29 years
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News and Views of the
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By Maitet Singson-Ledesma
Pinay sa Holland-GABRIELA

Angel was nursing a broken heart after her high-school sweetheart left her for another girl.  Processing her papers to go to the Netherlands as an au-pair gave her the much-needed distraction to stop her from wallowing in self-pity.  What she did not expect was to be carrying more than just a suitcase full of clothes when she left the Philippines.
One night, her worried host family rushed Angel to the hospital after she complained of excruciating pain in her stomach which was worsening by the hour.  The doctor’s findings sent everyone reeling in shock.  Angel was seven months pregnant and was in the throes of premature birthing.  Her son, Jonathan, nearly died in the process and was in and out of intensive care for the first months of his life.  It was during one of her visits to the hospital when I first met Angel.  Through my organization, Pinay sa Holland-GABRIELA, I was requested by the Dutch social worker to assist with translation and provide her with community support.
She was in a right state.  Her host family had dismissed her.  She had nowhere to stay and no means of supporting herself and her son.  It was Angel’s dogged determination and sheer courage that saw her through all her trials.  At the tender age of 23, she had nursed her critically ill son back to health.  But Angel found it more and more difficult to take care of him while trying to work fulltime.  She was gutted and torn by her decision later to send Jonathan back to her parents in the Philippines.  Despite becoming undocumented, she managed to find cleaning jobs.  She regularly sent money to her family back home for Jonathan’s needs and also to her parents and siblings, she being the eldest of eight children to a tricycle driver.   She even found a second chance at love.
Richard brought hope to Angel’s world with the promise of a shared future.  He was working in the oil rigs.  He had papers.  He was soft-spoken and she knew him as a man of his word.  Angel moved in with Richard.  He was going to break up his engagement to his girlfriend in the Philippines.  With the birth of their daughter Samantha, Richard promised he would take care of them and never abandon them, unlike her previous boyfriend.  At Angel’s prodding, he went back to the Philippines about two weeks ago to deal with unfinished business with his ex-fiancée, that being the decent thing to do she told him.
Angel rung me this morning.  What was she going to do, she asks me with tears in her voice.  The last time she spoke to Richard who was still in the Philippines as of this writing, he said he was confused.  He had given his word and…he was a man of his word.  He had already invested money in the wedding preparations and he did not want it wasted.  He was confused!  God bless his soul!  So he agreed to a wedding date on the first week of December.  Confused?  Tell that to the marines Richard! 
And while his parents are opposed to the planned wedding, aware of his responsibility to Angel and Samantha, his ex-now current fiancée and her family are holding onto him.  Richard is too much to lose!  Since betrothed to their daughter, he has already been sending money to his future parents-in-law to help them out with their financial obligations.  A very responsible young man indeed!  What about his promise to Angel and Samantha?  Amnesia, I guess….
It’s not really a question of what Angel WANTS to do, but rather what she CAN do.  With the rug unceremoniously pulled from under her feet yet again, I tell her there are only two options for her really.  To stay fallen… and she’s been there before, or pull herself up – by her own courage, tenacity and integrity which I remind her she has a surplus of, always honoring and remembering the wisdom and strength of her experienced years.  Self-flagellation is not an option, for she could never blame herself for sincerely losing her heart to second chances.  And what of Richard?  What about him?  He has cast his proverbial pearls before swine.  She doesn’t want to end up being his babysitter for life, does she?  ‘Ang hirap Ate…’ I tell her – we, her ‘sisters’, are only a phone call away.

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