When people ask what my occupation is and I tell them that I am a housewife/homemaker/stay-at-home mom (SAHM), the first reaction I normally elicit is that of disbelief.

“Are you serious?”
“Weeeh, you’re just pulling my leg.”

And when I eventually manage to convince them that I am indeed a housewife, the next reaction would be a look of either disappointment, pity, or disinterest.

Without uttering a single word or making a single sound, they are able to convey their message quite loudly and clearly – “Oh. So you’re just a housewife. A plain housewife.”

Every time something like that happens, I always feel my teeth unconsciously grit – not just because these people seem to find immense pleasure in belittling others to make themselves feel bigger than they actually are, but because there was a time in my life when I would let myself get affected by their not-too-subtle insult.

Yes, years ago, when every minute of my existence was dedicated to raising my three little kids, such jabs could actually reduce me to an emotional wreck. I would be inclined to retreat to the nearest corner to sulk and wallow in self-pity.

What further aggravated my situation then was the feeling of isolation that used to grip me.

You see, it was during my children’s formative years that my husband was just starting his career in the cutthroat pharmaceutical industry. Understandably, he was consumed by a need to prove himself to his work colleagues and superiors with the ultimate goal of advancing his career. I knew that all his efforts and his passion for his work were for our family and our family’s future, but that knowledge did not diminish the feelings of wretchedness and insecurity that frequently assailed me and whose clutches I could not seem to escape.

Living in a city where I did not know a single soul and with nary a moment to spare to make someone’s acquaintance, I was prone to bottling all of my emotions and sentiments inside. And as I was too busy to indulge in old hobbies or to pursue new ones, I had no outlet to release my pent-up frustrations.

I became somewhat of a recluse.

As a consequence, I constantly felt alone, lonely, useless, unappreciated, embittered, resentful. I was stagnating mentally, languishing emotionally and deteriorating socially. When I would look at myself in the mirror, I could no longer see the independent, self-confident, active and empowered woman that I used to be. What I would see was a stranger who hated the hand she was dealt. A stranger who loathed everything about her situation. A stranger who despised even herself.

Eventually, I succumbed to depression.

I was in a really, really dark place then.

It was a long, slow and arduous journey to get out of that rut and to reclaim the old me. But once I decided that I had had enough, I worked hard to turn my life around.

I knew that nobody else could possibly do it for me –the change had to start from deep within me. I was just grateful that the people who genuinely loved and cared for me did not give up on me. They stayed with me and helped me get out of the hole I dug for myself.

Today, I hope and pray that no stay-at-home moms (or even dads, for that matter) are going through or have to go through something like that. Nobody deserves to feel like s#!t about himself/herself.

So, for all the SAHMs out there, here are some pieces of advice from someone who wished that she had received the same when she needed them the most.


photo credit: happyandhealthymom.com


First, know your value. You may be economically dependent on your husband, but that should not relegate you to an inferior position within your home. You should be your husband’s equal partner in everything that involves your family — the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment, and disposition of a property; the exercise of parental authority; the making of pertinent choices and decisions; the setting of goals; the determination of various rights, opportunities and responsibilities (including child care and household chores); etc. You have your voice. Use it.

Spouses who are equal partners “enjoy more stability in their marriage and experience less conflict, less dependency, and less resentment.”


Be proud. You may not be rewarded for having successfully climbed a career ladder, but your contribution to the community and humanity is immeasurable. You are raising, guiding and molding your children to achieve their highest potential so as to be wonderful, fearless, compassionate individuals and productive members of society. To accomplish such a tall task, you do not simply perform the duties of a mother. You morph yourself into an educator, an advisor, a referee, a juror, a juggler, a healer, a leader, a friend, a diplomat, an organizer, a cheerleader, a pep-talk provider, a magician – virtually anything that your children need you to be! Only someone special could pull that off!

Take pleasure, take pride, and celebrate those accomplishments.


Love yourself. You have to wake up very early in the mornings and have to stay up late at nights. You are on call 24/7. No vacations, no days off, no sick leaves, and no paycheck. To avoid burnout or to blow off some steam, you need to pamper yourself once in a while. Go to the nearest salon for a new ‘do and a much-needed mani/pedi. Have a relaxing massage. Go see a movie with friends or have chats with them over cups of coffee and your favorite pastries. Run to the mall and shop for bags, shoes and clothes. Head to the gym and do yoga or Zumba or boxing. Read. Bake. Take a trip.

You cannot genuinely love anyone if you are incapable of loving yourself.


Finally, do not let anyone pull you down! Remember, you are not just a housewife. Or just a homemaker. Or just a stay-at-home mom.

