Vange and MJ are two sisters who led a difficult life growing up. But by God’s grace, their faith saved them from further harm
My father ran a family business while my mother stayed home taking care of my brother Jun and me. We lived with relatives in a compound typical of Filipino-Chinese clans.
Ours was an ordinary life—until my mother had an affair with another man. And she got pregnant. To escape my father’s outrage, she ran away with her boyfriend—with Jun and me in tow. Jun was 12 years old, I was only 9.
My mother’s partner was poor as a rat. He didn’t have a regular job. We lived in a shanty in Tondo, Manila, near the Smokey Mountain— so-called because it was dumping ground of the metro’s garbage which settlers burned to rid of the stench, the smoke clouding our already hapless life.
Even with a big tummy, my mother had to work to provide food for us.
Mama gave birth to a baby girl she named MJ. Now with three mouths to feed— not to mention her jobless partner— Mama could not afford to send us to school. So she decided to bring Jun and me back to our father.
In my father’s house, life was not any better. After we left him, he carried on with our maid. When Jun and I got back, the maid was already acting as our stepmom— the monster kind. She treated us like house helpers, demanding we do household chores, and lashed out at us every little mistake we made.
Our relatives were not of any help, either. I felt that apparently, on account of our mother’s indiscretion, our aunts and uncles looked down on us. I guess at their parents’ bidding, our cousins stayed away from us— lest they be infected with our misfortune— I guess.
I felt miserable, pining for my mother, especially during special occasions like Graduation, Mother’s Day, Christmas.
It is no surprise then that I’ve been gripped with low self-esteem. It is no surprise either that I did poorly in school.
At night, on my bed, I often asked God, “When will my suffering end?”
In hindsight, however, I now realize that in my darkest moments, God did not abandon me.
In high school, I chanced upon a Marian program on Radio Veritas and I got into the habit of listening to it. I came to know Mama Mary and learned to pray the Rosary. I looked up to the Blessed Virgin and imagined her as my mother.
Finding The Feast
Among my cousins, there was Pinky— kind, prayerful, and who was brave enough to defy her parents and began to hang out with me when we were already teenagers. Through her, I learned to go to Mass.
One day, Pinky gave me a copy of Kerygma magazine. I read it and was I edified. Since then, Pinky kept sharing her copies of Kerygma where I read about The Feast.
A year later, I went to check out The Feast, then being held monthly at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Theater in Camp Aguinaldo.
Indeed, The Feast was such a happy place, I forgot my problems whenever I attended it. It became my second home. I even brought friends there. Much later, even MJ, when she was about 10 years old.
Through Bro. Bo’s articles and Feast talks, I was inspired to straighten out my life.
First, I decided I would get out of poverty. I strived to do well in school. And by God’s grace, I fared well in my subjects.
Second, I attended to my family. After so many years of us not seeing each other, my mother called me up. We talked and I found out how hard up she and her family had remained. I promised I would help her.
As soon as I stepped into college, I started working as a fast food crew and sent a portion of my salary to my mother. With that, I was able to send MJ from grade school to college.
By God’s grace, I did not harbor hatred against my mother. Instead, I continued to love her and my sister and take care of them as much as I could.
At 19, I graduated from college, joined a pre-need company, and became its youngest manager.
Year 2004 saw a new phase in my life. My father passed away, and his partner went away. So I invited my mother and MJ to live with Jun and me.
I was born in poverty.
My father was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He worked as a stevedore at a nearby pier, but given his vices, he couldn’t keep a regular job.
There was no food in the house. I was constantly hungry.
My grandparents later took a pity on us and gave us a home in Rizal.
Mama eked out an income working as a laundrywoman. So I would not disturb her, she placed me in a cardboard box.
When I was big enough to walk around, Mama let me hang out with my step sibs Jun and Vange. I remember, our only happiness was playing with tadpoles in a canal lining our street.
Mama could hardly make both ends meet, much more afford to send Jun and Vange to school. So she returned them to their father.
I was left alone to suffer hell in our house.
At the time, my mother was already working as helper for her sister. But she escaped her misery by gambling, so we remained poor.
Meanwhile, my father was always drunk or high on drugs.
With no money to get by, my parents often quarrelled— she berating him for his irresponsibility, he, beating her up.
I was not spared from my father’s outrage. I was only five years old when Papa banged my head on the wall when he didn’t like what I did or said.
Despite my miseries, I was at the top of the class when I began grade school. But I lost interest in my studies as early as when I was seven years old. Throughout the rest of my grade school years, I rebelled. I learned to smoke and at age 12, I tried marijuana. In high school, I began drinking.
The violence at home continued as I grew up. I remember, in yet another vicious fight, Papa and Mama were about to attack each other with knives. Attempting to stop them, I dashed in between my parents. In the skirmish, my father’s knife grazed my finger, scraping off a bit of flesh.
