Settling the Ketchup “Dictatorship” at Home

Today, I pause from all my work and resurrect the blog from its hiatus because I just want to write about ketchup. Don’t laugh. It’s not a funny story. I don’t even cook, but this matters a lot to me, and I think other people should know about it.I don’t write anymore these days, but for this, I am making an exception.

For the past few days, I have been tortured with the idea that my kitchen condiments have been in full support of a modern-day tyrant.Recently, the post about the horrible working conditions of workers of NutriAsia (owner and manufacturer of popular condiments like Datu Puti, Mang Tomas, UFC, Jufran, and my favorite Del Monte ketchup plus the recently buzzed about Locally fruit soda line) went a bit viral online.

This whole time, I was habitually dipping my hotdogs in ketchup stained with blood and sweat of people suffering under modern day slavery.  My adobo was filled with Datu Puti vinegar. I sometimes use Mang Tomas sarsa as my emergency viand when I only have rice left at home.

All this time, those workers making those bottles in production are made to work under 40-degree Celsius factories for 12 hours per day. People who get injured hide their injuries out of fear of getting fired. And they are contractual workers, only given contracts that get renewed every five months. There were no benefits. And the hazards were real.

I could not believe it. How can this still be going on at this time and age? Finally they mustered the courage to hold a picket line in front of the factory. A lot of people were arrested and brutally treated. Human rights activists were not allowed to go near them. And families have not been able to feed themselves as the remaining workers hold the fort and seek better employment conditions.

The infographic that circulated on Facebook was insanely disturbing. News outlets were compelled to pick up the story because it kind of made a few waves on the social media channels. An insider tells me there was a media gag on the story but they could no blatantly longer ignore the story because of the casualties, the people inhumanely arrested in the picket lines, and the horrible aftermath of the working conditions of these workers paid minimum wage for 12 hours of work. A puff piece was made but it did not gain any traction.

I never really realized that while I made the menial and basic choice of my condiments in the supermarket aisles, all of my money goes to the same pocket. And that rich, filthy pocket is enriched minute by minute with the sweat and suffering of grossly underpaid workers who are putting up with the shitty conditions because there are not enough employment opportunities out there.

So 2 days ago, I was having my usual breakfast with my husband. It was our favorite hotsilog meal. A bottle of Jufran was on the table, and I was telling my husband that in solidarity of all the abuse, we will no longer be accommodating or actively using any of Nutri-Asia’s products in our home. Jufran was my husband’s favorite ketchup.

There were some theatrics in the discussion with my husband. “How can you still enjoy that ketchup knowing how gross a tyrant the owner is to scores of other human beings like us?”

We argued over the ketchup decision for an hour. I still maintain that it was one of our best days as a couple because we have conversations that involved some depth and social involvement outside of our family unit. It was not about the usual drama you find about husband and wife such as in laws or child decisions. That kind of emotional shit is more exhausting, utterly damaging to the relationship, and usually pointless. At least, this was a substantial argument, small as the impact was to the rest of society.

I cannot bear to think that I am promoting or even sponsoring a tyrant. I want to boycott the brands by this horrible company. And I resent all those years that I have patronized their products.

My husband has his own counter arguments on the matter. He says that if I boycott the products and other people do the same, profits will dip and the company will downsize. That means layoffs. And it will make things worse for the remaining employees who are hanging on to their jobs. He tells me that my boycott, if widely spread and shared by a majority, can dent the income of the business owner and make him even harsher to those who remain faithful to their jobs.He also tells me that my other option in the market are expensive imported ketchup brands.

We lose the cost-friendly option of condiments in the supermarket and other people who cannot afford imported ketchup brands are at a losing end. Then he also tells me that if I support a foreign bottle of ketchup over this local NutriAsia monopoly of ketchup brands, I become a supporter or “tuta ng Kano” as most of the old school UP tibak kids would say.

It was a dilemma for the both of us. We laugh over it, at the incredulously intense intellectual argument that came out of a half-consumed bottle of ketchup over breakfast. But we persisted on the topic for 2 days, until he gave in. But he called it a kitchen dictatorship that I am banning NutriAsia products on our family home.He acknowledges my idealism and well, strange sense of nationalism. But he still thinks Jufran deserves to stay in our kitchen cabinet. I told him he can enjoy his Jufran ketchup and keep it in his office cubicle but it’s not going to enter our home  anymore.

