I believe that each of us has the power to change the course of our future and turn desperation into inspiration with equal determination to succeed.
At age 11, I made a promise to myself I will do everything I can to change my life. Coming from a very poor family of 8 sisters and a brother, in the remotest barrio in the Philippines, I swore I will never follow my parents footsteps nor their parents before them. Many times I remembered going to bed without supper, waking up the next morning with a rumbling stomach and going directly to our farm to perform my day’s hard work. My parents own the farm and children are expected to work at a very tender age. At 6, I learned how to plant and harvest rice, graze carabaos, feed livestocks, cook food, fetch water from the well in a bamboo container, wash my own clothes, etc.
My parents own one small transistor radio that we listened to while we plant, weed or harvest rice in the paddies, my feet buried in the mud, my tiny body hidden in rows of growing rice taller than myself. My sisters and I wanted to listen to another station but my mother wanted to listen to her favorite program, a soap opera drama that aired every week. Of course it was futile to argue with parents so I braced myself for a big defeat. That exact moment, I promised myself that when I grow up I will buy my own transistor radio so I don’t have to fight anybody when I want to listen to my favorite program. It was my very first dream and I was equally determined to get it.
From then on, I worked very hard, volunteering for any work that pays for pennies. I also studied hard, I walked barefoot to school everyday, sometimes hungry because I woke up late and no one has cooked breakfast. I own one dress for school which my mother sewed. If I get lucky, I could borrow my sisters clothes or shoes. I tried to read anything I can lay my eyes on, even old pages of a magazine that was used to wrap groceries. Books are hard to come by but I learned to read and write in English fast. My elementary and high school years went fast and I finished with flying colors. I made my parents proud.
When it was time for me to go to college, I cried, beg and plead with my parents. The accepted culture of the time was that girls are expected to marry at an early age, serve her husband without question, have kids and work the farm (education are not required). Boys, on the other hand, are parent’s golden goose. They are expected get the best education, get a high paying job and make their parents rich. I argued I can do better. Eventually, after constant persuation and much tears shed, I was allowed to enroll. My parents has to mortgage the farm but I promised to repay every penny. The dream of having my own transistor radio is almost reachable.
Hard work finally paid off. Not only I graduated but I finished with honors. I was the only child in the family to complete higher education. I have proven to the whole barrio that as a girl, I can compete with the boys and do better.
I now reside in the United States, have children and has started my very own company. Because of that little dream of owning a radio, I was able to challenge myself and prove that I can accomplish anything my heart’s desire. And so much more. Only because I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.