I was a college sophomore, my stepfather and I had a huge fight. He
told me I was an ingrate. “Pagkatapos kitang pag-aralin at
buhayin, ganito igaganti mo sa ‘kin? Hindi ka na mag-aaral!”
The second semester was fast
approaching and he was hellbent on not handing me money for tuition.
I had classes Monday to Saturday, and I had nothing. I just turned
I took a job as a server in Sbarro
in Robinson’s Ermita, just 15 minutes away from school. I rushed to
work after school for a 4:30 to 9 shift. After mall hours, we would
work till around 11 pm, scrubbing floors and tables and wiping wet
plates and utensils.
I would be home by around 11:30 pm
to 12 am. I washed my school uniform and Sbarro uniform, ironed them,
and did homework before going to bed. If I was lucky, I got to sleep
at 1 am. I woke up every day at 6 am in time for my 7:30 am class in
Now because I can’t eat food that
my stepdad bought, I purchased a loaf of bread and a small jar of
Lady’s Choice tuna spread every week. Rice and meat are expensive. I
made myself a slice each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In two
months, I lost 20 pounds.
I did all that to earn a measly
P5,000 a month. So I can send myself to school and become a doctor
By the third month, I found out
that the succeeding quarter involved whole-day classes till 9 pm.
There was no way I could work anymore.
Even if I was ashamed, I told my
stepfather I was sorry for being too proud and asked him if he can
still send me to school. He smiled triumphantly, one that spells “I
told you so!”. He simply said, “Okay”. I quit my job
Teenagers tend to undervalue many
things. They think that it’s always the end of the world. They
sometimes forget to be grateful for the very people who love them.
Just because it is our parents’ responsibility doesn’t mean we
shouldn’t say thank you once in a while.
My stepfather took over my father’s
responsibilities from the time I was a baby until I was already
earning my keep. I didn’t appreciate it enough that I had a
stepfather to look after me, after us – stepdaughters he shouldn’t be
responsible for. I kept looking for something more. Why didn’t my
father love me? Why can’t a guy like me? Why can’t I be fucking thin?
I didn’t realize the full gravity
of my ingratitude until my stepfather passed away so suddenly four
years ago. Sometimes I still wonder if he knew I am thankful for my
life, the life he helped build.
Three months back, I was doing
groceries with my daughter and we passed by a shelf containing Lady’s
Choice tuna spread. I’ve eaten this daily for three months, and I can
tell you, it is not worth craving for. But I bought it anyway.
I bought it because when someone in
your life has died, you feel a compulsion to hoard memories. I bought
it because I want to be always reminded that I am here, because a
stranger was kind enough to take me into his arms as his own. Because
I need to remember from time to time, especially when everything is
going downhill, to be grateful and say thank you, even if he’s not
Happy Father’s Day, Tito. Thank you
for everything. You’re the best guy in the world.