By JARL GAMONEZ | 12/31/2008 1:23 AM
Editor's Note: The story is lifted from the book “Migrants’ Stories, Migrants’ Voices 2 published by the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) with the support from Cordaid, an international development organization based in the Netherlands. The book contains a collection of 13 stories about the many faces of migration and details how migrants and their families cope with the separation. abs-cbnNEWS.com obtained a permission from the PMRW to publish the stories online.
I want to share my experience about being a product of a well-to-do family. If material possessions would be your gauge in measuring how affluent a family would be, I could say that indeed we belong to the upper bracket of a middle-income family. We own a newly built three-storey house in Quezon City and several other properties in Metro Manila, Lucena and Camiguin, which my parents bought and earned through their hard work and perseverance. Just recently a brand new car was delivered to our doorstep, to complement the Revo we have been keeping for nine years. My brothers and I each have our own laptops for our personal use, aside from the several PC units which my brothers have gathered and collected through the years. There are enough of them already to enable him to set up a computer rental business.
My father was born in Cagayan de Oro and spent his formative years there with the rest of his family. He has been an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) for almost 20 years already - a seaman by profession. A few years ago, he got promoted to a managerial land-based position in a shipping company and is now working in Dubai as marine superintendent. My mother hails from the island of Camiguin in Mindanao and is working as a life insurance underwriter. A month ago, she got promoted as unit manager in her company. My mom and my dad have been blessed with three children, I being the eldest. I went to Japan four years ago after qualifying for a one-year scholarship grant as exchange student. I am presently studying at the University of the Philippines . My younger brother also qualified for a one-year participating scholarship in Norway in 2006 and is currently enrolled also at the University of the Philippines . My youngest brother attends a private high school in Quezon City and will be graduating in a few years.
Both of my parents served as breadwinners to their families. This means they had to study and work at the same time in order to help their parents meet the needs of their family members. They studied hard so they would land good jobs, raise a family and provide for all their needs. Apparently, all their efforts paid off. None of what we have right now are inherited; rather, they are fruits of my parent’s hard work and labor.
Yes, we are well-provided, to the point that we can afford to pay for our whims and caprices. But being a RICH KID is not as easy as it seems. For every satisfaction and convenience there are corresponding sacrifices.
My parents have successfully managed to balance material wealth and spirituality by rendering religious services. It did not take a long for these small acts to be noticed and we did gain a certain reputation in our neighborhood. Consequently, however, even our smallest deed get noticed and subjected to the prying eyes of the public. My family has virtually become an open book for everyone.
Since both my parents are working, quality time spent for the family is also sacrificed. There are also moments when materialism gets the better of me and I sometimes judge things based on their physical appearance or material value.
The heaviest cross our family was forced to carry is my dad’s frequent absence. I envy families who got to church and hear Mass together every Sunday. In our case, we can do that for only four Sundays a year when daddy comes home for vacation and spend one month with us.
For two decades I have been living with an absentee father. As the eldest child, I took the burden of supporting mommy and trying my best to become a responsible “ate” and role model to my siblings.
For two decades, I have witnessed how mommy tries to cope with daddy’s physical absence. My heart bleeds every time I see her sleeping alone in their very spacious yet very empty master’s bedroom. For twenty years, my mother has been both a mother and a father to her children.
Graduation is supposed to be a happy occasion but feels incomplete somehow in the absence of a proud father in the celebration. It saddens me to see my brothers spending weekends on their own when other dads are bonding with their kids. I know how important it is for sons to grow up under their dad’s constant guidance. Moreover, I know there are some things my brothers find comfortable talking with dad than with me or mom.
For a while, I tried to drown this longing for a father by living a carefree life with friends and acquaintances from society’s elites. If figured it would compensate for the attention I have long been yearning. Eventually, I learned to drink, smoke and enjoy the company of bad influences. Partying and barhopping around the metro became a routine. The girl who once valued modesty and purity of body and spirit suddenly became a slave to booze. I would get depressed and wonder where I am dragging myself into. Then I started asking myself, “Am I happy with what I am doing?” I may be happy but for a fleeting moment only. When I wake up the next day everything reverts back to reality.
No amount of hard partying seems enough to fill the emptiness I feel inside. Worse, the more I pretend, the more it becomes painful. I miss my dad and no amount of material wealth will ever suffice as substitute.
No material thing can ever compensate and replace life’s true and genuine happiness. If I would be given the chance to rearrange my life again, I would choose us living together as one complete family above everything else. Dad’s income might not be as high as what he is earning overseas but I am sure we would be happy and content just the same.
But having an absentee father is probably God’s way of turning me into a better person. Coping up has taught me not only to become more responsible but more mature in my outlook in life. Since then, I made it a personal mission to study hard, obtain a degree, and land a decent job so dad can finally come home and worry less about working for our future. I would not have realized all these if my father was not far away.
I am also thankful that even though dad is miles away, we try to maintain a close and healthy relationship with each other. Not once did my father failed in his role as a loving father and a stable provider for his family. He does not mind spending a lot on long distance phone calls just to make sure that we are all doing fine.
It could also be God’s way of bringing us closer to Him. Dad’s absences had made each of us hold on to our faith more strongly. We always make sure that God is at the center of our family. In spite of the pain and struggle, we still try to look at the bright side of things. We just content ourselves with the fact that everything in life has a reason.
All of us I the family is actively involved in church activities. It is our way of giving back the blessing we have been receiving. Mom is the overall lay coordinator of the Parish Pastoral Council. I, on the other hand, am the Youth’s Minister of our Parish Youth Ministry. My brothers are altar servers. Daddy, for his part, also serves as lay minister and lector in his parish in Dubai .
I think it is just normal to long for the company of those we love. However, as what experiences has taught me, the void cannot be filled by resorting to short-lived and fleeting sources of happiness. It is sad I had to see this painful truth myself through the eyes of a “rich kid.” Fortunately my faith in God has helped me rise up and get back on track. Yes, I miss my dad, but it should not mean the world must now end. It simply means that I have to produce something good out of all of it.
I would like to end with a short quote about happiness.
“What is the secret of happiness? I found the answer in my home. The WALL says BE STRONG. The CEILING says AIM HIGH. The DOOR says BE OPEN. The WINDOW says LEARN to GIVE and TAKE. The CLOCK says TIME IS GOLD. The CALENDAR says LOVE EVERYDAY as if it is the last day. The CABINET says KEEP THINGS IN ORDER. The BED says TAKE TIME TO RELAX. The LAMP says BE THE LIGHT, and GOD, who is found everywhere in my house says KEEP THE FAITH ALIVE BECAUSE I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.”