By Neri Vicencio
Growing up, I had issues that I’ve kept to myself. I was timid, shy, and I lacked self confidence. I remembered an instance where in school I was bullied and I got hurt a lot; but, I’ve learned to keep all the hurt inside of me for there was no one to comfort me.
Neither was there someone to teach me how to read and write. No one accompanied me to school. It was like a jungle getting through the rough highways of Caloocan City. My brother was with me but I could not count on to him for he had the habit of cutting classes. Having had to deal with our different surnames was ready a pain in the neck. But we were brother and sister, yes. Such were complications in our family.
Years passed and I realized that I was longing for my parents’ attention, for my older brother’s protection and guidance. But I was getting all these from my grandmother in whatever amounts she could give me. I had always been aware that my parents were fond of my brother – more than they were to me. Special occasions like Christmas were times that gave me evidences.
I clearly remembered one Christmas time, my older brother received gifts but I had none. And that was to my face even! As a result, I had often asked myself where is my family?
I couldn’t even remember an instance where we were all present at table and just dined. My brother was always with his friends while father was always busy managing his business in Carriedo, or drinking and gambling. I only felt his presence when I was hospitalized.
As for my mother, I cannot say much about her. I just remembered that when I was 4 years old, my parents were screaming and shouting at each other. My mother faced me and demanded that I make a decision: to choose whether I was going to stay with my father or I’ll go with her. So that was it. My parents split. I stayed with my father. Later on, I would cut the pictures to form one happy family including my half-Japanese siblings. Life had to go on.
We were Catholics then. I was once assigned as a preacher’s commentator and was best in conduct in our section. Cardinal Sin once visited our school. I once kissed his hand and held his hand on to my forehead, in the traditional Filipino mano po.
With that, I felt I was the star. Many would praise me, take time to talk to me even for just a moment. I had also gathered friends that took me somewhere to just chill. Chill is actually drinking session. At first it was just some light gin pomelo, choco, and then tequilla. This latter one had them rush me to the hospital for I was so stuffed with alcohol and breathing was next to impossible. I came out from the hospital, but that didn’t stop me from hanging out with my friends for more. We would still continue to schedule some after-school happenings. I was that hard-headed for want of belongingness. However, my father didn’t have any complain because I still continued to be the usual student.
One time we were assigned to do an essay about a topic of our choice. We were given two weeks to finish it – which assignment I hated by the way. I had a hard time picking one. My classmates would pick topics about love, family, friends and politics which were very handy. For me, I wanted it to be unique. I had decided to go for the religious aspect, but I was not that religious even though I was raised as a Catholic.
As Catholics, we were forced to attend mass because it was a pre-requisite and with an attendance sheet signed by the priest. For my essay project, I looked through the internet, went to the libraries, the Bible, for the best topic about religion. It was because I was getting interested in this field this early.
I remembered an instance where my father was watching Eli Soriano’s Ang Dating Daan, Itanong mo kay Soriano, via RJTV 29. My uncle, cousin of my father, once boasted about this Bible man during one of their drinking sessions that he could really answer any questions of any topic based on the Bible, and that he had memorized the Bible. Suspecting that the show was scripted, my father watched the show until he had taken on the habit of watching it every night.
I would hear my father watching upstairs. In that program one time, a guest asked about end of the world. It caught my attention and I went through the verses that the Bible man mentioned, and got the answers for my essay. The host was Bro. Eli Soriano, the man that my uncle was boasting about. I went back to my room finding myself crying. The topic terribly shook my spirituality. 2 Peter 3:10 was the verse and I clearly remembered it –
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Since then, this became my greatest fear. It gave me a different perspective―above all, it gave me fear of God. The world we live in has a life of its own – it’s not forever after all. Then it made me so conscious of God’s will, the sinful lives in great defiance of God’s commandments.
This was the first time that I had prayed fervently and wished to have the opportunity to be with my family as a whole. Came the day that we would deliver our essays in front of the class, I was into my subject. I delivered with justice the subject of the great tribulation, wishing that someone would listen. It all paid off when someone tapped me on my shoulder and said that my topic was unusual and he had learned a lot from it. Of course, I wore a smile on my face. How else would I deliver this topic if not for Bro. Eli?
Watching Bro. Eli’s program paved the way for me and my father to bond as father-daughter. Little by little, we removed all the graven images from home. Finally, we never set foot in Catholic churches. November 21, 2001 we received an invitation for the opening of mass indoctrination. Without the knowledge of my father, I sought for the nearest locale after school. This was in the locale of Bayanan. Seeing that many people were already leaving, and they appeared to be all members, the indoctrination session might have already finished, so I didn’t proceed. Later on, I learned that it was the prayer meeting. The indoctrination session was scheduled the next day.
It was only on May 2002 that my father and I decided to submit to indoctrination. With God’s help, we finished it with flying colors together with my uncle and my cousin. Who would have thought that a simple boast and a pinch of curiosity would turn out to be the deciding factors in knowing God’s promise!
June 21, 2002 is a date that cannot be forgotten for it was the happiest day of my life. I was baptized by Bro. Boy Dimalanta in the Locale of Locale of Bayanan. A renewal in spirit was within me; I had seen the genuine care and love of people in the organization I could count on. I could not ask for more. More yet, three years after, my mother joined us. This had given me hope that if not in this world, in heaven we would be united as a family, and be with true brethren called in the name of God.