I counter argued that even if we are not suffering from minimum wage, we should not forget to stand up and do something directly or indirectly for these people who are being oppressed and unable to speak for themselves.That no matter how old I get or how much I earn, I will not forget my roots. I will not let him forget it too while I am alive.

All that shit you achieve anywhere does not matter if there are still people out there being treated like slaves from the 15th century and you don’t take a stand for what you believe in.

I had classmates who went to school unable to feed themselves. Tinatakbo ang pagkain sa canteen. I saw poverty in the street as I grew up in a small barangay where killing sprees with a butcher knife were as regular as the sunrise.I don’t need manufactured immersion programs by burgis schools to expose people to assimilate the poor people’s lifestyles and somehow be more sensitive of the less fortunate people. I lived and breathed the stark poverty as my reality for almost 3 decades of life. Whatever income I had as I worked initially went to hospital bills which were unreasonably priced.

No, I am not going to leave my job to join the picket lines and hold banners and get teargassed.These things are not my style. I never joined any rally when I was in college. But surprisingly, I am really staunchly affected by this and I am reminded that I am still an iska at heart.

I won’t be supporting those products after what I discovered about how these things were made, what it actually cost just for me to enjoy my ketchup or other condiments on a meal.

It’s funny because it may seem petty to consider purchase decisions like this as a political statement. But if there is anything I have learned from 4 years of digital marketing work, it’s this: all purchase decisions are emotional decisions. It tells a message. What you buy, what you allocate your tangible resources like time and life and currency, is part of your top priorities. It speaks more about you than what you say. What you do speaks more volumes than what you say, and sometimes those two things are not the same.

So yeah, I am just posting about this in case anyone visits this space again. If you are a Filipino, let’s try to find other alternatives to these condiments. I am willing to pay 40 pesos for a ketchup bottle if it means that the workers of the manufacturer are treated well.

There is blood on our condiments, and I don’t mind owning up to a kitchen dictatorship at home because that is our family unit’s small way of showing support for those who have been wronged in so many ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The-Unbreakable-Kimmy-Schmidt

Source: TUKS Official Facebook Page

I’ve been wallowing in the pits of despair for weeks and word vomiting in this blog for what seems like an eternity. Until one of my board exam tip readers Eric jolted me to back into, well, living again. My friend Jehz again recommended Netflix therapy at a time of my life where everything is just going wrong. He is a very strong person and I value this piece of advice.

It just so happened that I needed to research on comedy shows on Netflix for an article I am writing. So I ended up getting to know The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was the best 8 hours of binge watching that I have done in this abnormal life. I was only supposed to preview it for a few minutes but ended up binge watching until the second season. And I will continue to do so until my PTSD normalizes itself.

Plot-wise, there was not much to it. It’s just a funny watch and highly encouraging. I know. She’s a fictional character of someone who got trapped by a lunatic preacher in an underground bunker for 15 years and survived to make her way in New York City after. And maybe taking inspiration from a fictional character is not the soundest of methods, but hey, it works.

I liked the fact that she had PTSD symptoms and continued to function and exude positivity. At this point, I need that kind of pick me upper. Her horrible situation did not keep her from reaching her full potential or hinder her ability to believe the very best of people. She is strange and she embraced it. And even though her excessive smiling annoys me during my low mood, I think she is a cool companion for a depressed woman who had just experienced having her entire world turned upside down and having one of her life’s supposedly happy chapters robbed of the usual joy it carries.

Anyway, I am living again. Tangina, these past few months were hard. But I am living again. I am not yet dead so that must count for something. This must mean there are still better things coming or something. Whatever. I truly hope that IRL, I can be as unbreakable as Kimmy Schmidt was in her world.

 

Chaos Post-Mortem: PTSD and Digital Purging

Waking up in the middle of night to cry, negative flashbacks, and avoidance symptoms are just some of the many indicators of post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. I have them almost on a daily basis this month. Based on some initial research, it aggravates itself during pregnancy. It’s difficult to have PTSD symptoms on top of everything (hyperemesis gravidarum, my usual mood stuff, etc.) but it’s not surprising considering the immensely messed up situation I had to deal with in the last 2 months. I turn to two things that never fail to cheer me up even in my bed rest: writing and task lists. Oh, and I added a third: reaching out to a friend or two. I used to hole up in my cave. Now, I message people even if it’s against my natural hibernating instinct. There is actually a group that I can comfortably open up to now, strangely.

