Editor's corner/ Over a cup of tea
Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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Social Security Disability and SSI -
Programs designed to help individuals
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THERE IS HELP!
Thoughts about an absentee father
For the last two days, my father has been confined in a hospital for
stomach pain and pneumonia. He’s in agony but he doesn’t want to show
it. He simply refuses to eat so an IV was necessary. His third wife takes
care of him but isn’t shy to ask help from my father’s original family...us.
And I understand. The couple is poor, and at 91 years old, I am not so
sure about my father's health. My siblings and I have not been with him in
more than five decades.
Aside from financial assistance, I could only help my father through
prayers. My siblings and I owe our being here in this world to our father. I
have forgiven him long time ago for leaving us. I just want him to be happy
and healthy in his old age. I truly believe that it was God’s plan for me and
my siblings to be very strong people who struggled on our own and
thrived despite the absence of a father in our lives. That fact actually made
me realize that the more difficult life was in the case of myself and my
siblings, the more determined we had become to be better persons.
And I pray that our Lord grant him more happy and healthy years. I am
sure he regrets not having his children around, but that is water under the
bridge. I still am grateful for having him as my biological father.
On Father’s Day recently, I was feeling down. Perhaps many of you who grew up without a father felt the
same way as I did. We envy people who grew up happily with their father and mother together in a blissful
and loving relationship. I was not lucky enough to experience that kind of life, but I am grateful to God for all
the blessings He gave me in exchange for that. I also thank Him for the memory of having a father in my
childhood... brief though it was.
While in a nostalgic mood, I lost myself in daydreaming...going back to my early childhood when my father
was still with the family. The place: Barrio Gatid, Sta. Cruz, Laguna. I was eight years old then, playing
marbles with my little brother Rick. The scene faded out. A new scene faded in...father was working in his
poultry farm, getting eggs for the family and cleaning underneath the henhouse. He collected the “dirt” in a
sack and filled his compost pit with it. He called me and instructed me to put the egg basket inside the
house. After that, he started working on his vegetable plots , removing weeds and arranging his trellis. A
voice from the outside called father. “Pareng Mario, we’re leaving soon for Laguna de Bay. The fishes are
aplenty tonight!” Father answered, “Of course, of course, I’ll prepare my net and stuff!” After dinner he said
goodbye to his family and told us, “Wish me good luck! I’ll bring home lots of gurami and tinikan (fresh-
water fish with lots of scales and bones but very tasty)!” My father worked really hard!
My father was a farmer and a fisherman, and in between, he also was an elementary school teacher. I was
very proud of him then. I knew that many of my classmates envied me for having a father who never stopped working daily to earn more than enough
for his family. I was pretty sure that our neighbors in the barrio also envied my mother, for having a husband as hardworking as my father.
But that won’t be for long. It would seem that in life, everything that’s good doesn’t last long.
I wouldn’t want to dwell again on why my father and mother separated when I was 11 years old.
I have written about that sad episode countless times. When my parents parted ways, we’re four
siblings, with a fifth still inside mother’s tummy. It was one of the saddest moments in my life.
My younger siblings were unaware of what was happening. As the eldest, I felt right away the
negative impact of such separation.
True enough, everything in my family’s life turned upside down! As a single mom, my mother
could barely feed her five children. I really missed father’s farm produce and the fish he used to
catch from Laguna de Bay. The children were always hungry. In desperation, my mother sold
our only property, the house along Cailles Street, where I spent most of my middle-school and
part of my high-school years. She also sold the most precious gift I ever had from my parents,
my upright piano, because my mother could no longer pay its monthly installment. We were in
debt, and so my mother had to work double time –teaching in the elementary school during the
day, teaching steno-typing at a local college at night, and tutoring wealthy kids on weekends. I
remember moving from one rented room to another at various places in my hometown during
most of my high school years.
Perhaps poverty helped strengthen my resolve to do the best I can, not only to survive and exist,
but to succeed. And as an educator, my mother led me to focus on education as the only way
out of poverty.
The absence of my father actually pushed myself and my siblings to work extra hard at obtaining
college degrees regardless of where we were and what situation we were in. It took as a bit
longer than others may be, but just the same, we succeeded in graduating from college (all four
of my younger siblings completed their degrees in different U.S. universities in the Midwest). I
was the only one who earned my degree in the Philippines.
I saw my father intermittently through the years. I felt pity than anger every time he’d come for a
visit. Though we never hugged nor kissed, my father and I understood that parental respect was
|This is the only photo my siblings and I ever had
with my father (circa 1968). By this time, my
mother had immigrated to the United States and
I was beginning my first year in college.
present and such gestures were not that necessary. His visits were brief, as if he came just to see me, that’s all. I don’t remember him seeing any of
my siblings who grew up in the States, even when they were on vacation in the Philippines. I’d say the paternal bond was obviously absent between
my father and his other kids, especially the three younger ones.