Our Parents……. Our Heroes.

I came from a family of farmers, from generations to generations of farmers. I have witnessed it through my father, my uncles and other relatives how difficult it is to be a farmer. My mothers’ roots are no different as well.

In Pampanga from where I came from, the difficulty is even compounded by the frequent flooding, that is why the most they can do is plant once year. Once In a while they plant another crop but it doesn’t help much in the economic situation of a farmer.

Inda (my mother) is a full-time housewife supporting Tatang with a seasonal business of buying and selling of palay (rice crop) during harvest season. I have three siblings July, Jefferson and Jessie. I’m the eldest.

Life is somehow getting along for us until my high school. By the time I reached college, our financial difficulty sets in, no matter how hardworking Tatang and Inda were, the earning from our piece of land was not enough to send four children to college. They dream of sending us to college no matter how hard it will take for them. They instilled on us that we will finish college and get a better job. To be a farmer is not an option for them, they took the liberty of deciding that and imposed college education as the only option.

In 1989, on my second year in college while July is in freshman, Jeff and Jes will be in college in the next 2 years. This is when the option of going abroad came in the picture. Initially, the plan was that Tatang and Inda would go abroad together, they know someone that has an opportunity for couples abroad. I wanted to oppose to their plan, but my case didn’t weight much versus the need to alleviate the family’s financial difficulties and the dream of breaking the cycle of us becoming new generation of farmers. But the plan changes when Tatang met this guy that recruits people to Japan and work in the factories. Unfortunately, it was only Inda got the opportunity to work in Saipan and Tatang was left to continue farming and take care of us.

It was difficult for the family especially to my siblings, since they were the one more directly affected when Inda became an OFW (during this time I was already in Manila pursuing my college education). Suddenly they have to take more responsibilities other than their studies. They have to share the domestic chores in the house, July would do the cooking and laundry, Jeff and Jes would take on the rest of the work such as housecleaning and other tasks. But I think the most difficult part is that suddenly Inda is not there to guide us. Tatang was there…

“but I think there are times that you just want a mother to be there, to be by your side.”

Inda being away somehow brought positive impact to us, we have grown closer than ever. We were very dependent in each other and the fact that she is away served as a bond to our brotherhood that is stronger than it was before. She is our superglue that will forever bond us.

Inda works in a hotel in Saipan as a housekeeper, those ladies that you see in the hotels that push those big carts full of bedding and other toiletries supply. She did this job for almost 20 years. Imagine every day she has to attend to several floors replacing bedding and cleaning rooms.

“These sacrifices are the very reason that me and my siblings made sure that we finish our college education.”

The difficulties that she has to endure every day serves as our fuel to keep on going even though at time it seems like it is easier to just give up and be a farmer just like our dear Tatang. But, Inda would never allow it. Every time we feel down and feeling like giving up, she would always talked to us, until we feel recharge and ready to face the life’s challenges and adversities of going to school with very limited resources.

Initially, Inda didn’t come home until after 3 years, we missed her so much. We would frequently send letters and pictures to her and she would do the same. There was no internet, emails and Facebook yet, that made our situation even tougher. OFW generation these days are a lot luckier with all the technology available and means of communication is a lot easier. Once in a while we would talk via long distance call (mobile phones are not available too), but we cannot do it often as IDD calls are not cheap.

It would always be the happiest times of our lives when Inda comes home for holiday. But, the saddest too when she leaves again.

“It was a roller-coaster of emotions, every OFW children have to bear. It is another difficult part of being an OFW family.”

But this very situation brought us closer together, we became more responsible, we cared for each other more. We always felt that we will survive the loneliness when we face it together.

Tatang had his share of sacrifices as well, he would woke up at 4 am to do the cooking and then go to the rice fields. This routine he has been doing since he was 16-year old. He is really one good farmer. He would always be one of the farmers with the highest yield during harvest time.

He would always make sure that we would be able to enroll on time, even if he has to loan the tuition fees. He likes playing cards he would always go to wakes just to play. I think it was his way of coping up with his loneliness. He would always ask me to attend to my brother’s graduation because he didn’t like going into the stage and receive the medals and recognition. Tatang prefers not to be in the limelight and just watch from a far.

The situation of Inda being away also brought tension on their relationship but we were thankful that they managed to stick together until the end. Tatang died in 2009 due to lung cancer, he smoked a lot since he was 16.

Now, Inda is happily retired she stays in Pampanga with my younger brother and his family. Until this time Inda  and Tatang continuous to be our heroes, the very reason for what we have become.

At first, she didn’t want to retire yet as she is worried, she might be bored. Yet right now, I see she’s well adjusted back to the slow life in the province. I know she is proud of us too.

“But I would like her to know that we are proudest of her. She is the lighthouse that have guided her children very well, even if there are thousands of miles apart from each other.”

Even if, we don’t see each other as often as we want. Even if, we can’t hug each other everyday. Even if, we don’t celebrate occasions just like other family out there. Even if, our family is not physically complete, Inda made sure that we are all going to grow to be someone stronger to face our future.

I’m now 46-year old married with 2 kids, a Mechanical Engineer currently working as a Project Manager. My younger brother is a CPA, another brother is a Teacher and our youngest is an Architect, who is also working abroad right now. These are all because of my parents handwork and dedication to give us better future.

Tatang is no longer here with us to see us grow more as an adult and probably be more successful in life. But, I know he is also proud and happy up there. He also did an important part in the journey of our family. It’s not easy for any OFW to succeed without the support of the other half.

We will forever be grateful for all the sacrifices our parents did for us to have a better life. They are our HEROES, they are reasons for what we have become.