You are more than just those labels.

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor.

You are a domestic goddess!



When Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide,” he must have been thinking of the many injustices inflicted on his people.

Or maybe, he just had Aimee in mind.

You see, Aimee’s life before was a classic case of series after series of unfortunate events unfolding right before her eyes —that it was a small wonder that she did not decide to end her “colorful” life!

She got pregnant at the tender and gullible age of 19, while she was still in college. When her relationship with the father of her firstborn did not work out, she shrugged her shoulders and moved on with her life. No use crying over spilled milk, she said to herself.

A few years after, Aimee got entangled in another romantic relationship. But that time, to her family’s delight (and the disappointment of the wagging tongues of the gossipmongers around her), she had a wedding ring on her finger to show off.

Like most young married women who tend to look at their marital lives and partners through rose-tinted glasses, Aimee thought that she finally managed to find her Mr. Right. A man who will provide her with the ideal family that she had always dreamt of having. A man who will be her best friend and reliable life partner and a great father to her kids. A man she envisioned herself growing old with.

Unfortunately, when the glasses slipped down her nose, she saw her husband for what he really was. She was surprised to realize that instead of the prince of her childhood dreams, he was in fact a frog. A spineless frog!

So, barely a year into the marriage, she broke it off and filed for annulment.

That broken marriage left her with a broken heart — and baby number 2.

Never the type to surrender, Aimee took another romantic gamble after her battered heart healed. Believing that third time’s the charm, she had high hopes for that relationship. So, just like with the first two, she gave everything of herself – mind, body and soul —to the relationship.

But when baby number 3, a sickly baby with VSD (a congenital heart disease, wherein there is a hole in the wall separating the ventricles of the heart), came along, everything turned sour.

Not long after that, Aimee found herself alone, penniless and with three children to raise on her own.

With such overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable cards stacked against her, one would think that Aimee would be throwing in the towel by then. Or would be shouting at the top of her lungs to curse and throw vengeful words at God. Or blame the universe for her ill fate. For sure, that’s what I would have done — or most of the women out there — had they been put in Aimee’s shoes.

But, no. Not Aimee.

If Hercules had a female counterpart, that would have been her. She was (still is!) tough, fearless, resilient and tenacious. She never holds grudges. The word “surrender” isn’t in her vocabulary. And, above all, she has the uncanny ability to look at things positively. Humorously, even.

So, instead of dwelling on the many tragedies of her life, she decided to move on. That is, until she met an unexpected man at an unexpected time through an unexpected way.

Kevin and Aimee Davis


Many horrible things can happen when strangers who met online decide to meet in the real world. In this particular story, though, it was the opposite (Aimee is like that — constantly defying the norm).

Aimee and Kevin met online and became instant virtual friends. Through constant and frequent chatting online, their friendship soon blossomed into something sweet, chaste and promising. Aimee’s world was once again bright and happy. They enjoyed and cherished every moment that they would talk, and their worries started to melt away.

Kevin was thirteen years Aimee’s junior, but the two did not let the age gap bother them. Why would they when, between the two of them, Kevin was the one who’s much wiser? He was “an old soul trapped in a young man’s body,” as Aimee described him.


It didn’t take long for Aimee to really get to know Kevin. He was the epitome of a true gentleman. He was “super” loving, “super” giving, “super” sweet and “super” honest. He was also “super” humble. He was as transparent as crystal in his love and devotion for Aimee. In his eyes, Aimee was and will always be the only rightful owner of the Miss Universe title. No one else.

But what really endeared him to Aimee was his apparent love for her children. He called her every single day (using a phone card!) to know how the kids were doing and to hear their excited voices. So, when Kevin finally popped the question, there was no doubt in Aimee’s mind that she would be making the best — not to mention, life-altering — decision of her life.


Kevin knew all too well what he was getting himself into. He was aware that Aimee would come as part of a package. He understood that once he decided to marry her, he was also committing himself as an instant father to her three children. But he was already truly, madly, deeply in love with her, and he had also learned to love her children as if they were his own.

So, barely a week after he first met her for the first time, he put a ring on Aimee’s finger and made her Mrs. Kevin Davis.

Aimee had to stay in the US for a year while waiting for her green card so, with the kids temporarily left in the Philippines in the care of her older brother, that year sort of became their honeymoon. Wherever Kevin was deployed (he was with the US Navy), Aimee was not too far behind. She even followed him to Dubai and Singapore!


