LITA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY -

Lita, just like me, is not a writer by profession and this is her first attempt to write her autobiography. Her biggest accomplishment so far is this: writing down everything that she remembers about her siblings, parents, and the deaths of her sister Eden and brothers Bayani and Dan. She also shared with us how she was able to help her 2 sisters and sisters-in-law migrate to Australia.

When I read her story, I laughed. Though she tells of the unfair treatment of her parents, she made it appear quite comical, notwithstanding, you can still feel the young girl's sadness and rebellion within. And when she tells of the financial hardship she went through, you will laugh at the ways she used to get over it. 

Lita's life story is inspiring.


Note: barely a month since coming up with this autobiography, Lita has since done some editing and pasted more pics of the family. She now has a blog of her own;


https://grandmalita.wordpress.com/


Visit her blog to see how she evolve as newbie writer.


                                            
                  SNIPPETS OF MY JOYS AND SORROWS
                                  (My Life)


My Mom...

My Mom was from Valenzuela Bulacan and also the youngest among 5 children of 2 boys and 3 girls. Her mother was an only child who took over the business of my great grandparents’ when they passed away while her father was a well-respected chief of police who was well known in their place for being generous.
Mom was only 17 years old when her mother passed away. Her elder brother and his wife, who do not have children, took her under their wings and treated her as their own daughter.

When my granddad retired from the police force, he took responsibility of my late grandma’s business.  When age took its toll, he decided to subdivide his land properties; he then gave his married children their shares of the land and also gave a big block to two friends who remained loyal to him even after his retirement.

Two years after my granddad died, my Mom’s elder brother passed away too so his widow sold his share of inheritance. Mom’s other brother sold his share too when he decided to migrate to Hawaii with his family. The three sisters went on with their lives but remained close to each other.

My Dad...

My Dad was from Baras Rizal and the youngest among 4 children. I still remember, we would often visit my widowed grandma at her house which is situated near a church. After that, we would have lunch at his older brother’s house which is just a kilometer away from my grandma’s.  My Dad also used to take me to visit his sister in Pila Laguna but never to his other sister, who lives in Balic-Balic Manila.

Dad was then teaching at an institute when his co-teacher, Mom’s brother, introduced Mom to Dad.

When Dad resigned from his teaching job, he and my Mom took up a combined business, a restaurant and recreational halls that catered Billiard Pool tables and Pin ball machines. Their chosen business was doing well so they added tailoring and barber shops. With so much paid helpers they managed their busy lives and their growing family.  

I was so young then but had noticed how hard both my Mom and Dad worked. Never I had seen them relax and Mom can’t just leave the helpers on their own while Dad was often away visiting branches of his recreational business  and at times back and forth to Manila to collect his imported pool tables and pin ball machines at the Pier.
                                                  
I fondly remember my Dad's trusted friend, Mang Tony. My dad often asked Mang Tony to visit the branches of his recreational business and do some repairs of the Pin ball machines.

Me at the right, in my white Elpo rubber shoes 


I loved getting into Mang Tony’s stainless jeep while it’s parked in front of our house so I made sure that my Elpo rubber shoes were handy in case my Dad will agree for me to go with Mang Tony.  I was a little repair helper to Mang Tony; he taught me how to use those little pliers and screw drivers. Mang Tony also taught me how to count money and bunch them with an elastic band. That was really fun.

                                                    
                                          
                                            MY SISTER EDEN


The eldest in our family was a boy but he died when he was still a baby. The second one was my beautiful sister Eden, who my parents really adored hence spoiled.

I remember this ...

Gusto ng tatay ko maging boy ako kasi namatay daw yung kuya ko nung baby pa. Imagine from grade 1 to 6 suot ko khaki na short at sandong puti at naglalakad ako ng about 1 km to school while yung Ate Eden ko suot White top &pleated blue skirt at may service siya to her private school. Madalas akong mapalo kasi being a 'boy' gusto kong kalaro ko yung mga bata na tawag ng Nanay Ko eh mga 'squatters' daw dun sa vacant lot ng Lolo Ko. Luckily, nung high school na ako,dun ako pinasok sa same school ng Ate ko para magamit ko yung old uniform ng Ate Ko. 

I love my parents & grateful for their tough upbringing of me because it enabled me to turn some negatives in my life to positives.  I was sad of the different treatment but felt nothing but admiration towards my spoiled beautiful fair skinned sister. I idolized her and would often nag her to take me to the USA, when she gets her visa.

