Page Title
Editor's corner/ Over a cup of tea
Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the
Year for the State of
Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)

There should be help.

Social Security Disability and SSI -
Programs designed to help individuals
who are disabled from work.


Call 1-800-254-7766
A Back-To-School Message
By Heidi M. Pascual
husk to shine the floor. My siblings and I had to make our own toys from used cans, sticks, rubber bands, rags and
threads, or whatever materials were available. We became so resourceful and creative in the process, virtues that we
carried in our lives as we grew up.

When I was in high school, I became our church’s organist during masses everyday, and the parish priest would then
give me two pesos once in a while for my school supplies and transportation. I also taught piano to a few children on
Saturdays to earn a little more. Thus, I was exposed early on to life’s reality—the need to take care of your needs by
utilizing your skills/talents and improving them as you go along. Poverty was in effect the driving force that kept me
pushing to make myself better.

Every end of the school year, I made my mother happy and proud for being one of the top five students in class. Though
never a valedictorian, I had always received outstanding recognitions in many subjects and extracurricular activities.
Since my father left, I had promised myself I will be somebody someday without him. When I graduated in high school, I
was an honors student , one of two who brought the most honors to the school, and the only one who earned a four-
year scholarship to the prestigious University of the Philippines. My mother cried ... “ tears of joy,” she said, and she
then began to plan for my future.

“I want you to become a doctor of medicine,” mother said, “You have the brains and the drive for it, we only need funds
to make it happen.” My mother left for the U.S. on a professional visa a few months after my graduation, leaving me in a
college boarding house in U.P. Los Banos, and my siblings in two separate relatives’ households on my father’s side.
“Take all basic college courses the first two years, and I’ll get you afterwards,” mother’s last words before she boarded
the plane.

None of my mother’s plans for me happened because I ended up getting married less than two years after she left.
She got so upset with me she refused to talk to me or write a letter for a whole year. We only communicated again after
she received the photo of my daughter, Sherry, her first grandchild!

Marriage was not a bed of roses, as many of you know. And for a teenager, although I was used to poverty, being a teen
mom was the hardest thing I ever experienced. To top it all, the man I chose to marry was also poor, and so I kinda  
threw myself from the frying pan to the fire, so to speak. I also had to adjust to his family, his mother and sister, who
stayed with us as well. I was like a domestic help who did all the household chores without enough space to breathe.
Five years after, and with two kids in tow, I decided to go back to school, regardless of my husband’s opposition. I told
him frankly, “I don’t want my brain to rust; I want to be someone you and my kids could be proud of; I want to be
someone my mother could be proud of, as well. I owe her this.”

Well, when I graduated
cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from U.P., I didn’t have to look for
work, work looked for me! And to make the story short, my career in the Philippine government was one for the books. I
worked as editor under Marcos’ Batasang Pambansa Legislative Assembly; under Cory Aquino's administration as
editor of the 1986 Philippine Constitutional Commission; as one of her Executive Assistants in Malacanan Palace; as
chief of publications in the House of Representatives thereafter; until I immigrated to the U.S. in 1999 to join my mother
who was then battling cancer.

I must add that I also earned a master’s degree in industrial relations while working, and in the U.S., I learned how to

“Education is our only way out of poverty,” my late mother used to say, and she was repetitive
enough for me not to forget it up to now, when I am already in my 60s. My mother raised five
children alone, and I am the oldest who saw and felt very strongly the hardships she had to
hurdle to keep us alive and in school. I was 11 years old, in grade 5, when my father left us.
My mother was three-month heavy with her fifth child, and although she was an elementary
school teacher, her income was not enough to put food on the table and pay our house
mortgage and utility bills. She tutored two kids two nights a week and taught stenography and
typing at a local college three nights a week in order to make ends meet. As the eldest, I
helped her by taking care of my younger siblings, be in-charge of our home when she’s
away, and stay focused on my studies.

We were so poor we didn’t have any appliances to ease housework nor a television set to
keep the kids entertained. Because of this, however, I learned how to use my hands for
everything: from washing clothes and washing dishes to cooking using a kerosene-fueled
stove and cleaning the house with soap and water or candle wax and finishing with coconut
do websites on my own. I ended up working
in the media industry, and I am still doing it
up to now.

I just want to emphasize that education and
keeping abreast of technical knowhow are a
person’s major assets in keeping herself
economically self-sufficient. One must be
hardworking and willing to have her “hands
dirty” to make things happen.

I never stop learning and educating myself. I
am past 60, yet I feel I still have a lot to know
and learn from others. There’s so much
enjoyment and self-fulfil
lment whenever I
learn a new thing. Now I do a lot of gardening
during the day, but at night, I do research,
read stuff, or work on my websites. I realize
that education not only kept me out of poverty;
it has actually made me a better person, a
kinder individual, and a more caring creation
who understands how it feels to be in a poor
man’s shoes.

To the youth of today, have fun and enjoy your
youth, but focus on your education. It's for
your future. When you're older, you'll say "I am
glad I am educated."