Sunday, March 25, 2012

Of Bicycles, Friendships and Fort Stotsenburg

Perhaps not all of us knew that Clark Airbase used to be called Fort Stotsenburg. Situated three miles west of Angeles City and eighty kilometers north of Manila, it was  the main base for the US Cavalry in the Philippines back when the Americans had colonized the country. It was also  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.

Photo credits from

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. Advocates for children's rights  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 Base's laundromat 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 could feed her kids. Dad once told me that they would have cooked rice and salt for their meals. He and  his youngest brother  Pinong, whom he was really fond of would add water and salt  on the cooked rice so it would have some taste. These were days when they were lucky. Some days were not. And my grandama 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 but also earned a teacher and a friend. The American will 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 recalled those rare days when he got to spend some time with them, when dad  took her and uncle Pinong to the bycicle shop as a treat. He bought them bubblegums 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 was bombed and the war broke out, life became chaos. It became survival. Dad was trapped in Angeles City while  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. Never did they thought that the American boss and my dad went into hiding.

Because of the uncertainties the war had created, the American had grown to care for my dad. During those dark days, his boss did not only become a friend but  acted more of  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  it was time for him to head back home. 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 start 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 professionlism  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  assembled 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 what he had been looking for. What more 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 had found a friend during the time of war.
And just maybe he remembered, his humble beginnings at  a place once called Fort Stotsenberg.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nice To Know You Wednesday #14

Here is my shared post for momwrites invitational Nice To Know You Wednesday Meme.

Here are the 5 questions of the week:

  1. What was the title of the last book you read?
  2. How do rainy days make you feel?
  3. What effect does music have on you?
  4. What were your best and worst subjects in school or college?
  5. If you were a star of a reality show, what would its title be: My Turn, My Time or Queen For The Day?

1. Sadly, I never got the chance to read since I started working. The last book that I read was " Mothers of Influence . " It was a mother's day gift for my mom and it was simply written. What more, it included the stories of some influential personalities' mothers like John and Robert Kennedy, Denzel Washington, Steven Spielberg , C. S. lewis, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln.

2. Rainy days make me feel lazy , that feeling that you just want to stay home, curled up in bed and just stay there. I love the rainy days if it is not associated with a typhoon. I love the freshness and the cold feeling that I long for once in a while, especially on a hot summer .

3. I grew up with music as I come from a family of gifted musicians, where my dad and uncles learned to play three or four musical instruments on their own. So it is my language. It makes happy, sad, inspired and a way to bond with my family and relatives. I even sing during traffic, while taking a bath, on my way to work and while during the laundry and that runs in the family.

4. English and History were my best subjects, and Math. I may not be that excellent in Mathematics but there was a time that I was just like playing with equations and problems solving , and can still derive some basic formulas until now.

5. Hmm. Such cheesy titles. All of them are a given. Perhaps I will choose "My Time, " I may not be a fan of reality shows but I can use that as a sign post on my door when I do not want to be disturb when I am writing a post or just want to be by myself during rest days.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why I Love Being A Mom and Blogger

“This is an official entry to Dainty Mom’s

Bloggy Goodies Contest  in celebration of Dainty Mom  blog's  2nd anniversary."

Motherhood before was some sort of journey that every woman had to go through. Some dreamed that they want to be a mother someday, have their own family, and bring up their kids by themselves. Now some women look at motherhood differently. Some just want to have kids without the added security of  marriage. Some prefer to adopt because they dislike childbirth, and perhaps, some are at a loss, not knowing where their life will be heading, thinking that motherhood was not really meant for them.

I got married to my boyfriend because I was pregnant. A lot of people did not approve of our decision but we still went ahead with it. It had been rocky from the start as we were driven individuals, just starting to have a career. Being young, everything was all over the place. The arguments, the decision making, the learning to stand on our own thing only to learn we cannot do it by ourselves.Ultimately, we had to separate and that was the hardest part.

Choosing to become a mom was not  instantaneous. I am not going to pretend I loved every minute of it when I was starting because it was such a struggle. I did not know how to talk to a baby and ask what she needs. All she did was wail and squeal, except when she was fed and sound asleep. Worst, when she started teething, the cries were endless, because of her hurting gums and restless stomach due to diarrhea. I was grateful when my mom was there to take turns so I could at least grab some sleep.

