I am child #10 of 11, we were alphabetically named by our parents.
I grew up in a poor farming family in the South, experiencing hard work at an early age of 9. From time to time my father would accept carpentry job to help feed and support 11 of us, while Mother took care of the house and the care of 11 children. You can just imagine how difficult it was to live in a family like that in scarcity that sometimes I would go to sleep without having eaten anything.
My father was strict and disciplinarian. A man of few words, far and uninvolved. I can tell you that in the 34 years of my existence before he passed away, I can say that I only had less than 24 hours in total of remembering him spoke to me, or us having a conversation- and most of those were because I was being scolded, shamed, called names. His distance and silence in my life was unbearable.
He has no need of me, I was no use to him because I can’t drive a carabo (mag araro) or do hard work at the farm unlike my brothers. He told us women siblings that we are only good for the house work, no need for education because we are going to be married and be a housewife anyway.
I so wanted to go to school, so at the age of 13, I and my sister were sent to work in the city as housemaids (katulong) so we can go to school. I went to school in the morning, while my sister goes to school in the evening. We were paid with food and free housing in exchange for education.
As a young girl, I can never understand what was going on in my father’s heart. His harshness was not only directed to us, but most specially towards my mother. He would belittle my mother in front of us and would call her tanga-stupid, walang alam- no good and treated her like a katulong. My mother has no voice and would quietly and faithfully clean and laundry my father’s clothes, served him good meal, treated him like a king not out of love but out of fear.
I hated my Father for how he has treated my mother, and hated my Mom even more for being weak and submissive, for not fighting back. Father’s voice was the final authority and all of us are expected to bow in submission. This hatred was reinforced by my Mother’s harsh and hateful words about my father where she ingrained to us-that your father is no good., but this made me hate my mother for disrespecting my father. Do you realize how confusing it was for me? Not knowing who would I want to be like when I grow up.
VOWS from Parent’s
I told myself, I will never be like my mother. I will not be weak and so needy like how she needed my father. I will not let any men treat me like that. If men are harsh I should be harsher. I competed with men, what they can do I can do also. To stronger capable men, I gravitated, but with a distance safe enough and heart detached in fear of being hurt. To the women who are weak and needy, I looked at them with disgust ewww. And to the women who are strong and controlling- I fear them, I would admire them, but will not approach or befriend them. I grew up with this sense of confusion of who I really was as a woman.
I will not ask for help. I can provide for my own needs. I don’t need anyone. Unlike other people who grew up with best friends, I had no one. I don’t remember making friends in elementary, high school and college. I liked to be left alone and it stayed like that for a very long time.
During the course as a working high school to college, studying in the evening and katulong during the day, I was molested by my employer and a stranger I took the tricycle with going home from school. I told no one, even the sexual abuse of my brother when I was 7. This led me to believe that I am an object. Abusable, property to be discarded. I am just that. That is my only purpose. I have no worth.
I told myself, If that is the only thing you want from me, that is the only thing you will get from me. Not my heart, only that.
With no one to turn to I turned to church for comfort. Growing up as a Protestant, church was the only safe place and it became a refuge to me. It taught me to be good, serve and behave well. I wished at a young age of 7 to marry a pastor someday, and believed in this illusion that if I marry a pastor, I will be safe, I will be happy and loved.
MISOGYNY IN MARRIAGE
That dream came true when I married my then seminary professor at the age of 23. I have this idea of marriage to a pastor as something that can provide safety, a place of honor, that he will be my prince, will rescue me and fix me and would love me and no harm will befall me.
We were pioneering a church in Makati and working with young professionals and youth in universities, camps and retreats at that time.
I came into marriage with him with this passion to reach the lost, serve the church, support him without any regard to my own needs. I am a wife and I am something because of him. Because I am good at doing, work I did.
Because my dream marriage was an illusion, it’s magic quickly disappeared. A few months after being married, my husband slowly turned into the very thing I hated about my father.
