I have known Aurora or Au, as we called her then, for a very long time. Not only did I know her personally, we were also very close. We taught in the same school in a posh village south of Manila about 20 years ago. I knew her as we were always together with our common friends practically every day during those years. Even more so, I saw the love blossoming between her and her then husband to-be. Hence, I knew her like the palm of my hand, or so I thought. That was until I got to read her book. What a revelation it was! None of those written in this book were known to me nor to her closest friends in school. Nobody knew. She kept every- thing from us and neither anybody knew nor will ever know why people are just different from each other, I guess. Had I known what I have discovered reading her life story, I would not have hesitated to extend help to her had she asked for it. The things she had to endure were so intense that anybody with a faint heart would have
given up a long time ago.
From the day she was born, Au had been living a life of discomfort. To make a difficult existence even worse, one by one, the hurdles she had to overcome became harder—the cross she carried got heavier by the years, just waiting for her to be nailed on it. Using a deck of cards as an analogy, she was dealt a shitty hand of cards. Worse, she was thrown several curve balls to boot, enough to make her life miserable by any ordinary individual’s standards. However, she was far from ordinary. Armed with a brain she learned to nurture with beautiful thoughts, developed the perseverance to study hard and hone her intellectual skills, coupled with a strong resolve and wily wit to beat the odds, she survived them all. She knew how to play the bad hands she had been dealt with, managed to stay afloat and even won in the end.
While on the surface, this book is about Au and her travails in life, one has to read it on different levels. First and foremost, it tells us how to live poor in an already poor country. Being bad enough to live in a land full of wants; to live in utter deprivation in such a horrid place is unthinkable. Second, through this book, one gets a glimpse of the Filipino culture and how Filipinos thrive in spite of having to eke out a living. In a land where there is a great divide between the haves and have-nots, it is impossible to see how different one’s world is from those with plenty and view life with a lot of envy. Not my Au though. She was content with what she had and grew up not wanting what she cannot have—material things that is. Third, the reader will know that one of the distinct characteristics of a Filipino is to learn how to look at life with humor. Dubbed as one of the happiest people on earth, Filipinos have learned to laugh at themselves and their misfortunes. This feature is very evident in Au’s writing as she narrates how poor her family was, yet she injected humor in the narrative giving away how she managed to look at life. Lastly, being religious, a believer of the Catholic faith and devoted to the Virgin Mother, she had surrendered everything to the Lord, but unlike the fanatic, she does so only after having done what she
thought she had to do. These levels are manifested either explicitly or implicitly throughout the pages in this book.
It has been said that we can only truly appreciate the blessings in our lives after we have suffered and worked hard for them. We tend to ignore the pleasures and benefits of life when these are given
to us on a silver platter. Au has had one misfortune after another throughout her life, and she had avowed that all sacrifices and everything she did were all for the love of her Creator. Luckily, her tables have turned, and she now reaps the benefits after a long, arduous life of misery. That is my only consolation after having read her life story—it seems that the trials in her life are now over. It is now time to reap the right to enjoy the remaining years of her life, hopefully, for a very long time—even a lot longer than the years of her suffering. Let this book be an inspiration to everyone knowing that no matter how dark the tunnel of life may be, it has to end somewhere, and at the end is an illuminating light, radiant and bright enough to guide our paths with clarity no matter how long the journey shall be.
Rolly S. delos Santos