I remember that time when my beautiful sister came home one day hurriedly looking for Mom & Dad.  Mom and Dad were not home then but my sister could not wait.  She rushed and took some of those thick bunches of money and on the way out she told me to tell Mom and Dad she took some money to buy a car. 

During that time, seldom does people used the bank to deposit their money so it was amazing to see those thick bunches of money neatly arranged with elastic band stored on a cloth covered pigeon halls on the wide wall behind the stairs of our house. 

Like others I was admiring my sister whenever she parked her blue shinny car in front of our restaurant during her visits. I dreamt that one day I will be driving my own car too.  

However, when my idol sister was almost ready to leave for USA, tragedy struck...a quick check-up with the doctor indicated that there was a lump on her neck.  She was operated on but sadly, after that operation her health deteriorated and she was forced to leave work. They said it was a botched operation. Not long after, she went into coma & was confined in a private hospital for 3 years. That 3yrs hospital confinement left my parent’s business bankrupt.

I remember how devastated my parents were when my sister got sick. They were worn out every time they came home from the hospital. But what I do remember vividly was that one middle of the night; I heard my mother painfully screaming while getting off our car. I learned later that my sister Eden just died. I felt sad but I felt no pain; my beautiful sister Eden will no longer suffer.

                           GETTING A JOB              

It was my sister Eden who helped me get a job at Camp Crame. This job helped me with my part time nursing studies at FEU.

I particularly remember one of my professors, Mr Onofre Manahan.  On the first day of our class in Mental Health, a subject in Nursing, Mr Manahan gave each one  in the class an exam paper then told us that he can guarantee that our individual result from that exam will be exactly the same as on the finals. The following class meeting Mr Manahan wrote all the answers on the board that I quickly copied.  It was a difficult exam so when Mr Manahan handed me my exam paper I was prepared to get a failed result but surprisingly I got a C. That was encouraging, so I kept that exam paper and the answers that I hurriedly copied.

When I was preparing for the finals I concentrated on that particular subject. I memorized everything that was on our first exam paper, which I kept,  and the result - a brilliant A on Mental Health.  As to my other two subjects...  well they were just okey but I have proven Mr Manahan wrong.

 A few months later some casual employees were laid off from work at Camp Crame but a few were retained because they have “padrinos”. I was one of those who did not have a padrino.

Without a job, I abandoned my studies and took some of the responsibilities from my parents who were by now basically residing at the hospital to look after Eden.

My cousin Cora came to help. She asked her boss at the Philippine Herald Newspaper if he could
give me a job.
Me in mini skit

Again my heavy makeup & short skirts worked to land me a new job. I was given a list of clients to see and was told to come back to the office at 5:00 pm with at least 5 solicited subscribers of the newspaper. I got 8 subscribers on my first day.

I was not comfortable to see the boss alone so I asked Cora to come with me. I was so glad that the boss didn't notice Cora's confused face when I submitted 6 signed subscriptions only.

On the way out I explained to Cora that it was my 1
st day so I was not expected to do much, the other 2 were my reserve.

My daily submission increased bit by bit...My basic pay was very low, barely  meeting my expenses for food, makeup and my weakness -- imported perfumes.  I was so fortunate that my solicited subscriptions kept coming in; it afforded my enrolment in another Course - Bachelor of Science in Education. I also got some credits from some of my passed units in Nursing. I stayed in that job for a while and will forever be grateful of my late cousin Cora as she ensured my safety from our pervert (sorry for my Language) boss.  

Back to Camp Crame…

It was amazing how I managed the exhausting daily routine of clambering up and down the stairs of several buildings to solicit for newspaper subscriptions, attended university till late and still managed to help my Mom in the kitchen of our little restaurant that was open 24/7.

One night my Mom handed me a letter from Lt. Pilar Katalbas of Camp Crame. The following morning I handed all of my remaining solicited subscriptions to my boss with an attached resignation letter. Monday I was on a bus on my way to Camp Crame.

My parents were struggling to meet the maintenance of the family and the studies of my younger siblings.  I was desperate to help them but I was only able to contribute a bit from my little pay at Camp Crame. I then went into the buy and sell of PX goods.

Aside from this buy and sell sideline, I would always grab any opportunity of getting extra income; like this one ;

I was on my way to work one day, when I saw a friend whom I had not seen for a while. We were both excited to see each other and parted with a promise from her that she will help me if ever I needed a loan at the financial agency where she was working. I grabbed the opportunity, I submitted a loan application.  The loan would have taken two weeks to be approved but with her help it took just two days and my loan was released.

