Saturday, November 26, 2005


Manang Seta is able to do remarkable feats in her dreams—she can be the prima ballerina of the national ballet, overcome her fear of snakes, sail solo to distant seas on her high-tech yatch, or become a sultry jazz singer in New York’s Carlyle Hotel with Bobby Short on the piano. And through it all she never once doubted her abilities to become any of those things

However, in her waking state, Manang Seta is a fearful, doubtful woman. Even the simplest of choices would make her eternally indecisive. Her basic arithmetic skills would escape her; she’d leave the market always feeling short-changed. Her sense of direction would get hazy; driving to and from nearby destinations has become a daunting task.

She was never like this. She was once jovial and vivacious. However, going though a lengthy bitter divorce has traumatized her deeply. She gained weight which made her look distinctly aged. She failed to understand how her husband could easily trash away their 35-year marriage. Worst of all, her two daughters sided with their father; leaving her feeling completely abandoned and confused.

The court was fair with settling their disputes. She was awarded half of their total assets. Right after liquidating most of which, she went home to the Philippines to heal her soul. Only problem was she was away for so long the landscape has changed; it appeared foreign to her.

Her sister, Aling Meding, exploited her vulnerabilities with a vengeance. She assisted Manang Seta all right, but unbeknownst to her, Aling Meding would tack on a few bucks for everything her sister would ask her to get for her. She made a substantial profit when Manang Seta had entrusted her to shop for all her appliances and furniture for her condominium in Makati.

Aling Meding for many years has been dependent upon her sister’s generosity. In fact, her four children were educated in large part by Manang Seta. More than 20 years ago, Aling Meding left her husband and took the children with her without so much as asking her husband for child support. She obligated her sister and brother in the States instead.

Aling Meding’s children are all grown up now and married, except for the oldest son who is holding out for a rich woman to marry. The other boy and two girls have children of their own, yet Aling Meding has been slyly maneuvering for Manang Seta to absorb the grandchildren’s schooling expenses as well. All her children, at one time or another, had asked Manang Seta for loans, but obviously with no intention of repaying her. Aling Meding does not ask for any loans, but nonetheless expects her sister to give her a monthly living allowance. “Why not … she has money, no?” she would argue.

Nowadays, Manang Seta spends most of her time in Metro Manila alone or with the company of her maid. She has learned to find her way around the city without the guide of her sister. Actually, ever since she expressed a lack of interest to support Aling Meding and her children’s families, their relationship changed.

Aling Meding is angry at her sister for the simple reason that Manang Seta has money, yet refused to share it with her willingly. As revenge, she has instructed all her children to ignore their aunt. “That’ll break her,” she would claim. Much to Aling Meding’s ignorance, she doesn’t realize that Manang Seta’s many years of having lived in New York had taught her to be self-reliant and cognizant of people with ulterior motives.

She gets along quite well with her new maid; unlike the previous two referred by Aling Meding who were more loyal to her than to Manang Seta. This one was referred to her by the family of a very good friend from New York. She takes her along to every where she goes. Recently, Manang Seta had suggested for her to take up a vocational course in the evenings in which she’d gladly pay for.

She has been living in Metro Manila for almost two years now, and had adjusted to its hustle and bustle rather well. To help her resolve any leftover inner turmoil caused by her failed marriage, she has enlisted the assistance of a psychologist. She’s learning some relaxation techniques to help her focus better on daily activities, as well as in dealing with unexpected challenges. Most importantly, she’s learning how to forgive her husband and her own self from being unable to sustain their marriage as per their vows.

She has also started to love her two daughters even more, and has refrained from expecting them to fight her battles. As for her sister Meding and her children, she reasons she has helped them long enough; it’s time they all start learning to help themselves earnestly. And if they wish to alienate themselves from her, so be it. She’ll manage with or without them.


Coping with Divorce

Balikbayan Chronicles

Money Matters with Relatives and Friends


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:27 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seemingly, in the end, the awakening of Aling Seta.

Wonderfull photos, Enrique.

November 26, 2005 2:00 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

These were mostly taken with my phonecam; I'd usually hold my hand up and shoot -- sort of chance process and not as sharp, but good enough to inspire a story.

Local folks are not as comfortable to see anyone shooting around as in New York with loads of tourists :)... so, I use a less intrusive-looking camera ala Warhol for now.

Hey Noel, if you have a phonecam and if ever you find yourself in Soho or anywhere in 60s to 80s upper west side, shoot a couple, email to me and I'll see what story I'd come up with. It'll be a fun collaborative effort.

November 27, 2005 3:36 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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