PTSD’s drive plus some palpable nesting behavior finally gave me the freedom to do the long overdue digital housekeeping I’ve been dreaming of doing for years. I overhauled some online accounts to foster a better recovery phase. First, I killed my Twitter account last week. I figured that the monitoring of my favorite topics can be done elsewhere like Feedly (RSS), Reddit and 4Chan. I organized a system of storing bookmarks of my favorite online resources.

I finally arrived at a phase of having a neutral stance on Facebook which allowed me to have a more objective look of its pros and cons. I went from extreme love (before 2014 and in my hacked account), to extreme hate (2015-early 2016), to neutral (present). I used to have 2 Facebook accounts and it’s difficult to switch from one to the other these days. So I deleted the incognito Facebook account that I use for research and work and decided to just stick to using a singular and sanitized Facebook account mainly for research and messaging, some coordinating, and occasional catching up to certain people. I activated my old personal Facebook account and then cleaned it up by deleting the clutter that does not help me become the best version of myself and optimizing my news feed. It’s completely overhauled and organized now. My albums are sorted in the way I want. I just have to do some more minor grouping and tweaking in my list and it’s working perfectly according to the main purpose of communicating substantially and promoting a more positive mindset. It’s streamlined and the list of friends now is half the original size when I created my account. I am really happy with it now. I finally designed my remaining Facebook account to function in the way I want it to function, as it should have been right from the beginning.

Prior to all this, I had a conflicting attitude with my social media accounts. Even though I was really feeling like my accounts were cluttered, I feel like I have to keep things on Facebook just for the sake of some invisible social protocol. It was bustling with activity, but I felt like my social media account was not reflecting who I am offline or how I really want to use it. Now, I was finally able to break the gaps and what you see on my Facebook wall is pretty much consistent with what’s in the real world.

The crisis revealed who I am genuinely, and I was able to mold my digital accounts to reflect the real me. 🙂 And that’s one of the many good things and unexpected side effects of having a series of unfortunate events thrown my way.

The only thing that’s left for me to fix is all offline: my bedroom’s desk and the food and medication stash by my bedside. My mother’s condition is still the same. She is still sick and fighting for her life. This time, though, I still want her to get better but I am no longer compulsively trying to save her from everything. I no longer have to worry that the hospital will send her home just because she can’t pay for her bill. I can no longer control how she will respond to the medication or how they will manage the donation money from my bed rest. On my end, I have done my part and there is a peace of mind in knowing that I did not wait for her funeral to show my love or shed crocodile tears. I actually did something to fight for her life while she was still alive. I pulled all stops and did the unthinkable for her and I will not regret that decision even if it made me really uncomfortable and exposed me to a lot of people.

This time, my goals are simple: being a wife and a mother. A good and responsible one, I hope. I choose to tend to the needs of my unborn son because he deserves to see the world for the first time in the best possible environment. I always remember that day he almost died from miscarriage because of abusive people. I will always remember that day they almost killed my unborn son because of their selfishness and use it as a life lesson, going forward.

I lost a lot of things these past three months, but I gained clarity and a very relieving sense of simplicity. When you do not have a lot of stuff, it’s easier to see what matters, what is worth keeping and what needs to go. It’s a hard situation but there is a lot of good in it, surprisingly. It prepared me for motherhood in unorthodox ways. There’s nothing more jolting than a full blown crisis. You get your life priorities in order once all the mayhem and dust settles back down to the ground. I am more certain about what I want and what I do not want at this point in time. I am more selective about what I allow in my life and what I promptly let go of for the sake of promoting what’s good, worthy, positive, and encouraging.

When you become who you really are in real life and in the digital world, you lose a lot at first but you gain more in the long run. Essentially, you stop giving a fuck about the externals and you become real about what really matters to you in life. It’s wonderful to have that. You lose everything externally, but you gain the FREEDOM to be who you really are and have no more need to hide. You become vulnerable for a time, but once you get past the initial discomfort of opening yourself up, it reveals the strength that you never knew you actually had.

Well, PTSD is still a bitch. I still have negative flashbacks. I still burst into tears in the middle of my activities during the day. I still wake up with bad dreams. However, I think of the silver lining to this giant cloud. I am more in tune about who I am, what I want to do, and who I want to do it with. And for that, wherever this road leads me, I am certain that better days are coming for real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Zero

It’s my third day of being a digital orphan and I was thinking that maybe there will be some massive change or lightning bolt in the sky to mark my decision. None of the sort happened. As it turns out, it’s pretty much like the regular grind before all this craziness happened. I realized that I was, in fact, orphaned a long time ago. I only acknowledged it now and ditched the illusion of family that I had been nursing before. There is no more use to deluding myself.

