Forgiveness Comes From the Most Unexpected Place

June 17, 2006 at 6:02 pm 32 comments

“If you want to see Papa before he passes away, you better come home now.”  That was my sister, Lina, on the other end of the line, on a cloudy winter day of March, 1991.  Papa had a stroke two months earlier and was paralyzed from the neck down.  Years of smoking and drinking finally took a toll on him. 

With my 16-month old son in tow, I went back home to the Philippines for a two-month visit.  Papa’s medical insurance had run out and he needed to get out of the hospital.  But where would he go?  He didn’t have a permanent home.  His life had become aimless since Mama separated from him.  He had been living with one relative to the next.  Lina and I discussed where to place him.   

Should he stay with my husband and my in-laws? My husband was still in the Philippines back then waiting for his sponsorship papers.  But I would be going back to Canada after two months.  I didn’t feel that Papa would be taken care of properly there when I left.   

Should he stay with Lina?  She was a stay-at-home mom and her husband was a nurse.  He would feel more at home and he would be given better care there.

We decided to leave him at Lina’s place.  Although it was the logical decision, I felt like I was turning Papa away.

Ever since I could remember I have always been fond of Papa.  I was Papa’s girl while Lina was a self-proclaimed Mama’s girl.

My parents owned a tailor shop in Noveleta, Cavite.   They were very well known in town.  They garnered a lot of friends.  It was the custom then among men to serve friends a few drinks of beer, whiskey or rum when they visit each other.  Papa developed a drinking problem.  He started beating up Mama when he’d had too much to drink.  I was about eight and Lina was six when Papa came home drunk one night.  He grabbed my majorette baton and struck Mama on the forehead.  Lina and I huddled on the floor behind the couch, terrified.  We couldn’t do anything to help Mama.  We were frightened that he would hit us, too.  He never did, though.  Except for one incident that made me feel terribly guilty. 

Lina and I were fighting one night.  Papa overheard her answering back at me.  He got really mad, led her outside, and made her stand still beside the banana tree.  She stood there and whimpered while ants crawled and bit her legs.

I was in sixth grade when Mama left and didn’t come home.  After a few days, she came to school to pick up Lina and me.  She said, “I’m not going back home.  I’m going to Manila to live with my sister.  Do you, girls, want to come with me?”  Lina threw her arms around Mama’s waist and said, “Yes, Mama!  I want to come with you.”

Mama wanted Lina and me to stay together.  “Either you both go back home to your father or come live with me in Manila,” she continued.  But no matter what, she was leaving Papa.  I was torn.  I missed her terribly and yet I felt that we were betraying Papa if we left him.  I loved Papa dearly despite his faults, but I understood that it was time for my parents to separate.  It was no longer safe for Mama and it was emotionally traumatizing for all of us.

Lina wouldn’t see Papa when he visited us in Manila.  Auntie didn’t let him inside the house.  Mama allowed me to see him outside and we went to a nearby ice cream parlour.  I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions.  I was crying from the moment I saw him until he left that balmy afternoon.  The pain was more than I could endure at my age.  I missed him so much.

Mama and Lina felt a great deal of anger towards him.  I realized that he hurt Mama and that it was not acceptable at all, yet I couldn’t get myself to hate him.  How could I?  He was my father.  He taught me things that I didn’t know.  He stayed up late with me to finish my school homework and projects.  Mama never told us to hate him, and yet I knew that she was hurt knowing that I was still loyal to Papa.

Mama did the best she could to provide for us but making a living was hard.  When Lina and I were teenagers, Mama decided to apply for a job in Canada.  Lina and I went to live with Auntie.  We tried our best to get along with Auntie’s family.  After three trying years and feeling of remorse, I run away from Auntie’s home and went to live with Papa, much to Mama’s chagrin.

Lina and I gave Papa a second chance, hoping that he would change and get his life back on track.  But he could not resist the call of alcohol.   One night, he came home drunk, passed out on the couch, wet his pants, and was so embarrassed when he woke up the next morning.  There was no beating that time and yet I understood what Mama went through during those nights when Lina and I were little girls.

We never told anybody about what went on at home in our childhood.  We never even talked about it amongst ourselves.  And I didn’t realize the impact of all of these on Lina until our early adulthood. 