The funny couple has been married for eight years now, but anyone who sees how they look at each other could easily mistake them for newlyweds. One would have thought that the passing of time and all the challenges that they had — and still have — to face as a family would somehow diminish the saccharine quality of their affection for each other. But, it’s Aimee we’re talking about here. The same Aimee who is used to defying convention, who never lets things get her down, and who always manages to find humor in any situation, or a silver lining in every cloud.

Not everyone they love approved of their relationship, but Kevin and Aimee were able to prove to everyone that they are in it for the long haul.

Their marriage is characterized by long separations due to Kevin’s line of work, but they always make up for lost time whenever he is with his family.

Kevin and Aimee came from the opposite ends of the world and were raised in completely different cultures, but they have both learned to adjust to, accept and respect each other’s deeply-ingrained values and beliefs.

Aimee sustained a major emotional blow with the sudden passing of her beloved brother, the one who served as her anchor when her world was spinning out of control, but Kevin was able to alleviate her pain with his genuine concern and understanding.

Aimee suffered two miscarriages during the early part of their marriage, but baby number 4’s arrival in their life three years after their wedding was more than enough to compensate for their losses.

Baby number 3 has VSD, but he had a successful heart valve replacement surgery a couple of years back. He is now the family’s real-life Ironman.

5-year-old baby number 4 has AVM, another congenital disease that involves a rare vascular malformation of the brain. He is already scheduled to go under the knife next week, and his army of prayer warriors is now geared up for their task ahead.

Kevin with his boys

Surely, the road that Kevin and Aimee are taking together with their family is strewn with many other difficulties and trials. But as long as they continue to nurture their love and dedication to each other, and maintain their attitude of not taking life too seriously, nothing could ever beat this formidable tandem. After all, humor is supposed to be a great way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities.


At ages 21, 20 and 18, my kids would soon leave the comfortable nest that my husband and myself have, over the years, lovingly built and nurtured for them. They would want to break free from our protective embrace to prove their independence. They would wish to spread and try their wings, to fly and soar, and to see as much of the world as they possibly could.

But before we allow them complete freedom, there are things that they need to know to better prepare and equip them for the journey that they are about to embark on. These are the things that will serve as their compass when they get lost, and their beacon of light for when the skies get too dark.

Emar, MD and Lala, listen and listen well. I am your mother and, for the most part, I know best. 😉


  1. The world is both a wonderful and nasty place. There is a thin, blurry line that separates cruelty from compassion, indifference from empathy, hatred from love, malice from kindness, jealousy and envy from contentment, prejudice from acceptance, selfishness from benevolence, harshness from gentleness, savagery from humanity, arrogance from humility, and negativity from positivity. Be discerning and prudent in all your dealings.


  1. Explore, take adventures, and travel the world. People are not meant to stay in one place. Otherwise, we would have been given roots instead of feet. (That last part is according to a certain Rachel Wolchin!)


  1. Rarely is something served on a silver platter. Anything worth having usually takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. There is really no shortcut to an enduring and sustainable success; one needs to use the ladder.


  1. Don’t expect life to be fair because, quite frankly, it is not. Yes, hard work and perseverance is the foolproof road to success but, sometimes, luck, connections and ingratiation could be unbeatable foes. Educational background, academic achievement, personality and grit can be reduced to mere nonessentials. A success acquired through shortcut, though, is normally short-lived. And it doesn’t earn a person any respect, either.


  1. One always has choices. Always. And each choice has a corresponding consequence. So, do your best to make the right ones and strive to learn from the wrong ones. You should also take full responsibility for your decisions, choices and actions.


  1. No man is an island. We do not exist solely for ourselves. Each of us has a purpose in life, something greater than ourselves. Seek that purpose.


  1. Be kind to Mother Earth. It is our only home and we are all its citizens. Try to leave it a better place than when you arrived. It has already been used and abused by humans for so long that I’m afraid that nature would soon take matters into its own hands if we don’t change our ways.


  1. Know that every small act has a ripple effect. Every smile, every kind word, every good deed may build a current and create a cascade of change for everyone who is at its receiving end. We all have the power to change the world of the people around us. Be responsible, considerate and generous with whatever you drop in that pond of life.


  1. Be mindful of your elders’ words of wisdom. We have more decades’ worth of experience than you do.


  1. It’s not enough to know what is right. You have to say, do and live it. There are two kinds of evil people in this world — those who inflict pain or injustice or suffering on another human being and those who watch these sordid acts without doing anything. Find your voice and make yourself heard. Aspire to be more than a mere bystander.



  1. Never lose heart. When you feel that the universe is conspiring against you, when trusted friends turn their backs on you, when adversities simultaneously assail you, when your best efforts are greeted with indifference, when you fall flat on your face again and again and again —just keep going on. Don’t give up. A miracle may just be around the corner, patiently waiting for you.


