It all started when my ina found out that she was pregnant. She didn’t plan it, but still, I would have expected that my tatay would have been excited that he would have a little girl that he could love, play sports with, and walk down the aisle once I got married. I believe Disney has played around with my mind because all this was just a fantasy.
Tatay condemned my ina’s pregnancy. He wanted me gone. My ina had to bug him and show proof of the DNA test that proved I was his anak. Tatay was furious with the pregnancy; he told my ina that I couldn’t use the Montuaño family name. He even filed a restraining order to prevent my ina from asking him for help. After the dilemma was settled in court, my ina decided to go on with the pregnancy.
Living with my ina and only looking up to her as a father and mother is a difficult role that my ina took. She had the choice of giving me up for adoption or abortion, but she insisted to give me life and let me experience an ina’s love no matter the circumstances. This was the start of our journey.
I have to admit it’s not easy living with a single ina, especially if you are an only child. You are taught to be independent at an early age. Baby eagles are pushed down the sky. They either learn to fly or die. You are also taught to take care of yourself when no one’s around. I wished that I got both teachings from my ina and tatay. I would always stare at my family portrait and look for the tatay nang pamilya, the man of the house. I wish my family portrait would be complete like my friends’ or cousins’. They had a tatay and ina smiling with them in the photo.
My ina didn’t have enough money to pay the babysitter, so she taught me not to answer the phone when it rang or open the door if someone knocked. She taught me to be tough and not allow anyone to bring me down. My ina had to do what people don’t like doing, which is to borrow money. She was the only person working in our household and had to ask people she knew if she could borrow money, so she buy groceries because her salary wasn’t enough. Some of these people would be generous enough to not let her pay back, but some would be knocking at the door at night threatening to call the police if she didn’t pay up. When my ina begged them for more time, I felt helpless because I couldn’t help her. These people knew where I went to school and one loan shark visited me and told me to tell my mom to answer their calls and pay her debt. The word debt haunts me to this very day.
Hollywood has brain washed me into believing that to have the perfect family you need to have both parents together living under the same roof. It was the norm of a traditional Filipino family. My tatay abandoning me has made me feel like a lost puppy searching for its owner. The puppy tries to re-kindle its relationship with the owner, but once again the puppy is thrown out in the cold rain with its ina.
Everyday I wonder if tatay ever thinks about me, if he asks himself, “How’s Monica doing with her studies?” or “Does she have a boyfriend that I need to watch out for?” I picture that he tells himself, “I should mail my child-support on time and it could be useful if she wants or needs to buy anything.” Tatay left his duties of being protective and loving of me before I was even born. My ina had to pick up the pieces and make the best out of it. Actually, my ina does a good job of that stereotypical, overprotective father figure in the movies. She has that “farmer with a shotgun” attitude prepared every time she sees me talking to guys despite the fact that half of my friends are male. She has mellowed out through the years, though, but she still has her “eagle-eye” looking out for any suspicious activities going on, which never happens. To this day, she tells me, “Walang munang boyfriend, pagaaral ay mas importante para sa daan nang buhay mo.” No boyfriend yet, your studies are more important for your life ahead. I know what she means and she’s just doing her best to take care of me.
This is my situation, and I work hard to make it less painful each day. When I grew old enough to realize the situation I have with tatay, I was motivated to work hard in my studies and accelerate in what I do. My certificates, photos with Dianne Feinstein, medals, report cards and trophies are ways of me saying Salamat sa lahat na ginawa mo, yung pagod, pawis at dugo na binous mo. Thank you for everything that you do, your blood and sweat that you poured into taking care of me.
Those are the prizes that my ina deserves and much more to come. I know that one day we will live in comfort. The bills will be paid on time, no more loan sharks will harass us at night, and we will live in a nice apartment that resides in a peaceful community. These are the things that I would like to give back to my ina in return for her unconditional love.