The following day I came to see her and gave her a nice towel... and proposed a deal that she agreed.

I also made a deal with my gay workmate, Ramy Mendoza, to help me with the deliveries during his lunch time. To save time from walking from the office to the delivery places I ensured a lift from the driver of our Commanding Officer, a Sergeant. I used the total saved time to meet and collect loan applications from civilian employees and some Policemen then submitted the applications to my friend. Their applications were approved within two to three days. Aside from the commissions given me by the agency, I also received 100 pesos from each happy and thankful applicant.  My friend and Ramy Mendoza received 10% commission each from me and the Sergeant driver: snacks and drinks.  I always think about this as an amazing way to survive.

                              DAD'S LAST DAYS

My Dad was full of ideas and was always on the go.  He only mellowed when my elder sister died.  At this time, the family business was not doing well too and he drowned his sorrow by drinking alcohol and smoking heavily. My sister's death, the business failure,  his alcohol, his smoking, all must have added to the deterioration of his health; He got sick.

My Dad was a veteran before he became a teacher. he is thus qualified to be treated at the Veterans Hospital when he had a heart attack. However, Mom followed the doctor’s advice to take Dad to Heart Centre Hospital. His long hospitalization and expensive treatment at the hospital forced my Mom to sell half of their commercial property. Dad’s condition improved a bit but their money didn’t last long so Dad was transferred to the Veterans Hospital where he shared a room with 3 other patients.

At that time I already have a husband, Arlen, and a baby girl, April. Bayani was living with us to look after April while Arlen and I were at work. Though we were financially struggling we managed to help Bayani with his part time studies at the University of the East.

Whenever I can, I would visit Dad at the hospital but Bayani didn’t miss a day to visit Dad. He was there when Dad's 3 hospital roommates passed away. 

One night, at about 10:00 pm, Bayani called, he said Dad might be going away soon because he saw Dad's dead roommates, all dressed in white, floating in the air; they were surrounding Dad’s bed. 

I immediately went to the hospital the following morning but Dad was already dead, his remains though, was still on his bed: 
fully wrapped in white cloth. I cried and embraced Dad when quite suddenly then he burped. I love my Dad but his loud burp scared me and made me ran out of the room screaming. The two nurses who calmed me down explained that the pressure from my head on his stomach released the air that came out like a burp.  

At his funeral I kept a distance as I was still scared. I just waved my hand to say goodbye and whispered...  I love you Dad!!

                                MOM'S LAST DAYS

I knew my Mom was sick but not sure how sick she was. Christmas Eve I was on the phone and asked Dan if I could talk to Mom.  He said he had to carry Mom to the phone. I did not understand what Mom said but I said, “Mom I’m coming home.” I was tired and weary but my eyes were wide open during our 8 hours journey from Australia to Manila. I can’t believe that after five years of being away, April and I were on our way home.

Dan said, Mom regained some strength after talking to me. She was so excited to tell Batis that I was coming home that she asked Dan’s driver to take her to Batis’ house in Pasig. However, the trip must have taxed her: she collapsed. Mom was rushed to Sta Maria Bulacan Hospital.
  
I didn’t like Mom’s situation at that hospital; I called for an ambulance and instructed the driver to park in front of Dan’s supermarket. Dan was not happy with my decision to transfer Mom but though hesitant, he handed me the payment for the ambulance.  At the Manila Doctor’s Hospital Mom was admitted after I handed my credit card. 

I rang Dan and told him to send some money.  Dan’s brother-in-law came to the hospital with the money and warned me to be ready as Dan was so furious of me. I was ready for that as I knew Mom should have more than enough from the rental of her commercial property that both Dan and his wife agreed to pay before I left for Australia. Dan paid Mom’s hospitalization without any further discussion.

For the whole month, from 8:00 in the morning till 7:00 in the evening I was at Mom’s hospital bedside.  Mom got better and came home. She said she doesn’t want to live at Dan’s house and wanted me to stay with her. Mom gave up life four months after I and April left for Australia.

                              MY BROTHER BAYANI        .

What still hurts is when I think of how my two brothers died. 

Bayani was a Desk Police Officer performing administrative duties at Valenzuela Municipal Hall when it happened.