  1. Be wise with how you spend your time; it’s the most precious and most perishable commodity there is. Do not cling too tightly to the past and neither should you invest too much on the future. Live passionately –but responsibly– in the here and now. Do not make procrastination a habit. You should also respect other people’s time.


  1. The single, most important key to a successful relationship is open and honest communication. There are many arguments that arise from mere misunderstandings due to lack of responsive communication. Remember that people can’t read minds, so you should say what you need to say — but it must always be with as much decency, sensitivity and tact as you could muster.


  1. A grateful heart is a happy heart. To achieve happiness and contentment, be appreciative of all the blessings that come your way. Starting each day with a prayer of gratitude is a sure way to attract positive vibes, and more blessings, all throughout the day.


  1. Know your priorities. Not everything that’s important is urgent in the same way that not everything that’s urgent is important. People and relationships should always be among your topmost priorities.


  1. Avoid unnecessary stress and worries. Know your limitations and choose your battles carefully. Save your big guns for crucial fights.


  1. Never settle for mediocrity. Everyone has the potential to rise to greatness and excellence, so strive to be the best versions of yourselves. Don’t always play safe; take risks. Don’t always try to fit in; stand out. Don’t always be content with your lot; aim for more. Don’t stop challenging yourself.


  1. Guard your heart. Do not allow it to be too vulnerable too quickly. Lay a foundation of friendship before building a house of intimacy.


  1. Don’t lose the child in you. Never stop believing in fairytales, laugh uproariously, chase the waves, dance with abandon, roll around in the grass, play in the rain, climb a tree —rekindle your sense of wonder. Don’t dwell on what others may think about you, just keep your inner child eternally alive.


  1. Love yourself. Nurture your body (eat healthy, be physically active, rehydrate, get enough sleep, have a massage, etc), your mind (read, meditate, play board games, engage in stimulating conversations, etc.), and your spirit (feed your passion, spend time with loved ones, be involved in charity work, be active in your community and church, etc.).


Someone to Watch Over Me“– starring Tom Rodriguez (as TJ) and Lovi Poe (as Joanna) — is a GMA-7 drama series that tells the story of a young couple who had a wild and passionate whirlwind romance, fell madly in love with each other, got married, had a child, and were living a happy and comfortable life until something terrible happened that could shatter them, and their love, forever.

The young man, TJ, was diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Initially, he became noticeably forgetful and increasingly irritable. Then, he would get lost while driving along a commonly traveled route. He also became paranoid, which was adversely affecting his relationship with the people around him. This forced him to quit his job. Soon, he would become disoriented, losing his sense of time and place. He was constantly terrified of what memories he would lose next and this drove him to bouts of depression. He also became erratic and violent.

The one thing he and his wife were dreading happened when there came this one time when all he could remember was his past, momentarily obliterating his memory of his present life. He couldn’t recognize even his wife, their son and his father. He got imprisoned in a time when he was still in love with another girl, when his mother was still around, and when his relationship with his father was still broken. This episode soon became attacks –unprovoked sometimes- that would come on an alarmingly increasing frequency.

Too tragic, right? That can’t possibly happen in real life.

Sadly, though, it can.

And it does.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible and degenerative brain disease. It causes a decline in thinking, memory and reasoning abilities. It is known to affect adults 65 years and older, though about 5% of Alzheimer’s patients show symptoms between ages 30 and 40. This rare occurrence is what is known as early-onset (or younger-onset) Alzheimer’s disease.

Presently, there is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s. Some interventions may slow the progression of the disease, but the continual decline cannot be stopped.

Mommy Marieta Tan was 68 years old when she got lost in the public market she used to frequent. She couldn’t remember where she was or how to get home. (It was a good thing she was recognized by some neighbors who helped her out.) Her children also noticed their mother avoiding the kitchen —which was odd because, as a Kapampangan, she loved to cook and she was always preparing all these delicious and elaborate meals and snacks for her family.

It turned out that she completely forgot how to cook!

She became afraid to even try to work in her kitchen again. She grew depressed and would often find herself in her room, shying away from any kind of social contact.

She completely shut down.

When her children brought her to the doctor, she was asked some very basic questions about the day, date, month and year. When she couldn’t correctly answer, she was diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease right away.

It took her some time to adjust to her health condition—and to the ensuing reversal of roles that all the members of her family had to adapt to.