I remember that one time in my childhood that the Census guy came to our house in Caloocan and he tagged me as “No Family” because I had a different surname. His classification turned out to be accurate. I refused to accept it for years but the assessment was pretty accurate. I have biological roots like everyone, but after this crisis, I saw that I really have no family. I only have a mother and a sister (maybe a cousin or two); the rest are just strict relations by blood.

My husband’s family grafted me as one of their own, but prior to their arrival in my life, I am just floating emotionally. I needed to tie this loose end so that I can move forward in life.

Embracing this truth was a tough choice but it was very empowering. I continue to send help to my mom and my sister because I care about their well-being, but that’s pretty much it. I have reduced my involvement to providing funds and palpable help as needed. I am still involved in the cancer treatment options as a daughter. But this time, instead of taking full reins and compulsively handling each element of her therapy because no one wants to budge, I wholly respect the balance of nature and let the husband do the work. It’s up to him if he will lift a muscle, but I am no longer picking up the work he refuses to do as a partner to my mom. I will not regret the fund raising drive or the public Facebook posts. But I’m more of a free agent than a part of family now.

There are no more plans of going back to where I grew up. This time, it’s focused mainly on moving forward and making sure that my son lives a high quality of life. The focus is on concentrating on making the best of my bedridden state and moving forward. There is an ease with cutting toxic ties after you know that you have done everything in your power to make things work and it didn’t. This is not the most ideal of circumstances, but this time, I am finally truly free of the guilt tripping, psychological torture, manipulation, and emotional abuse. It’s my birthday gift to myself and an appropriate welcome gift to my baby when he comes out into the world this January.

When you become responsible for a little one, the tough choices that seemed impossible are no longer impossible to make. It’s much easier to say no, make tough calls, and judiciously choose between what’s helpful and what’s not for the sake of the child. There is a certain decisive power that comes with being a mother. Instead of just thinking about yourself, you think about what’s best for the child. If it means cutting all the toxic people out of your life to make it happen, so be it. No matter who they used to be or who they are, you cannot allow your baby to be dragged into a mess that he does not deserve.

For all the chaos, I am happy that it happened. There is no greater test of authentic relationships than a full blown crisis. And even if I am literally standing on ground zero now, losing my family and my possessions and my well-guarded privacy,I know that better things are coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disengaging from Emotional Abuse in the Middle of a Crisis

The most emotionally abusive people in this world have the expertise of making a crisis much worse, sometimes painfully unbearable. Today, I realize that even if I have the best intentions of helping my mother get the best care, I also have to start considering the fate of my child and protect him from this very toxic situation from my hometown that has been going on in my life for the last 30 years.

Two days ago, I had a very honest conversation with my mother about my feelings about this abuse which she sadly perpetuates for the last few decades of my life. I mean, it’s already a handful to accept her cancer diagnosis in the middle of my delicate pregnancy and mental illness.

To be emotionally abused on top of my genuine attempts to help is really overkill. 

Last week, my stepfather called me up and he was livid with rage. The reason? I sent a priest from the cathedral to bless my mom as she goes through cancer. I had labor contractions and a stomachache after his phone call.

What was so bad about requesting healing visit for the sick? He did not even have to do anything because it will only take five minutes for the priest to bless my mom.

He is the husband. If you are actually keen in observing this whole escalated situation, you will wonder where he is in this whole mess. I mean, he is the life partner of the terminally ill, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be the one minding these things so that I can have bed rest in my pregnancy?

Last month, I told him that I am predicting that my mother will need 200,000 soon and I was nagging him to call his OFW brothers to shell out funds to assist me in trying to raise them. He just said that it’s better to wait for my mom to die because he does not have the amount, nor is he willing to work out the means to raise funds to save her if it comes to that. That was the night my labor contractions started.

Hell, my mom is in a critical state. Plus the stress from conversing with him is enough to kill my unborn child.

A day before he attacked me about the priest (and I had dangerous labor contractions from the stress), I was asking for help because in my bedridden state, I cannot process the paper requirements for the PCSO financial assistance program. He was following up eagerly on how much money was donated to my mother’s operation fund drive online. And when it’s time to ask him to do menial tasks like photocopy documents, he complains like it’s the hardest thing to do in the middle of this crisis.

