RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Manila

Precious Moments With Mom

Just arrived from Manila to celebrate Mother’s day with my mom. I never had the chance to change clothes as I was so eager to share  my stories which she took in every word I said. In her hands were my gifts, a Maybelline pressed powder and an embroidered blouse which she liked the minute she saw it. In the bacground were my four daughters whom she helped me raised including the one behind the camera who is my eldest .

Rare moments that I will forever cherish because they are priceless.

 

 

 

(image credits to facebook.com)

The End Of A Homeless Journey

An old nipa hut renovated, a spacious house filled with kidslaughter and noise, a picture of  home  that now  comes  alive only  in my memory.

We never had our own home.The place where I was born and grew up belonged to my aunt, built from her soldier husband’s pension, killed in action during the Second World War. Since my dad acted like a father to her two kids, she had left her house to his care, a token of love and trust when she decided to build a life with her kids in Manila. No signing of papers. No attorney fees required. Just a  simple act of kindness so that my dad can have a place to  start  his own life.

The house had gone a lot of renovations but there were parts of it as well as pieces of furniture that had remained. It also had weathered a lot of storms and earthquakes, of rains and heat, yet it  had stood still, a sign of its strength and antiquity.

With the people that had lived before and to those who had gone, either to greener pastures or to the other life, the house symbolized more than an edifice. It reminded them of their childhood, of the things they used to do and now only remembered, of the simplicity and the tranquility of life, free of demands and stress. A place where  one wanted to come back over  and over again.

Through the years passersby will admire our house for its uniqueness and space, its wooden floors always inviting one to lie down and retire after a tired day, the sliding windows wide and safe enough to sit on its sills while enjoying a shared story. The dining table, long enough to hold a mini feast while  the adjoined window faced  what used to be a bamboo fence and a star apple tree that had to be chopped down so that a basketball court can be built.

(One of the very few photos left of our old home)

Space. Comfort. Inviting. These best describe the home I used to live.

It was a nook that was enveloped with sadness when my father spent his last days and where his remains would lie before he gets buried, not to the nearby chapel, telling my mom that he had a home to return to. An abode where we heard the sound of his first grandson’s wails a few months after he was laid to rest. And a place that was filled  with laughter, squeals, yells and songs when all us had our own families and get together during the Holiday Seasons, the loudest coming from my seven kids.

I thought it would never end.

But the heavens had  different plans, it seemed.

Our home was built in a place whose inner circle had venoms, jaded people who go way back. Rooted from several generations in the past, incurable even with countless prayers, church visits and novena intentions. I always thought that miracles do happen, even to the most hopeless situations.

I was wrong.

Small talk started even before I was born. Legally it was not rightfully ours. But of what use is the law when one can manipulate it for ulterior motives. When one’s self worth is defined by endless back stabbing, spinning tales enough to believe in and when generosity all too often is masked by getting something in return.

A week after the house had been newly painted and refurnished, we were told we had no reason to stay. My dad had long been gone but that was the less painful part though hearing it directly, literally from the horse’s mouth would confirm it. Sadly, this time it did not come from a horse, but from my dad’s blood relative. We had no choice but to leave.

Our neighbors who had become my parents friends’ were saddened about what they have learned and witnessed. Since our house was located in front of the chapel, nobody had missed that day when we had moved. They still cannot believe that a nipa hut which had been the only home  our family ever had would be the cause of envy and hurt. My mom  kept her emotions intact long enough, until we arrived at our new apartment. It was only then she let the tears and herself go, still finding it hard to accept that we were driven out from our own home.

A few months after we had moved, we were told our house had been torn down. Less than a year from then, three lives were lost and one of them was my brother. It was like watching a tear jerker movie  only this time it happened for real. It was hard to believe that what the house used to represent was now  turned into a tragedy, hurting not just one family , touching not just one’s soul to its very core.

