fitness through virtual Zumba and dance classes,” she said.
She thanked Cres and Loloy Go for their unstinting support.
“Whatever project MoTHER has undertaken would not have been possible without them,” Perla said.
But while Santos is happy with what she is doing in the US — working for a living and giving something of herself to help others — and has become a dual citizen, she misses the Philippines.
In January last year, amid a flurry of activities at work and in the community, she visited the Philippines to attend the Santos clan’s international grand reunion, which she helped organize.
She also visited other relatives, friends, and former colleagues in places where she used to hang out in the old days.
Santos is related to well-known personalities who have become part of Philippine history, such as Major General Paulino Santos, who served as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army under Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.
General Santos was awarded the Medal for Valor for “exemplary conduct and conspicuous courage” during the Lanao campaign in 1917. The Medal for Valor (Medalya ng Kagitingan) is the highest Philippine military honor for “gallantry in action.”
As Director of the Bureau of Prisons, General Santos founded the Davao Penal Colony, and initiated the transfer of old Bilibid Prisons in Manila to its current location in Muntinlupa, Rizal.
As General Manager of the National Land Settlement Administration, General Santos led 200 migrants from Luzon and the Visayas to settle and cultivate parts of Mindanao, supporting the government’s food production program.
In 1944, President Laurel recalled him to military service as the commanding officer of the Philippine Constabulary.
Another famous relative was the founder and first elected “president” or mayor of Mayantoc, Tarlac. Don Francisco Santos donated his properties as the site of the town plaza, municipal building, public school, church, and cemetery.
“These were prerequisites for the township of Mayantoc in the early 1900s,” Perla said.
Born in Tarlac, Perla attended schools there before continuing her high school education at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. She finished her degree at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
Santos visited the Philippines in late November last year, brimming with idealism and dreams for the country.
The recognition and growing popularity of MoTHER and its projects paved the way for Perla’s introduction to local government officials, who expressed appreciation for her efforts.
In the US, MoTHER collaborated in some activities with the Philippine Consulate, headed by Consul General Edgar Badajos, a University of the Philippines law alumnus from Abra.
Badajos was earlier posted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Edgar Tomas “Gary” Q. Auxilian, formerly stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, is now the Consul General.
MoTHER has received awards and commendations from various sectors, including the Philippine Consulate.
One was the 21st Gawad Amerika Awards in Hollywood, California, on November 19, 2022.
Perla’s determination to make a difference in ordinary people’s lives saw her and MoTHER defy odds and risks to health despite limited resources during the pandemic.
They collected food and grocery items given away for free from supermarkets and distributed them to those in need.
While in Tarlac, Perla also participated in the virtual dance and Zumba lessons.
She also took the time to give the International MoTHER Movement Award (IMMA) on December 12, 2023, to Doris Angeles Balingit in Banaba, Bamban, Tarlac.
IMMA is a Mother’s Day highlight to recognize mothers of achiever children.
Doris is the mother of Carlo Balingit, founder, leader, and prime mover of the YouTube sensation BMD Dance Crew. BMD has more than a million subscribers on social media.
BMD partners with MoTHER for its International Virtual Center program.
Perla also visited friends in Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur whom she had not seen for a long time.
She capped off her Philippine visit with a brief meeting and interview with this writer on a Tuesday morning (December 27) in Gateway, Cubao, showing why she had become a good organizer and leader.
She was kind, gentle, generous, thoughtful, and focused as she listened to what I said.
She had earlier shown glimpses of these when we first met in Riyadh, where MoTHER also worked with the Philippine Embassy headed by Ambassador Rafael E. Seguis, who still helps distressed OFWs though already retired.
Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security & Consular Affairs Jesus “Gary” S. Domingo was then the embassy’s First Secretary and Head of the Assistance to Nationals (ATN).