“You were an abused child just like me!” Willie would tell me in one of our discussions.
“No, I was not! My parents did not constantly beat me. I remember getting beat only twice and that was my fault so I deserved it…” I’d reply.
I never considered myself being abused as a child. To me, abuse is being physically beaten whenever you make a mistake, do something wrong or say something bad. I was disciplined and controlled simply by looks… My father was master at this. Whenever I did something he did not approve, he would tilt his head and shot me a dark, fierce look – as dark as the heavy storm waiting to unleash its fury. I wouldn’t dare cross those stares. I wasn’t so sure whether I would come out alive if I dared to. There were two occasions where I blindly crossed these boundaries. I said blindly… because I sincerely did not know what the repercussions were.
I was about 8 years old, left alone to care for my two younger sisters: Elsa, three years old and Ale two. My parents and my two younger brothers were at the farm, 10 miles away… they left at sunrise that morning and are not expected to be home until early that evening. At around 11 o’clock in the morning, an old lady acquaintance, I should call her Mrs. Teofilo came…
“Helllooo… ? Anybody home…? A cracking voice outside.
I ran to the door…and stared at the lady… eying her from head to toe. I saw her before. She’s from the barrio.
“Is your mom and dad home?” said the old lady, while looking at me.
“No. They’re away. They’re at the farm.” I replied.
“What time are they going to be home?” asking me as if she has something urgent to discuss with my father and mother.
“I don’t know. They usually come home before dark… but, I’d go get them if you watch my little sisters….” I told the old lady.
She sat down by the door, on the bamboo floor and look me straight in the eye… her dark eyes fixed on mine. She looked around the room and fixed her eyes on my sisters, who were both on the floor playing… she said…
“OK… I’ll watch your sisters while you go get your mom and dad” the old lady assured me.
“OK.” I answered without hesitation and much thought.
I left with much gusto. I ran across the shallow river… Walked up the hill… hopped and skipped along the way… kicked a few rocks ‘till I reached the farm…
My mom was cooking something for lunch when I announced my presence…
“Nanay! whew… I’m tired. What ya cookin’…? Looking to see what’s in the pot…
Nanay shot me a quizzical and confused look. “Where are your sisters?” she asked worriedly.
“Ummm… there’s Mrs. Teofilo at the house and she wants to talk to you and dad…” I managed to say while catching my breath.
“You mean, you left Elsa and Ale with a stranger!!!?” My dad came out of nowhere, yelling.
“Well… we know her, Mrs. Teofilo… she’s from the barrio. And she wants to talk to you and mom…” I answered nervously. By the sound of my dad’s voice I know I was in BIG trouble.
“Stop what you’re doing Vicenta! Jojo! Artem! Get your stop and carry a few bunches of firewood. We need to go right now!… Let’s go…!!!”
My dad lead the way… He walked real fast and so were almost running just to keep up with him. He did not say another word.
My mom was behind me and she kept talking:
“Tessie… why did you leave your little sisters? What if that old lady takes them away…? What if she gives them to the people that drive the windowless white van… and dump ‘em under the San Juanico Bridge? Why did you left them?”
“But mom… Mrs. Teofilo said she’ll watch them. She said it’s OK…” I tried to reassure her.
“You know… your dad is very angry right now. I don’t know what he’s going to do…”
I didn’t say another word. I kept walking and thinking what’s going to happen to me. I was trying to guess what my dad is going to do to me. Is he going to chop me into pieces with his long knife…? Is he going to kill me…? Or is he just going to spank me… ? I don’t remember getting physically punished before. I got yelled at. And I’ve been scared and would shiver in fear whenever he got drunk…
I admitted to myself that what I had done was bad. My mom was right. I shouldn’t have left my sisters with that old lady. But I really wanted to go to the farm. I always hated being left alone at the house with my little sisters. We had no neighbors. The closest barrio is 20 miles away. I was very scared whenever I was left home. I’d start crying along with my little sisters when darkness starts to creep in and my parents are still nowhere in sight. I sometimes wonder if they’re ever going to come back. What if they don’t come back? What’s going to happen to me and my little sisters? It’s already night time… What if there’s a witch out there…? Whoa-hoo-hoo-hoo. We’d cried in chorus. We’d huddled in the corner and cried… until our parents came home that evening…
Finally we arrived home.