Our lives may never be the same. An old friend once told me loosing ones’ home is like letting go of  one’s roots, the pain goes much deeper. And as I try to shield my children from it all, fate  chose  to do it differently. Though it would be impossible to find the same comfort  that our old home had given us, I know that I will not leave this life homeless. And in time my children and I will again find our lives secured, happy and content in a place we can  really call our own.

The Art Of Letting Go

I had a talk with a bald man the other day who I secretly call Confucius about letting go . I told him that my inseparable kids, Sam and Red, will be heading for Ilagan, Isabela tomorrow for a summer camp . Sam was encouraged by her college instructor to be a volunteer so his brother can also join in . They will be with other volunteers, street children , orphans and special kids in Isabela for ten days . Sam will be a caregiver  and baby sitter to  a different kid. Red will be with her new sister  for those ten days as well . I cannot help myself not to worry.

Before Sam decided to join , she explained that Pedya Kamp have been encouraging volunteers and giving summer camps since 1991. Spearheaded by a group of doctors from Makati Medical Center, they have travelled to other parts of the country and even to the  US as well  to give and share the joys , of having not just a memorable summer but “of turning moments into memories, ” as well . Her instructor,  who had been a volunteer since its first year had found it fulfilling and wanted to share that experience with my daughter.

As always I had lots of questions  even though the registration fee for being a volunteer only costs 200 pesos and the summer camp will be totally free. Aside from the required  seminars that she has to attend, there were other activities that she needs to go to . I have no questions about her taking care of other kids but it was Red that I was concerned about. The group will leave Manila at 10:00 in the evening as it will be a six hour drive, and all through out the trip , Red will start to bond with her new sister which is a first.  I suddenly felt a pang of separation anxiety for my son.

“I  do not think that the idea of your son being with a stranger for ten days worry you , but the thought of not  being needed anymore worries you more, ” told my bald friend. I told him that was not true. He replied with a confident laugh in which he said, ” You must have forgotten that I can see through you. ”

I wanted to strangle the man though I know it will be useless as he was a self defense instructor. So I just told him how hateful he was which he knew was not true . In which he replied with a smile and added, “You cannot be with him all the time . He needs to grow up even if he is a special child. You  just have to learn to let go.”

It was not easy. Over the weekend I would find myself  thinking of those ten days that Sam and Red will be away in Isabela . Though the group had coordinated with the Mayor and his constituents, I still am worried , mostly with Red’s condition  because his speech is still delayed. Sadly I cannot even visit them because of money reasons and the demands of my work. Tears in my eyes dwelled knowing that I was having a hard time letting go of my son  and my friend was right.

Perhaps it is just normal for us parents to be attached to our kids especially if they have special needs. We tend to be protective, doting , always running to their  side  to the point of being extreme, forgetting  they are children who  need  space and yearn lots of play and adventure. And at times I am guilty on some counts. I  fear that if Red plays with other kids , he will get hurt simply because he cannot be understood. He is so hyperactive and might hurt other kids without him knowing what that means. Some parents still do not understand that and I cannot explain in detail about my son’s condition every time. It is an endless cycle that my kids and I had gotten tired of.

Sam reassured me that  parents, guardians  and relatives will be updated by the days’ activities through facebook . As volunteers they were advised to refrain from using their phones except during emergencies because they need to be focused on the kids that they will be taking care of. They have schedules that needed to be followed. Activities like swimming, arts and crafts, visiting the locality and other tourist attractions,  going to church and a Special Olympics  will definitely fill those ten days. She added  that by the time she and Red returns home, he would have learned how to swim and improved on his speech.

( images credit to facebook.com )

As  parents, we want our  kids to become independent and productive citizens of the society. Aside from giving them the opportunity to learn, we have to trust them enough to know what the world really is. That may sound impossible in Red’s case, but in order for my son to believe in himself, I need to have a little faith that he can do it. I need to teach myself because one day he will have to rely more on himself so not to  burden  others. He need to spread his wings in order to fly, and if one day he falls , I need to believe that he will try again . Until he can do it. He might get lost in the process but I know he will return. That much I know…because he is my son.

