Scene 1: German Cofffee Shop, This Sunday Morning
I am seated at the Germany Coffee Shop near Korinbo 109 in downtown Kanazawa, having a cup of coffee, a hamburger and another piece of bread whose name I know not (it is Sunday brunch). I am not taking pictures of my food for Instagram, instead I am reading an incredible story on Facebook, a story that I am somehow involved in, but only at the very edge. I am fighting hard to stop the tears from flowing. The central character to this story is one Rodel Mc Felpe Aliwalas, who will narrate his story shortly. Seated next to me is Harumi Manabe, who is part of our Sunday-after-church-coffee routine. Yes, these days I attend church but that is a story for another day. One my other side is Kei-chan, also a part of the crew. Seated opposite us are Matilda, another Kenyan doing research here and Natsuko-san, a Japanese lady who is also involved in the story.
Still keeping up so far? The five of us are listening to the background of the story in a mixture of English and Japanese over coffee and bread. My part starts with the previous week on Sunday, when Harumi gave me a name and told me to look for a certain man named Rodel Mc Felpe Aliwalas. Being bad with names and instead of writing it down, I chose the easier way of taking a picture. They had tried to find him earlier but the only profile they found was a sketchy one on linkedIn. His mother, Edona, was a friend of theirs and had asked them to find him 6 months ago but they had had little success so far. She had come to Japan from Philippines many years earlier and was then married to a Japanese man.
Modifying the search parameters a little, I was able to find a profile on an Arabic job website that looked recently active. LinkedIn had not worked, they wanted me to upgrade my account before I could send a message (can you believe it?). The profile I found matched whom I was looking for: a mid-30s guy from Philippines who now appeared to be working in Qatar. I had one credit to send one free message to a member after signing up, but it was all I needed. I now had to compose my message, something that he would actually read. Spam messages from strangers are often titled: Urgent, Please Read, Hello Dear and such like. I finally settled on “Looking For You”; since the email was coming from a jobs website, maybe it would imply that the sender was looking for him in a professional way and would incite enough curiosity to be read. I hopped that it would at least be delivered to their actual email and so I included my email address in the message, crossed my fingers and waited.
In a few minutes, I got a reply from him! Unbelievable, I hadn’t thought it would be that easy and was prepared to track the company he said he indicated for in Qatar to get his contact. I immediately chatted with Harumi on Facebook, telling her he had replied. He asked me questions trying to establish authenticity on part; I would then ask Harumi on Facebook and back and forth it went. It was midnight here, and we continued the exchange until around 1am. He wanted so many answers but I had never met his mother so I could not answer him, and he had to wait for the following day when he would call Harumi and get some answers.
That was last week. Exactly one week later, we are back at the coffee shop and I am reading Rodel’s story, how he finally found his mother, and wondering if I should share it on the blog, with his permission of course. I get back to my room after coffee, and I find an email and I find an email requesting me to share the story my blog! Below, read it for yourself.
I found you and you are gone
It was summer of 2002 and I was a young 24 years old when my mom called me and she told me that she have a stage 4 breast cancer. She was in Japan at the time living with my Japanese stepfather and my 11 years old half-brother Sadato. After that phone conversation, my mom didn’t call me again, no letters, whatsoever. I’m trying to call her on their land line and no one’s answering. I tried to write a letter and sent it to her address but there was no reply. Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years and there’s no news about my mother. I tried to ask for help in our Philippine embassy and Japanese consulate but there were no results. I asked my friends who happen to have Japanese friends but there’s no luck. I can’t find my mom. I cannot think of any reason why she suddenly disappeared and so I thought that she’s already dead. Having a stage 4 cancer is something serious and cannot be taken lightly so I made up my mind, my mom is dead and I need to go on with my life. 4 years later I married the second woman I love, first woman was my mother. How I wished I had my mom with me to accompany me to the altar while I’m waiting for my future wife walking through the aisle. A year later, my wife gave birth to a lovely princess. I don’t know what’s with this thing loving a woman, now I was given another one, a pretty little one. Again I remembered my mom, I was imagining her reaction if she saw my princess Adaiah, her first granddaughter. I’m sure she will be happy to have a baby girl. Besides, she already has two boys in me and my brother. I built my own family since I don’t have one to begin with. My wife’s mother, brother and two sisters are all living with us in one house. I treat them as my own, I took care of them and given them all they need. How I wish my mom would see this, of how I became.
