Gloria attends pro-RH gathering in Laoag City

NO, she did not wear a neck brace, and, no, she was not out on bail. It was the better Gloria I have previously written about who joined Ilocanos, mostly young people, at the foot of Gilbert Bridge last August 6 for a candle lighting ceremony in support of the Reproductive Health Bill.

It was a crucial moment for the controversial piece of legislation which has stagnated in Congress in the last one and a half decades, no thanks to the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. (I have to say “hierarchy”, dear karikna as all national surveys say a great majority of Filipinos, the Catholic faithful included, strongly support the RH Bill.) Congress was to vote whether to proceed with the prolonged and circular debates or to terminate the interpellations and push for the bill’s second reading in the Lower House.

It was a crucial moment, and the significance of the activity was not lost on Gloria Portela Valencia, 55. Taking time off from her many chores as a house help in Laoag City, she joined well-meaning citizens, composed mostly of young people, in the silent activity for the RH Bill.

Frail and shy, Gloria came in a red shirt she usually wears when attending mass. She lit a candle, stood there, and joined the group in the brief gathering. But Brigette Mayor, a field reporter of GMA’s Balitang Ilocos noticed Gloria among the crowd and interviewed her. “Manang, apay supsuportam ti RH Bill?” asked the young journalist who may have been expecting a generic answer, but hit a pot of gold in her interviewee’s moving response.

“Agsaksakripisyoak ta kayatko laeng a magun-odda ti ar-arapaapenda ngem saan met ta sabali met ti napaspasamak. Nasakit unay ti nakemmo a nagannak ta kasta met ti nagbanagan dagiti annakko.” (I sacrificed because I wanted my children to realize their dreams, but something else happened. As a parent, I feel sad about what my children had to go through.)

Gloria hails from Barangay Bacsil in Dingras town. Manong Rolando, her “First Gentleman,” is a tobacco farmer who tills less than a hectare of land that is not theirs. The eldest among her siblings, she started working as a kasambahay at age 13. When she got married and bore kids, this devoted mother quit her job and stayed home to take care of her growing family. She gave birth to six kids. Eight years ago, however, when two of her daughters started going to college, Manang Gloria decided to stage a comeback as a househelp so she can help send them to school.

A few years ago, Gloria’s world crumbled when she found out that one of her daughters, already in third year college, got pregnant by a married man. When that happened, she could not sleep at night though tired from the day’s work. She would stare blankly at nothingness, mulling why things went wrong. She did her part, she sacrificed, she prayed hard, but why? Two months after, as if her troubles were not enough, this mother discovered that her other daughter, also in her junior year in college, was pregnant, too. Both of her girls had to quit school to take care of their young, and Gloria was totally devastated.

Don’t get me wrong, dear karikna, Gloria loves her two granddaughters and are proud of them, but she knows that things could have been better. Her apukos could have been born at a better time and under appropriate circumstances. Continue reading “Gloria attends pro-RH gathering in Laoag City”

Uncle Gerry

I ALWAYS tell my students, almost all of them in their teens that, at this point in their lives, they probably enjoy spending more time with their barkada—with whom secrets are shared, ‘happenings’ are enjoyed, and brave youthful explorations are carried out—than with their family members, especially the oldies, whom they perceive as KJ, epal, and close-minded.

I remind my students though that, as I myself would find out myself when I was a teenybopper no more, many friends come and go, while the family, fortunately or not, remains.

I was browsing though old photo albums the other day to look for pictures we need for our parents’ golden wedding anniversary next month when I noticed in the prints someone who has always been present in important occasions like birthdays, graduations, and weddings. He has been there during happy moments, but even more in difficult ones.  He is a vital constant in our family.

The second youngest in a brood of nine, German Nicolas Labayog was the only among his siblings who lived with his parents, my lolo and lola, until their twilight years. He took very good care of them. He gave them all the reasons to be happy.  He always made them laugh even as he constantly reminded the octogenarians to wear their pustiso.

With our grandparents gone, Uncle Gerry, although now based in Hawaii with his super beautiful wife Auntie Elsie, is the unifying force in the Labayog Clan. He would encourage us to gather and celebrate as a family, occasions big and small.  He would not be physically present anymore, but we would always feel his love. He would know if some members of the family are at odds, and would go at lengths to negotiate peace. I and my cousins each have our own stories to tell of gratitude and appreciation of Uncle Gerry. He tells you he is proud of you, and you would feel that he means it. He gives sound advice in a very tempered way and helps you realize your follies but never judges. He has ultimate belief in one’s capacity to do good.

I know he has mixed feelings about me right now. Continue reading “Uncle Gerry”