Monday, September 17, 2012

My Kilometer Zero

Silver lining

            “Every cloud has a silver lining.” This proverb that we often hear literally refers to the beam of sunlight formed on one edge of the storm clouds or on thunderclouds. It is usually dark and poses a big threat of storm. When put in a mathematical equation: two negative addends will produce a positive sum. When applied to real life situation, it is a negative event that produces a positive result. This makes up a good introduction for a not so good story of my past but just like what my intro suggests, my life turned from not so good to better.

Matter of the story

Now enough of the epilogue and we go down to the matter of the story. I was third year high school when I experienced the darkest days of my life. Very young, weak and vulnerable was I but not spared from the blow that life gave me. We used to have a nice house, a jeepney, a small business and enough money to go on picnic every now and then. We grew up helping in the small business (barbecue store) and helping maintain the cleanliness of the house even if we had house help and relatives who live with us. On weekends I take my posts on the barbecue store and help, in the evening when I go home I will receive money that is enough to watch a movie and buy me a new t-shirt the following day.  I have my own room and so as my sisters and my parents. In short, life was good.

My mother, being friendly and charitable that she was helps her friends in borrowing money from a lending company. It went for years and her friends always paid their dues on time and returned the favor to her by helping us expand our small business. One time, her friend borrowed a huge sum of money to the lending company and never came back to pay. Since she was the guarantor, she was asked to pay for the dues. Then another friend of her did the same. We ended up paying other’s debts to the point that my mother and father almost got separated. Police came to our house asking for the friends of my mom.  Soon, little by little we are losing the appliances in our house. The furniture, the jeepney and soon even the business, we lose them all.  We had to sell them so my mother can pay for the loans her friends made.

The most painful part which I still recall vividly was when the sheriff has to take my Encyclopedia Britannica, whole set of the books complete with the shelves. As a young student it was my treasure, my pride and joy. My parents gave it to me as a reward because I studied hard. I was always on the top 10 of my class and receive special citations regularly. I was section one from first to sixth grade and was top ten of the graduating class. Plus, I tour libraries in Makati and I went as far Pasig City just to do my research. One time it rained hard and I was stranded in the Pasig public library from morning till evening.To my parents pity they bought a whole set of encyclopedia so I do not have to leave home to do my assignments.

My mother said that she pawned the house to my uncle so they have to leave and look for a smaller house, to where they did not tell me. They went to hide from the lending company because they wanted us to pay all the loans the friends of my mother took from them. My younger sister and I were left with my uncle (in what used to be our house) to continue in the private high school. They had to pack their things and leave the house; we were left with our clothes and school materials. I immediately became a real big brother to my sister. The other siblings went with my parents. My mother was pregnant during that time so we were so worried on how she was taking it, there were too many things happening.

The next thing I knew, my sister and I were stuck with my hard to deal with uncle. He says that it makes his blood boil when he remembers that my mom pawned our house to him and now she is into hiding. When he gets home from his office at night and was drunk, he calls us and gives us litany about our problems and gives us emotional blackmail as our nightcap. We felt so little hearing how he lambastes our parents especially our mother (his sister), we felt verbally abused and battered. I wanted to quit school so we can follow my parents to where they are, poor but together. One time, I stayed late in school and do not want to go home. My class adviser asked me to talk with her in the office. I told her that I do not want to go home because it was not our home anymore and if I had a gun I would go and shoot my uncle. My teacher was so shocked that she did not want me to go home that evening. I went to my friend’s house and spent the whole evening there; I went home just in time to sleep.

Kilometer Zero

The school year passed and my sister transferred to a public school near where my parents were staying, I was left for another year with my uncle to finish high school. I was always short with money and always bring promissory note during exams. I refused to make projects at school since I do not have money; it was good that I had good friends who helped me with my expenses. I wore the same uniform from second year to fourth year, old rugged shoes and a faded bag. I had just enough money to buy my meal and pay for my fare. Life was really hard. I spent some night crying and wondering what was happening with my life, my family.

One time I had the chance to visit them and saw how hard their life was compared with mine. My father said that one time they had to pick camote tops from the neighbor’s garden and boil it just to have something to eat. That they bought used oil from a ‘chicaron’ factory and mix it with some rice as viand. I remembered I was complaining about my life in Makati where I had a nice bed and had enough to eat.  It was then that I promised to myself that I will do everything in my capacity to finish my studies and take care of my family. I will bring everything back, the life that we used to have.

In my head I imagined scene of Scarlett, the main character in ‘Gone with the wind’ swearing under the tree: “I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I had to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Turning point

I spent summer and lent in Makati alone, my uncle and his family left for a vacation. I cannot leave the house and go to my parents because I was entrusted to look after the house the whole time that they will be away.  I was listening to the Lenten reflection on the radio when I found myself crying aloud and praying. I cannot seem to fathom what happened with my life and why did God allowed such thing to happen to me. My family is a good, law abiding Christian family. Kind hearted and God fearing. We honestly earn our keep and never abused anyone. But a bad thing happened to me, to my family. I felt that the Lord had abandoned us, had forsaken us. Like in the midst of the storm, we were left alone on the boat and He was not there to tend on it. Maybe he was sleeping. He allowed us to be buffeted by the strong winds and rain. I wanted to let go, cannot hold out anymore. I wanted to be drowned and crushed by the angry sea to the big boulders of burden.

In his absence, the great irony of it all I felt his great presence. I realized he never left me that was why I survived. He was actually there quietly guiding me and leading me to safety. I was soaked cold in the sea but He pulled me and did not let me drown. He held my hands, hugged me and did not want to let me go. I struggled and wanted to die there but He said He loved me so much and that I had to go with Him to dry land.  The Lord had not been sleeping; he was there with me, with my family on the same boat. He addressed the wind and the water to be quiet and be still. Looking back now, this was actually the kilometer zero of my vocation. I still cry when I remember this, I am actually crying while I was writing this. I cried to Jesus and lived.

The rest was history

A year passed and it was graduation day. I received a special award from my school but my parents were not there to see me and receive the award with me in fear that the people looking for them might see them. It was my aunt who went with me in the graduation. They prepared a little dinner for my graduation and my uncle was so proud of me. That day, I felt I was not that angry anymore with him and I miss my family so much. I knew soon I will be living with my family again and I will go to college and things will be better for my family and me. We will start over again. The wheels turned, through hard work, perseverance, the grace and mercy of God I finished college. I got immediately hired by a television network and rose from the ranks.  I was able to support my family for more than ten long years and as they say the rest was history. 

One thing I boast

I never imagined coming out of the storm of my life alive, a storm so violent and turbulent that almost tore me into pieces. But in the every storm and in every dark storm cloud that pass our lives, we are assured that there will always be a silver lining. It is not anymore a question of why God allows these things to happen in our lives, but on how we put God in the midst of the chaos and hardship that we experience.It is in finding God in every event of our lives, be it in good or bad and turning these moments into moments of faith. What is important now is how we respond to these events in our lives. We may curse God for leaving us on that dark event of our life, while another person on the same kind of dark event in his life praises God for being there with him. A simple analogy of half full and half empty, half cursed or half blessed. It is our faith and relationship with God that will tell us how to deal with life situations, like a road map leading to Him. I admit that I traversed a very hard and painful road. Like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:30: if there is something that I can boast now, it is my weakness because it is where I found the true strength – strength in the Lord.

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