Thank god that old lady did not take my little sisters. She, the old lady was still sitting in the same spot – by the door, when we got back.
My dad went over to talk to her. I don’t remember what they talked about. But she left half and hour later. And right when she left, my dad pulled a ten foot rattan stick and started peeling the shiny outer skin off it and told told me to go fetch some water.
I did. The stream was about half a mile away. I took two plastic gallons and filled them with water. When I got back, my dad was braiding a five foot whip out of the rattan he had pulled. I knew what the whip was for. So I asked my mom what should I do…?
“You do nothing. You sit there until you father talks to you…” mom advised.
When my dad finished with the rattan whip… he motioned for me to come to him. “On the floor! Lay down on your stomach… arms on the side!”
I nervously obliged. I was wearing a short cotton dress that day and my bare legs were exposed… perfect for the rattan whip – half inch thick and five foot long with a solid five inch handle.
I did something very bad – leaving my little sisters with that old lady and my dad wanted to teach me a lesson – to never ever do it again…
“YOU DON’T… EVER… leave your little sisters…” Weeepppoww! As he delivered the hardest blow unto my legs with the whip.
“NEVER… EVER… leave your little sisters…” Weeepppoww! Another blow…
He whipped my legs five more times, while I kept my face down on the floor. When he landed his 7th lashing… I took a quick glimpsed at my legs and saw tiny lines of blood dripping from each lashes. There was not a drop of tear in my eyes when I looked up at my father. He looked at me with dark, turbulent eyes… piercing through mine…
Because I did not cry… to him… this was a sign of defiance. NO… NO… NO… He can’t have a defiant daughter! I must break… I must submit.
He took a step towards his very sharp, well tended long knife… but before he could pull it out of its wooden case, my mom jumped him…
“Please… Felix… DON’T!”
“She is just a little girl… PLEASE… PLEASE…” My mom was crying and begging for my life…
This was my first and worst physical punishment that I can vividly remember.
The second time I was physically punished was when I accidentally dropped and broke a glass bottle that held one of the stones that was part of a series of his “medicine water bottles.” In a swift response, he delivered a forceful fist unto the back of my head… in front of several people. This time I was 10. I was ashamed and humiliated… which was more painful than the pain I felt in my head…
My half older brother got it far worst that I did…
My mom had two sons with her first husband. The youngest one died and so she had an eight year old boy when she met my dad. His name is Benny. Mano Benny (older brother), I called him. I remembered when he was 13 years old and started to get beat… a lot.
My dad would order him to take the water buffalo down the water hole so it could drink some water. But he wouldn’t do it right away. He gets sidetracked with his friends playing with elastic rubber bands called “pinetek.” A game where two or three boys agree to bundle equal amounts of elastic rubber bands. And then each one would take turn in flicking the bundled rubber bands with their index finger, until one by one a rubber band would come loose. Mano Benny was so enamored with this game that he’d completely forget what dad had told him to do… or maybe he just decided to have fun first and then work later…
Two hours would pass by and my dad would come looking for him, wondering why he hasn’t come home… And the he’d catch him… Not only he hadn’t done what he was told to do… but he’d be occupied with other boys playing games.
So… my dad would drag him home. He’d tie his feet together with a 10foot rope; tie the rope up on the tree in front of our house, leaving Mano Benny’s body hanging upside down. While hanging upside down… my dad would punch him several times in the stomach… He’d cry and beg. “Please dad… I’m sorry. I won’t do it again… Please… I’ll do what you want me to
Mano Benny would be good for a whole week. Before he repeats the same infraction again… and again… and again. And he’d get beaten the same way, again… and again… and again…
As a little girl… I never understood why he never learned a lesson. I’d watch him get hanged upside down and beaten… and I’d felt sorry for him. But what could I do? Besides… I thought, he was being hard headed. He did not do what he was told to do, that is why my daddy beat him. I didn’t know how my mom felt about this… about her first born son getting severely beaten by her husband. But I did not see her stop my dad. And I think I know why. She believed that it was my dad’s duty to discipline Mano Benny and her role is to support her husband and not contradict him.