He worked full-time, 6 days a week, mostly 7 doing bible studies, meetings, traveling to speak if not in a retreat or camps, to another church, to a seminar or conference. Home was a refilling station where he can eat, sleep and unload ministry burdens to me.
Meanwhile, I became this super woman-pastor’s wife, that can never be seen weak and needy. I helped and supported him in everyway. I gave in to the church’s expectations of a pastor’s wife who cooks, teach Sunday school, teach the choir, do bible study, janitor, counselor, outreach leader, women’s ministry lead, etc.
My identity was defined by the roles the church expected me to become. To the church I am this super woman. Always ready to give an answer, a ready smile and a helping hand.
To my husband, I am the wife. I cook, did the laundry, the whole nine yards. My husband was so busy doing the ministry- that when he is at home, he has no more time for small talk. He would be dead tired, do his thing and then fall asleep.
He became this outrageously gregarious chatty person outside, but was a quiet, silent, un involved person I lived with who do not anymore desire to be physically intimate with me.
Oh, we talk sometimes, but it was all about his grievances, disappointments about church, people, etc. For him, I was just this thing, a shock absorber.
To talk about our hearts was a topic to be avoided.
I coined this idea that the ministry was the LEGAL wife and I was the mistress. I felt like I was always competing for a morsel of attention against this unseen enemy. When friends would ask us, how come we are childless, we tell, I tell them it’s because I have a reproductive problem. But the truth was, we weren’t physically intimate.
In my deep need for love and attention, I turned to pornography and learned to masturbate. It became a cycle of addiction, that even though I hated what I was doing I couldn’t stop myself. In my guilt I would stop for a week or two, read my bible, pray and pretend like nothing was wrong with me. But after a while, I would be at it again.
I became this desolate angry woman. I became exactly what I hated about my parents. I hated my husband’s silence and neglect of me, and became this weak, needy wife who allowed him to continually hurt me. I had no voice and couldn’t fight back.
We treated each other civilly, I continued to be his dutiful wife, but my heart was no longer there. I detached myself from him and created a wall where he can never access it again. To others, we were this perfect couple that loves and serve God, but we knew it was just all pretend.
10 years into a marriage like that, I became pregnant.The 9 months I was pregnant was the only time in our marriage I remembered being happy and loved. But as soon as I gave birth, we returned to our old ways of relating. It was during this time that we began to sleep in a separate bed.
I wanted to get help and tell someone, but I had no one to turn to. I was ashamed to let others know what was going on. We were ok and we don’t need help, that was his answer every time I would ask him if we can see a counselor. Di ko pa friend si Ate Carmen noon.
I continued to live in a desperate, depressed and angry state. I was so angry and my heart was so far out from God that I stopped going to church with him, and run away from anything that has to do with God.
I wanted to leave him and take my son with me, but was so afraid and ashamed of what our family would say and what it would cost the ministry. One night, in one of my crying bout, I told God that if he will not help us, one of us will have to die to end the misery we were at.
I painfully regretted that prayer, felt really guilty, and desperately begged God to bring my husband back, but His plan was greater than what I was begging Him of at that time. It bitterly ended suddenly, new year’s eve, 10 years ago when God took my husband to be with him after suffering from stroke. We were married for 13 years.
PROCESS OF HEALING
I was left with my 3 years old son, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to go- I went back to the only thing I was good at. Doing. I had to keep moving for the sake of this boy depending on me. I needed to find a job, continue the youth ministry etc. I had to be strong. I told myself I can do it. I had to man up. I cannot be weak. Grieving can wait. 5 months later, a friend invited me to attend LW. Full of guilt and deep sorrow.
You know what came next right? I found myself in a company of broken people as I was, found a safe place, where I can finally bare my heart out and I will not be judged.
God began a work of repairing me. He started by forming my identity. He introduced himself to me as a FATHER, unlike my earthly father. That he sees me, and hears me, and that He will not snap at me when I do wrong, that he is available and can be talked to. That I am loved and delighted upon.
