Inspiring Christian Life Stories – Part 3

I Cried Myself To Sleep

My Family’s Normal

I am now 21 years old. When I was young, I had a normal childhood. I had everything any girl my age would need. My parents would get me a new dress or treat me to good food if we asked - nothing fancy, just what any lower middle class family usually affords. I had a good family in the broad sense of the word. My father didn't drink, smoke or gamble. My parents weren't negligent of us. They had a small auto supply store in Cagayan province. It was as normal as it could get, until we noticed changes in the house. One by one, until the house was empty, the house appliances, furniture and anything of value were being repossessed, sold or hedged as uncollected collateral.

Something's Happening

Most anything and eventually everything we asked was now noticeably being turned down. First it was clothes, then school, then food, until finally, even 2 pesos (roughly, 5 cents) for a hungry stomach they could not provide. I have two older sisters and two younger brothers; we all had to fend for ourselves. We got ourselves invited to our neighbors to eat. Our parents would beg at comers. My father looked for odd jobs; my mother was willing to do laundry for our neighbors but couldn't find even that. They begged burnt rice bottoms or leftover food from last night's meal from the neighbors. If neighbors gave us cooked rice, we sprinkled salt and that served as our meal. If they gave us a cup of uncooked rice (already a big sacrifice in our poor neighborhood), we would cook it into a broth so that everyone would have their fill - though we didn't know how that felt again. My parents sometimes gave up their share to the two younger boys - we sisters knew they had a higher metabolism rate to feed.

When night fell, we would drown out any hunger noise that our stomach made, complaining for more, with sleep. Our bed would be a straw mat to cover the ground - our house earthen floor. Our walls made of discarded cardboard and canvas patched together is to fend off the dogs and rats and cats, hungry as we were, looking for food while we sleep.

When morning came, the cycle repeated itself. That was in between years 1993 and 1994, and I was 16. I saw no point in suffering. I could not suffer to see my brothers and sisters cry themselves to sleep. I was blaming my parents.

The Substitute Family

I sought the company of friends. I would stay away from home for 3 day stretches; every night I was with them - making time, filling my time, killing time. I was slowly killing myself, too; I tried rugby (glue-sniffing) and marijuana, then progressed to the usual harder stuff, the dangerous shabu. To make it all fun, fill up our stomach, and have extra money for our partying (I brought home food from the party), we mugged students from the farther barrios as they came from their colleges. (When we did our youth camp, we even saw them there too; they recognized us!) I, like all the other girls in the gang, served as a lookout. We tipped off the boys who'd gang lip on the victim in isolated places. Oh, yes, we sold marijuana, too. Since she couldn't get me to go home often enough, my mother, fed up from it all, even had me arrested and jailed at the neighborhood jail. It was my first and only experience of jail, and I was deathly afraid.

The Invitation

Romy Bangasan, already known in the neighborhood as a weird but kind guy – a social welfare worker - one time walked all the way down the alley where Omeng, our leader, was staying. It was very brave of him to do so; we were impressed! Except for our Resback gang, no one normally had enough guts to walk all the way down that narrow pathway. That was where Omeng, our Resback Gang leader, Lived - dangerous place to be in if he doesn't know you. If he didn't like your looks, he'd give a signal and you'd be speared with a dart!

Romy was inviting Omeng to a weekend party with plenty of food. There was no mention of prayer or Christian programs. After an hour to get ourselves ready, Dale Lugue was already ready with his small pick-up truck to ferry us to the site.

When we got to the site, there were other gangs too. There were more than 120 of us participants with 20 and more coming from our gang. Some kind of party it was! There was prayer, short, but we didn't care nor particularly liked it. We listened to the first talk; nothing was coming through. Bored, we were trapped. We were inside the Passionist Fathers compound with its concrete wall topped by barbed wires. (Two of our gang members forced themselves out through it though and cut themselves in the process; that was how badly they wanted out.) The only way out was blocked by many CFC Service Team members.

“You need anything. Oh don't bother. We'll get it for you instead. Just stay there. Don't go out.”

They were too nice, too good, offering food and anything, for us to make a scene. “Oh well, how bad could it be. It was only talk, talk and talk, and more talk.”

The second talk on Jesus wasn't listened too seriously - must be my sinful life. The third hit. Followed up by the fourth, I was getting affected by the accumulating truths of the talks I was ready to ask forgiveness.

The baptism hit real hard. Boys, whom I've never seen to cry, nearly bawled, asking reconciliation with the Lord for past sins. The wind blew cold with the Holy Spirit; the YFC Vigil Team, praying the rosary, whenever they passed our way always brought the cold air. I felt peaceful and exhilarated. Saturday night was a night of real healing - healing of souls. The long separated parents of a gang member, not expecting both to come at graduation, surprised all by getting back right there and then. By talk five, though it was time to go, no one wanted to leave.

We didn't meet again after that. I mean the gang. We scattered to different directions: some married, some left town, some went back to our old ways. Most of us YFCers, however, became involved in activity after activity. There was that dance presentation. A real horror since none of us knew how to dance, we made it though - even learned that 'powerdance.' When it became a full-blown “Bagong Silang, The Musicale,” it filled up most of our time. Because of it, I've been to 14 towns and cities all over the Philippines - something my own parents wouldn't have been able to give me even before our times of misfortune. My own mother even jokingly asks if she could carry my bags so she could come with me.

The New Family

We're still poor. But there is a real floor now to our house and a real wall too - thanks to Tatag Foundation. I've finished my High School through an Angkop scholarship. I'm now waiting for my turn - so it won't be a burden to our family - to take up secretary course after my elder sister finishes. Our family is now a united family. We don't eat until we're all together to bless the food.

Oh yes, my neighbors laughed at me at first when I walked the streets with bible and rosary in hand. They called me various names: pastor, nun, angel; preaching, praying, sprouting wings. But now, they're with me at YFC, praying along with me!

I have my prayer time firmly established at 10 am and 10 pm - it's easier to remember that way - with 15 minutes each of talking with Jesus. I am now developing a personal relationship with him too. As a YFC Unit Head with six girls in my Household, I now understand what my parents were doing in Household Meetings as CFC members. I attend my own Household - under Jean Magcalas, my pastoral leader. It was she who taught me - and I've kept these words close to me “In everything you do, put God first. I assure you He will reward your efforts with success.” By Annabelle “joy” Adduru

Continue to Part 4

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