Years passed by, I went abroad, December of 2009, I went to Doha Qatar to work. I promised to myself, I will not do to my wife and daughter what my mom did to me which is to leave me alone in the Philippines while she went abroad and live with her husband and my half-brother. Now I’m doing the exact same thing, I went abroad and left my wife and my baby girl in the Philippines. It was very hard for me. I’m trying to convince myself every day that what I’m doing now is for them, though it is really for them, still it’s a burden for me. My life went through, there are challenges here and there but I guess the biggest challenge for me is yet to come. There’s nothing that came to me that I wasn’t able to conquer. I was a strong and abled man. I was able to give a better life to my wife and daughter. I gave my wife a car, a house (not yet finished but almost done), I sent my daughter to an exclusive school, and I was able to provide them more than enough. All in all, I can’t complain with my accomplishments in life. Then again, I remember my mom, how proud she would be if she saw me doing well in my life in spite what happened to us. Wherever she was, I know she’s happy. Besides she’s with our Lord God almighty now watching me from above and guiding me all the way. It was thirteen years to date since the last time she disappeared and all those thirteen years, all I did are things that my mom would be proud of.
Then the biggest challenge in my life came to me, January 26, 2015, a Kenyan girl sent me an email. The Kenyan girl’s name is Harriet. She’s a student and a blogger who’s currently living in Japan for a scholarship. She’s really good at computers as she found my profile in one of the public job sites in the Middle East and sent me this email. While staying in Japan, she met a Japanese woman named Harumi Magane and this woman is looking for me. Harumi asked Harriet for help to find me as Harumi wanted to speak to me about my mother. It was a surprise of my life, I felt numb, and I was crying while driving my way home and cannot wait to speak to Harumi. I took Harumi’s number from Harriet and waited until January 27, 2015 at 7 am Japan time to speak to her. I was so nervous and don’t know exactly what to expect. And so I spoke to her and she has a warm voice, she sounded sad and she asked me if I knew about my mom, she said my mother died 6 months ago! I was in total shocked, I couldn’t speak, I can’t believe what I’m hearing, and where was my mother all those 13 years? Then she went on with her story. We spoke for a good one hour. I asked Harumi why all these years my mom didn’t communicate with me? Harumi said my mom was ashamed for the kind of life she had given me, she’s ashamed of me because she left me in the Philippines alone, she’s ashamed and she thought that maybe I was angry at her and blaming her for all the bad things that happen to my life. She couldn’t forgive herself and so she chose a life without me instead of having me in it. My tears ran down, I can’t bear to hear all these things from Harumi. She continued, she said that my mother was so proud of what I had become, she said my mother knew that I’m already married, she knew that I already had a daughter, she knew that now I’m working in the Middle East, she knew that I’m doing great in my life. She knew all of these because of my wife’s facebook. She’s checking it every time, watching me from the pictures and following me every step of the way.
She knew all these things and yet she chose to hide and never show up. I have lots of questions but all those will not have an answer, she’s already gone and she is for real with our God Almighty. I wanted to blame myself, that I gave up easily and stopped searching for her. But Harumi told me that it’s my mother’s choice, it’s my mother’s choice not to interfere with the life she wishes to have for me, I already achieved the things she wanted me to achieve and so she chose to just let it go by sacrificing her own happiness and letting me live my new life with my new family. I cannot question her decision, I’m not in the position to question what’s good and what’s not good, after all, mothers always think for their children’s well being. By not having my mother on my side, I strive, I became mature, I became afraid of failure and so I made sure that failure is not an option. I made my mother an inspiration as I always put in my mind that her sacrifice should not go to waste, what I’m having right now are all because of her.
Wherever she is, I want to thank her with all my heart, I wanted to tell her that I don’t hate her for what she did, I don’t blame her for how my life had become, I wanted to tell her that all the things that I have now is because of her, because I want to make her proud. Yes I was so sad, for the past few days. I cannot help sometimes, I look up and ask, why I didn’t have the chance to tell my mother all these? But then again, I answer my own question. God has his reasons, this is what God wishes for me. God always has a plan, everything happens for a reason and it’s not by chance, it’s by Gods will.
Harumi said my mother’s ashes were still in my stepfather’s house. I made Harumi a promise that I will fetch my mother, I will go to Japan to meet my brother (whose now 23 years old) and take my mother’s ashes and bring her back to Philippines. I want to give my mother a Christian burial and that is what I will do. I cannot promise when but it will be very soon. Wherever my mom is right now, I know she’s looking at me with a smile in her face. Thank you mama for giving me this wonderful life. I LOVE YOU AND I ALWAYS WILL. Rest well and let me take it from here. You’re hard life will not be wasted; it will be treasured and loved as long as I live.
(The photo captions are my own words)
Edona left, with Harumi on the right. Edona loved singing.