Of Bicycles, Friendships and Fort Stotsenburg

Anybody who loves history would know that Clark Airbase used to be called Fort Stotsenburg. Situated three miles west of Angeles City and eighty kilometers north of Manila, it was not just the main base for the US Cavalry in the Philippines but a place of opportunity not only for Kapampangans but for people who  wanted to earn a living in other parts of the country even then.

We often heard stories from old people that life before was very hard. Money was scarce and that kids were  encouraged to help their families financially. Children’s rights advocates were unheard then, so is child labor. It was the time before Pearl Harbor.

In my dad’s family, two of my uncles enlisted in the Military. An aunt worked for the Bases’ laundrymat and my dad worked at a bicycle shop. He also became a houseboy to some military families.  Our family hails from Lubao which is the last town of Pampanga, just a few kilometers away from Bataan and Olongapo.

My dad ‘s family was dirt poor. He was orphaned at an early age and grew up without  a father.Though he was a product of a third marriage and had three siblings,  he also had half brothers and sisters which really did not matter even then. Grandma tried all sorts of jobs, so she can feed her kids. Dad once told me that they would have cooked rice and salt for their meals. He and his is youngest brother  Pinong, whom he was really fond of,  would add some water on the cooked rice,  so it would have some taste. These were days when they were lucky. Some days were not. And my grandma could not help but shed a tear, while they were gathered together at the dinner table. That was enough for my aunt Afric and my dad ,who was the second eldest in his brood, to leave Lubao,  and try his luck at Fort Stotsenburg. And true enough he did.

At the bicycle shop, dad’s boss was an American, thus he learned his English firsthand. Day by day, my dad did not only  earn a living, he also earned a teacher and a friend. The American would teach him the basics  of  his work and my dad would follow. Day by day, he learned to forget how lonely it was to leave his family in Lubao so they could eat regular meals, choosing not to be a burden instead. My aunt Naty who was the youngest, once said that he once took her and uncle Pinong to the bicycle shop as a treat. He bought them bubblegum which were too big  for their small mouths to chew, that they could not even open them to speak. And my dad would laugh at them, because he knew his siblings were overwhelmed not only with  the taste of candies but of the stories that needed to be shared for the short time they were together.

When Pearl Harbor broke out, life became chaos. It became survival.  Dad was trapped in Angeles City where as his family in  Lubao evacuated. It may have been months, maybe years. Most people were not mindful of counting how long the war will last then , but how soon it would be over. My dad’s family thought he was already dead. They lost track of him. It was very painful but each of them hope, that one day they will all be together.

It turned out that  dad’s boss hid him.  Perhaps, in a way,  the American felt like a father, protective of his son and his welfare. He too, wished that both of them will survive. After a long time, when the war  was nearing  its end, and it was safe enough to come outside, my dad had to say the inevitable. He told his boss, that he need to go back to Lubao. The American, was hesitant to let him leave. He  told my dad that he may not find his family anymore, that they may have not survived. He even offered him to have a life in the US, adopt him as his son, so he can have a better life. He was so touched, not only by my dad’s sense of professionalism  but his love for his family as well.

But my dad declined.

He told him that he will always be grateful for his kindness but he will try to pick up the pieces of his life, or of what’s left in Lubao. And that he can never leave his family behind.

It was then that the American let him go. I am not  sure if he even helped my dad  assemble a bicycle so he can get to Lubao much faster. In a way, the bicycle was not just a gift,  but a bond,  a reminder of a friendship that will never be forgotten.

The trip from Angeles to Lubao was a painful one. My dad let go, not only of an opportunity but a dream that could have changed his life.  Still, he chose to be with his family, if he will be lucky enough to find them.

After passing many towns,  destroyed by the war, asking around about his family, he finally found them.  They had all survived. The emptiness that he felt so long  suddenly was replaced by happiness now that he is back. The pain of waiting was all worth it.

