Essay

Growing up poor and never expecting things

We were born poor. (We are still poor.) When you grow up poor, you don’t expect things. For example, you do not come home during your birthday expecting that there will be a lavish party – or a party at all. It was enough for the family to enjoy one native chicken boiled whole – after its throat was cut, your father dipping his thumb in its blood, making the sign of the cross on your forehead. After the dinner was the mandatory novena – yes, novena compressed into one night ­čśŤ – to your personal patron saint: mine was the Sto. Nino.
I grew up poor, and I never expected things. I did not expect to receive gifts during Christmas – that we were physically together as a family as the date turns from 24 to 25 was enough. (My father spent most of his days at the family farm in Sogod, while the rest of us were in Daanbantayan; later, to help finance the college education of our two eldest sisters, my father spent most of his days as a construction worker in Cebu City. Since that time, too, the family spent most of the days of the year away from each other – the succession of children getting degrees from schools in Cebu City, and now, my and my brother’s choice to have our employments in Cebu City and Lapulapu City respectively, while our three sisters and our parents are all based in Sogod.)
I did expect to be enrolled in a school when I was around seven years old. The emotions felt by my elder sisters as they read through the symbols (later known to me as ‘letters’) in books and magazines in the family’s library, I wanted to experience too. (Once I knew how to read, it was a surprise to me that the stories were very different from what I imagined them to be. But I was a child then who did not know how to read, so I had to make up stories in my head.) But I did not expect to be enrolled in a private elementary school – I was not aware that any existed in Daanbantayan back then. Neither did I expect to be enrolled in a private high school – why would I, when my mother was a public high school teacher at the Daanbantayan National High School? The same thing in college: I did not expect to be enrolled at the University of San Carlos – THE university to be enrolled in at that time. (But I was enrolled at USC, thanks to a science education scholarship.)
I never expected to finish my education degree in the minimum four years – I spent most of my time reading unrelated materials in libraries, or attending rallies. I never expected to spend eight years of my life as a faculty member of an exclusive all-male school for rich kids – during my earliest days I realized that some of them could be brats, but as we spent days together I realized that most of the would-be brats are simply kids who wanted to be listened to, who had their own share of frustrations against the world. I never expected to be a lawyer – while a law student, I spent every other night drunk, and during the bar month, I was drunk save for three nights.
A friend posted: Expectations sometimes lead to disappointments. I am seldom disappointed. The reason: I seldom expect anything. I could spend days, weeks, months, even years on a project, only to fail at the very end. Will I be disappointed? Only when I expect anything, something in return for all the efforts I put in. But the reality of life is that we could do everything we think we ought to do, and yet fail in the end. A reason to be disappointed? Nah. Such is life. We will just have to do our best, but do not expect anything in return. Thus, if turns out that we fail, we are not disappointed. Instead, we are happy to have had the journey, because it is in journeying that we find out true selves.

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