My Not So Ordinary a Life

In my bid to keep this blog more active I am reposting selected stories which have been published through my Live Journal blog since 2006. It is also my way of keeping all my published stories in just one place and with this comes the creation of “My Life Story” Category which will also be serving as my diary as I share my very challenging life. This particular piece I am sharing now was the first ever I wrote for Live Journal, published June 29, 2006.

An ordinary life for me is one lived simply and uneventfully. You grow normally as a child, as an adolescent and then as an adult at specific periods in your lifetime. You go to school and finish your primary, elementary and secondary schooling in one place then you go to college in another place (or same place) and finish it without interruptions. You find employment and then marry once, have children and live your life revolving simply around your family and a few circle of friends you get in contact with regularly.

Almost all of my relatives and friends live their lives as described above, a life which is normal, a life which is ordinary. Of course I am basing this observation from my own standard of what an ordinary life is. I do realize that each individual differs when it comes to perceiving and actually living his/her life.

And now as to my own life. Why not so ordinary a life? Well, you’ll find this out as I continue to relate my story. Read on please . . .

At the moment, I am residing in Kuwait, with my husband Waleed, in a house he caused to be built for the two of us. I first set foot on Kuwait on November 12, 1987, newly recruited from the Philippines to work as a Nurse in Al Hadi Clinic, one of the only four private hospitals existing then in Kuwait.

I was born May 26, 1957 in Mapatag, Hamtic, Antique, my mother’s birthplace. My father, the late Rev. Ruperto T. Contreras hailed from Pan-ay, Capiz, a neighboring province of Antique on the island of Panay, Western Visayas, Philippines.

At five years of age, our family moved, from Antique province, to Project 8, Quezon City, Metropolitan Manila. My father then was called to work in the UCCP Headquarters along Highway 54 (now EDSA) in Quezon City, M.M. From Project 8, we moved to Project 7 and then to Project 6, all in Quezon City. I attended my Kindergarten in Project 6.

When I was seven, our family again moved and stayed in a newly-developed housing project – Grace Village Subdivision – in Tambubong, San Rafael, Bulacan, north of Manila. I went to Tambubong Primary School, located right next to the entrance of the Subdivision, and finished my primary grades there – Grades 1 to 4.

In 1968, my father was offered a teaching post in Union Theological Seminary in Dasmarinas, Cavite, south of Manila. We stayed in a big 2-storey building adjacent to a farm in the Seminary compound. The building was actually a classroom-dormitory rolled into one, with a detached kitchen and toilet/bathrooms. It was I think called National Rural Life Training Center? My memory seems vague at the moment.

I went either hiking or biking to Palapala Elementary School, 3 kilometers north of the Seminary Compound. Was half-way through my sixth grade there when my father was offered yet another job in a squatters’ relocation site in San Gabriel, Carmona, Cavite, now renamed General Mariano Alvarez, an added town in the Province of Cavite. During the height of Nardong Putik’s showdowns with the military authorities in the neighboring area of Paliparan, Dasmarinas, my parents transferred us all six children to Paco, Manila. We stayed then in a well-preserved ancestral house being rented by a Methodist Minister couple. I was in second year high school then and I attended a private school. A year after, we went back to Cavite and I finished my high school at San Gabriel II National High School.

While still in Cavite, I went to temporarily stay in a dormitory located at the Philippine Christian College (now Philippine Christian University) campus in Manila, along Taft Avenue – alone and far away from my family for the first time. I was granted a scholarship to take up Nursing, a very costly course even at that time in 1974. I originally belonged to BSN Class ’79. By the time I finished the 2-year Pre-Nursing course, my batch numbering to over 200 when we started in June 1974, was trimmed down to a mere 90 persevering students. For the internship, I went to Mary Johnston Hospital located in Tondo, Manila, a very notorious place to live in at that time. And I would guess even up to this time.

Mid-way through my last year in Nursing, I had a minor car accident which badly hurt my back. This made me not finish the course, a five-year BSN course which was later changed into a four-year course beginning the school year 1979-1980. I spent the next six months undergoing therapy at the Orthopedic Hospital in Manila after that car accident. At that time, my father was in Guam, working in a farm of his younger brother.