Years had passed, with seven kids to take care of, feed, guide and discipline, I had learned to love the journey which was like a maze at first. It was not easy. But when you see that your  kids, who are replicas of yourself, learn to become independent, rely on themselves, and try to understand that life is not what it seems, you try your best to make things different for them. You become honest, you become real, telling them you are not perfect, and try to give them what you think is best. But most importantly, pray and hope, that their lives would be better than the one that you had.

I was introduced to the world of blogging November of 2011. When I started, I never thought it would open a lot of doors for me. Not only that, I never imagined that I can write posts that would touch other people's lives, telling me that tears almost dwelled in their eyes making them cry. Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I wrote them, that my  stories can  create inspiration by simply sharing and being true to myself.

In a way, blogging is like motherhood. One may start  this journey full of doubts and second thoughts, worried that it would bring more heartaches than fulfillment, thinking perhaps, you were not born with it. Time and attention is sacrificed, giving a piece of yourself, hoping they would understand.

But when your effort had been reciprocated, then it changes the whole picture. The fulfillment that you get, from your children's good grades, thoughtfulness, self reliance and understanding, is the same fulfillment you get from your readers, when they post comments, liked your posts, and tell you  to continue writing.Your readers become a source of inspiration, to keep  you going and  to believe that your decision to pour your heart out, letting them know what you've been  through and what have you become, were all worth it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finding Your Way Home

Most of us perhaps feel that one of the most defining moments in our lives was when we braved our way to get home from school on our own. For those who were not well off to have a car and hire the services of a family driver, join the school bus even and just simply do with the help of a guardian, household help or a kind neighbor, that time will come when one just wished things will be different, that one will be allowed to take care of himself and not continue to burden anybody else. I remembered that day when I decided to take command of such things. Too clearly, that it was one of the most told stories I had shared with my kids.

I went to a school where my mom taught. It was an accident prone area were most provincial busses going to Olongapo and Bataan would pass by. During the  70's, the ratio of the accidents was one student a year but that had grown tremendously through the years. At that time my dad would not even entertain the idea of letting me or my siblings go home on our own. He may have been over protective but he did not care. Until that time when he did not have any choice, that is.

My mom was sent to the Division Office to attend a seminar. She asked a fellow colleague who was also an aunt and a neighbor to accompany me home. And since working mothers were good in multi tasking, my aunt went first to the market  which was close to the school before we head home. Since there were a lot of people she left me in a stall and told me to wait for her when she was done.

A few minutes had passed while waiting for my aunt. Those few minutes lasted for half an hour, then for an hour. I was already bored and worried because it  started to get dusk. The kind lady who was the stall owner happened to be my dad's relative as well. She told me that she will take me home because it seemed my aunt had forgotten me.

I felt terrible and rejected. Perhaps what happened was not intentional still I felt left out. Not only that but I felt helpless, alone and afraid. And as a kid that feeling stays with you for a long time. Later I learned that my aunt was preoccupied and was in a hurry to get home because one of her kids were sick. I had no choice but to  understand.

I told myself then that I will not let it happen again. Strange enough it did but this time I finally had the guts to decide for myself.

When my mom had a miscarriage and filed for a leave, my dad had no choice to trust my mom's colleagues to see me off each time I leave and head home from school. I think that lasted for almost a month until I cannot take it any longer. One day I decided to take my own route, went home early and told my dad what I have done.

"Why did you do it?" "What had gotten in that stubborn mind of yours again? Have you not thought that something might have happened to you?" Concern was written on my dad's face. I almost regretted what I have done but I have to tell him the reason why.

I told him I did not want to be accompanied when I leave for school anymore and that I wanted to be with other kids when they walk their way home. I reasoned out that I  did not want to be left out again after relying someone will be there for me, only to learn that I am alone afterwards.

He became quiet. Trying to understand what I said. Thinking if it was about time for me to take that giant step. Finally he said, "Starting tomorrow, you can go home on your own but understand that it will not be easy for me to get used and trust you to go to school by yourself. I do not want you crossing the street when some drivers think they own the road. I do not want to learn and wait for that day for somebody to tell me you are not going home anymore."

Those words had been etched in my mind until now. Now that I already have kids and all of them go to school. Except for my youngest who still needs my guidance, all of them have to rely on themselves, brave the streets and trust them enough that they know what they are doing.The story that I told them many times  was done intentionally so that one day, when they feel that I had gotten used to their independence and felt I had cared less because I was swamped with the demands of my work, to always remember that each time they head for the door and feel their old enough to decide for themselves, that it will always be left open waiting for their return, hoping finally that they had found their way home.

Literal Mom

( This article was also published at on Mother's Day of 2012 and at on Sept 11, 2012)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

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