I repented of the ways I have judged and hated my parents. I renounced the lies I have believed about myself. I declared and claimed the truth of who I really am. My father was the first on my list of people to forgive. My husband, then those who have sexually abused me, then the church, God and myself.
In one of the LW retreat that I attended where I gave my testimony, Toni Dolfo, the sort of like the Andy then …hugged and embraced me so tightly- and that was the first time I ever felt the hug of a father. A surge of love from God the father flowed all over me and reached the heart that was hardened and was made dead by the lack of earthly father’s love.
My healing journey is like building a house where God laid the foundation first. My identity as a daughter loved by the Father was foundational in my healing journey. He spoke of my womanhood as a gift and design. He taught me how to relate to men not from a stance of defensiveness but of vulnerability, and yes there is a risk of being hurt again, but he took care of that by teaching me how to create a healthy boundary.
Men from LW became such allies and friend, a masculine presence that was ready to protect and cover me and my son. They provided godly masculine way of relating to me, that in turn helped me to trust and be vulnerable without the fear of being used and tramped upon.
God gave me back my voice. He taught me how to say YES and NO. How to rest and just BE.
I have repented of the hatred and judgment I had towards those I perceived as weak women. I now enjoy healthy friendships with them without the fear of being overwhelmed and the sense of competition. I am now able to receive compliments, without the urge of returning the compliment, but just say thank you
I am now enjoying deeper friendships with both men and women and have a few BFF’s too. I just made another BFF 2 days ago. I formed deeper friendships with men, without suspicion and self protection. Even deeper friendships with women whom I can be vulnerable. They spoke blessings to me and they were life giving. They became faces of God to me, with skin on.
I have since repented of the ways I have dishonored my husband by withholding my heart from him, I repented of the many ways I have judged him and emasculated him. I forgave him of his neglect and silence.
Grieving came in waves. Forgiveness too. But forgiving God took the longest. It’s not that God needed forgiving, but I knew I had to forgive him for my sake. I knew that I needed to repent of the ways I have sinned against him, of how I dishonored him and judged him like the men in my life. For his silence. He could have waved a magic wand to make all the bad things in my life disappear, but he didn’t. He told me, that even when he will not remove the pain, He will stay with me in my pain which He did.7 years ago, God showed me that although I have forgiven my husband many times, I haven’t really said goodbye to him and released him. I still blame him for dying just like that, and left me and my son and to deal with life alone. I still hold him accountable for my pain. I knew God was inviting me to another layer of healing. I needed to make peace with my husband. I found myself crying while holding my husband’s urn, and just began to bless him and thank him for the many ways he has loved my son and I, for being a good provider and a loving father, and blessed the good in him, his gifts, and released him back to God.
In an instant I felt this long tie of rope was cut, and I was released to embracing fully my widowhood, a woman no longer in the shadow of her husband. I had my own identity, no longer defined by its title- a Pastor’s Wife.
Last year, as a symbol and rite of passage for my son entering adulthood and to bless his masculinity- with some friends, we finally buried my husband’s ashes. Laying him down to rest deepened even more our healing. I wish I could change what happened to us, but my husband received his full healing and at peace with the Father, and I continue to receive mine here.
That year too, came the most wonderful surprise a woman can ever received. It came at the season of my life where I am in a place of fullness. Life wasn’t perfect but it was good.
God not only redeemed and restored fully, but has added an extra bonus. Last March 25, I got married to a wonderful man named Mike. He is a Pastor.
I came in to Living Waters because my husband died-and God met me there. This year will be my last year with LWP as my son and I will be joining my husband in another country,
I am leaving having been made whole enough, deeply loved by the father and by my community, able to love not from a place of neediness, defensiveness, self protection and fear, but from a place of trust and vulnerability, trusting that even when there is a risk of being hurt again, God has formed me and made me ready for the next season of my healing journey.
I am child # 1, named by my Father in heaven, a woman deeply loved by Him.