Our last conversation went like this:
Me: Did you know beforehand?
She: Well, sort of. I have been warned when we were still single.
Me: Who did?
She: People who know them, his family.
Me: What did they tell you?
She: They said, " mag-isip isip ka. Me lahi yang mga yan. I didn't know what they meant because he and his family seemed very normal to me.
Me: What about him? Did he tell you?
She: No, i guess he didn't realize it.
Me: How can he not know? You said he had an aunt who talks to herself, and an uncle who is a loner and a recluse?
She: During our courtship, we didn't talk about our families, our roots. What I know, I got from other people. I didn't listen to them.
Me: Well, non -disclosure of one’s mental illness is a ground for annulment.
(And she laughed and laughed upon hearing my last word.)
She: What's there to annul? I wanted him to marry me. We were in love. In fact, he formally broke up with his ex- gf so our relationship would be sort of legal.
Me: Yeah, right. Legally insane!
And she cried.
I am used to crying myself, but her story breaks me into a million little pieces I thought I need to write about it- against her wishes.
She is a friend from way back but I am a little older than her. She was a batch mate of my late sister in elementary school. Our parents were friends so it was natural for us to be close to each other. But our kind of friendship is a unique one because we bonded through our sorrows. We have never gone out together because she is not allowed to. But we find time to talk for hours and hours, especially when her husband is away for some reason.
Sometimes I pity her. Most times I get angry with her. How can she live like that? How can she endure having to sleep with a man who gives her so much troubles and makes her feel so afraid?
Once I met an aunt of her husband who told me she admires my friend for sticking it out with her nephew. It appears that his mental condition, though still far from the Mandaluyong type of illness, is only half of the problem. Aside from his outbursts and paranoia, my friend’s husband is also a gambler. And just like the lucid intervals that were very few and far between, he gambles only when the urge is uncontrollable.
One afternoon, she texted me to ask if I'm not busy. I knew she will just unload or even rant, so I said no, I was just lazily sitting around.
She: Te, bz ka?
Me: no, tamad aq. wats up?
She: away kmi Te. Me ginawa cia ndi cnavi sa akin.
Me: wats new? Lagi nman ganyan.
She: grabe to Te!
She related to me that her husband and his siblings agreed to settle the property left by their parents. But that's not the problem. What made her angry was her husband’s decision to use their savings to give his siblings their share in the property even if it is still to be sold. It's called suklian in Filipino. My friend was hurt because they have previously decided to use the savings to buy a parcel of land near their home. She was thinking that they could help any of their married children start to build their own home in that lot. When confronted, her husband said he could make any decision on his own without consulting her. This really made her feel so hurt. To her it was betrayal. And her husband’s siblings were his cohorts. No one among them tried to ask if that was a marital decision. All they cared for is to get hold of their share. Even the long, tedious processes involved to eventually transfer and sell the property were to be handled by her husband. What was worse is that my friend had to lend a helping hand in order to do that, this- after being told right in her face that she had no reason to get involved since it was their inheritance, after all.
She: Te, wala akong habol sa lupa nila. Alam ko nman na yung mana e dun lang sa nagmana. Walang pkialam ang asawa. Kaso, ang ipinanukli nya e nkalaan na sa ibang bagay na pkikinabangan sana ng pamilya nmin.
Me: pano ngaun?
She: ewan q Te. Gusto q n maglaho.
Me: gaga, mahirap yun. Wawa nman bunso mo. Nag-aaral pa.
She has four children. Two boys and two girls in succession. The two elder boys and the eldest girl are all married. The fourth, a girl, is still in school.
Growing up, the kids were never close to their father. They were afraid of him. He busied himself in their business but would later be bankrupt. This was mainly because he was into vices- gambling and drinking. His gambling habit was deeply rooted. He told my friend that as a small boy, he would sell calamansi in the public market, but would later play cara/cruz- betting both his capital and his earnings. When he got a little older, he would play odd/even with his friends as they watch buses ply by on the highway. His small daily school allowance was almost always gone before recess or lunchtime. In the first year of their marriage, my friend witnessed how everyone in his family would gamble- jueteng, cockfight, betting in a basketball game or boxing, sweepstakes, etc.- practices she never witnessed in her own home. That was why when she was described as “walang kamina-mina” by her in-laws because she doesn’t want to quit office work at first, she was miserable. Her husband’s drinking habit, on the other hand, was acquired as a result of his bankruptcy.
My friend worked in a private office as a supervisor, but later opted to file an early retirement because her husband would oftentimes follow her on her way to work. At times, he would just appear in her office, pretending to have just passed by. Of course she knew he was having bouts of paranoia again. To him, what his mind tells him is real. It has gotten to be that dangerous. She still remembers that time when they were still dating. Once, he fetched her from her boarding house in Sampaloc, Manila. They were supposed to go to Recto to buy a pair of leather boots- the fad at the time. While walking, she noticed that he would often look back so she asked why. He said someone was following them. She looked back and around but didn't see anyone suspicious. This left her thinking for a time, but she soon forgot about that episode. Until today, when one episode after another, the paranoia would often surface.