She was deeply involved in the Student Catholic Action and I was taken by surprise when she entered the convent.  After only a few months of her stay there, I noticed the remarkable improvement in her personality.  She couldn’t tolerate being in the presence of Papa before but she allowed him to visit her every month at the convent.  I was amazed at how she had forgiven him after years of resentment and hatred.

After a year, Lina left the convent.  She was young, confused, and thought that she wanted to serve God.  I thought that it was God’s plan to make Lina’s experience in the convent to be her instrument to forgive Papa.

When Papa was out of the hospital and settled at Lina’s place, I went to visit him.  I was humbled at the sight I saw.  There was my sister, feeding my father and cleaning him up.  At one point, she asked me, “Do you want to see his bed sores?”  I shook my head and looked away.  Why did I?  I, who was always at his side?  The roles were reversed.  Lina was now looking after him.

I was not at Papa’s side when he passed away in June 1991, two months after I came back to Canada.  I was told that minutes just before his last breath, he yelled, “God, please forgive me for all my sins.”  I will never forget that.  Just as I won’t forget how my sister forgave my father.


Entry filed under: Alcoholism, Inspiration, Memory Lane.

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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Noemi  |  June 17, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    What a touching story. As a child your love was unconditional. Your mom showed tough love. Having a drinking problem is one of the worst things that can happen to a family system. She did what was best for her and you as the young innocent children at that time.

  • 2. Joy  |  June 17, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    Oh my goodness! What a powerful story!
    Forgiveness is really very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  • 3. melai  |  June 17, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    What a moving story! All my life I was asking myself why wretched things happen to me. As in one cousin of mine has commented “Oo nga sa dami mong pinagdaanan, andiyan ka pa rin!)

    What a waste!

    Your story enlightened me; I realized that I really had a happy childhood. Thanks to you for sharing this story.

  • 4. mmy-lei  |  June 18, 2006 at 2:19 am

    i really cried when i read this! you really had a tough childhood and was so happy that Lina was able to forgive your dad.

    same here, i was not there when my dad died. i left him with full of dreams and when i came back, he’s in the coffin!

  • 5. Eric  |  June 18, 2006 at 8:15 am

    Firstly, I must praise your courage for sharing this very personal story with us. Perhaps, oneof these days, I, too, will gain that same courage to share my story about my relationship with my father. Like your father, he was also an alcoholic, but a quiet one, which was just as bad because he never expressed his inner feelings. He eventually developed and died from liver scirosis. I was only 14 when he began his long ardous journey toward his eventual death.

    Secondly, that part about Lina forgiving your father is exactly what I needed to hear/read today. Since yeasterday, I was very much troubled by a sibling’s apparent indifference regarding a family matter. After reading this powerful memoir of yours, I gained the strength to just forgive and release him to his highest good.

    Thank you, Catherine and God bless!


  • 6. bingskee  |  June 18, 2006 at 9:17 am

    hi, irene…

    Papa’s an alcoholic, too. but he never did hurt my mother physically. my only regret is the love he had for my mother was not reciprocated. perhaps it was the alcohol. because of alcohol, he never had that chance to improve his life.

    you are very brave and honest about this story. i guess every body has a story to tell, and it is courage that is missing.

  • 7. niceheart  |  June 18, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for the comments guys.

    I didn't really know how people would react to this. But I wanted to share my story because I know there are others out there who have been victims of alcoholism, like you Eric and Bing.

    I got the encouragement from reading experiences of others, like Noemi's recovery from the grief of his son's death. But it was really after reading Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt when I decided I want to share my story.

    And Melai, what you said reminded me of what he said in Angela's Ashes: "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while."

    And also, (Eric and Bing could probably relate to this) "People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire…"

    Mmy-lei, I still cry when I write about him.

    Joy, I was hesitant to relate this story because I didn't know how Lina would feel, but I think after reading your comments, she will realize how this can inspire people.

  • 8. jane  |  June 19, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Your story made me cry. As they say, to forgive is divine.

  • 9. jane  |  June 19, 2006 at 12:27 am

    oops sorry, poor internet connection…
    Everybody deserves a second chance. I’m sure Lina felt better after the forgiveness. Hatred is a burden, too.

  • 10. Toe  |  June 19, 2006 at 12:28 am

    Niceheart, I am moved by your story. Thank you for sharing this. I remember in one of the comments in your post, you said that Frank McCourt’s story affected you. You said it above again and I can see why.

