From first glance she was somehow different, with a special, shining aura. Ma’am Ofelia was 65 years old, but she was moving and running around most of us. We met this charming lady while visiting Brgy. Tuno in Tibiao on our way back from trekking to the Bugtong-Bato Falls.
She runs Peter’s Lodge and the kawa hot bath with her son (living currently in Canada) and a few other locals.
Ma’am Ofelia speaks very good English with a different accent compared to other Filipinos. The reason for this is also the background of her story…
After many peaceful years, which she spends in a small village between the mountains where she gets married and gives birth to her son, a black cloud of unhappiness covers descends upon her life.
Struck by the death of her husband, she moves to Singapore to work as a babysitter. What is supposed to be a two-month stay ends up being a two-year contract job. ‘Not bad’, you might say. It definitely would be a convenient offer if not for her small son Doterty whom she must leave behind in the Philippines.
She leaves her country, not because she is running away or abandoning her relatives, but because she is the only one who can take care of her only son and provide him with an education that she is not able to pay.
The agency that employs her in Singapore is insanely strict and does not allow her to go back home, not even for a short visit to see her child. Instead, she does her best and plays a role of a mother with a child abroad.
Two years before she can hug Doterty again! She keeps going back to the Philippines, visiting her family and beloved child whenever she gets a permit from her employer. The boy stays with his grandparents.
After six years in Singapore when her prolonged contract finishes, Ma’am Ofelia emigrates to Canada, where she does the same job, but with different families and children for another nine years.
With and without her
Meanwhile, Doterty is growing up and becoming a young man, too. He sees his mother only occasionally, but receives some money from her on a regular basis.
Her dream comes true when Doterty enters secondary school to become a nursery teacher. He graduates successfully and then, at the age of 21, he moves to Canada to live with Ofelia.
There he continues to study Hotel Management, which gives him a way to work in the field and earn his living in a foreign country, finally close to his mother.
Ma’am Ofelia gets married a second time, this time to a Hungarian man who is a very active marathon runner.
This man loves the Philippines so much, as he discovers while visiting Ofelia’s homeland from time to time, that he decides to retire in Tibiao, where Ofelia used to live.
But fate is bitter to them and Ofelia’s husband’s health deteriorates as he becomes partially paralyzed by Parkinson’s. He can neither run nor walk up to the forest and the falls.
Ma’am Ofelia has been taking care of him for two years now and encouraging him to exercise so he can run up the hill again. Understandably, he is frustrated by his disability; sometimes she has a hard time motivating him to not give up.
But despite all of this, we believe that with her great spirit she can support him and help him try again and again to keep his head held high and carry on in the face of challenges, as she herself has done all her life.
What stories of adversity and ‘everyday heroes’ have you encountered on the road? Leave a comment below and share!