It was April 29, 1987 and it was our Mom’s birthday. Bayani wanted his son who was spending  a weekend at our younger sister’s Batis’ house in Pasig to be present for lunch, so he asked his boss, a Police Coronel, if he could borrow his car. He was allowed to have the car but he had to pick up and drive his boss to work first.  

On their way to work they were stopped right at the middle of the highway by the NPA's: a rebel group.  Bayani was already warned he was not the target
but his boss, but that did not deter him; his intention to protect his boss caused him his life.

It was a heartbreaking sight when he was honored as a hero at his funeral. Bayani’s  28 year old widow struggled to cuddle all of her 4 children, 3 girls and a boy, aged 6, 4, and 2 years olds and a baby who is just 2 weeks old. His fellow policemen were in tears when they witnessed how Bayani’s widow  tried to stop her shaking hands to accept the neatly folded Philippine’s flag while her children were crying.


                               MY BROTHER DAN


While working at Camp Crame, I struggled to help my parents support the whole family including financing the studies of my younger siblings as well as mine. Somehow I helped finance Dan’s schooling too.

After finishing school, Dan was able to get a job in a bank. After a couple of years, he was assigned to provide training to other employees and one of the trainees was from Digos Davao. Right after the training Dan got a new girlfriend... eventually followed by a wedding in Digos, a wedding that only our mother was able to attend. Davao City is a 2 hour plane drive from Manila.

Dan's intelligence was noticed by his father-in-law; he gave them the capital to start a business in Digos but Dan wanted his own way of managing the business. He and his wife left Digos and took over our mother's commercial place in Valenzuela Bulacan and started a Supermarket.  

Their business went really well. Dan was able to redeem my parent’s pawned properties and bought some more commercial properties. But tragedy again struck our family.

Dan was a smart man. He knew it was not safe to hold the daily proceeds from his busy supermarket anywhere in his commercial building; he ensured twice a day run to the bank by different store assistants. 

Unfortunately, at around six o’clock one late afternoon, 8 hold-uppers surrounded his supermarket.  Dan was able to push pile of big cans of oil, ran and hid. Peeping behind piles of sacks of sugar he saw one hold-upper was climbing the stairs leading to the next floors of his building. Dan knew that at that time his wife and 3 children were eating dinner at the 3
rd floor. He quickly came out from his hiding to distract him. The distracted hold-upper fired a shot at him, hitting him on the side of his body; it was a fatal shot. 

Dan’s heroic instinct may have saved his family but not his. After the hold-uppers left Dan was lifted to a car and taken to the hospital. It was a wrong move; it caused the gunshot powders to blast and broke Dan’s spine. 

At the hospital his wife was advised that Dan had a very slim chance to survive. Dan’s wife did not take that advice and transferred Dan to another hospital. Their hard earned money didn’t make any difference as those specialists were not able to save Dan’s life. Dan left behind a widow and 3 children, two boys aged 10 & 8, and a 5 year old girl. 

There were times when I blame myself for my two brothers demise; I helped Bayani to become a policeman and I gave Dan the idea of that supermarket business.        

                               MY SISTER VENIE
                                      
Venie was once married to Oscar who was a seaman. She had difficulty in giving birth because of her blood pressure problem but was lucky to eventually gave birth to a baby girl, Monette. 

Venie was extra careful because her old fashion in-laws lived just across the road from their house.  Little did she knew that Oscar was playing around until one of his relatives told Venie that Oscar’s sister who was working at the municipal hall helped him sort out the death certificate of  Oscar’s child from his mistress. Venie applied for family migration in Australia with the hope that Oscar and she can start afresh.  Their application was declined and Oscar continued his liaison with his mistress.

Undeterred, Venie lodged another application as tourist and reluctantly agreed with Oscar’s condition to leave Monette with her in-laws. For a month Venie stayed with us while in contact with a woman who she met at the Australian Embassy in Makati and lived in Sydney.  This woman promised to help Venie with her permanent stay in Australia. 

At that time we can only afford to provide Venie a little allowance and bus fare for her 3 days journey to Sydney. Her stay there took a while but gave her a new outlook in life. One day Venie was surprised to get a desperate call from Oscar...that his 16 year old Monette won’t listen to him and wanted to live with her boyfriend.  Before going home Venie asked me to help her bring Monette to Australia. She met with Oscar and on their second meeting Oscar agreed to annul their marriage.

