If I would summarize my childhood in a word, I would say it was a “disaster”! I had seen so much pain and experienced too many tragedies before I became a teenager. Though there were bright days, but the dark ones outweigh them.
My father was a chronic alcoholic and an abusive husband. Even before I was born, he already had these problems. My mom almost lost me during pregnancy because of his physical abuses. He would constantly hit her without second thoughts, even if she was pregnant. But hoping that in time, when he would have children, he would soon turn around and become a better person. But he didn’t. He got worse as the days passed. My early memories mostly revolve in the days when he would inflict physical and emotional pain to us. It was horrendous and to think I was really young when all these happened.
I was only six years old when I witnessed my father’s abuses to my mom. When the clock strikes 6 o’clock in the evening, we would prepare ourselves for the chaos that would evidently happen. Our normal lives at daylight turns abnormal at nightfall.
My father would come home drunk and out of control. And for no reason, he would lift his arms and hit my mom. He would push her to the corners of the house, slap her in the face or hit her with anything within his reach. There were so many instances that he almost killed my mom. I couldn’t even count the times with my hands. I remember one tragic memory when my mom misplaced something and my dad was furious; he grabbed her arm and dipped it in boiling oil. But it wasn’t enough for him, so he grabbed her hair and bumped her head on the wall. It was too traumatic.
To avoid him, we would run away from home and sleep in the streets or in some dark alleys. Sometimes, we would spend our nights in small chapels or in places I didn’t even recognize just to get away from him at night and avoid his torments. We would run away at night, bring all our books to study, but come home in the morning when he is back to his senses and the influence of alcohol had waned away. As if nothing happened. This went on for years until I became a teenager.
When the torments are too severe, he would be reported to the police by my mom or some concerned neighbours, but he gets out the following day. Eventually, my mom had learned to accept the situation because after all, she wanted to have a complete family even at her expense. You see, my father wasn’t always like that. He is a better man when he is sane; he provides, disciplines us, and shows support. It’s the alcohol that deranges him, but it’s something that he can’t live without. So, definitely, the physical and emotional abuses continued until we became immune to it.
Seeing our mom with bruises and wounds became an everyday view. Though it was difficult to witness, we had to endure and pray that things would change. I prayed for the day that my father would get to his senses, stop his vices and be the father we wanted him to be. It was a far-fetched prayer and a far-away dream that we embraced to give us hope. So, we endured his tortures and became used to them, until one incident made him realize his mistakes.
He forced me to drink alcohol with him. I was only 13 years old. I kept rejecting him because I was studying, but he kept insisting. My older brother saw what was going on and immediately defended me and hit him. It was the very first time that my brother was unable to control himself from retaliating after all the years of distress. Maybe he, too, have had enough of my father’s tortures and he needed to defend us. He couldn’t contain his rage that he hit my father in the face, then there was complete chaos.
Since that day, my father slowly realized how brutal he had been to us. He changed gradually and the tortures were minimized.
As the years passed, we got to understand him better as things get clearer. We somehow understood why my father developed his abusive and alcoholic tendencies. We got to know that he was physically abused by his older brother when he was really young and eventually carried the habit and his hatred even until he had us. In our maturity, we learned to let go and loosen the tight grip of resentment we formed against him. He, too, is a victim like us. My mother plays an important role in keeping us from forming hatred against him. She constantly reminds us to always see the beauty in the disasters we are in regardless of how awful they may seem at first because disasters are beautiful in their own way.
MARIA ANGELA SABANAL