“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” – Pope John XXIII
NEW YORK CITY – Carmen’s search for her biological father began when she was eight years old.
“That was the age when my life started to become hell,” Carmen, who turned 65 last October 27, hissed.
Carmen was eight when her mother, Diosdada, married Arnulfo in Jamindan, Capiz.
“I rebelled,” Carmen protested. “I could not accept it. To add insult, they slaughtered the pig, my only playmate, during their wedding. I ran amuck and secretly poured rice on all the food prepared during the party. No effect though. The guests still managed to empty the plates, including my best friend pig. I cried heavily.”
That’s when Carmen realized she was longing for a real father.
“I started to bombard my mother with questions (about my biological father). I started to wallow in self pity and self doubt. When they started to have their own children, my insecurity grew,” narrated Carmen, who now lives with her American partner, Patrick, in Alimodian, Iloilo.
Diosada and Arnulfo were blessed with seven children — two males and five females.
“All that my mother could tell me was that my real father worked in the military camp (Camp Macario Peralta Jr., the country’s third largest military camp in Dumalag hills) where she once worked also as a part-time tailor,” Carmen disclosed. “He was Cebuano-speaking or Waray and could be a soldier.”
She said her “number one priority” once Patrick is no longer around “is to continue with my search for my roots in Leyte. Meeting my real father is a dream,”
Carmen met Patrick, now 95, in 1984 in her workplace in the cafeteria of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, three years after the death of her husband, Rudolf, whom she met through a “mail order bride” arrangement.
After a courtship that started with a “high and hello”, Carmen and Patrick lived together.
Patrick, who was legally separated with his American wife, spent $20,000 to file for a divorce in the United States to be with Carmen.
In 1996, they decided to settle permanently in the Philippines where they built a house in Alimodian, Iloilo.
Patrick, a nuclear scientist and formerly with the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Commission, is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, a dementia with memory loss symptoms.
They have no children.
Patrick has three children in the previous marriage. Carmen and Patrick never got married. She holds a dual citizenship while Patrick is an American citizen.
“I was able to tour the world because of Patrick. When he was not yet sick, we traveled a lot together. He wanted to make me happy and to enjoy my life. I found true happiness with Patrick,” she sighed.
Her marriage with Rudolf lasted only for 16 months. Carmen and Rudolf never had a child.
While working as a food attendant in Manila in the late 70s, a female friend introduced her to a “pen-pal” type relationship arrangement.
Carmen’s trip to Vienna–with stopovers in Bangkok via Cathay Pacific, Bombay and Cairo via Egypt Air, and Moscow via Aeroflot, in 1979–was her first international trip.
She never had any idea how Rudolf looked like in person except that he was 47 and she was 27.
He left Manila at 3:40 pm carrying only in her luggage cloths and several copies of Filipino comics on June 3 and arrived in Vienna at 11:10 am on June 5.
“I was only instructed to look for a man wearing a white shirt,” Carmen recalled. “Upon arriving in Vienna, I went outside and left behind my bag in the arrival baggage claim area to look for that person. Then I saw a man and greeted him, ‘good morning, sir. Are you Mr. Rudolf Assange?’ He just answered me, ‘beautiful’ without saying my name.”
When Rudolf, an automobile mechanic, died of stroke in 1981, he left behind a bookstore.
“I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. It was my first serious relationship and I was in a foreign land with no relatives there,” Carmen stressed.
Now an Austrian citizen, Carmen went back to the Philippines and brought to Vienna in May 1981 her half sister, Rachel, 18, who became a Mrs. Strauffer, and still lives in Vienna until today.
In 1987, Carmen also brought to Vienna for vacation her mother, who went home after 14 months. In 1989, Carmen’s other half sister, Delia, followed suit and cavorted with Carmen’s new boyfriend, Junward.
Carmen and Junwad had lived together for four years.
“I was older than Junward for five years and I noticed he had a special interest on younger ladies. In other words, Junward fell in love with my sister, so I let him go. My own definition of love is, if you love someone set him free. His happiness should also be your own happiness,” Carmen said.
Delia and Junward got married in Vienna but their liaison was short-lived.
She never loved him from the start, and Delia confessed she had a boyfriend, Felipe, in the Philippines. And she still loved him.
Junward was devastated. Carmen’s poetic justice. Now living with another Vienna man, Carmen prevailed over Junward to let go of Delia or “live in misery with a wife who doesn’t have feelings for you.”
Junward and Delia parted ways amicably and peacefully in Carmen’s presence.
Now an Austrian citizen herself, Delia brought Felipe to Vienna to live as husband and wife. Their union produced two male twins. Felipe was forced to go back to the Philippines because of Austrian laws on foreign couple. Junward, still very much in love with Delia, helped his former sweetheart take care of the twin kids, who are now 22.
Depressed and feeling lonely after he wasn’t able to join Delia and their twin kids in Vienna again, Felipe committed suicide on January 2, 2014.
Carmen described her relationship with her stepfather as “stormy.”
As a young girl, while sleeping on the bamboo floor of their house, the drunk stepfather allegedly kicked her on the buttocks because her body was blocking his way.
“Until now, the pain is still there. I consulted a doctor in Vienna who told me that because of my age, it’s impossible to repair the damage in my bone inflicted by that kicking incident,” Carmen said.
At 16, Carmen left Jamindan, Capiz in 1969 to work as babysitter and housemaid in Manila, earning P60 a month.
She remitted P50 for financial support and education of her half sisters and half brothers in Jamindan and retained P10 for her personal needs.
Carmen learned that her mother and siblings suffered from her stepfather’s mismanagement of family funds.
She further learned the stepfather wasted money to gambling and other vices.
She surreptitiously went home to Jamindan and chased with a bolo her stepfather, who escaped unscathed after being roused from sleep when Carmen’s sister shouted and alerted him.
“Because of hostile environment and the worsening relationship between me and my stepfather, my grandfather convinced me to leave and go back to Manila. He told me either I will go to jail if I kill my stepfather, or I will be the one who will die,” Carmen explained.
She resumed working as babysitter, housemaid, food attendant serving different employers for 10 years in Manila and Makati before flying to Vienna in 1979.
“My good experiences were all in Vienna. I was able to adopt to the European culture. All my unforgettable experiences in life happened in Vienna,” misty-eyed Carmen recalled.
When Patrick’s health deteriorated, Carmen said she started to experience insecurities in life.
“That’s normal because I’m used to enjoying my life with Patrick for 30 years. Sometimes I feel alone but I need to be stronger now. The best therapy for my loneliness is cooking — and smiling a lot,” she averred.
Despite her financial security, Carmen avoids social life.
“I devote my time only to Patrick and my family in Jamindan. It’s hard to trust people nowadays. I only have limited friends in Bingo games, because friends always have the tendency to take advantage although there are true and sincere friends,” Carmen added.
Despite a not-so-pleasant relationship with her stepfather, Carmen sponsored his trip to Vienna for a vacation in December 1992.
Estranged daughter and stepfather spent Christmas together until March 1993 when he went home.
“Time heals the wound. But I still need to see my real father,” concluded Carmen, who reached only second year high school.