One of the most hurtful, because it involved both his psychological problem and his natural bad behaviour (his word was law), was when he insisted that there’s something’s going on between their son-in-law and daughter-in-law. My friend thought it was preposterous and ludicrous. She wrote him a letter bluntly telling him that he is suffering from paranoia and that he needed professional help. She reminded him of the many times he displayed rude behaviour and bad judgment. She recalled that once, when he was intoxicated, he blew his nose right into her arm. It devastated her, but she just cried and calmed herself. When the kids were younger, she would drive all four of them to a relative’s house to protect them from the antics of their vicious father.
After he read the letter she wrote, he cried and cried. He asked for forgiveness but in the course of their discussion, his sick self once again appeared. But my friend was unstoppable. She released all the hurts within her. She told him if he were to be different from his siblings and his elders before him, he should seek medical/professional help. She reminded him how once, when he got angry because she gave food to a deaf relative, he got so mad he killed a cat with his own hands. She recounted how once, in their house during their early years, while two of their children were going downstairs, she made a joke about ghosts that made their children shout and cry. Instead of checking on them to see what was wrong, he singlehandedly carried a wooden crib and threw it down on his wife and two kids, hurting them and breaking the crib.
She was so hurt with all his insane and unfounded accusations against their children-in-law she cited a litany of wrong-doings, nay, crimes, that his equally sick brothers did to their own families. Their eldest brother was accused by his own illegitimate daughter of sexually molesting her; another brother molested a househelp long ago. This same brother was drunk almost daily and would often hit his wife and children-the youngest among them was even made an ash tray by putting off his cigarettes in the young boy’s arms. Aside from physical violence, this same brother was also verbally abusive to his family. My friend witnessed all these so she can’t be accused of spreading hearsay. She was with a sister-in-law in a fast food when their niece told them of her harrowing experience in the hands of her father. She was numbed. She offered no help to the victim because what she heard made her cringe in shock. This couldn’t be, she thought, but soon she realized this is what it is.
Me: My God, you haven’t forgotten all these. But have you forgiven him/them?
She: I don’t know. I am not a churchgoer but I have become prayerful because of these. Besides, he is not guilty of doing those things to our children. I have always been very vigilant. But in my heart I admit that he has the tendency to be violent at times.
Me: That’s good, but then you need to heal.
She: Look who’s talking. E ikaw ba, nag-heal ka na ba sa mga pasakit mo?
Me: (I just smiled)
The one thing that intrigued me is that my friend’s husband seems like a happy person at times. He would crack jokes during the few times we would meet at some event. It occurred to me that perhaps, it really is that way with persons who are sick in the mind. While I feel sorry about my friend’s situation, I feel thankful that her husband’s sickness is not on the same level as that of his brothers. Another one of them, while not violent at all, has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. He has a daily dose of medicines or he will snap- like that time when he was seen jumping out of their window which is about 5 meters up. He was wounded at the time.
Me: Parang teleserye na buhay mo.
She: Oo nga, pero not for public consumption. Kaya wag mong isusulat.
Me: Daming lessons e. Bka me mapulot yung iba.
She: Anong lesson e nakatali nga kamay ko dahil takot ako sa eskandalo. Di ba may mapupulot lang yung iba kung kikilos ako para maiayos lahat?
Me: Hello! Ano gagawin mo? Pano ka kikilos e hindi naman ikaw ang problema. The solution lies in him not in you.
She: (kept silent for a while) Kaya nga gusto ko na maglaho.
Me: And let your children inherit all these?
She: Aba hindi, sasabihan ko mga anak ko na lumayo na pag nawala ako. Ayoko maging very unhappy sila.
Me: Ganun pala, e bakit hindi yun ang gawin mo ngayon?
She: Naku naman, ate, I am faithful to my vows. Napakahirap ng situation ko pero I asked God for him. Binigay naman Nya. Ngayong nalaman kong damaged goods pala siya, iiwan ko na lang?. Magagalit ang parents ko pag ginawa ko yun. Sila rin nagkakaproblema pero hindi naghihiwalay. Saka sabi ni papa, separation is the worst thing one can show his children.
Me: O sige, e di tiis-ganda ka na lang. (we both laughed) O e kung mamatay ka na nga para wala ka nang problema, anong kulay ng flowers ang gusto mo?
She: Blue, pink and violet. Ikaw bahala jan ha?
Me: Gaga ka talaga!
She, Who always seems so happy in a crowd
Whose eyes can be so private and so proud
No one's allowed to see them when they cry….