STORYBOOKS and fairytales taught us about life and love and that everybody deserves a happy ending.
Stories we learned as children made us believe the end will always be “happily ever after.” But a woman I once knew learned about these things the hard way.
My grandmother Loida Milano was born and raised in Iba, Zambales. Being the oldest of three siblings and coming from a broken family, she was exposed to the harsh realities of life, assumed responsibility, and learned to become independent at a very young age. During her elementary days, she sold sweets, candies and pastries to her classmates on weekdays and vegetables at the local market on weekends to support her and her siblings’ studies. However, it was not enough to keep them in school.
After graduating from primary school, she and her sister Elena moved out of Iba hoping to find greener pastures in the city of Olongapo. They worked as kasambahay [househelps] and hoped to save enough money to continue their studies.
But Loida found something else. In Olongapo, she found love.
Ricardo Bautista, the son of Loida’s employer, was her first love. At the age of 17, she married the love of her life and hoped for a bright and a better future with him.
But fate had a different agenda for her.
By the time Loida conceived their daughter, Jane, Ricardo was knee-deep in drugs, alcohol and mistresses.
“My name should have been Mary Jane because it is another term for marijuana,” Jane recalled. “My grandmother was very angry with him [Ricardo] because he wanted my name to be changed after his addiction.”
Ricardo and Loida moved to San Juan in Metro Manila just in time for their daughter’s birth. But because of Ricardo’s vices, Loida left, went back to Zambales and raised Jane on her own.
Back in their hometown, she started selling fish at the local public market to support her daughter.
“I remember back then, we had no electricity because we were not able to pay the monthly fee. I had to use a lamp to be able to study. One time, I fell asleep while studying, and I knocked out the lamp I was using. My notebooks were burned. It was our examination period that time, and our teacher was checking our notebooks. I had to explain to our teacher why my notebooks were burned,” Jane said.
“Mama worked hard to support my studies and had me graduate from a private school,” she said.
Loida’s business was doing great, and she was branching out, selling fish not only in Santo Rosario but also in the neighboring towns.
But then, Mount Pinatubo erupted on June 15, 1991. Zambales was covered in lahar, ashes and debris. The eruption greatly affected local businesses. People who owed money for Loida’s merchandise could not pay their debts and went into hiding, causing her to become bankrupt. By that time, Jane was in college.
It was a very dark time for Loida. However, she strived harder and persevered to sustain herself and her daughter.
Years passed. Jane graduated with a degree in accountancy at the University of the East in Caloocan.
Loida was given a second chance at life. She continued selling fish at local markets and met Larry Misola, her second chance at love.
She lived her life to the fullest and helped everyone in need. Truly, she had a great heart.
In 2011 she passed away because of liver cirrhosis.
But just like every good soul in books and movies, she did not die in vain. Her family and the people of Zambales still remember her, her story and the goodness of her heart.