A Portrait of My Philippine Childhood

Staying afloat, I was ever hopeful I'd bob for better days in the Philippines.
Staying afloat, I was ever hopeful I'd bob for better days in the Philippines. | Source

When I look back on the early years of my life in the Philippines, I wonder how I ever pulled through the throbs at all.

Mine, of course, is a sad Filipino childhood.

A happy childhood, I suppose, is not worth the while of my readers, who are already weighed down by their own misery, soreness and stings in the reaches of their body, and qualms about what the future holds for them and the people dear to them.

Worse than the run-of-the-mill sad Filipino childhood is the sad childhood spent in the Philippine capital Manila, a setting of ballooning population, large swaths of poisonous clouds, staggering unemployment, street crimes, and domestic abuse.

Even more appalling than the sad Manila childhood is the sad Catholic Manila childhood, with us Filipinos being dressed down to stay moral and never to stray from the unbendable tenets of the holy Catholic Church.

Laugh. Nobody can put down a person who can laugh at her past.
Laugh. Nobody can put down a person who can laugh at her past. | Source

Our Philippines – Blessed and Cursed

People from all across the world have a weakness for sharing the woes of their early years and spend a great deal of time whimpering.

Still, some childhoods pale in comparison with my Catholic Manila version: the dearth of almost everything, the heavy-handed and discriminating mother, the loving yet often absent father, the abusive cousin, and the strict principles of the Catholicism that were handed down to the Philippines by Spain during its unspeakable 300-year colonization.

As if these are not enough, the Philippines lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire – a horrible place to be in the world with all its earth-shattering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and typhoons.

Above all these things, the Philippines is a tropical country, beautiful but blistering.

In the southeast corners of the great Asian continent, the sun shines on our country of 7,107 islands and batters it with towering temperatures.

The Philippines' place in the sun creates a myriad of misfortunes for so many of us Filipinos.

It gives rise to the nasty mosquito-borne disease dengue and its equally horrible cousin malaria that prompt patients to pack in like sardines in public hospitals.

It gives rise to the so-called indolence of Filipinos that our great forefathers were quick to dismiss. Many of us would wait out the burning afternoon sun inside our homes, doing things like gossiping or napping that can hardly make us progress from being a developing country.

It gives rise to the string of smash-hit afternoon soap operas about alcoholic working men, loquacious housewives, children born out of wedlock, struggles, tears, and many more buckets of tears, drilling into our minds the should-be-outdated thinking that a man can have drinks and tons of fun and that a woman ought to be forever pious and her place is in the home.

Our Religions in the Philippines – Our Refuge

The heat and our unenviable place in the Pacific Ring of Fire drives us to seek refuge in Catholic churches, many of them works of art of long-dead Filipino and Filipino-Chinese craftsmen.

We huddle together with throngs of religious Filipinos on Sunday masses, festivals, Lenten season, Christmas day, the nine-day 4 a.m. Mass at Dawn that starts on the 16th of December and ends on the 24th, and the countless other occasions when we need help from our many Catholic saints, Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ.

Sure, there are many other religions that spawn in the Philippines, giving my neighbors and their families a much-needed emotional help and cheering them through the tough times that needless to say come often.

We Filipinos have a reputation for faithfulness.  Of course, we know that much of it is just because of the tropical sun and the Pacific Ring of Fire.

A tough Philippine childhood is behind me. There's a reason to smile.
A tough Philippine childhood is behind me. There's a reason to smile. | Source

Lesson from My Philippine Childhood

Being born and raised in the hardy Pearl of the Orient naturally makes us true-blue Filipinos strong as the Philippine carabao (water buffalo).

I have personally known wants, dreams, failures, and disappointments.

I have to stretch the boundaries of my physical strength.

I reach for the stars only to come down into a puddle of mud.

Looking back on my Philippine childhood, I can see a crowded Manila street strewn with shattered pieces of crashed jeepneys, a street I had to navigate with odds greatly against me and that leaves me wounded, injured, and aged before my time.

Yet I do not complain. There is strength in numbers.

There are thousands of us Filipinos who had a less than postcard-perfect childhood.

I draw strength from the millions of Filipinos going through the childhood I went though years ago.

I draw strength from the millions of Filipinos who choose to change the course of fate and take charge of the steering wheel.

I do not sulk and wallow in despair for I have drunk the cup of life down to its very silts.

I cannot complain.

At least, I had a cup of life and that is all I need to wake me up to another Philippine morning.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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Comments 23 comments

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Your introduction is surprisingly reminiscent of the opening of "Angela's Ashes." An interesting view of life in the Philippines. Enjoyed. Lynda


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

You are a beautiful writer - and a beautiful beautiful girl! Thanks for sharing this!


asmaiftikhar profile image

asmaiftikhar 5 years ago from Pakistan

dear k you are a philosopher.After the absence of four days cuz of eid. today i find that beautiful and deep philosophical hub.no words...................................................


