Friday, March 30, 2007


The one battle
Most people lose
Is the battle
Over the fear of failure…
Failure doesn’t mean
God has abandoned you
It does mean
God has a better idea.
We found an undersized, unventilated, filthy room at the basement of a huge mansion at Camaro Street, Fairview, Quezon City. It was the residence of a certain Judge Lazaro, which was converted to a boarding house after he departed. There was a swimming pool, a cool garden, full-sized dining and living room. Though the amenities were communal, we thought they were perfect! This was our “first home” as a couple.

With hardly any belongings, we fixed our small room to the finest that we could. We got an award that Christmas for decorating our room creatively with recycled materials. A comment from the landlady went like “…they made something out of nothing”… well of course, what else could we do? We really had nothing.

Our first Christmas Eve together was celebrated simply but with genuine happiness in our hearts. I prepared roasted chicken (not turkey), two boiled large potatoes (each for us) and a bottle of Coke (not wine). That was all that we could afford. Nevertheless, we made the occasion extraordinary by having candle light dinner at the garden, sheltered by the bright full moon and the millions of brilliantly twinkling stars. That was one of the best Christmas Eves in my life.

We were so proud of our crampy space that we eagerly showed it to our few guests who came to check on us.

Parental instinct. No matter how much we tried to hide from my parents because of embarrassment, they searched for us and offered help. I was so shocked when one day my whole family came knocking at our door.

They talked to Reiner, because they knew how stubborn their daughter was. But it wasn’t being stubborn but being independent that we declined their offer for financial support. I admired Reiner more that ever for doing that.

Even so, they still showed their support, not monetarily. Their monthly visits told us that they would always be there for us through thick and thin. Reiner didn’t even try to fit in anymore, because he was whole-heartedly accepted as a family member without hesitation.

My family would visit us every month when they would bring sumptuous meal for all of us to share. We would have our simple picnic at the garden while swimming at the pool. Sometimes they would bring Reiner and I out for dinner.

Both of us would always look forward to the day that my family would drop by…”so we could eat good food again”.

Where were Reiner’s folks?

Well, his Mom never showed up during the times that we needed help. Though she knew all along where we were staying. We heard stories from relatives and friends that she wanted Reiner shoot-to-kill for stealing the car and some $200 from her, and that she wished for us never to succeed. How could a parent do something like that to her son? I had no idea!

Reiner would always tell me, “If only Pop’s well, he would be helping us, we wouldn’t have to go through all these hardships.” His father was a very brilliant lawyer during his best days. He was a good provider, a generous patron, and a good friend to his sons, as told by Reiner. Unlucky me, I met his Pop already a stroke patient.

Several of his relatives would drop by.

One from the U.S. but I never met him at that time; he came very briefly one night with Rolf. Another cousin of his who was also residing in Fairview came to tell Reiner his Mom’s message that he should leave his pregnant wife, go back to Pag-asa and help out in the house.

But his brother Rolf was ever supportive to us during our period of depression. Without If’s or But’s he would extend help to Reiner. I always knew that it was easier said than done for Reiner because he was still enrolled as an undergraduate student in U.P., and had no job.

Another guest was one of Reiner’s fraternity brods who was a neighbor.
“Are you sure you don’t want to transfer to another place?” the brod remarked.
“This is all that we could afford, what do you think of our place?” replied Reiner.
“ With the amount that you’re paying here, P4,000.00, you can get a better place”.
That conversation didn’t really bother us that time, but eventually we realized that our plight in that filthy, unventilated, unlighted, suffocating room was so pathetic! To top it all, we later realized that we couldn’t stand dealing any longer with the rude, abusive daughter of the landlady.

After five months, we transferred to a neighboring boarding house in the same street in Fairview. It was an underdeveloped single detached studio house, inside the compound of the landlord. We took over the tenant who was evicted for not paying the rent. We had the privacy of our own space this time.

The former tenants of our “second home” were starting a small preschool business but were not doing well at it. It was a perfect opportunity for me to put into practice what I have learned with the degree that I finished in College, which was in Preschool Teaching and Administration. Reiner and I conceptualized our business venture. That summer of 1998 we started getting students for FUNSHINE TUTORIAL CENTER.

Because of my pregnancy, later on, it was becoming difficult for me to move around and teach special children who came to me for tutorials. A sorority sister, Cleng, who I sponsored when she was a neophyte, offered her services for a very minimal fee. She was a big help and became my constant companion at home while Reiner was attending classes in U.P.

Reiner proved his prowess in writing short stories during this time. He would write every single day and until late at night when he was at home. He was able to write suspense/thriller novels and short stories and publish them in pocket books and major magazines in the country. I guess he acquired his creativity and skill in writing stories from reading Stephen King’s novels and playing Dungeons and Dragons for decades.

Luckily, the landlord agreed for us to have an extension to their landline phone. I was able to keep in touch with my relatives and friends more often especially with Tetet, my best friend in High school. Like me, she got married too at early twenties and was pregnant with her eldest during that time. I couldn’t forget my conversation with her one night.

“ The baby is kicking now, we’re excited. How are you?” she said.
“ We’re fine, very independent” It was too humiliating for me to declare that we were hard up. Lucky her, they were fully supported by the parents of her husband.
The conversation went on filled with reminisces about our high school days and news about our batch mates. Just then her husband called her.
“I have to go, this baby is making me so hungry at this time of the night, we’ll just drive quickly to Burger Machine” she hung up.
Burger Machine is a cheap fast food 24 hours open. But why couldn’t we afford it if it was a “cheap fast food”? Mc Donald’s for us was like a dream that was impossible to reach. I was so envious with Tetet, she could eat whenever she needed in just a snap! I needed nourishment just like her. I was so hungry too. I told Reiner…
“I’m hungry sweetie…this baby is making me hungry at this time of the night”.
“Just go to sleep, you won’t feel anything anymore when you’re sleeping”.

We were living off from paycheck-to-paycheck. Literally, we were living below the poverty line. We had no idea how we were going to survive the next day. Thanks to Auntie Mely, who in due course became my OBY GYN and took care of me for free even after I gave birth. At least we were assured that our baby was going to be healthy.

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