When a New Life Chapter Starts
Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin

When I was young, I always planned for tomorrow. I thought if I pursued the things that I planned to do, then my
goals would be achieved. But as I grew older, I realized not all plans materialize. Circumstances change, many of
which I cannot control, until I began to accept the fact that I cannot be certain of what the future will bring.
Sometimes, I feel plans are of no use, especially if they are long-ranged, too far-off, or if they require resources
other than myself. Now, I believe that the Supreme Being up there created the paths for me to choose from, but the
journey towards the outcomes as well as the outcomes themselves depended largely on my own, using the gifts
up in my head and inside my heart.

When I graduated from high school, I was fortunate to receive a four-year scholarship in college, at the top
University of the Philippines. My mother, a single mom with five kids, decided to leave for the United States almost

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the same time I started college, in search of the proverbial greener pastures for all her children. She left all my younger siblings to relatives and
started to work very hard to get me first. She actually planned for me to complete only two years of college in the Philippines, then move to the US to
complete a medical degree. That never happened. I fell in love to a graduating college senior and married about two years after my mom left. My
mom was shattered because her plan for me turned to nothing. She stopped communicating with me for more than a year until I sent her a photo
of my first child, a daughter named Sherry Anne.

My marriage was no bed of roses. It was like starting with nothing literally at a squatters’ area in Metro Manila. We had no appliances to make my
housework bearable. Every day, I was up at 4 a.m. to go to the market, then cook over a kerosene-fueled stove, prepare meals and wash dishes,
clean the house, wash clothes, and take care of my child. My new family also included extensions, such as a mother-in-law, a sister-in-law (who
worked as an agriculturist), and a small nephew. This situation allowed me to learn adapting to the Ilocano culture, such as its food, dialect, and
traditions. In some ways, it was good; in other ways, it was the opposite. But in total, the experience was a learning process that made me a better
person, I think.
Five years into marriage with two kids, there was no stopping me
from going back to school. I felt my brain was stagnating and my
self-confidence was eroding fast, so I had to do something about it. I
went back to college, this time in UP-Diliman, with the goal of
earning any degree, despite the opposition of my then husband. I
remember my daily commute standing in buses, with only two
pesos in my pocket, and a lunchbox with steamed rice and fried
galunggong (the poor man’s fish in my country at the time). I ended
up taking Mass Communication, and two years after, graduated with
honors, with no one but my estranged father waiting to congratulate
me in the audience.

Armed with a college degree, a new life chapter emerged. It was a
gradual but steady rise in my new career as writer and editor.
Imagine becoming a division chief, then a deputy bureau director in
the House of Representatives of the Philippines, with increased
income and lots of perks. Even when the Marcos regime lost power,
the Cory government recognized my worth, for it made me an editor
of the 1986 Constitution, then an executive assistant in Malacanang
Palace, and sent me for a year to the U.S. Congress as a
congressional fellow to train for another congressional post.
My whole life changed from being a simple housewife to an
emerging leader in government, managing several employees
whose expertise was in documentation, editing manuscripts, and
printing books that eventually became official records of the
Philippine Congress. That chapter of my life helped build my self-
confidence big time, for I was able to raise my children well (even
with minimum support from a husband whose work required him to
be away from home often and mostly for months at length.)

What I’m saying here is, even if plans don’t materialize in your life,
education helps create a future that is almost always brighter than
you expect. I stumbled and fell, but the determination to stand up
again was boosted by my earning a college degree. This chapter of
my life’s journey was education-focused, and the experience took
me to many places in the world, financially supported my new family,
and pushed up my self-esteem.