Mommy Marieta was used to staying on top of things around the house. Their home was her domain, the domestic chores her area of expertise, and serving and taking care of her family was her ultimate mission in life. So when Alzheimer’s started to rear its ugly head, she was inevitably distraught. Her home became a constant reminder of the things she could no longer remember and the tasks she could no longer complete on her own. Instead of providing solace and refuge as it used to, it transformed itself into a long, dark, menacing alley where all kinds of dangers may be lurking in the shadows. Her chores that were once a familiar source of joy and comfort for her became a confusing labyrinth where she could easily get lost in. Where she was used to serving her family before, she became a “burden” to them because of Alzheimer’s.

In her effort to understand and help her mom, one of the daughters, Marites, tried to learn everything there is to know about the disease.


Mommy Marieta with one of her daughters, Marites

Mommy Marieta’s condition requires that she has a constant companion, so Marites brings her to the grocery store which she manages for the family. That way, she could look after her mom around the clock. She also learned that, to help Alzheimer’s patients maintain their mental function, control their behavior, and slow the progression of the disease, they have to stay mentally engaged and socially active as possible. So Marites lets her mother manage the cash register under supervision. She also encourages her to talk about the past. Marieta could still vividly remember her childhood and her wedding. She also enjoys talking with the employees and customers, stacking up displays, and helping tidy up the place.

It is important that Marieta stick to her daily routine.

Also, Marites makes sure that her mom regularly takes her medicine and eats only healthy foods. She enrolled in cooking classes to help her provide her mother with a wider variety of dish choices. She also put up a Facebook page, Mom’s Recipes Deleted by Alzheimer’s, in honor of her mother’s culinary genius that is now forever lost to her dreadful disease. Marieta relishes and takes pride in the fact that Marites and another daughter are quite good in the kitchen. Her children hope that their efforts somehow alleviate their mother’s guilt at not being able to cook for them anymore.

Since there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s, the best that the Tans could do for their mother is to see to it that she feels loved and that she is constantly surrounded with affection.

All her five children and five grandchildren pay Marieta a visit as often as possible and spend as much time with her. In the face of her short-term memory loss, they show her only patience. Even if they are aware that Marieta would, one day, forget all of them and all their happy memories together, they want her to enjoy the moments of here and now because, after all, that is the only thing guaranteed in this world not just for the Alzheimer’s patients, but for all of us. And Marites and her family are just grateful that they are given this chance -this extended time- to shower their beloved mother with all the love in the world

….before Mommy Marieta is finally, completely and irrevocably claimed by the identity and memory thief, the Alzheimer’s disease.


Photo credit: thebeststatus.com



My name is DRUGS.


I destroy homes, tear families apart,

Take your children, and that’s just the start.


I’m more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold,

The sorrow I bring is a sight to behold.

And if you need me, remember I’m easily found,

I live all around you, in schools and in town.

I live with the rich, I live with the poor,

I live down the street, and maybe next door.


My power is awesome; try me and you’ll see,

But if you do, you may NEVER break free.

Just try me once and I might let you go,

But try me twice, and I’ll own your soul.

When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie,

You’ll do what you have to just to get high.

The crimes you’ll commit for my narcotic charms

Will be worth the pleasure you’ll feel in your arms.

You’ll lie to your mother; you’ll steal from your dad

When you see their tears, you should feel sad.

But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised,

I’ll be your conscience, I’ll teach you my ways.


I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,

I turn people from God, and separate friends.

I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride;

I’ll be with you always, right by your side.

You’ll give up everything—your family, your home,

Your friends, your money, then you’ll be alone.

I’ll take and take, till you have nothing more to give,

When I’m finished with you, you’ll be lucky to live.

If you try me, be warned. This is no game.

If given the chance, I’ll drive you insane.

I’ll ravish your body; I’ll control your mind.

I’ll own you completely; your soul will be mine.


The nightmares I’ll give you while lying in bed,

The voices you’ll hear from inside your head,

The sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see;

I want you to know, these are all gifts from me,


But then it’s too late, and you’ll know in your heart,

That you are mine, and we shall not part.

You’ll regret that you tried me, they always do,

But you came to me, not I to you.

You knew this would happen. Many times you were told,

But you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.

You could have said no, and just walked away,

If you could live that day over, now what would you say?


I’ll be your Master, you will be my slave,

I’ll even go with you when you go to your grave.


Now that you have met me, what will you do?

Will you try me or not? It’s all up to you.

I can bring you more misery than words can tell.

Come take my hand, I’ll take you to hell!

(Author unknown)



Philippines, like many other countries, is now in the midst of a major crisis—the outbreak of illegal drugs and substances. These drugs have become so rampant that, oftentimes, they are being peddled openly and daringly in malls, parks, schools, bars and street corners. They pervade and bring ruin to the most basic unit of our society, the families. Nobody is immune. Regardless of one’s age, sexual preference, spiritual affiliation, and social and economic status, we can all fall prey to the insistent and deafening call of this temptation.