I went to see a divorcee friend, Minda. She told me that her mother passed away but she can’t afford to attend her funeral in the Philippines. My brain worked again and thought about Monette.  Minda agreed to meet with Oscar in exchange of her airfare and a little allowance.  Amazingly on their first meeting, Minda and Oscar clicked instantly. They kept their contacts while Oscar waited for the certificate of annulment of his marriage to Venie. Oscar took the certificate to the Australian Embassy to complete the last required supporting document on Minda’s petition of him and Monette. Oscar and Monette arrived in Perth and he moved in with Minda and Monette with us.

                               MY SISTER BATIS

Batis was once married to Orlando who worked in Bahrain.  Batis knew that her husband had numbers of mistresses and even busted him when she was expecting Orlando to come home in December 1989 to spend Christmas with her and their two children. He was no show but thru the help of Batis’ so called “medium or psychic” they found Orlando in a house that was just a few kilometer away. Batis was shocked and numbed to find out that Orlando had married another woman in Bahrain and also had a daughter from her. Dan and Mom tried to convince Batis to leave Orlando but she was again sweet talked by Orlando and six months after, she gave birth to a tiny premature baby girl, Nina.

              FINDING PARTNERS FOR MY SISTERS

April’s wedding to Aaron was scheduled April 18, 1998 and she wanted Venie and Batis as their Godmothers. Arlen and I took a loan to buy their airplane tickets and together with the wedding invitation they lodged their applications at the Australian Embassy. Batis also included Nina in her application. The Australian Embassy gave them multiple entry visas for 12 months but limited to 3 months continuous stay in Australia.

Arlen and I took a month off from work so I can carefully plan for their stay with us.  We drove them around to show the beauty of Australia then it was time to convince them that in Australia they can enjoy new lives. Batis was particularly determined to stay permanently as she found out that Orlando had divorced her and married his mistress.

A month passed; I was on my way to find Venie and Batis their ‘would be’ husband.  I put their names and my home telephone number on the local newpaper... that they are seeking for genuine relationship. That week I received numerous calls. I was direct with my questions and required the callers to give me their address. I used my gut feeling to shortlist the callers then drove with Arlen to check their provided addresses. 

Venie was out with April when her now husband, Allan, came to meet her.  My intense questions thrown to Allan did not deter him instead before he left he left me a pot he made out of sea shells to give to Venie.  Allan came back but Venie was disappointed to see Allan’s appearance....  Allan survived a horrific 80% degree burn on his body.  For that reason Venie was not keen on Allan and at that time there were other two potential candidates who came to visit but indicated that they would like more time to know Venie. It was obvious to Venie that my first choice was Allan because I felt his genuine intention towards Venie and his non hesitance in answering some of my intense questions. 

There were also some potential candidates who came to visit Batis but similarly would like more time to know Batis. A Filipina, Emper, and her Australian husband, Gary, were my neighbours who lived at the back of our house. Dieter was recently divorced from Emper’s cousin and frequently visited Gary and Emper. Gary told me that Dieter wanted to meet someone so I got Gary to get Dieter to see me first and of course I subjected him to such intense questionings. 

Meanwhile their 3 months stay was almost up. Venie decided to go back to Sydney while Batis and Nina went to Singapore.  Batis and Nina came back to Perth after 3 days. Venie managed to stay in Sydney but persistent Allan regularly contacted her. Then it was time for Batis and Nina to exit Australia again. Dieter already made it clear that he wanted to marry Batis.  I was embarrassed but accepted Dieter’s offer to pay for Batis’Airfare to Bali. Again after 3 days Batis and Nina came back to Perth. We were running out of time so we decided to send Batis and Nina home to sort out Batis’ divorce from Orlando. I also made Venie to go with Batis to sort out our shares of Mom’s commercial property with Dan’s widow.

Allan decided to follow Venie in the Philipines. He was only allowed to stay for a month and within that time Allan and Venie were married by a Judge.  Allan pressed the Australian Embassy to approve Venie’s spouse visa. Venie came back to Perth with Allan.  With their remaining visas Batis and Nina came back to Perth, and eventually followed by celebration of two happy occasions on the same day, Dieter’s Mom’s birthday and his wedding to Batis.

                                            MY SISTER IN LAW AJEE

I kept my contact with Bayani’s 28 year old widow, Ajee, who with her 4 young children moved back to Pampanga and lived in a house close to her 6 brothers.   Her brothers were all  protective of her,  particularly the older one, Jerry. 

