I love my rotten relatives who malign me no end.
There is an abundance of malicious relatives in the world. They are there to pull you down and keep you down. Three examples are cousin Eunice, her son, Will, and my mother’s cousin, Conchita. Before I delve with them, let me give you a background.
My immediate family overcame the poverty we went through as children of the less privileged in the Philippines. Nobody ever imagined that I would be able to climb from poverty to a life of comfort in the USA.
My father was considered a good-for-nothing who could care less about his own future or that of his children. He was always away on an adventure of some sort...empty-handed he left and empty-handed he came back. That was the image concerned relatives and bystanders had of him.
Yet, he had dreams---big dreams! He was in search for gold mines in the mountains of Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga del Sur. He climbed Mt. Malindang with a surveyor named Engr. Alonzo, prospecting for gold mines.
He talked big but nothing ever came out from all those big talks! Nevertheless, amidst all the gobble-de-gook, a divine light guided him. And that light he faithfully handed down to his children. By example, he taught his children the importance of reading.
When I think of my wonder years, all I see is an image of my father reading day in and day out. He only got up to relieve himself, to eat, and to go to bed. Waking up, I saw him reading still. Sometimes, I wondered if he ever went to bed!
This love of reading was instilled in my heart so well that I used it as an excuse from running errands or doing housework. Every time my mother called me to do something for her, I would immediately pick up my book and pretend I was engrossed in reading and I would hear my father say, "Leave her alone. She's reading."
My world vision widened because of my reading. It was also enhanced by reading classic storybooks, comics and magazines from my best friend and classmate in the elementary grades, Belen Angeles. She had all kinds of fairy tale picture books that she shared with me when I spent time with her after school hours. She had them all: Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, the Frog Prince and so much more. These stories helped me build my own castles in the air. From my love of reading, I also developed the love for writing. It was an idea my Fifth Grade teacher introduced in English Composition class. I started composing letters. My favorite page in magazines was the Pen Pal section.
One day, this poor little girl's fantasy world came true by way of letter writing. Like the Prince Charming who woke the Princess up from her deep sleep, her Connecticut Yankee pen pal came, kissed her, and swept her off her feet, carried her all the way to New England in 1973. She became an overnight celebrity in the homeland. Three years later, after she became a US citizen, she started the process of emigration for her immediate family from the islands to mainland USA. Within the next ten years, family members dribbled in starting with one sister. Her mother and father came next. Then a brother, and lately, the youngest sister joined in.
My life story became an inspiration as well as a source of jealousy among my relatives. The young ones, who were inspired, started their own long distance friendships. Some successfully uprooted themselves. Because of this, their parents showed their hostility toward me for what they say was "Miriam's fault" for planting the seed and encouraging them to leave the nest and venture out into foreign lands.
One cousin, Eunice, who was singing in a nightclub found an Australian to flirt with and they got married. She was carried away to Australia...but she soon found out that the USA was still the preferential place to go to and she was not satisfied with being way down under. My cousin's father, who was eligible to immigrate to the USA because of his service in the Second World War, came to the USA with her financial backing. Their family hoped that he would be able to get them here as his beneficiaries. Through the years, he found out that he could not petition any of his children to join him because he was only receiving Supplemental Social Security and nobody would submit an Affidavit of Support on his behalf.
Eventually, he and his wife went to Australia to spend their remaining days there because they had nobody in California to depend on to look after them in their old age. His wife died in Australia a few months after arriving there. After his wife passed away, he went back to the homeland and he passed away within the year of arrival there.
Now, here is the good part. My cousin, Eunice, is waging war against her relatives in California, specifically me, for starters. Her jealousy is eating her up big time. She regularly calls my mother's cousin, Conchita, in California to spread rumors about me. What does she know about me? Sidney, Australia is too far removed from California, USA, right? The latest gossip she spread was that I used Oroquieta Charity Foundation Inc’s (OCFI) money to buy my SUV and she hopes I will land in jail sometime soon. How did she concoct this story?