  • 11. Noemi  |  June 19, 2006 at 2:08 am

    I wanted to email you about something I can’t post but I can’t find your email address. Please point me where it is or just email me at my contact box in my site.

  • 12. bw  |  June 19, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    The title of your post fits the morale of the story bang on. We can tell stories about forgiveness and unforgiveness and justify our actions but in the end, only those that forgive are the noble ones.

  • 13. PhilippinePhil  |  June 19, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    Deja Vous! My wife’s dad had been a mean little cuss to his wife and especially to the oldest boy. The old man lived to a very old age, almost 90, before he suffered a stroke and became a shell of his former robust self. He too had become a man without a family, so to speak, and lived from house to house. We took care of him right here in my house for many months. I got him a wheel chair, paid his hospital, drugs, therapy…

    When you marry into a family over here, that’s part of it. It took more than a year for him to finally completely fail physically. I convinced them to keep him drugged up to the very end because of his excruciating pain. They didn’t want to spend the money on the drugs, but I insisted. He died hard. Still, it was a good death. His family had come to terms with his past and all was forgiven. Still, I hope I don’t go like he did. It was rough. Americans and Canadians should NEVER complain about health care. Those that do should take a trip over here.

  • 14. niceheart  |  June 19, 2006 at 11:29 pm

    Yes, BW, they are the noble ones. Not many can forgive. I myself am still having a hard time forgiving someone.

    Jane, that's true. To forgive is divine. And hatred is a burden not only on the mind but it affects the body as well.

    Toe, I told you I can relate so much to his story.

    Phil, yeah, there comes a time when we come to terms with the past, but it's just so sad that it happens when it's too late. For it really takes time to heal the wound.

  • 15. earthember  |  June 20, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a touching and personal story! Yes, it’s not easy to forgive. But it’s only in forgiving that one can eventually move on with his/her life.

  • 16. niceheart  |  June 20, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    That’s true, Ange.

  • 17. vina  |  June 21, 2006 at 4:37 am

    i’m sorry po, i just read this today. i’m in the office, so i couldn’t cry so much.

    thank you for sharing your story, Ms. Niceheart.

  • 18. Hsin  |  June 21, 2006 at 7:23 am

    Thank you for your courage to share this story. It touches raw nerves and to be able to speak of it publicly takes a lot. I think you are right – while your sister’s decision to enter the convent was probably a confused choice, it was the right thing at the right time. She is a true picture of love and forgiveness and is greater than so many others, especially given how deep seated her fear and anger towards your father. An example for us all.

  • 19. niceheart  |  June 21, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Thank you, Vina, for taking the time to read.

    She is really quite an example, Hsin. That’s why I wanted to share this story. And also to give hope to others who have been through the same experience.

  • 20. paupau  |  June 25, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    i feel for you. i was so touched with your story.

  • 21. Jayred  |  June 27, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    Such a moving story. It was courageous of you to share it with us.

    Your life experience has made you and your sister strong to face the tough challenges of life.

  • 22. niceheart  |  June 28, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for the visit, paupau.

    That’s true, Jayred. Lina and I may have had challenging life experiences but these same challenges made us the persons that we are today.

  • […] Related Blogs A Daughter’s story about forgiveness […]

  • 24. elaine  |  September 16, 2006 at 2:27 am

    i was searching for a story about alcoholism and i found this one! whew!!! what a nice will serves as a guide for everyone. forgiveness, greatest gift from anyone. God bless.

  • 25. niceheart  |  September 17, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for the visit elaine.

  • 26. JO  |  January 3, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    what a heartwarming story! i’m glad that your sister was able to forgive your dad before he pass away.

    thank you for sharing this!

  • 27. niceheart  |  January 4, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    You’re welcome, JO. And thanks also.

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    I wonder , were to find boyfriend to my sister? Joke:)
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  • 31. Going anonymous « n i c e h e a r t  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    […] I shared my story about my father and my childhood in Forgiveness Comes From the Most Unexpected Place and in Don’t TOUCH Me, there were quite a few readers who reached out to me and also shared […]

  • 32. Don’t TOUCH Me « n i c e h e a r t  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    […] Forgiveness Comes From the Most Unexpected Place […]


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