I was a product of a broken family at a very tender age. It did not bother me though, as I did not have time to wallow in it then. Don’t get me wrong, I did want a family that was whole, but under the circumstances, it was not possible, and I did not want to stay miserable, so I had opted to cope up splendidly.
Life was hard those days… I mean really hard… This is due to severe poverty. I ate only one decent meal a day–lunch, but before I can, I had to work first to earn money for it; breakfast was a luxury I did not enjoy.
At the age of 10, when kids my age played with their toys, I worked on my first job in a candy factory. I did not have toys because I considered playing as a waste of time. Instead,
I had a very dangerous job; one small mistake would have cut off my fingers. This is because I and another boy had to cut long and hard candy bars using a crosscut saw. Since I still wanted my fingers complete when I grow up, I did not stay there for long.
At the age of 12, I was able to land another “job”. This job required me to wake up at 4am, rush to the seashore of Manila Bay, and together with other child workers, we would gather mussels and oysters to sell in the marketplace.
I was lucky if I had been able to borrow a worn screwdriver to use as a tool to carve the mussels out from the hard surfaces of the rocks. But if I was not able to, I was forced to use my bare hands. You could just imagine how bloody my hands would be from clawing at the rock surface to get those shells. On top of that, I had to work against time as I had to carry them fast enough to the marketplace where vendors would be impatiently waiting. My activity would culminate in an 8-kilometer walk from the bay to the market; the walk, so that I could save more coins.
The authorities; however, became very strict with children roaming the streets so early, so I had to find another job. I did other odd jobs after that, such as selling street foods and washing taxicabs. The busy streets of Manila became my working area and playground at the same time. Beggars became my friends, and their children were my co-workers along with other street people.
Although people were insulting and belittling us, I did not care as long as I knew I was honest and had never stolen in spite of the prevailing poverty. Deep inside me though, I felt really hurt how people can be so cruel and condescending.
My mother and siblings were in the US but no one knew exactly where they were. I had some pictures of them and me together, but I think I was only 4 years old then.
My father eventually married for the second time. My step mother was very kind to me. Although she had five children courtesy of her first husband, our relationship was wonderful. In fact, she was more persistent than I was, in her pursuit for me to finish, at least, high school. To help make both ends meet, she cooked in a small-time restaurant.
My father was a simple laborer in a paper manufacturing company, but his earnings were not sufficient for all of us. We could not even afford to rent a small room; which was why I grew up in the slum areas.
Rats and cockroaches were part of my neighborhood, along with pimps and drug addicts. My father was not lazy and illiterate. In fact, he was intelligent. He was a wide reader, a good writer, and a great poet. I even heard that one of his poems was once displayed in the National Library. I think he was a real genius. But then, he was among those artists who did not want to earn money from being one. He may be not that smart, but he would always be an artist to me.
As the years went by, I got used to the poverty I existed in, and blamed no one. After all, it wouldn’t change anything, and I feel I had better things to worry about.
I continued to be a working student, but after sometime, I found it was really impossible for my young mind to study and at the same time be physically exhausted, so I had dropped out from high school and became a full-time money maker; I fetched water for my neighbors and sold cigarettes. I didn’t know then where my journey would lead me; at that point in time, I didn’t care about my future.
After 3 years of helping my adopted family, I decided it was time to go back to school. I was very hesitant but my stepmother encouraged me, saying that it was the only way out from the slums. She said that with an education, I had a bigger chance to succeed.
I went back to school and studied and worked simultaneously. I was more matured at that time and I knew I had to persevere and work hard if I wanted my dream fulfilled: a dream that someday I would land a respectable job and earn the respect of my peers. I did not realize then, that it would be more than that, and had never imagined that my going back to school would serve as my bridge to a new life.
I was then 19 years old when I became an officer of the Citizen’s Army Training in school. During the course, one of my lady cadets was not able to attend the Saturday training. According to her, she had been looking for her father whom she never saw. I understood her all along since I knew how difficult it was to have one parent missing; so eventually, we became friends.
She regularly gave me updates about her quest, and as months went by, she seemed to be heading on the right path. On the other hand, I shared with her the history of my parents, and the hardships I had endured during my childhood.