After he attacked me again for some good that I wanted to do to my mom, I decided to block his number from my phones so that he can no longer pester me and harm my child. I texted him that he is supposed to be the one looking for ways to save my mom’s life. He just passively waited for the bedridden and mentally ill to find solutions for the family.

If you have been reading my blog posts, you also already know about the emotionally abusive aunt who is swimming in money but chose this opportune time of crisis to collect my mother’s debt. That’s not even half of the story, in fact. That’s not even the last of her bad deeds to our family. I will keep the ones she has done when I was a teenager in the crypt because I am just looking at their faultfinding things in the face of this present crisis.

That they made our situation worse is an understatement. That they are attacking the one person in the family who is trying to help them is really shamelessly fucked up.

Sometimes I wonder if I am really bipolar or if the people I grew up with are just suckers and opportunists who drained the life and joy out of me? Still, I took the benefit of the doubt and I continue to seek therapy for my mental illness. If they are seriously full of shit and they don’t want to manage it, it’s no longer my responsibility. But I can manage myself. I can choose to step out. It’s a tough choice but I am making it because I am not the only one affected by the emotional abuse. I have a baby inside of me.

As a 30-year-old adult, I am now fully capable of disengaging. It just so happened that my mother is in a life of death situation that I had to step in, make tough calls, and take the extreme crowdfunding measure.

At home, they habitually made fun of me for being weird and for having the mental illness. But how is it that the most mentally ill and the bedridden in a sea of “normal” people in that household was the only one who genuinely looked past differences and issues with my mother to get her some life saving help?  I was not even living there anymore when this happened and none of these “normal” family members had the insight to see the severity of my mom’s situation.

During the two weeks that she visited me before her health deteriorated at an alarming rate, I studied her illness and treatment options, memorized her lab work, stalked doctors online to find the best care. And they usually count on my phone instructions to tell them what to do next. Two weeks, man. They had her for YEARS and MONTHS and what have they done?

Yup, the normal people who can walk, have their own brains, and is with my mom physically everyday failed to take their own initiative to save her life in this crisis. My aunts made side comments about my mom’s shortcomings when in fact it was already time to put our heads together as a family to find that Php 200,000 that she needs. They basically just waited for things to unfold as they read their Bibles or whatever it is that they do. 

If there is anything good that came out of this situation, it’s this: it revealed to me about the strength that I never knew I had.

The saddest thing about the whole event was that my own sick mother, after all the things that I have done online to help raise funds for her operation, covered up for their faults. She took her husband’s side even when her own grandchild’s life hung in the balance from the constant emotional abuse I got from his calls and text messages. And same thing with my aunt. Instead of addressing them directly for betraying her and just lazily waiting for her to die when her Php 300,000 operation was a fighting chance, she blamed ME for her stress.

I know that it may not necessarily be a good time, but I became really frank with my mom in the midst of the painful experiences I had. She is sick but I had to call her out on the unfairness of her assessment of the help that was coming her way. I know she is hurting a lot, but the emotional and psychological abuse from my relatives has to stop as well.

So I told her Mom sorry if my means of fund raising to get you help is stressing you out. But I had no other choice. The people in our family who were supposed to be the grown ups in this situation refused to take charge and were pointing fingers when it came to dealing with your hospital bill. They relied on the mentally ill to take charge and call the shots. I told her that I did what I had to do as a daughter because I refused to just give you up to cancer without giving you a fighting chance. Because a human life deserves a fighting chance. Even if she is not my mom, I value life in general over petty issues and differences.

I told my mom that it’s perfectly OKAY if you love them more than you love me. It’s OKAY if you find faults in me but refuse to find faults in them. My goal is simple: I just want to make things better for you. And it’s true. It does not matter if she loves them more than she loves me or if she does not appreciate the things I’ve done. I just want her to LIVE, extend her lease in life, and see her grandson and do everything in my power to contribute to making that happen.

Sadly, I realized and fully acknowledged that for all the genuine care I have for them, they do not really care about me or my baby. If they did, they would be more responsible and manage these things themselves so that I can protect my baby and get some rest.

I have to take measures this time to protect my child from this kind of situation.

I am turning 31 this Saturday, and even if my relatives are still alive, I already feel like I am an orphan. After I have deposited the last batch of the donation money, I will stop the fund raising drive.