Her son, Will, who came to visit his grandparents in August of 2009, found in his fertile imagination a way to start this gossip. It was my own fault because out of the goodness of my heart, I suggested my brother invite him to a picnic on our OCFI 10th Grand Reunion in Montebello, California. I didn’t realize then that he was consumed with envy when he saw my Lincoln Aviator and rode in it. When he returned to Australia, he told his mother that I used my mother's meager SSI to buy it. When my mother refuted that allegation, he switched gears saying I used OCFI’s money.
I would have been laughing if this was his funny way of throwing mud in my face. How desperate can one be when one is soaked in jealousy? His mother chewed on this bone like it was manna from heaven. The bizarre part about this was that the person she was spreading the gossip to was also a gossipmonger. Therefore, they did a tango with gusto! What proof do I have of this?
Let me give you a flashback. When I was sixteen years old and a run-away, I landed at my great aunt’s doorstep, Aunt Adela. One week-end, Conchita came for a visit and noticed me. I was being low-key because I was afraid that whoever found out I was at Aunt Adela’s house would tell Mama and Papa where I was and they would pick me up.
“It looks like you have more than enough house help here,” she said to Aunt Adela. “Can I take Miriam with me? I don’t have help right now,” I heard her say.
At that time, I thought it was a blessing that she asked Aunt Adela permission to take me, because my feet were itching to leave. I couldn’t stand another day putting up with Aunt Adela’s husband who attempted to sexually molest me. I fended the pervert off but I couldn’t tell Aunt Adela. If I did, I was afraid that she would kick me out rather than confront her husband. After all, I was a run-away and I was at their mercy. I was just praying that an angel would come to rescue me.
Indeed, Conchita was my angel that day. She enticed me with a promise that she would pay for my Summer School at Torralba Business College in the City, to learn typing and shorthand. That pleased me beyond measure. I packed up and went with her.
After the summer months, Conchita volunteered me to run errands for her husband's friend and associate, Atty. Felix Fajardo. His wife needed an errand girl during her stay at the hospital when she delivered her baby. I obliged. I had no problem doing this because Conchita saved me from that pedophile; had given me roof over my head; and, gave me food for my stomach. It was my way of paying it forward.
“If he offers you money, don’t accept it,” she said to me. That was the only thing she cautioned me about, in the event Atty. Fajardo offered me compensation for my assistance. She said not to take it because it was to return a favor. I complied with an eager heart. However, on the last day of his wife's hospital stay, he did offer me ten pesos. Ten pesos at that time was big! I refused it but he insisted, with a nod from his wife. And he said, "Don't tell Conchita I gave you money. Buy yourself a nice outfit."
I was (and still am) good at keeping secrets. I went shopping the first chance I had and found a dress that I fell in love with. My cousins made comments about how nice I looked in that outfit. From the back of my mind, I could sense that they were also whispering, "Where did she get the money?” My ever-wonderful Aunt Conchita whispered back, "She stole it from my purse."
Through the grapevine, my fifth sense was confirmed; but, I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of telling her where my money came from. I ignored her ignorance and acted as though I didn’t know the gossip she’s been spreading!
This is only one example of who she was and what she was capable of without caring how hurtful gossiping can be.
Fast forward to the time when my family had moved from Connecticut to California, and my mother and father were with me. We were happy to hear that Conchita, made it to Chicago as a coach for the girls scouts representing the Philippines at the Girl’s Scouts of America Jamboree. Then, she moved to Texas when she married a Mexican-American guy, enabling her to change her tourist status to permanent resident.
Some five years later, she wrote me a letter. She wrote about her deplorable condition in Texas: how she was not getting along with her husband and she wanted out. Feeling bad for her, I suggested she visit California and if she liked it, she can stay permanently. She did. That’s how we reconnected and the drama picked up from where it left off. The rest, of course, is history.
She has now become the thorn in our side as she restarted spreading malicious and vile gossip regarding my family and me. So far, nothing stuck but she will keep on trying.
That's the story about the three villains in my life. There are more but they will come later as the story moves along! Stand by....