A nine-month-old baby raped by her own father

A pregnant woman stabbed to death by her husband

An old woman butchered by her grandson

A pedestrian ran over by a jeepney driver

A college girl raped with her body chopped into pieces afterwards

A teen jumping off a high-rise condominium building

A little boy beaten black and blue by his physically abusive father

A private school-educated girl resorting to prostitution

A man setting his house on fire with his family inside

These, among a slew of other drug-related crimes, are just some of the most gruesome and heinous acts that people under the influence of drugs (They are known by many names: addicts, users, potheads, junkies, druggies, stoners, dopeheads, etc.) can be capable of.



But, at the other end of the spectrum, we hear inspiring stories of people who were able to get out from under the grip of addiction, of addicts who managed to recover and turn their lives around, and of men and women who returned to sanity and got their lives back on track.

Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Franklin, Pope Leo XIII, Robert Downey Jr., Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Drew Barrymore, Michael Ray Richardson, Allen Iverson, David Thompson, Shawn Kemp, Andre Agassi, Lawrence Taylor, Samuel L. Jackson, Elton John, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

What do they all have in common?

These Hollywood celebrities, music icons, church leaders, athletes, brilliant minds, business tycoons and world leaders have once succumbed to their demons. But they sought help, regained control of their lives, and came back better and stronger than ever. They have also made great contributions in their respective fields and, in the process, have managed to inspire and empower other people.



According to experts, drug addiction is a “chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. Many do not understand why people become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction — that it is a disease that impacts the brain, and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower.”



True, drug lords, drug pushers, drug coddlers and narco-traffickers must be meted out with the most stringent penalty under the law, as they destroy the lives and future of their victims especially the youth and the most vulnerable. But, the drug users? Unless they commit crimes punishable by law, they should be considered as victims or, at the very least, as seriously ill members of society who need immediate treatment.

They are not criminals. They should not be incarcerated.

Neither should they be killed.

Who knows? When the clouds part and the haze clear for these people, one of them might even be the future president of this country.










During Imelda and Abelardo’s wedding. June 30, 1966.

Today, at a time when the most convenient solution to virtually every marital woe is separation — and when the concept of forever is alarmingly taken lightly —, witnessing a marriage that spans five decades is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Imelda Pulongbarit and Abelardo Banzil just recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Theirs, however, was not the butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of romance. Far from it.

Imelda had another favored suitor when Abel pursued her. After barely two weeks of courtship, Abel, who at 27 was nine years Imelda’s senior, unexpectedly showed up with his parents on the doorstep of the Pulongbarits to ask for Imelda’s hand in marriage. It was a whirlwind arrangement that eventually ended up at the altar. Since both came from poor families, they had nothing to offer their guests during the reception but rice porridge. Also, Imelda was made to wear a wedding gown that she did not know she had to return to its rightful owner right after the ceremony.

That happened on the fateful day of June 30, 1966.

A year after the wedding, the couple was blessed with a beautiful pink bundle of joy. Another two years down the line and baby girl #2 was born. This fruitful  pattern persisted until, by the year 1980, their brood had ballooned to eight – six girls and two boys.

Imelda had always been hardworking and enterprising. Despite being armed with just a grade school diploma, she was already earning her own money and helping her parents in raising her younger siblings even before she got married. She used to do domestic work for the more affluent families in the small, sleepy town of Bagac, Bataan where she grew up. Later on, she worked as a storekeeper, and when she managed to borrow enough money, she invested in her very own grocery store at the town’s public market. When the kids started coming along, though, she decided to give up her store to get a vegetable stall.  It was more labor-intensive (she had to travel to the province’s capital at the crack of dawn each day to buy fresh vegetables in bulk), but it was also more lucrative. Abelardo, meanwhile, was a 6×6 truck driver then. However, their joint income was never enough to cover the burgeoning expenses of bringing up their growing children.

So, in 1981, Abelardo packed his bags to try his luck in Saudi Arabia. There, where he would find himself working for almost 21 years, he served as a family driver for a kind, old Muslim couple.