Being young and good looking, Ajee attracted many keen suitors but they had no chance with the very watchful eyes of the brothers. Ajee was not happy with her brothers. I told Ajee to come and visit us in Australia. Ajee was very sure she will not be allowed to go. I told Ajee to leave it with me. 

I know for a fact that Jerry will open my letter even if I address it to Ajee. I simply wrote in my letter that she (Ajee) cannot forever let her brother Jerry support her children... that one day she may be tempted to get involve with a man and she will manage to keep it secret from her brothers regardless how strict they are to her... but sincerity from the man she will get involve with, is not guaranteed because it is a huge responsibility for him to maintain a wife with 4 young children therefore it is very likely that she will just be taken for a ride then dumped later.. Whereas in Australia she will be able to find someone who will love her and her children, hence both she and her husband then will be able to give her children bright future.....That letter worked as Jerry arranged for Ajee’s trip to Australia. 

Ajee got 3 months visa and on the first Saturday from her arrival in Perth we gave her $50 dollars and took her to garage sales and taught her what goods to buy from that $50.  The following day, Sunday, we took Ajee to swap meet or flea market to sell those goods.  Her first sale was a whopping $200 that she sent to her children.  We did that routine for a month. 

One time, Ajee came back from using the nearby toilet at McDonald’s and told me that there was a nice looking guy who was following her.  That guy came to our stall and pretended to buy goods from us.  I approached him and bluntly asked him if he wants to visit Ajee at my place. He said yes, wrote his name, Dave James, telephone number and address. 

Dave came to visit Ajee the following Monday and after interviewing him I told him about Ajee’s situation, including her children’s. In a month time Dave scheduled their wedding with a local celebrant, booked a hotel room for their honeymoon and picked up Ajee for their meeting with an Immigration Officer. I lent Ajee a long white dress that I wore once. Their wedding took place at the nearby beach attended by Dave’s young son, Daniel, myself and Arlen as their witnesses. 

After their honeymoon Ajee told me that Dave wanted her application first to be processed then later her children’s.  I angrily told Dave off and threatened that I will be sending Ajee back home if he will not include her children on Ajee’s application.  He reluctantly added Ajee’s children in her application but not happy with me so he left Perth for Melbourne taking Ajee and her son with him.  A few months after, Ajee’s 4 children joined her and Dave in Melbourne.  Except for her son Vergel, Ajee’s 3 girls adored Dave. Vergel moved with us in Perth and now lived in house he built for his Filipina wife, Maan and beautiful daughter, Vianca.


                       MY SISTER IN LAW LOIDA

Dan’s widow, Loida, was lonely. She found a replacement for Dan but their relationship did not last long and the business that Dan left her eventually went downhill.

Inspired by the new lives of Venie, Batis and Ajee, Loida went for a month visitor’s visa to Australia. Batis and her friend arranged a meeting between Loida and Jim. Loida instantly liked Jim but I had a strange feeling about Jim and I know he was not in the position to petition Loida. A month went fast so Loida went home. I learnt that Loida had closed the supermarket.  I felt sorry for her and with a change of heart I rang Jim who only needed a tiny persuasion. 

Jim went to the Philippines and married Loida.  Jim was on disability pension thus cannot demonstrate financial capability to be able to support Loida and her two dependent children in Australia. He needed someone to give him a written support.  Loida also needed someone who will provide a written support and guarantee that she and her two dependent children will not become burden to the Australian government thus they cannot apply for any allowances from the government. Allan provided Jim with his support and Arlen provided Loida and her children with support and guarantee. 

Loida came with her son, Denver, and left her then young student daughter with her mom. Years passed; Jim’s erratic behavior towards Loida affected her and Denver.  She eventually left Jim. She sold her remaining properties in the Philippines and used the proceeds to pay off her half share of the new house that she now co-owns with Denver.


                           LIFE WITH ARLEN


Arlen and I had a very basic beginning. We were both part time students and full time workers at Camp Crame when we met.

On my first day at work I observed some girls were shy but friendly, some were snubby. Boys were different, some were authoritarians and the rest were really friendly. Common interest formed a group of friends that enjoyed each other’s company in and outside work.

Being a ‘tomboy’ I often joined conversations with the boys in the group who were quiet and allowed my mischievous sense of humour. Billy Marquez, Ben Zaldivar, Boy Sion, Arlen Santos, Lando De Luna and Manny Maniquiz were my buddies. Billy made me the Godmother of their 1st born; Ben helped me when I needed to help my brother, Dan. Arlen and Lando were often my pick-on targets. 

