By Anne A
My story starts when I was 13 years old. I lived at a squatter’s area with my mom, brother, sister and step dad. I am from the Philippines and one of the basic factors that we love to preserve is our family. However, I made a very painful decision to leave them and went out on my own.
You would wonder why I did that at such a young age but I had my own reasons and hurtful experiences that I wished never happened. I was physically abused by my stepfather and my mom never said a word and just watched him every time he beat me up. I realized that I had to do something about it because I couldn’t bear both physical and emotional beating.
As a result of leaving home, I ended up living on the street and started begging for pennies. At my young age, I also worked a lot in exchange for food and shelter. I honestly never felt alone because I knew I had God though those moments that were really depressing. Fortunately, He sent someone to help me. A priest offered me a scholarship so I continued my studies and went back to school again.
Through all my times of discomfort – whether from lack of food, from deep chills or from filth - I actually never thought about going home. I couldn’t return to the cooperation of the abuse at home and I was determined to be successful. I experienced celebrating Christmas, new years and birthdays alone. You might think that it’s easy because I managed to get through it but it’s not. I cried my heart out wishing that I could spend the most amazing days with my family because I actually didn’t want to be alone.
I took the responsibility of standing on what I believe is right and years after, I finally graduated from college and started a wonderful job as a teacher. I was finally happy and content, or so I thought. But seeing my students with their parents triggered something inside me and it told me that I should see my mom. So I gathered the courage and went back home for a visit.
But I was devastated when I arrived. I found out that my brother and sister had the same traumatic experience as mine so they also left home. I can barely watch my mom’s sad face because she felt sorry for not fighting for her children. Honestly, I can never forget what had happened in my childhood but she’s still my mom and I love her and I am willing to forgive everything that had happened. I also vowed to try to bring the family back together. I looked for my siblings and found them after a year. It was hard to convince them to come back. Those traumatic experiences made them hate me for leaving them and it took away their trust of the very people who really care for them. And of course they were reluctant to return to the scene of past abuse.
It broke my heart to see my siblings suffer from such pain they never wished to have. But I tried everything to win them back because they were the most important people in my life. In the end, they submitted and returned with me. At the same time, my stepfather took the chance to sincerely apologize for everything he had done. I don’t really understand what I felt that day because I really wanted to insult him and tell him to his face what a bad person he was for ruining and breaking up our family.
But I didn’t. Those years that I spent serving God made me realize that planting hatred is actually useless so I found a place to forgive my stepfather. I know it will take time to heal those wounds created from the past but we are willing to try to forgive and put everything behind us. Now all I can say is that I’m satisfied and happy living together with my family and there’s no way I ever will leave them again. Life actually depends on how you look at it. If you have reasons to fight, you will never have reasons to quit.