I will focus on my son and begin my 31st year of life minus the baggage and emotional abuse. I will continue to help and provide financially to the extent that I am able because my sister also needs money for college in 2 years’ time.

Considering my bedridden state, I think I have done more than enough. After those exchange of text messages with my mom, I am disengaging and cutting off these abusive people from my life starting today. That’s a charity I am giving to myself, this time around. And it’s not a selfish decision, all things being considered.

As a result of my revealing to the world about the real deal, the kind citizens of the internet somehow informally adopted me as a new member of this large digital family. I may have lost my own family but I gained a new one. My in laws are also super supportive and kind about my plight. My husband and I can finally start over. It’s a decision I have to make for myself.

Despite the ugliness of emotional abuse that went on for decades, the world is still apparently a wonderful and beautiful place. And I need to look forward to THAT. I need to paint happy things in my mind and override their decades of abuse so that the world will not be corrupted in the eyes of my unborn child.

I have done everything I can as a daughter to raise those funds. It’s now up to these “normal” relatives to do the remaining legwork to continue her treatment expenses and other needs. They have no more reason to just wait for her to die and wait for someone to shoulder the bill. Other people came through and gave the funds required.

This is me signing off from the habitual emotional abuse. This is me taking measures to make sure that my past does not define my future. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Slim Slice of Hope

admission

I’ve finished uploading the last of my stuff for sale this morning (my entire book collection and my Canon DSLR camera is now publicly up for grabs on my Facebook account) and finally, this piece of paper confirms that my mom now has the financial means to take that huge mass out of her uterus. It was all done out of the collective kindness of people in the internet. Before the fund raising, my mom’s husband gave out a resigned acceptance that she is to die without the funds required for her operation. The aunt I initially turned to for help last June made our situation more difficult and unbearable. And we mostly got painful words from the people I thought were our support group in a time of such a crisis.

I took consolation from my husband, my in laws, the anonymous donors, the strangers who chanced upon my When in Manila piece begging for help, and the friends on Facebook that I do not regularly talk to but are messaging me daily now. They came through right at the moment where I thought that the world is a dark and nasty place. They assisted us and it restored my faith in humanity, somewhat.

As a daughter, I refused to accept that my only option as a bedridden woman is to wait for my mom to die and listen to classical music in bed while my mom undergoes the worst leg of her health problems. No, I can’t let my mom perish like that after all the sacrifices she has done for me and the people she loves. I refused to give up on her when our other relatives are just waiting for her to die, making side comments about our plight, and pointing fingers on who should shoulder the bill. I felt despair but I still somehow had a belief that there is always a way.

I have seen people raise funds for pursuits that are not matters of life and death and they were smashing successes. I turned to crowdfunding this month to ensure that my mom gets a fair fighting chance at life despite her expensive cancer diagnosis and the very business-like model of hospital settings in the Philippines. The idea was sent by two angels in my FB inbox: Joanna Kayaban and Lulu Tan.

When I put the word out there, I was frightened. I was afraid of getting attacked online. Plus I was just expecting to get a few hundreds, maybe to add to medication or some menial matter.

I was completely overwhelmed when help came from everywhere and we managed to raise half of the amount in 7 days. I did not know that people would care that much. I figured that since I always disappear on my social media accounts, they will just ignore me. 

It was the only thing I can do in my bedridden state. This piece of paper in my mother’s hands is now her medical ticket to possibly extending her life.

I am spending the next two days funneling out the remaining donations to my cousin Joan who is in charge of fixing her PGH hospitalization requirements. My sister Harvey is also getting a little for groceries, supplies, and adult diapers that my mom needs daily.

I only raised the funds mainly for my mom’s financial needs and I have a complete disinterest in retaining the money in my bank account. I want it to to be used for the purpose it was meant to accomplish: give my mother a reasonably comfortable treatment and afford that bulk removal operation.

My husband and I will work in the remaining four months to save up again for our baby.

Now that her crucial operation is underway, I can finally turn my focus to my unborn son Santi and get my much needed time to recover and rest in bed. For the first time in weeks, I can now finally sleep in peace. But there are residues of my traumatic weeks of figuring out what to do. The fight or flight response has been up since last month and I need to work on calming myself down for the sake of my baby.

In the coming weeks, I may finally have a chance to start over with my childbirth savings with my husband’s help after every last penny has been drained from us as of end of July. But even if we became penniless, I will never regret that decision because it was for my mom’s life. No amount of money is worth more than her.You can always buy things again but you can never buy back a life once it’s gone.