When I was 12, it was my turn to flash a knife at my father. In the midst of another altercation, he beat me without letup— until I managed to scamper to the kitchen and got hold of a knife. I lunged at him, but I missed.
But if there’s one incident I would find difficult to forgive, it was when I was already earning money. My father borrowed cash from me promising he would use it to find a job. But he spent the money on booze and came home drunk.
Irked, I reprimanded him. He hit me with five hangers and a stick, and he pulled my hair so hard, uprooting a bunch of strands. Defeated, I sobbed uncontrollably as I counted the loose strands and put them in a bottle— as if I could put them back on this bald spot on my head.
Things somewhat changed in 2005. Vange’s father died, his partner went away, and so Vange kindly invited Mama and me to live with her and Jun.
But alas, life didn’t come any easier. For what good can you expect from four broken souls living together under one roof? Struggling with our individual issues, we just couldn’t stand each other.
Me, I was already in a deep mess. At 16, I tried all kinds of illegal drugs. I entered into relationships for fun. I had a string of lovers. I two-timed my partners.
Then, I had this best friend, a guy, who attempted to rape me. From then on, I shunned the opposite sex. I preferred same-sex relationships until I stuck it out with a special one—Apple. One day, I left home and lived in with her.
After three years of this wanton life, however, I got back to my senses.
I went back home. I told my family that I wanted to go back to school. I finished college and found a job in a popular hotel. But I took my job for granted. I was always absent because I preferred going on evening gimmicks with friends.
For life remained senseless to me. I guess that’s because I did not get much inspiration from my parents, especially my father. Actually he was nothing but a burden to me. Booze had so damaged his body he was in and out of hospitals. I had to pay for his hospital bills again and again.
I hated him so much that one day, I ranted to his doctor, “I don’t want to see my father anymore!”
Finding The Feast
I resigned from my job and found a better one in another hotel. I was doing well in this new job, but still I didn’t feel good about myself, about my life. I felt so empty deep inside that one day, I just found myself going to church.
In 2015, after more than a decade of smoking, I quit. I hardly drank nor went on gimmicks.
By the end of that year, Apple, my girlfriend for seven years by then, left me. She got jealous of Vange. And she complained that I was so engrossed with pursuing my dreams that I didn’t spend enough time with her.
At the time, Vange had been talking about inspiring articles in Kerygma, as well as books of Bro. Bo Sanchez.
Vange gave me a copy of Bro. Bo’s book titled How To Stop Hidden Addiction. I tried out the steps Bro. Bo recommended in the book. I wrote down everything that hurt me and cried my heart out. I understood that I had to love and forgive myself before I could truly love others.
In the past, Apple and I had an off-and-on relationship. We’d fight, call it quits, then she would always come back and I would accept her. Not this time, though, I decided to cut and cut clean my relationship with her.
Vange supported me all the way. She gave me another book— Bro. Bo’s, 7 Keys to Freedom. I read it, and learned practical, doable steps on how to release myself from the shackles of sin.
In January 2016, Vange casually broached the idea of us attending The Feast together to start the new year right.
She reminded me, “Remember, I brought you to The Feast way back when you were about 10 years old? Come and try it out once more.”
I did. By now, The Feast has grown really big and there are now hundreds of it in the country and some even abroad. We chose to go to the Feast Bay Area where Bro. Bo preaches.
At The Feast, I felt God in an intimate way. I felt He was embracing me, beckoning me to trust Him. And I felt this amazing surge of power, so strong, I knew then I would be able to overcome my weaknesses.
Back to the Church
Vange: God has blessed me with a good life. Now, I am married to a man I prayed for and we have a daughter,a gift from God through Mama Mary’s intercession. We were childless for eight years and I gave birth to my daughter on September 8, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin.
God’s timing could have not been any better. He gave us our baby when I was ready, when I had undergone healing— my heart cleansed of hatred and anger over my bitter past.
With my family and work obligations, I cannot attend The Feast regularly, but I attend Mass at our parish church every Sunday.
MJ: I thank my sister for not giving up on me, for guiding me to the path of righteousness. She believed in me when nobody thought I could become a better person. I didn’t deserve her kindness, love, and patience because at one time or another, I was hostile to her. Despite that, she became Jesus to me.
My mom and Jun thought Vange was crazy for putting so much trust in me. I, too, doubted myself, but because I felt how much Vange cared for me, I agreed to be mentored by her. She prodded me to quit my job and join her insurance group instead. Her efforts paid off. After a few months, I received an award for outstanding performance on the job.
I attend The Feast every Sunday. There, I’ve learned to love the Mass so much that now I go to Mass in our parish five times a week. I now pray the Rosary with Vange every day.
Recently, I met my father and we talked. I am amazed that I was able to stand his presence. I even hugged him and told him to come back during pay day so I could give him some money.
Vange: Thank God for Bro. Bo and The Feast, for the good life we are now enjoying.
vange and MJ are two sisters who led a difficult life growing up. But by God’s grace, their faith saved them from further harm.