“Anak, mabilis lang ‘to. Mabilis lang ang five years. Konting tiis lang. Para sa atin ‘to,” my mom told me as I accompanied her to the airport.
I just couldn’t help but hug her and try to stop her, “Ma, ‘wag ka nang umalis, please! Maawa ka sa ‘kin. Wala si Daddy sa tabi ko, pati ikaw mawawala. Please, ‘wag ka nang umalis!”
We were hugging long as I was ventilating and crying to her. She said, “Pero kailangan kasi, Anak,” as she let go of me with tears in her eyes and walked away.
In the year 2000, my mom made the big decision to follow my dad in America as my dad’s work abroad was no longer enough to provide for our family’s growing needs. My heart was so torn that even if I knew the reason why, I couldn’t take the pain. It was so overwhelming for an 8-year-old kid like me.
During that time, Internet was not yet used for communications; we could communicate only via telephone. And since it was pricey, our time to talk was limited.
It was such a heartbreaking struggle for a child like me to have no physical parents at home with only my siblings and helpers to look after me. And since my siblings also had their own struggles, we grew up not being that close as ordinary Filipino siblings do.
I would feel the pain every time I graduated, sometimes with honors, to go up on stage with no parents while having to see my classmates have theirs beside them. There was never a graduation in my life that my parents got to attend. How I wished back then they could see my success as a student because I worked hard for it.
When it was my mom’s fifth year in the USA, I asked her when she would go home that year, and she told me, “Anak, konting tiis lang, mukhang matagal pa.” Fast forward to present, she still hasn’t come home. I am already 25 right now, and it has been 17 long years.
Growing up holding on to those promising words was really a disaster to my heart. I began to feel angry at my parents, to the world, and admittedly—to God.
I would always have negative self-talks, discouraging and putting down myself, “Ikaw kasi! Hindi ka katulad nila na magagaling. Hindi ka pogi. Maliit ka. Hindi ka nagma-matter sa mga tao. Hindi ka mahalaga sa mundo. Hindi ako satisfied sa mga pinaggagagawa mo. Hindi ka sapat, Midler!”
I became a people-pleaser. I always treat my friends, became over generous, spent money like there was no tomorrow. I became so busy trying to achieve everything I could, competing against everyone to get the number one spot just to get the attention of my parents as an act of rebellion. That they would change their minds and go home to notice and love me because I am such a success, that I am “KEEPABLE.”
I got so confused with myself that I even got myself into same-sex relationships that soon ended because of my toxicity. I had insomnia back in 2014, having only 30 minutes of sleep a day or no sleep at all, leading to Mild Depression with Anxiety Disorder. Yes, I was diagnosed by our psychiatrist of having such, so I took up anti-depressants and anxiolytics.
It made me question myself more, “Am I really abnormal? Bakit parang ako lang ‘yung ganito? Special ba ako?” I was always giving but not receiving until I felt nothing. I had a nervous breakdown. I got depressed with suicidal thoughts.
But that challenge made me reach out and cry out to people for help, opening my heart and palms to receive love from my family, from my 70 college friends down to four truest friends, who stood by my side.
Did my parents notice me? Yes. I was successful to the point that they cried on Skype telling me how much I mean the world to them. It was even more of a heartache for me to realize that even if I was damaged, even if I was at the ugliest version of myself, even if they knew the most stinky secrets I had done, they accepted and loved me. Still. And that was when I fought for my life, for my sanity, for my self-worth. In that moment, I learned the truth, that unconditional love—that I am deeply loved and accepted in the arms of my loving God.
After that, I tested God saying, “Lord, pagalingin mo ako. ‘Pag nakatulog ako nang normal, I would know that YOU really exist.”
Lo and behold! After four months, I got my normal sleep-waking cycle and was medication-free. Praise God for that.
I also gained wisdom and understanding that what my parents did was similar to the act of Jesus Christ, dying to themselves, so that we could flourish. I also knew God through the Feast, came to know how special I am to Him head to foot, cell to cell, atom per atom, inside and out. “Midler, my son, I love you so much, and I am very fond of you.”
And during the Love Life Retreat that I attended in Tagaytay, what struck me most was the question:
“How can you love others if you do not love yourself? How can you love God if you do not love yourself?”
After that retreat, I decided to treat myself by doing things that I like to do, spending time with people that matter most to me, thus, increasing the love in my heart.
And right now, even if my parents haven’t come home yet for good, I know in my heart that they are the best parents for me. They are heaven-sent, and I love them very much. I take time to talk to them every single week, fighting for that belief that long-distance relationship is possible in love.
With the love that I am overflowingly receiving from God, I can say that I am a work-in-progress, taking quality time and enjoying life rather than being in a rush to succeed just to prove my worth to someone or to the world. I matter, I am worthy, I am good enough to my Audience of One.
For Him, I am KEEPABLE.