She helped me in any way she could. When she learned I had only one polo uniform, she gave me a white polo which has been previously used by her cousin. She was among my few classmates who became sad upon learning that my father could not afford to send me to college.
A month before our graduation, I received good news from her. She would finally meet her father after 21 years of waiting. I knew that would make her a complete person; and I was very happy for her.
The story did not end there; however, while she was in her aunt’s house (her father’s older sister), she mentioned my name being her superior and the only one who knew her life story. She was proud to consider me as one of her closest friends. The mention of my name turned out to be an instrument to unravel another story.
That day was supposed to be another ordinary school day, but it turned out to be extraordinary. My cadet turned-friend approached me at the corridor with a very tight hug, and she was crying out loud uttering words that I was unable to understand. I tried to calm her down because we were starting to attract attention, but she did not care. So I let her tears flow on my shoulders for some minutes until she got tired. She did not want to let go of me, and she kept whispering to me that I would be alright, that I would be going to college the following year. She assured me that I had a chance to enjoy a brighter future.
I learned later that this was what occurred during her audience with her aunt. When my name was mentioned, her aunt had told her that my full name was very familiar and she went on to determine why. Life is full of pleasant surprises, they found out I was THE long lost relative!
I learned that we were first cousins, that her father was an older brother of my mother. It was a great shock to me. I did not even remember how I reacted. The next thing I knew, we were talking to my father who confirmed everything. He was smiling as he shared with us the story of how my cousin’s father had hit him when he saw my parents dating at a very young age. It felt weird that after all those months of sharing; we did not even talk about my middle name, and worst, her surname did not even strike me as familiar. It did not occur to me why she has such an uncommon surname – Valentin.
When the big day came for me to meet my long lost relatives, I had to borrow a pair of pants and shoes from my stepbrother. My friend – turned cousin- was very excited too. I must admit, I was not able to smile because I had a preconceived notion that I would be discriminated.
I had learned that my aunt enjoyed a very luxurious lifestyle. They had three cars, a big house with a garden, and a good, thriving business.
The lunch was well prepared on a round table, but we still had to wait for my uncle as he was living about a kilometer away. While we were waiting, my aunt showed me some old pictures of my mother and my siblings. She was crying while telling me that my mother had been looking for me all those years. She even hired some people to help in the search, but to no avail; maybe because we had been transferring from one abode to another.
When my uncle came, tears fell like rain from everyone’s eyes except mine. I had mixed feelings, and I was more interested in the food. They didn’t only look delicious; it was also the first time that I would taste them.
After that unforgettable, sumptuous lunch, I did not expect my mother to call. When I heard her loud voice, it was like the best music I ever heard. She was crying really loud and shouting at the top of her voice. She kept on asking me what I looked like, where I had been all those times. What I ate and other questions a stranger would ask someone. She did not give me time to answer any of them though, because she kept talking and crying.
I did not even remember how the conversation ended. I forgot the exact date of that momentous day, but I remembered thanking someone who was very dear to me; someone I knew who had been always watching over me and someone who would always be there when I would need Him most – my Creator. I am not a great fan of any religion, but I accept the fact I am only human and there is that Super Being who knows when a suffering must end.
That was a scene 23 years ago. Yes, my life had changed since then. I did not become rich, but I was able to finish a college course. Now, my work does not only fit my age and body, but also my mind.
Most of all; I am respected by people, my blogging friends and by society. Thanks to the various “angels” who had helped me in my quest for a better life.
Life is still hard these days, but I feel better now. I still skip breakfast sometimes, but my wife never fails to prepare one. I have bought good toys for my children and I can now play along with them. And lastly, I am now enjoying a good lunch!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
He is a Filipino engineer who is into full time blogging. He says that:
“…it is really my passion to communicate through writing, I decided to blog. I feel that in terms of audience and speed it is better than just writing..”
He has gained great readership in his three interesting and very informative blogs. Visit his sites to see for yourself.
A courageous person who had triumphed against all the tremendous challenges that had crossed his path. Angel deserves all the happiness in the world.
Kudos to you Angel and good luck with all your present endeavors.
For more effective parenting tips, successful marriage tips and other family issues, tips on blogging, making money on line, and many more, please feel free to visit his blog at Father Blogger Dot Com.
Photo 1 by m o d e