Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.
Where we are now in our lives are products of the choices that we made along the way. You are in charge in the journey of your life.
1. When I was in Grade School, after my parents separated and we were left with nothing but our mother’s relatives and our maternal grandparents – I learned how to combat and battle life. At 9 years old, I left being a child and was transported to the world of responsibilities.
I think it really started when I went to school one day dreading break time. I did not have a single cent, or sandwich, or chips, or a mug with orange juice with me. I did not have anything. We have no money. My grandparents only had enough to get us to eat 3x a day. It may not have appeared that way to our neighbors, or other people who knew us from before, but that was how hard life was.
I was a child. And I understood that we were broke.
On that day that I dreaded recess, and it still came (after that recess bell rang), I pretended to do my assignment which was already done the night before. I ignored the calls of my classmates asking me if I wanted to go to the canteen with them to buy banana que and juice in a cellophane with straw. I knew I said I was not hungry and was still full. Just then from out of the blue, a boy came forward and said “You just don’t have money that’s why you don’t want to come out of the room!”
I looked at him, and cried.
It was really painful. Then my teacher came forward and offered me her sandwich, I looked at her and refused politely lying to her that I had money only that I was really not hungry.
I didn’t have anything.
When I told my grandmother that evening she didn’t say anything. She just looked at me with that same “dragon-like” stare. I knew enough.
The next day I saw that the guava trees that were growing in the woods had fruits. They were big ones and imagined them as P1 peso coins. I climbed the tree and took 10 pieces of guavas. I brought them to school with me and started selling them. In 5 minutes, they were all gone and I had a hefty P5-peso bill in my pocket. I was so happy! I didn’t have to stay inside the classroom again at 09:30 when the first break comes.
I rushed home clutching the money in my hand and showed it to my grandmother. She took the money from me telling me we had to buy rice. The can was empty. My aunt (the 2nd sister of my mother) will be arriving late that night with money. Of course, we (my grandparents, sister, cousins and I) have to eat.
The following day I woke up early to climb the same guava tree again. I did the same the next day. And the day after that.
Then one day, the owner of the trees caught me and forbid me to climb her trees again. She was my grandfather’s cousin. They owned the land where our house was located.
I went back to not having anything at school.
Then the mango trees started bearing fruit! I told my grandmother that maybe we can take the unripe (green) mangoes and slice them and place them in plastic bags (designed to make ice). She agreed and we started our business. I sold the sliced mangoes at P1-peso per pack – complete with salt and/or bagoong (shrimp paste).
I was making money at a young age and was able to help buy rice, fish and sardines.
2. I was also afraid for Christmas Break to arrive when I was in Grade School. Christmas Holidays would mean that we would have to attend the Class Christmas Parties and participate in kris kringle (exchange gifts amongst classmates). I can’t afford them. My grandmother would go ballistic if I ask her. We need the money for food.
At an early age, I learned how to compromise. I learned how to make a deal. I remembered talking to my Godparents more than once, in 2 or 3 different occasions asking them that instead of buying me gifts on Christmas Day, that they convert that gift into money and give it to me earlier so I can participate in the exchanging of gifts and also share something for the Christmas Party.
I never failed. I always got the money.
I also still received gifts on Christmas Day from the same Godparents who agreed with me. I remember I never wanted to take the actual Christmas gifts but they insisted.
I never knew why.
3. When I was in 5th Grade when I was 11, my Godmother (another sister of my mother) enrolled me 2 weeks after the school year already started. Prior to that, my Grandmother and the same Godmother already told me that I cannot go to school that year and perhaps I can go back the following year. I was devastated. I felt so ashamed. I was aware that I had been good at school. I remember longingly looking out the window everyday during that first 2 weeks to check on my classmates who are passing near our house to get to school. I think my mother’s relatives saw my desire to really get education, they had me enrolled 2 weeks later.
But, they do not have money to get me my books. I would have to work this out on my own.
Again, I allowed my “business” self to take over. I talked to one classmate and told her that if she agrees to let me borrow her books that school year, I would make all of her assignments and let her copy my answers during exams.
And so it happened. The whole year. My classmate even got higher marks than me on our assignments. I did everything for her.
I felt so used.
The next school year, that same classmate approached me and asked if I want the same deal. She even shoved her books into my arms.
That year, books or no books – I said NO.
4. When I was in high school, I told my grandmother I wanted to be a teacher. I would be taking up Education in College. She told me that it was still not certain if I could go to school. We didn’t have enough. My aunts had their own children. They cannot go own supporting me.
Then a few months before graduating high school, the sister of my father sent me a letter. She mentioned something about a scholarship given by the Department of Science and Technology to poor students. I made a mental note to ask our Guidance Counselor the next day. My aunt was not wrong. Our public high school have scholarship forms but the counselor was hiding them in her desk. I had always thought that maybe she wanted them for her relatives. Three days after, she gave and some of my classmates an application form each.
If my mind serves me right, more than 20,000 high school graduates took the exam in the whole country. Only around 3,000+ students passed. 3 from my high school.
I was one of them.
I was not given the chance to take up Education. As a DOST Scholar, you only have the option to take up courses directly related to Science and Technology.
I ended up taking
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering at the University. Who would have thought that that skinny browned-skinned girl who was always scolded by her grandmother would end up taking a 5-year course, almost free of charge, and actually passing it.
Because of my scholarship (which was one of the best scholarships for poor students in the country as the stipend is big), I was able to save money, send my sister to school, buy groceries with my grandmother with a pushcart and not just a basket and eat at fast-food stores and sometimes go to the movies on Sunday.
And my life started advancing from there on. We are not rich, but we are living a comfortable life.
One my few regrets? I did not make full use of my title and instead allowed myself to be converted to something else.
No regrets still. I ended up loving languages and letters and them loving me back.
I was never an Engineer, I think. 😉
Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is about.
And oh, my asking Armand the prices of everything that we are about to purchase, or if I want to buy something I need makes me think twice because of the price – really irritates him.
I think after reading this, he will understand me more.
He knows, but wants me to forget.
This is my story. This is one of my many inspirations to go on shooting for the stars.
Lola (Filipino) – Grandmother
Banana que – fried caramelized banana in sticks