Next week is the first semblance of semi-normalcy and going back to my freelance writing gigs so that I can spend the remaining four months earning money for my childbirth. Yes, I am still working in bed like I used to do in the first trimester of my pregnancy.

The remaining work on my mom’s treatment is now a giant waiting game. The human side of the work is almost done. It’s now up to the Divine Being to do the rest, if He actually exists or if He actually cares for me and my family.

It’s been massively exhausting. I just want to spend the next three days sleeping to recover fully from the trauma of the emotional repercussions and physical toll of my mom’s diagnosis in the middle of my delicate pregnancy.

Before I got semi-viral with this call for help and crowdfunding effort, I was already a very private person who only opened her Facebook account once a year and devotes her time writing articles freelance or word vomiting on this personal blog. Now, everyone knows about my diagnosis and I don’t know what that means in the long term. Will that mean I will be disqualified from work opportunities? Will that mean that I will get criticized or laughed at as that crazy girl in the internet? I figured that it does not really matter anymore because I was singularly focused on saving my mom when I did it.

I don’t know why all this had to happen but through this crisis, I was able to talk to people in similar situations. I was inspired by their fortitude and faith. I was able to reconnect to people I have not talked to in decades. I was exposed again to the social media world, but it was not as bad as I thought it would turn out. Reaching out to others was not as bad as I thought it was.

I think that after all this activity, I will still sign off and spend my remaining third trimester of pregnancy in social media hibernation and preparation for child birth’s labor. Out of force of habit, I will eventually switch off my account and use it sparsely. I genuinely want a normal birth and I want to carry out whatever reasonable birth plan I can still afford in the remaining months.

Despite this painful ordeal, I am thankful because this difficult challenge came with its life changing lessons. My paradigm of the world has changed. There are things about my incoming parenting style that will be adjusted because of recent events. 🙂 I think that strangely enough, this painful and horrible slew of unfortunate events somehow prepared me for my parenting journey by next year. It was not a difficulty that was wasted. A lot of good came out of it, somehow. Strangely, it is sort of making sense why it had to happen although at first I felt like heaven was shitting on me and my mom.

After this event, I’ve got nothing to hide to the world about myself. I was hiding in the last 2 years and I did not even realize it. I was hiding from people because probably I felt that having bipolar disorder is something I should hide. Now, I had to expose the reason for my fund raising. It meant exposing my weakness publicly, even in the face of strangers. And that exposure of my weakness turned out to be a means to find a source of collective strength from others. It’s really a humbling experience. The power of everyone’s individual contributions was enough to save a life. That mere lesson alone is worth all this pain, I think. I thought people will judge me for having a mental illness, like when my ex-friend attacked me last year on her Facebook wall just for revenge. I realized that people can still treat me normally and with respect even if I tell them about my illness, that it’s okay to ask for help, that it’s okay to be myself. 🙂

I am really exhausted but yep, I found something in my heart that I did not have for a long time now: HOPE. 🙂 It’s a slim slice but it’s there. I hope my mom survives. I hope my baby is alright. I hope for a better future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Baby Santi – A Letter to My Unborn Son

Hi Anak! It’s me, your crazy Mummy. 🙂 This week marks your fifth month in my uterus. I am at risk of losing you because of the stress of finding out about your grandma’s diagnosis.

Actually, let me correct that. I am at risk of losing you because of other people making your grandma’s diagnosis more unbearable and difficult for our pregnancy. But everyday, I am fighting for you, Anak. Even if I  am itching to work, I forced myself to rest because you are loved. Because we waited so long to have you. And I don’t want you to ever feel like you need to be evicted from my uterus too early. No, Anak. You are staying in there and I am forcing myself to be a good patient in my bed rest. 

Stay in there, little bean. You are our joy. You are the future. And you are going to have a much happier life than mine. I will pull all stops to make sure that this is the case. I am pretty good on delivering my promises, most of the time. And I will not fail you, my son. 

I am writing this down so that I will show it to you when you grow old enough to understand and read. You see, we got help from strangers, friends, and some of our relatives. This month, I had to make a tough decision. Should I expose our situation to the world so that we can get the help that your grandma needs? I tried asking out some people for help quietly last month but they turned us away. I was so broken and I know you felt my pain, too. I am so sorry, Anak. I did not mean it.

