Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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Love is both beautiful and hurtful
You might say I am wrong, but I am writing about true love stories I personally witnessed in my life. First, it’s the love story of my mom and dad.
My mom met my dad when she was teaching at a night school and my dad was then one of her old-returning students. An orphan living and
working in a place far from her birthplace and known relatives, my mom married my dad, hoping his family would treat her as their own.  Well,
she was dead wrong. With two younger siblings in tow, my mom was considered –by my dad’s well-off relatives—as a poor though educated
“foreigner,” with additional liabilities to feed and take care of. Early on, mom worked very hard to enable her and dad to live separate from dad’s
family. I now understand why our own family lived in downtown area and never in the barrio where my dad was born. My siblings and I grew apart
from my dad’s relatives, except my Aunt Onor, who really showed my mom she loved all of us. I saw how my parents loved each other when I
was very young, but I also saw how that love faded away years before I reached high school. The reasons were many, in which one or both of
them could be blamed for, but the clincher was when my dad fell for a young woman who was very close to us...my mom’s younger sibling! That
was the end of a once beautiful love, and it ended so bad it hurt my mom, me and my siblings for many years.

Second love story is mine. My mom left for the United States in 1968, right after I graduated from high school, to make sure that I and my four
younger siblings would have a bright future. Unfortunately for me, I married two years after my mom left, something that made mom very angry at
me for a few years. That marriage was then full of love, though with lots of challenges. It was beautiful, especially for two young hearts with lots
of plans for our children. I went back to college to later help my spouse build a strong financial foundation for the family. Both our careers turned
out well and we made sure our kids get the best education in the city. I thought I was very lucky and was always proud of what I have so far
accomplished in the area of love. But I was dead wrong. That success faded slowly but surely. I must admit I became too busy climbing the
ladder of my profession, just like many Filipino women who felt the time was ripe for us to take the lead in many fields of endeavour. But my
spouse was an achiever as well. With higher government position, the risk of getting carried away with its perks and temptation of wealth was
great. My husband succumbed to that. I wouldn’t have any of it, so our beautiful love ended bitterly and with lots of hurt, after almost 30 years!

Today, I am living in the barrio where my dad was born. I will tell you some stories of couples I have learned to like or know for a few years now.
Their love stories were beautiful; but though they are still together, their love seemed to have ended already.

Cardo and Shirley met as two lonely singles looking for mates who’d love them and share their dreams. Cardo worked as garbage collector in
the municipality and Shirley worked as vegetable seller in the market.  They do not have children. Cardo lost his job 10 years ago and ended up
doing contractual manual jobs here and there, until he contracted tuberculosis more than a year ago. Shirley continued to work nights in the
market, until she also fell ill with anemia. They live in a shack on a land not their own; with a provisional oral agreement that Cardo will “guard”
the landowner’s plants and trees thereon. Shirley is now much better, and Cardo, after six months of treatment, seemed okay and is now back
doing what he likes most—smoking!

It’s rare for me nowadays not to hear Shirley shouting at Cardo: “If you want to die, die now, so I can live anew!” And Cardo would answer back in
his low voice: “Mind your own business...this is all I have.”

If love still exists between them, I am not so sure.

Josie is taking care of the love of her life and father of her four children—Darryl. Darryl is paralyzed and could no longer work. Their four grownup
kids are all married and have families of their own. Josie is a caregiver, so I understand she’s very capable of what she does for Darryl. But why
are their kids angry at Darryl and not supportive of their mother’s sacrifice?  One of the kids confided to me that their father left the country when
they were still very young, to work in Taiwan supposedly for the family. Instead, he “forgot” to send them a cent, earned a girlfriend and years
after, the father went back to the Philippines, not to them, but to the girlfriend’s province. When he suffered from a stroke, the girlfriend contacted
Josie and asked her to get her husband back! And Josie did, amid the protests of her children. Today, Josie and her paralyzed hubby live in a
small house close to my place. Josie seems to have no complaint, but she stays long hours in the mansion (whose owners permanently live in
the States) which she now tends 24/7.

I am equally unsure whether love is still alive in this relationship.

There is another neighbour who always comes to me for help, mostly on small financial matters, and for advice about her husband. Jessica
hails from a province in Mindanao, and she was barely in her teens when her mom died and her dad remarried thereafter. At 16, she left home
and bravely boarded a boat to Manila alone. With no formal education, Jessica ended up working in various stores, markets, and homes as a
domestic. She doesn’t remember how she landed in my province of Laguna when she was in her 20’s. She was selling young coconuts in the
town of Sta. Cruz’ public market where she met her future husband, a tricycle driver a year younger than her. Today, they have three young
children, all girls ages 11, 9 and 4. They live in a shack, with no convenience of electric appliances except a small fan. The family’s stove still
uses wood for fuel, and they haven’t experienced lying down on a mattress, because they have no bed, just the concrete floor in the room that
serves as their bedroom, dining room, and sala. Because she has no relatives to talk to in my barrio and because of my proximity to her house, I
guess Jessica found me as a good listener to her and able to talk sense at least. He husband, Leo, is a gambler, and no matter how much he
earns as a driver, nothing is left to put food on the table. I would often hear shouting and cursing, crying and commotion in their little house. The
children oftentimes refuse to go to school because they have no food, no projects to submit and no homework done!

Jessica left her house recently and requested if she could sleep in my house for she has nowhere to go. Her eyes were swollen and her lips,
too, with a small wound to boot. I let her in, fed her dinner, and interviewed the woman, now 34. Her tears really broke my heart and brought back
bad, personal memories. The next day, her husband and smallest child came over and asked her to come home with them. I told her to do so
and to talk calmly with her husband.  She did.

I don’t know if the couple has patched things up. Jessica is back to her family, but when I saw her a few days ago,  she said she’s praying hard
that God gives her “another chance.” I didn’t have the chance to ask her to clarify because she abruptly left.

Well, I was married on February 14th, just like Jessica, but I don’t want to remember that beautiful day anymore. I’m quite sure Jessica feels the
same way, too.