We weren’t allowed to play when we were growing up, and that’s because there was plenty of things to do in the farm. On weekends we went to the farm to sow corn, plant sweet potatoes, cassava, and other root crops. During summer, we’d go up the mountain and make ‘copra’ or worked as hired “rice worker.” We had once planted rice in a muddy rice field, with mud rising up to our waistline. We were all very young. I was 11 while my younger brother was 10, and my cousins were 13 and and 11 whom my dad adopted. Here in America… you call this child labor. In the Philippines and in other third world countries, this is called survival. We were obligated to work and bring some much-needed money for the family.
If you read the last three blogs I posted. You learned how abusive my childhood was though I didn’t think it was… I loved my parents. My dad is dead but my mom is still alive. She’ll turn 71 years old in next month. I don’t hold much resentments for my parents. My true feelings are pity and sorrow. I felt sorry for them. I always say: it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. They tried their best in raising all of us… My dad was illiterate. My mom only finished fifth grade, the most educated in her family. They were both raised in the same ignorance and abusive environment…
For almost 40 years… I was in denial. I will never admit to being abused as a child. I didn’t think I was abused. At least not regularly, physically. That’s just how life was. We were poor and poor people do all sorts of damn, stupid things. But abuse, I later find out, not only comes in the form of physical but also psychological and emotional and this type of abuse far worst than the physical… It permeates into the far reaches of our minds and soul…
Chicken Soup For the Wounded Soul
Cooked Chicken and Stock:
2 large chicken breasts – with skin and bones
3 medium size carrots – cut into 2 inch chunks
3 ribs celery – cut into 2 inch chunks
3 large jalapeno peppers – stems removed and cut in half – crosswise
1 medium onion – outer skin peeled and cut into quarters
Half a garlic head – cut in half, crosswise
3 stems fresh parsley
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coarse Celtic sea salt
6 cups filtered water
Wash chicken breast under cold running water and place in a large pot.
Wash all vegetables and cut as directed above and add to the pot. Add black pepper corns, bay leaf and sea salt. Add six cups filtered water or enough to cover the chicken and vegetables. Bring the chicken to a boil over medium heat. Reduce and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove chicken and cool. Removed the skin and tear chicken meat off the bones. Discard the bones. Tear chicken into bite chunks. Set aside.
Strain the broth and discard the vegetables. Place the broth in a large clean pot and make the soup below.
Chicken Broth (from above) – six cups or more
Cooked chicken chunks – to be added last
1½ cups small macaroni noodles
3 medium size carrots – peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 celery ribs – sliced into thin round
1½ cups fresh or frozen cut green beans
¼ – 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ – 1/2 ground hot pepper – optional
½ – 1 tsp. Celtic sea salt or to taste
Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles, carrots, celery and green vegetables. Reduce and simmer until noodles and vegetables are cooked and tender, about 12 – 15 minutes. Add ground black and hot pepper. Taste if additional sea salt is needed.
Divide chicken chunks into four to six portions and place them in individual soup bowls. Scope the soup over the chicken. Serve hot.
NOTE: I do not like overcooked chicken in my soup and that is why I do not boil it in the pot along with the noodles and vegetables. Instead I place enough chicken chunks in a soup bowl and add the soup and then serve. This soup has a clean, refreshing taste to it. Perfect to eat for lunch or dinner. I even eat it for breakfast.
SHORT CUT: If you are short on time, you could just buy a canned or boxed chicken broth or stock instead of making your own as I have shown above. And you could also buy a whole roasted chicken at the grocery store. And then make the soup as directed on the recipe.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!