I realized that even if I am painfully shy about our family situation, I had to do it. And we did it, Anak. We were bedridden but we did it somehow. Well, we did not really afford giving your Lola a private hospital facility but we can at least line her up for an operation in PGH and maybe she will get a chance to see you when you go out to this jungle of a world in December or January. 🙂 That thought brings me so much joy. 

Here is an important lesson, tiny plum-sized tot: we did not do it on our own. We were helped by the collective kindness and mercy of people. At a time where I was starting to feel like you are going to enter a world of filth and darkness of selfishness, I saw some light and some hope. 

Before, I had loads of plans for you like art lessons and other things that will make you an accomplished human being. I played Mozart and classical music on our speaker in the bedroom so that you can have better brain development.

And then, this happened. Instead of that relaxing environment, we were subjected to so much stress and heartache. My poor baby. 🙁 I wanted to shield you from these but the circumstances in our pregnancy make it so hard.

But you know what? Last na ito, Anak.

I am going to make damn sure that when you go out into this world, you will not have to deal with ugly things you don’t deserve under my watch. You deserve a fresh lease in life. You deserve a nice environment with which you can grow and be capable of loving others genuinely.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who will be a good influence to you, not turn you into a selfish and self-righteous intellectual. You deserve a future where you are not an extension of me or your Daddy’s life frustrations. You deserve a place in this world where you are free to be who you are and pursue your interests in life without fear of not having enough resources.

In the midst of this horrible trial and crisis, we found out one thing together: there is a kindness in this world. The simple citizens of the world is your family.

I slightly changed my plans for you.

I started planning how I can instantly immerse you into a perpetually helpful attitude and lifestyle. More than anything, I want you to be kind to people. It’s a bonus if you are smart or if your IQ is Mensa level. I don’t care. You’ll always be the best in my eyes no matter what your school grades will tell me.

This time, I value it more if your Daddy and I will raise you, our firstborn, to be kind and helpful. We want you to grow up to be an encourager of people especially those who are down and feeling the burden of this weary life.

Because that’s what saved your life in this crucial time. We were helped by kind and helpful people. 

We got more crap from the smart ones I thought would love and care for us enough to help us out quietly in this painful ordeal. So I am a little wary about you having a high IQ but not having your feet firmly planted on the ground. Yeah,  I will still play some Mozart and classical music for you. Probably, I’ll pop in a chapter of the Bible or two if we still got time.

I am glad this happened to us, despite the labor contractions. I am glad it happened because I actually saw who are the people in our life who I want to come near you when you come out into this world. I am able to filter out the people who will be a bad influence to your growth. I am able to distinguish who genuinely cares about your welfare and who are just out there to make a mess and do crazy things to make our already difficult situation even more difficult.

What a very sacred responsibility parenting is. I have to think positive even when the chips are down. I have to be strong even when I am bedridden and cornered. I have to SURVIVE for you, Anak. And you know what? I thought I did not know how. Fortunately, I have a good example: your Lola Lynne. She made a way even when there was none when I was a little girl.

That’s why we fought for her in this battle. The happy thing? Other people also fought with us. Not the ones we expected. But wow. They were many. They prayed with us. They sent us text messages. They showered you with love. 

And I know that your future is going to be bright. So just keep swimming inside my tummy, okay? I am going to lie in bed all day if that’s what you want me to do. I just don’t want to lose you. I want you to feel how much I love you. Like really an immense level of love that goes beyond words.

Santi, you will be a source of joy to our lives and the lives of the people around you. I will really make sure that I will properly select your Ninongs and Ninangs. They will be good people and you will be guided properly by them.

I love you, Anak. See you in December or January. Please stay inside my tummy, I promise to be less stressed. I already lined up the coloring books and cross stitch kit that I need to get myself together. You’re going to be okay Anak. Even if things are not okay, I will make it okay for you until you are strong enough to navigate your way into this world.

Your grandparents wanted to name you Seth Antonio after your grandpas. But I am adding one more as a blessing and a marker of how we swam through this storm: Seymour. It means “mighty in water.” Because that’s what you are Anak.

Seymour Seth Antonio. 🙂 Writing classes will be a bit of a pain, but I am blessing you with a name that will symbolize how you will become in this life.

You’re a tough one, baby. You are riding this whole mess with me and you are still inside kicking me. 😀 Thank you for being there, Anak. You give me reasons to keep living. Your daddy and I love you very much. 🙂