Their marriage was far from perfect. Just a year after their wedding, Imelda wanted to leave her husband. Though she already learned to love him, she found it hard to accept his vices and indiscretions. Thanks to her parents and parents-in-law, she was made to stay. When Abelardo was working in the Middle East, Imelda also had to struggle with loneliness. She was in her prime and she tremendously missed her husband, but that did not sway her to give in to temptations and abandon her fidelity to her husband, and her faith in and obedience to God. The hardest challenge, though, and the most painful experience that she had to endure happened in 1982, when their eldest son, who was a second-grader then, drowned. She was tormented with grief over her loss, but she could not allow herself to mourn for long. Abelardo’s contract restrained him from coming home just yet, so Imelda had to be strong for her seven other children.

In 1989, she made an extremely difficult decision. She left her kids, who by then, were mostly in high school and college already, to join her husband in Saudi.

For the next nine years, she would start each day by kneeling before her make-shift altar to offer an earnest prayer for them. During that time, when the only way of communicating back home was through snail mail, she had no idea how they were doing on a daily basis. Were they eating right and on time? Were their clothes not drenched in sweat or soaked by rainwater? Were they studying hard? Were their friends of good influence to them? Were they looking after each other? There was not a day that passed that she did not cry for her children.

In 1992, at the age of 44, she learned that she was pregnant. It was unexpected and would pose an additional complication to their already complicated life, but they nevertheless welcomed the news as another divine blessing.

Her employer wanted to adopt the baby. They also urged her to convert to Islam, bribing her with a promise of a better life. But Imelda would not hear any of it. She went home to deliver the baby. When the infant was barely three months old, Imelda had to leave her in the care of her third child who just graduated from college, to go back to her work in Saudi. That was another decision that cut deep into her heart.

Years of sacrifice after, they started to reap the fruits of their concerted hard work as a family.

the Banzils’ wall of pride

Their eldest, Asuncion, graduated with a degree in Education; Lorena with a degree in Computer Engineering and an MBA in Business Administration; Amelia with a degree in Commerce; Alicia in Nursing; Emma in Industrial Engineering and in Nursing; Aileen in ECE; Abelardo Jr. in Electrical Engineering; and Tin in Travel Management. Seven of them are already married and are living comfortable lives, while the youngest is having the time of her life exploring the world as a flight attendant.

Their life as a couple is a bottomless pit of lessons that they strive to pass on to their children and their children’s children.

They inculcated in them early on the values of education, of love for one another, of humility and kindness to other people, of hard work, perseverance and determination, of patience and hope, of fidelity to the wedding vows, and most importantly, of the unwavering faith in the Lord.

Today, the couple is enjoying their retirement in their ancestral home in the province. But parenthood knows no end. When any one of their children or grandchildren needs their tender, loving care, they could just easily walk down the street where their two daughters live, or jump into their car and drive off to Rizal or Cavite, or board a plane and fly to US or Canada or Qatar. Yes, their kids are scattered around the globe, but no amount of distance could stop these two from doing what they do best – parenting.

the golden wedding anniversary cake


Imelda  and Abelardo with all their children


Imelda and Abelardo with all  their grandchildren


Imelda and Abelardo. 50 years and  counting.



Friends, meet Gabby. This beautiful, adorable, energetic boy is the son of a friend and UP batch mate, Dr. Eileen Alvarez-Flameño. In an effort to share and spread God’s message of hope and the immense power of collective prayers, she asked me to write this incredible story about this incredible fighter.

I’m sure, I already wrote this before but, obviously, a reminder needs to be made.

One small act, or one seemingly harmless word, or one innocent mistake on our part as parents, has the potential to either make or break our child.

Sadly, it takes a tragedy for some of us to realize this—a little too late, sometimes, for the damage has already been done.

It’s Gabby’s first school year and, for weeks now, he’s been excited every single day to see his teacher and his classmates for his daily dose of fun activities—as excited as his parents are for their son’s incessant stories for when they get home.


June 22, Wednesday, a day that is about to irrevocably change the family’s life, is one of such days.

It starts out innocently enough. Gabby has to be in school at 7:45 in the morning, so the Flameños’ household is abuzz early. As an only child, Gab is the proverbial apple of his parents’ eyes. Eileen was already 40 when she gave birth to Gab, so she and her husband, Allen, consider their baby God’s most precious blessing. Their worlds naturally revolve around him.

At 9:45 a.m. on that fateful day, just two hours after he brought his son to the playschool, Allen is back to fetch Gab. They are already cruising along the Balagtas highway when he realizes that he forgot to strap Gab in, who is settled at the front passenger seat, just beside him. Without bothering to pull over, he reaches for the seatbelt, and that, in that infinitesimal moment, is when everything happens in a flash.

