A family that values life and education

by Evans Yonson

(Note: Today is my Mamang Ben’s birthday, I dedicate this series to her. She could have been 100 years old today.)

I never had a university education. Finishing high school then meant a sense of pride for any family. I speak Latin and English very well. I could read, write, and speak these languages with fluency and correct grammar. University was only for the rich people. But what I lacked in life, I made sure that my children would have it in their lifetime. Ben and I made sure that our five children would finish and get their university degrees. The most intelligent of them was Jorge. He finished summa cum laude as a chemical engineer and he topped the board exams. He never practiced his profession but instead chose to become a government employee. Two of my daughters became public school professors and have dedicated their lives in educating others. BB obtained a degree in accounting and business management and would later on hold a high government position. Julia would earn her PhD degree in education soon from the state university.

Coming from a family of university degrees and being the oldest of my siblings, I made sure that I emulate what my parents did with us. One of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that all my five children have earned their university degrees. My first three boys were already professionals when Terry died. I made sure that Jojoy and Vya would finish in due time. They are the sources of my strength now. I want to see my children happy, completely independent, and earning their own money. With my earnings and monthly pension, I have bought each one of my children a small parcel of land to build their own homes. They have enough money and families of their own now. I could just sit and relax and see the fruits of my labor, happy and contented in life. I hope that they will also do to their children what I have done to them, sending them to school and making sure that they get university degrees.

In Xavier University, I decided to do a double major in Sociology and Development Communication without my parents’ knowledge. I devoted most of my time to my studies. I didn’t take any summer vacations while I was studying in the university. I attended many several seminar classes and advanced subjects in summer that I was able to finish everything in less time. While in the university, I joined a theater group. We became famous throughout the city that we competed in a national drama competition. We won in that competition. I enjoyed the theater group because they all became my good friends. It was also during these times that my parents accepted my sexuality. They didn’t question my decision anymore because they probably that I was doing well in my studies and I was very happy. I was out but I was never loud. I preferred to be in the sidelines. I finished my studies before I turned 21. It was so fast that I never thought I would finish that soon.

I started working immediately after marrying Ben. It was not hard finding work because my parents had trained me to be a tailor and I inherited one of the sewing machines. I also inherited their clients. When Ben and I decided to migrate to Mindanao, I carried my sewing machine and took the boat to the big island. We reached Cagayan de Oro after 15 hours of crossing the Mindanao Sea. We searched for my relatives and we stayed in their place for several months until we found a permanent place to stay. After a year, we opened a bigger shop to accommodate our clients. Just when we were enjoying our business, the war broke out. Ben just delivered our second baby and it was chaos everywhere. The Japanese were bombing every inch of the city. People were dying. I decided to move my family farther into the jungles of Bukidnon. Before we left Cagayan de Oro, I wrapped my sewing machine in a big woolen blanket and buried it underground near the coconut tree that I planted that year.

When I walked out of the university, I wasted no time in finding myself a job. Tatay and Nanay have become famous as tailors after the Second World War. One of their clients was the City Mayor. I approached the Mayor and asked him if I could work at the City Hall. I showed him my documents that Friday and on Monday, I was already working as an accounting clerk. I was 21 years old then. I adjusted to my work environment easily. I have been a worker all my life. I loved my work since the day I started. I got to meet people from different places. The more friends I made, the more clients Tatay and Nanay had. I never forgot where I come from. I never stopped going to my parents’ tailoring shop. After work, I would drop by and help clean their work area until I got married and started bearing children.

When I finished my university studies, I went on a two-month vacation to Camiguin Island where nobody knew me. I wanted to enjoy life before plunging into the professional world. When I came back to the city, I received a letter for a job interview with a non-government organization. It was my dream job, a field researcher and writer. I started working on June 1, 1989, Thursday. The NGO was working with the agrarian reform programs in the countryside. I travelled to Bukidnon every week. I met local political leaders and the beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program. I stayed in a small nipa hut every time I was in the area. I wrote my reports at night with only a kerosene lamp to light me. I started smoking this time. Nanay always told me that I can only afford to have my own vices when I am earning my own money.
(to be concluded)