I'm not exactly sure how old I was in the picture. I'm guessing 5 or 6 years old. Even as a kid I was already good at posing for the camera- so funny.
I often find myself marveling at Leon. I love to watch him play and do silly things with his toys. He is so innocent and pure. When he smiles or laughs- it's genuine, you know the joy is coming right from his heart. I realized that I was once that kid. I was full of life and fearless.
I've learned so much in the last 12 years of living on my own in LA. It's as if I had to be taken so far away from Manila- a place I used to call home- to unfold, to mature and to make peace with myself. I can't describe my childhood as troubled, but I can definitely recall that there were more unhappy times than good ones. My parents separated when I was 5 years old. It must have been a very traumatic experience because to this day I have a clear memory of the day my parents had a huge fight that led to my dad leaving our home. I was 5, my older sister Pia was 8 and my 'lil sister Vanessa was just about to turn 2. I remember very vivid scenes- my mama was so angry she pulled our "old school" rotary telephone so hard that she yanked the cord right out of the wall socket and off the phone went flying right to my papa's direction. I even remember looking at luggages filled with my papa's clothes as he was taking off. We were right in the middle of dinner when the argument began and my mama got a hold of another object to throw but this time whatever it was landed right into a big bowl of food. I remember food splashed at us kids. I was terrified and confused. If I could reach out to that little girl I would hold her tight, tell her she is loved and that I will never let anything bad happen to her.
That was the beginning of me not feeling safe. Ever since then I thought I had to be a certain way to be accepted and loved. Somehow my parents separation taught me that who I genuinely am was not enough.
Here I am about to turn 33 in a month with a family of my own away from Manila and yet the memory of that day brings an enormous sadness in my heart. The collapse of my parents relationship took a toll in all of us but most especially amongst myself and my sisters. Being raised in a Filipino family where confrontation was considered tactless and unnecessary- all these hurt feelings were never brought to the surface. As a result I grew up and went on with my life without the peace that only genuine forgiveness and understanding can bring.
From 5 years old until I finished college and left for the US- my parents held on to the bitterness, anger and dismissal of each other. The huge fight I remember like it was yesterday was only the beginning of a long stand off between my parents. My papa remained a provider- paid for everything we needed but was never around. He never saw me go to a high school dance, never met boys I had crushes on and those I dated and worst- he was never around on birthdays. I didn't have a father figure- which later in my life- explained the many mistakes I made in my relationships as a young woman.
My mama did the best she can. She was probably around her early 30's when her marriage fell apart already with three little girls. Going through what she did would break anyone down. I appreciate her more now than ever since I now know what it is like to be a mom. I knew she went on with her life with a broken heart even though she did her best to bury the pain she felt. Growing up I had hoped that she would be more affectionate and more open about her feelings. I often wondered why she never told me or my sisters that she loved us. Hearing her actually tell me she loved me back when I needed to hear it the most would have made me feel safe. Maybe if I had then I would have not tried so hard to gain affection somewhere else other than home.
I realize that we all live with our own individual burdens- most of it dumped to us by our parents but regardless- everyday we're given the opportunity to overcome our issues.
The day I stopped blaming my parents was also the day I felt peace. I had to be completely honest with myself, dig down to make sense of the past, forgive myself for past mistakes, to let go and really live in the moment.
I learned that being a mother is so powerful. I am raising a man who will hopefully have a family of his own one day. I want him to grow up observing a mother who loves him so much and is not afraid to tell him she loves him so. I want to earn his respect so that he would show the same value towards every other woman in his life. I want him to understand that his mom is passionate about her work and that working towards a goal he believes in will bring him fulfillment and purpose.
My parents' experience also taught me that marriage is not always easy and that there are times when it takes hard work to keep it together. I feel so fortunate to have a partner who sees and accepts me for who I am. We communicate so openly and we respect each other. Both of us came from broken families and so we are both determined to make what we have last a lifetime. I admire Chris as a father and he is my best friend. No matter what comes our way- as long as we're both willing we can get past any hurdle together as a team.