The next thing he knows, their vehicle has rammed into a delivery truck parked at the side of the road, with the right side taking the full brunt of the impact. When he sees the still, bloodied, helpless body of his baby lying beside him, he is gripped with a terror so intense and palpable that it is almost paralyzing. He wants to weep, he wants to throw up, he wants to surrender to the sweet temptation of oblivion, he wants to pinch himself awake from that nightmare, but no, his mind and instinct would not let his emotions take over.

He tries to lift Gab, but the boy wouldn’t budge. His son’s right leg is sandwiched between his seat and the door, and the door couldn’t be opened because it is jammed against the other vehicle.

With the help of some bystanders and another truck, they are able to pull open the door and pull Gab out of the car. The boy is then transported to the ER of the nearest polymedic hospital.

That is where Eileen first laid her eyes on the pitiful state of her little boy.

Gab is only three years old, his three-year-old body frail and fragile, and he is lying there — unconscious, bloodied, helpless. Eileen weeps like she has never wept before, and with her husband, she prays profusely and in earnest. Yes, they can draw strength from each other, but at that moment, what they need more is assurance — assurance that their son would not be taken away from them so soon. And only the Almighty Father can provide them that.

They decide to bring Gab to the Pacific Global Medical Center, the nearest tertiary hospital from Bulacan. The initial diagnosis is grim: brain injury secondary to trauma. But the CT Scan findings are even grimmer: total fracture of the right leg, and hydroma (accumulation of fluid) on the left subdural side of the brain.

For the next crucial days, Gab has to stay at the ICU. His operation (draining of fluid for his brain and open reduction for his right leg) has been scheduled in two days.

Eileen comes from an extremely religious family, and in this tragedy that befalls their beloved “bunso” (Gab is the youngest of all the Alvarez grandchildren), it is their faith that they cling tightly to. They ask all the priests, nuns, seminarians and church people they know to hold novenas and to ask special petitions during mass for Gab. They relentlessly ask family and friends—in person, through phone, or via social media—to continue joining them in knocking at Heaven’s doors for the improvement of Gab’s condition. They religiously pray the rosary and even visit various churches to humbly offer their plea.

Three hours before Gab’s scheduled surgery, a miracle happens.

The surgeon wants to defer the operation because, based on the result of the latest CT Scan, there appears to be a misalignment of bones in Gab’s neck area. He wants an MRI done on Gab first for more conclusive findings. But since the hospital does not have an MRI machine, and because the family also wants to seek a second opinion, they decide to transfer Gab to another hospital. They end up in St. Luke’s Medical Center (Global City), where Gab is immediately intubated and hooked to a ventilator. The MRI result reveals that Gab has not sustained any cervical and spinal injuries, and while the Arterial Blood Gas test shows that there is indeed a retention of carbon dioxide in the boy’s blood, the orthopaedic surgeon maintains that an operation is not necessary at this point. That happens on June 25, the same day that Gab opens his eyes and moves his left foot and left hand for the first time. See, miracles happen indeed!

He stays at the ICU for three more days until he is transferred to a regular room on June 29.


Each new day brings with it small but steady improvements in Gab’s condition. On July 05, with both his eyes open and clear, he gives his very first smile! That is definitely a sight to behold, and for his parents and the other relatives who stayed with the family all throughout the ordeal, a well-deserved reward for the many sleepless nights that they have had to endure.

Gab is now back in the familiar and reassuring surroundings of their home. Yes, a lot still needs to be done to bring him back to his old, jolly, playful and bubbly self, but his family is optimistic that they are already past the worst of the storm; all the trials that are yet to come their way are mere drizzles compared to what they have already gone through.


Finally, in spite of everything, Eileen and her family still consider themselves blessed beyond measure.

God has remained faithful to them by sending His love through the people who have been part of their struggle — Gab’s indefatigable prayer warriors, the doctors who rendered their professional services free of charge, the people who magnanimously extended financial assistance, and the bystanders who unhesitatingly helped in pulling Gab out of the car right after the accident.

They are also grateful for the valuable lessons they learned along the way.

They recognize that negative thoughts and emotions should not be entertained during crises. Instead of finger-pointing, doubting God’s plan, and wallowing in guilt, anxiety and depression, the Alvarezes and the Flameños quietly draw strength and inspiration from each other and from their unwavering faith in God’s perfect love. They are assured that when they lift all their troubles to the Lord, they, in turn, would be lifted.

They also realize how fragile and precarious and unpredictable life could be, that they should value every precious moment spent with loved ones.

They learn the depth of the love parents could have for their child—the great lengths they are willing to go to—to shelter him from further pain and harm. It’s the kind of love that sends them to their knees to beg that they instead be allowed to carry all of Gab’s pains for him, because no parent deserves to witness the suffering of his child. It is an experience one will never wish even to his most hated enemy.