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 5 years ago from Taos, NM

kerlynb: You have a wonderful attitude toward your childhood circumstances. I see and understand the difficulties of growing up Filipino. Somehow, the misery has not defeated you. You are a strong, resilent, lovely person and none of this misery comes through your other writing. You are so upbeat, interesting and full of life.

If that childhood has affected how you are today then it was meant to be to form the person you are today. I've always been so impressed with your writing.

I know life growing up in the American suburbs looks wonderful and easy to you. It is not always as wonderful as it looks. No one may be starving, but there is pain, alcoholism, abuse, domestic violence, drug addictions, adultery, single-parent homes, runaways. Life is not always blissful in the suburbs. It is all in one's attitude toward life. My childhood was not always blissful, but I, like you, don't complain. It is what it is, and life goes on. There is so much of life to be enjoyed and lived.

This is a wonderful article and voted up!

Beautiful photos!


MonetteforJack profile image

MonetteforJack 5 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

Your story moved me to tears. Mine was totally different from yours. My childhood years were happy. I admire your strength, your determination to overpass adversities, your values and obviously, you treasured your education. I am sure that God is blessing you now and will be blessing you more because of your faith and sincerity. Reading your hubs especially this one do make me say - I am glad that I was born and raised in the Philippines. Keep smiling and wishing you all the best.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

Thanks for sharing your childhood. Very well done article and so lovely photos of yours. Take care.


Hubertsvoice 5 years ago

We all have our trials and tribulations regardless of nationality, race, creed or color. Cut us all up throw us into the same grinder and we all come out looking like the same brand of dog food. Morbid, but true.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Hubertsvoice Thank you! So lots of similar stories from across the world :) That's why I never complain about my past.


Hubertsvoice 5 years ago

kerlyn, The way you told that story, you might have been talking about growing up in rural Oklahoma USA. Very well done.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@twobmad Hello there! :) Thanks God, I still am smiling!


twobmad profile image

twobmad 5 years ago from Myanmar(Burma)

Nice crafting of your biography. You were smiling and hope you are still. Glad to know here.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@WD Curry 111 Hello there! I am so glad you love those lines. I actually drew inspiration from my fave author Dale Carnegie to write those. In one his books, he said that people should not be consumed by criticisms since others would not even care if they die today. Others are already too concerned about their own headaches. LOL :D


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

"A happy childhood, I suppose, is not worth the while of my readers, who are already weighed down by their own misery, soreness and stings in the reaches of their body, and qualms about what the future . . ."

This is where you got me and I loved every word. You are a stellar writer and you are an artist who can transport the reader into your vision. Sometimes I had to ask, "Is she talking about Florida?" It is only fun if you are rich. Thank you for bearing your soul and sharing your life.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Minnetonka Twin Oh hi! How are you? :) Thank you for reading my hub. I really appreciate your comments. Again, many thanks!


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@dallas93444 Wow, many thanks! :D Resiliency - such a great word. It's something we all need in life, isn't?


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@joejagodensky Hello! I'm using English as my second language so my writing is very academic and formal in tone :D I'm glad I was able to paint a good pic of my Philippine childhood. Thank you so much for dropping by my hub.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Lisa Mae DeMasi Oh thank you :) It was taken by one of my cousins in a beach in the Philippines.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Wmod514 Hi! Thanks for your kinds words. Well, we stood yesterday. We can stand today. We just have to smile and laugh and feel good :)


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

Wow, your story of your childhood struggles brought tears to my eyes. I can see that your difficulties have made you strong and proud. Your writing ability is very beautiful and you are truly gifted. Keep sharing your stories for yourself and your readers. P.S.-I really enjoyed the adorable pictures of you as a child.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Great and awesome! Your resiliency is showing. I have joined your fan club!


joejagodensky profile image

joejagodensky 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Your writing is crisp and the imagery endures. You've painted a picture of your life that drew me in, to walk with you, and wishes for you only the best. Thanks.


Lisa Mae DeMasi 5 years ago

AWARD WINNING photo! Lovely!


Wmod514 profile image

Wmod514 5 years ago from Upstate South Carolina

Very interesting...voted up!! It's great to see and read about people who are just happy with the way things are and enjoy life...I could tell from your profile picture, you are a happy and proud spirit...never let anyone bring you down kerlynb !! However, I'm sure I really don't need to tell you that!! Be proud of who you are and the person you areb striving to become.

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