Arlen, who I called ‘Kuwago’ because of his big eyes, is the quiet type, very contented and not bothered by any fuss around. He was always a quiet achiever: always happy with what he was doing. 

One time, a Lieutenant asked me if I want to attend a programming training, I asked if he could also include my cousin, Violeta, and Arlen. Arlen got the highest mark and of course I was 2nd and Violeta 3rd (and that was only because he allowed us to copy his answers ha ha ha) . Arlen was able to successfully run the PC Payroll program but was overshadowed by his supervisor who wanted to take the credit for himself; I persuaded him to present himself to the CEO.

I also had some friends outside work and most of them were boys but I was not mischievous around them. I also did manage to distract some who were giving me their special attentions as I was concerned that it will ruin my plan of leaving for America.

Arlen always took his childhood friend Sonny in our regular group outings, but I noticed that Sonny was a bit extra close to me. I declined Sonny’s numerous invites of picking me up from work but one day, I eventually said yes.  I was not aware of the plan of the two conniving friends but before I left work Arlen made a comment that added to my already uncomfortable feelings towards Sonny.  I was very quick to decline his invite of watching a movie with him and expected his quick exit but instead he persisted for us to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Cubao.  I was still feeling uneasy when Sonny casually asked me if like him, I shaked my head. The smile on his face made me think there’s really something wrong with him then he said “it’s actually Arlen who likes you”.

The following morning Arlen came to me and without a word he handed me a folded paper.  He wrote ... I love you and I am going with you to America.  Ayayay.  We became boyfriend/girlfriend but were able to keep it secret from the group until we were about to get married.

Our wedding was on a very tight budget but looked flashy as we had 4 sets of bride maids and best men, 3 sets of God Parents, who one of them was the wife of our then Commanding Officer, and attended by quite a few relatives on both sides and workmates. I was really surprised to see our previous Commanding Officer, Col. Trance, who we forgot to invite. We went to Baguio for our honeymoon.

After the wedding, we rented a tiny room at Barrio Camp Crame We used our wedding gift money to buy a wooden bed, a small gas stove, and a wooden wardrobe. A year after, we moved to an apartment in Murphy taking our one week old daughter, April.

We were struggling so I secretly asked Manny Maniquiz to get Arlen a job in Makati.


Our first house ….

I was already pregnant with our son, Alwin, when we had our 1st house in Lagro, Novaliches, Quezon City. We were able to purchase this house thru a GSIS loan, a loan facility that caters to government employees.  

With two children in tow, it was a real struggle to maintain our monthly payment that there were times when we defaulted with the required monthly amortization. Over time. the 1 month delay became 6 months so we received a foreclosure letter from GSIS. I went to GSIS and was attended by a middle age man. My heavy make-up and mini skirt worked again; he gave me another 6 months to clear the arrears. Within 3 months I found a buyer who paid the full balance of our mortgage and paid us the rest of the agreed selling price. We used that money for deposit to a new house and lot at Pagibig Homes in Pasig, a subdivision near Greenwoods.


Migrating to Australia ….

In 1981 we applied for family migration in Australia, it was declined. Arlen left his Analyst Programmer job at Camp Crame after he was referred by Manny Maniquiz , an acquaintance,  at the Applied Systems in Makati where he was sent to Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia for seminars.

Arlen transferred to another company, Datronics Phils, in Makati and was regularly working in Baguio. We then decided to sell our Lagro property and build a house in Pagibig Homes in Pasig.  We managed to arrange with the developer to install a wide tinted sliding glass door on the side of the house overlooking the main road and I tried very hard to fill our newly built house with new electrical goods and furniture, fitted nice curtains and floor carpet. These gave our neighbours the impression that we are “rich” but the truth was to help me with my kind of wheeling and dealing sidelines.

Middle of September 1984 I heard that the Australian Embassy was again accepting applicants for migration.  I gathered all Arlen’s documents and got our best friend, Lando De Luna, to remove the word “Mr” on all documents.  I took those documents and presented myself as Arlen Santos.  When Arlen came down from Baguio I made him fill up and sign our application for family migration to Australia. It only took 3 months that our passports were stamped permanent resident. 

