I HEARD about a young woman, daughter of an OFW, who is today trapped in the stranglehold of drug addiction. Her father died while working as overseas worker, and her mother was forced to leave her five children to work abroad, as well.
She sent every single peso she earned for rent, food and tuition, shipped balikbayan boxes with everything her children could ever want. Need I say more?
The story is not new. It is an oft-repeated sad tale in the history of our OFW families. Parents are away working abroad, the home breaks up, and the children fall through the cracks.
Today there are too many moms and dads away from their children. A great number have no choice. And that’s a tragedy. But others do.
I know I have said this before. But while I can and whenever there’s an opportunity to do so, I will continue to raise the alarm for absentee parents. I know of what I speak. I didn’t read this in a book.
No Take 2
Time together with our children, once lost, can never be recovered. Never! There is no way to turn back the clock, no way to start over. There is no Take 2.
We can’t wish them into becoming children again. We can’t redeem their innocence. We can’t recapture the lost years.
The day comes when we are confronted by the awful truth, that our children have grown up without us and, no matter how hard we may try to reclaim our role, we have missed it, big time.
Let me admonish parents who find themselves too busy, too involved or “needing their space.” Being a mother or a father isn’t about being there just for the big events or to pay the bills.
Don’t miss out on all the precious “little stuff”: trips to the dentist, shooting baskets, playing tooth fairy, becoming chauffeur for a junior prom, hugging away a fever, being brave during a thunderstorm, buying her first bra and those other all-important “unimportant” things in your child’s life.
You need to teach them to say “no” before they first break boundaries, when they are offered their first puff or tempted to take a swig from the bottle. You must be there to show your little girl how valuable she is, long before she falls into the wrong arms.
Someday you will want to play catch-up, and it will be too late. The kids will be all grown up and you will find yourself “sidelined,” just a spectator with a heart full of regret.
While it is still today, take these words to heart. The time is now. Be present in your child’s life. There is nothing more important. FaceTime does not count.
Many years ago I was a professor at Far Eastern University, and the final exam for my Spanish 4 class was Rizal’s “Ultimo Adios”—in Spanish, of course—to be recited by each student. We studied the historical background and went through several translated versions of the poem as closely as we could. Obviously a lot is lost in translation, but I made sure that my students got the gist and understood the spirit behind it.
I tape-recorded their “finals” and played them back to grade them. This all happened in the Radio Room where the late Sarah K. Joaquin, my drama mentor, friend and second mother, usually conducted her speech classes.
I sat outside. I did not want to be present so as not to intimidate them, but I was there to encourage them and answer their questions, and check if they had learned not just the sound but also the meaning of Rizal’s last farewell.
It was difficult to keep a straight face, listening to the often-criminal pronunciation of such a masterful piece. But the students never lacked in enthusiasm. I remember that one girl actually broke down and cried and a couple of guys did get emotional before “morir es descansar.”
I was happy that the beautiful words of our national hero had touched them, and hoped that somewhere in the hearts of these young students who, I thought, were in class just to earn units for graduation, the poem had sparked at least a tiny flicker of the love and passion that our national hero felt for his “patria adorada.”
Ten years later, in the middle of a Honolulu mall, someone stopped to say hello and identified himself as my former student. He had migrated to the United States. We reminisced about Spanish 4 at FEU. He thanked me for my patience and introduced his American wife, saying, “This is Michelle, ‘mi dulce extranjera.’” It made my day!
Surrounded as we are today by cheap and crass politics, and shallow, self-serving politicians, perhaps now is the perfect time to revisit this marvelous piece. Let us delve deep into its almost flawless rhythm and rhyme, and be touched, cleansed and inspired by Rizal’s lofty and noble thoughts for our country.
Google “Mi Ultimo Adios.” There are very good English translations, as well. But nothing stirs my heart more than the original.