This story was a product of the bits and pieces of  stories, randomly told  by my mom , aunt Naty and sometimes by my  dad. Now I know why we  he  named his kids  with American names. Now I know why we grew up  watching mostly American shows, even documentaries in which I am  now thankful of.  Maybe this explains why, when my dad had a bicycle for a  gift,  took  good care of it even to his last days.

Perhaps, he remembered, how it felt to have a father and how he found a friend during the time of war.

And just maybe he remembered, his humble beginnings, at  a place once called Fort Stotsenberg.

(image credits  to wikepedia.com)

A Red Filled Life

It was February of  2004. My sister told me to have that ultrasound, worried that I might be  overdue with my pregnancy. I told her that I was not, added that full term babies age from thirty-eight to forty-six weeks. Still, she told me that a visit to my obstetrician would not hurt.

I was pregnant with my seventh kid, was a stay at home mom and whose marriage was on the rocks. My kids and I were living with my mom, a typical prodigal daughter scenario where I did not have much choice but to listen, follow and  let my siblings decide for myself, depending on them for almost everything.

My obstetrician asked me if I already have a  name for my baby. I told her ” yes, ” and the name that I had chosen was  “Summer Renee,” because she will be  born in summer time. Surprisingly she asked , “What if it turns out to be a boy?” I looked at her in the eye and then I knew, I was going to have a son.

He weighed more than seven pounds. The midwife told me he was a big baby because when she put him on the weighing scale, his baby feet extended, had touched the surface. “He had long legs,” she added as she placed him in my arms. I named  him Red Stuart. His sisters, especially the eldest one, liked the sound of it. And she was crazy with her baby brother ever since she had laid eyes on him from day one that they were inseparable, almost, until now.

He was  born at a time when I was slowly dying inside. When everything was unsure, and the future looked hopeless and bleak. What more, he had to have a piece of my attention and love which was already divided into six, myself, forgotten. Each day was filled with questions and regrets, guilt and shame. I was almost to the point of no return.

I could not remember when or how I woke up. What I did remember  was when I told  myself I have had enough. Enough of looking at walls, wishing I could go through them. Enough of dreaming big when afraid of taking even  a small step. Enough of hoping love would come back when there was almost nothing left even for myself.

I told my mom I have to work, in Manila because I knew it was my turf. That I will bring three of my kids with me, explained that two of them needed to go to a special education center.That there were more opportunities and support groups in the city compared to our place. Good thing she was a teacher because she understood. Still it was not easy when  I left  the other four, Red included, who was just then two years old.

All of a sudden, the family that I built  had been divided. I recall seeing my second eldest shed some tears when they had to say goodbye after every vacation ended. I recall, my eldest son, then on his fourth grade, confined in the hospital, without me being around. And I remember, how I would cry and comfort myself, looking at Red’s picture, smiling, as if he was asking,  ” Will I be home soon? ”

Days, months, years had passed. I lost count on the sleepless nights I had spent working to build a life.

Of braving stormy days just  to get home and  check on the kids  only to work again in the evenings. Of fighting the cold weather, just to take advantage of a holiday pay. Of thinking that one day, I will have my family back including  Red. Miraculously, we were able to hold on.

March of 2012. Now all  six kids are  in my wing, with one daughter left with my mom. Less than a year from now, all of them will be together, with my mom, perhaps included. It will be a jungle but definitely not the first time. Now, I at least get to enjoy a few hours with Red, seeing him off to school and picking him up even only after an hour. Now I know when I get home, I would not be just looking at his picture, imagining him in my arms. Now, I have learned that in order for me to look at all them clearly,  I have to find myself first. And now, I realize that despite all the pain that had gone in between, I was able turn my life around, fill it with hope, and finally tell myself, that I had done the right thing.

My life which was used to be  gray is now back to its old color, in which  it is filled  with red once more.

And for me that was enough.

(image credits to facebook.com)