We decided to stay till the 30th of January 1985 to celebrate Christmas and New Year and gave us the time to sell our well look after electrical goods and furniture and arranged with my sister, Batis, to raise money for our airfares in exchange of a Power of Attorney on our property at Pagibig Homes. My “long term nemesis” brother, Dan, was not happy when my Mom got him to co-sign the withdrawal slip from their joint account. My Mom gave us the money for our trip.

On our departure for Australia on Jan 30, 1985, love ones, workmates, firends and neighbours came to see us at the Airport.  Mom was there and I can still remember her sad face. She was holding my arm so tight as if she can stop me from leaving.

We arrived at the Perth International Airport, Western Australia, at 1:00 am in the morning. Security guards and Airport staff were watching us as all other passengers had left while we were still sitting comfortably at the lobby. It was 5:00 am when we boarded a taxi and the driver drove us straight to a fully furnished apartment. The caretaker, John, handed us a key to our door after we have paid our rent for two weeks. 

We were all flat out, and only woke up around 3:00 pm.  Our young children were already very hungry so I gave them fresh milk from the fridge. After a quick shower I went to see John and asked if he could get me a taxi. With trepidation, I followed the supermarket cashier’s advice to leave my heavy shopping outside the door. In about 20 minutes I came back with another 2 plastic bags of fresh fruits. 

I was amazed to see my 6 plastic bags full of food were still there and pedestrians were avoiding them. That was in the 1980s when illegal drugs have not found their way to Australia and Policemen only carried batons and no guns.

We made a big mistake of contacting Arlen’s cousin as she made us moved places several times. The last apartment she made us moved placed me at risk. I was coming back to the apartment from taking April and Alwin to school, a scary guy tried to talk to me. I avoided him but later saw him jumping over the balcony of our apartment.  I rushed downstairs and sought help.

Arlen landed his first job at the Water Authority, a public service department.  After 3 months, I was able to save some money from Arlen’s pay. With that money and Arlen’s 2 payslips I went straight to the Bank Manager’s office.  Within a month we moved to our first house in Innaloo, Western Australia.

A year after, I told Arlen I want to get a job. I found a Traineeship in the Food Industry. About 20 of us were sent for training. All of the attendees were wearing shorts and t-shirts while me, I ensured that my shoes, handbags and dress were all of matching colour. 

After the training I was hired as a Cashier at the Observation City Hotel restaurant in Scarborough. After six months I left the restaurant and accepted an Office Manager position in a construction Company in Balcatta, Western Australia where I was responsible for payroll, typing and answering phones.

Arlen and I found it too difficult to juggle our time between his work and mine as well as picking-up of our children from school.  It was on a Thursday when I bravely went to the office of a politician, John Halden, who earlier had sent introduction letter of himself to his electorate.  I asked him for a referral to work at the public service. He did and after passing the Public Service Board Exam I joined the public service and had moved to various Departments within the State Government.

I left my last job at the Department of Transport after a few months my nice boss, Ron Carleton, retired and replaced by a nasty boss. It’s been 13 years since Ron retired but his wife, Sue, and I are still sending and receiving cards on special occasions, ie, Ron and her birthdays, Arlen and my birthdays, Christmas, as well as postcards of our holidays.

Meanwhile Water Authority was privatised and became Water Corporation. Arlen left and moved to another government department where he stayed a few months then moved to Police Department until he retired in December 2013.

There’s a big difference between our working life here in Australia and in the Philippines. Here, office environment is very cold, people are remote, there’s no mateship. Only during office parties that workers can let their hairs hang loose. On Fridays, after work, some go to bars and drink, pretending to be friends with their drinking companions, while some rushes home to have quality time with their families by taking them camping or fishing for a couple of days. 

There were no ‘after work-get-together’ on week days.  Come Monday mornings, it’s all stories of their weekend activities and after that it’s all work work work. So we really miss the warm office environment in the Philippines, the genuine friendship and care between workmates.

We lived for less than 2 years in Innaloo then we sold it and moved to Morley. 

In April 1998 our daughter, April, got married and moved in with her husband, Aaron. 

A few years after, we used the equity of our Morley property to buy a rental property. 

After 15 years we managed to convince our son, Alwin, to take over the remaining mortgage of our Morley property and we moved to Ballajura. We sold our rental property and bought another one also located in Ballajura. After 6 years we sold our two properties in Ballajura and built our Bennett Springs property, where we are currently living.

Finally, we are no longer struggling but enjoying life and often visit Manila to meet with cousins and lovely friends and visit the final resting places of departed love ones.
                             

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