When my father returned from Guam in 1980, penniless but happy to be reunited with his family, we went back to my mother’s place in the province of Antique. I continued my BSN course at the University of Iloilo and graduated in October 1981. I was then newly married, to a third cousin, Juanito T. Naig, Jr. In September 1981, my father suddenly died of CVA (cerebrovascular accident). My youngest sister Sharon (who was studying then in UP-Visayas) and I were in Iloilo when it happened. Everybody blamed me for my father’s death as it happened after a family row over my untimely and sudden marriage.

In January 1982, I got employed for the first time after graduating from college. It was not in a hospital setting though, it was in the Press and Media Office under the Office of the Governor of the Provincial Government of Antique. I was hired as a writer, yes, after I passed an interview and exam, as per Gov. Enrique A. Zaldivar’s instruction given to the head of the PMO. My father worked in the same office prior to his death. He started during the time when the late Gov. Evelio B. Javier was sitting.

In May 1982, I took the Board of Nursing exams. I was two months pregnant then with my first child. Despite lack of review and actual exposure to Nursing practice itself, I passed the exam and was told that I broke the record of University of Iloilo’s top Board of Nursing passers. I gained a score of 85.9%! In 1984, I took and passed the Professional Civil Service Examination held in Iloilo City. I was 8 months pregnant with my last child when I took the exam.

April 1987, husband left for Kuwait to work as Cook in a restaurant opened by his sister. I followed in November 1987 to work as a Nurse in a private hospital. By February 1988 husband was sent back to the Philippines by his sponsor. He hit his sponsor (he was drunk) while arguing over an unimportant matter!

April 1989, I went home, on emergency leave, in order to save my marriage. Made the husband promise that he will not imbibe alcoholic drinks anymore and that he will take care of the children and the pump boat which I’ve purchased a year prior. I also made him understand that should something happen to the pump boat, I will no longer deal with him, whatsoever, anymore. I was planning then to just finish my two years work contract in Kuwait and go home for good November that year. By July 1989, he sold the pump boat and used all the money enjoying with his friends in a beach resort in Iloilo! From then on, he ceased to be my husband! I filed a court case (Legal Separation) in 1992 and gained full custody over my two children. And in 1996, a court in Kuwait declared my marriage to him null and void! I converted to Islam in 1991 and that actually made my marriage to my Christian husband null and void. A court was needed though to declare the marriage as such, legally and officially.

By January 21, 1997, I was married to the most loving, understanding and responsible man on earth. Despite the many obstacles he faced – resistance, initially, from his family because I do not suit the standard (am, being once married with two children and 10 years older than him, should indeed make any brother or sister opposed to the union); my inability to produce him an offspring; and my not too healthy a body – he remains to be married and loyal to me. My life has never been happy as it has been and is with him and I never cease to thank God for giving Waleed to me. Waleed is indeed a Godsend!

Taken February 16, 1997 during a celebration of our wedding. We were legally married in January 21, 1997 at the Palace of Justice in Kuwait.

About Author

Freda Editha O. Contreras
Writing is a God-given talent which I try to utilize the good way. I used it as a means to earn a living, my very first job after graduating from college, when I got hired as an Information Writer by the Provincial Government of Antique through Governor Enrique A. Zaldivar in January 1982. By profession, I am a Registered Nurse, and was only able to practice it when I got recruited to work in a private hospital in Kuwait. This was in November 1987 and since then I have been living in Kuwait, now retired since June 2002. Because of my knack in writing I got hired in 1994 to write for Kuwait Times and later became an Editor of 'Pinoy News' a weekly supplement of KT. In March 1996 I published the very first independent Filipino newspaper in Kuwait and the Gulf bannered as Pinoy Expat News or PEN. The paper lasted for only 10 weekly issues. This was followed by another publication and came out first as an insert of an ad paper and later as a separate tabloid. I used then 'Pinoy News' as it was my idea the first time it was used for Kuwait Times. This again failed and produced only three weekly issues. I then turned to the Internet and in 1999 I got hired as a Contributing Editor of Suite101.com, a writers' portal on the web. The last of my articles was published December 31, 2002 but my topic 'Overseas Filipino Workers' was still visible until January 2006. All the 38 articles I wrote have been compiled into a book which I published in August 2007. I discovered blogging in 2006 but was not really serious about my writing. I wrote according to my whim. Having this blog under my own domain name is now a welcome development and I plan to concentrate again in writing. As is commonly said: "A writer will always be a writer." http://fredacontreras.com/

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