To Our Parents, With Thanks

The finalists to the Letter to My Parents™ Contest held last November, 2013 (Photo by Precious Arao/FilCom Center)

Hawaii’s FilCom Center, Sariling Gawa and Reiyukai America held the first Letter to My Parents™ Contest in the state to celebrate the role of the family in society. The Letters to my Parents™ contest has been a program of Reiyukai America in other cities such as Chicago and Mexico City, but this was the first time the program was launched in Hawaii. The contest encouraged young people, between the ages of 16 to 21 residing in the State of Hawaii, to acknowledge the role of their parents and/or guardians in their lives.

The original writers read the letters selected for the final stage in front of the judges, to decide the first prizewinner on November 24, 2013. The winner, Maria Andrea Jurado, received $1,000.


Maria Andrea Jurado (First Prize Winner)

Letter to My Parents™ Contest winner Maria Andrea Jurado (Photo by Precious Arao/FilCom Center)

Dear Mama and Tatay,

Last year, I witnessed the class of 2013 sing their graduation song. My heart was caught in my throat, and I had to use all my power to hold back my tears. I did not want to cry; I was not the one graduating yet. Days passed by, and now I am the one actually counting every waking moment until graduation day. Soon, I would be the one singing—“Do I make you proud?”

I have always been independent. When I was young, I noticed that you were not always there for me. You were not there on my first day of kindergarten. You were not there when I received my Most Intelligent Award in Prep class. You were not there to answer my math questions, or my curious questions about life. Call me naïve and selfish, but the truth is, I began to hate your absence in my life.

I was in third grade when we had our first communion ceremony. I was excited about this milestone in my life, and yet, I did not have an accompanying adult. I hated the fact that I was alone. It seemed as though you didn’t love me. You were always busy doing your job that you had forgotten the one job you had as parents. I was alone, and I knew I had to accept the fact that you would never be there for me in anything.

Eventually, I became your rebellious daughter. I became the girl who argued with her parents every day. We would fight almost every day, because I always disobeyed your orders. When you shouted, I shout louder. When you were angry, I was even angrier. Every day, I dreaded coming out of my room and talking to you, because I thought that you wouldn’t have the time for me anyway. I even started forging your signatures, because you always forgot to sign the needed papers anyway.

I hated you even more when you told me about our immigration in Hawaii. You said that this was going to be a great opportunity for us as a family. Instead, I thought that it would ruin my education, since I had already established my life and my plans in the Philippines. In my head, you ruined everything.

The world really works in mysterious ways, though. Six months into our immigration, what I thought deprived me of a family, actually gave me one that I had been wishing for in a long time. We were evicted from Grandma’s house, and I thought that Tatay would leave us for her. I thought that we would be a broken family, living on the street. I never would have guessed that it was the time when we were almost begging all of our acquaintances for food, shelter and clothing that I would finally see how blessed I was that you were my parents.

Those times were the darkest days of my life. We had nothing but hard, concrete floors to sleep on, and some blankets from Goodwill to keep us from the cold nights. We were eating off of plates from the apartment’s last occupants, on top of the box of the one desk fan we purchased at Wal-Mart. Every two weeks when Tatay received his paycheck, my siblings and I would be smiling from ear to ear, because we would not be eating noodles and Spam.

Mama, Tatay, sorry I was too blind to see that what you were doing was for our future. I am sorry I always argued. I am sorry I was unappreciative. It’s true; wisdom comes with age. I am deeply grateful and amazed at how you were able to turn our lives around despite the troubles we went through. Mama worked three jobs simultaneously to ensure that the three of us didn’t starve.

Tatay would always complain that his hands were too dry and rough. Mama would also complain that her back hurt. I know at some point, you wanted to quit being housekeepers. Despite that, you are still working. You’re still working because your love for us outweighs all the hardships in the world. I am amazed that despite the way the three of us treat you, you never cease to love us. You two are the greatest, most understanding parents any child could ever have.

Mama, Tatay, thank you for still working as housekeepers and providing us our needs. Thank you for teaching me how to dream big, and for waking me up in the morning when my alarm clock doesn’t ring. I always asked both of you if you wanted to attend college again, but you always declined. You always said that it was now our turn to have a shot at our dreams. I may not be expressing it well enough, but every time I ask you if you love me, I do it because I want to tell you that I love you even more. We’ve come a long way from parents and daughter to best friends forever. I love you so much. I know this is lengthy, but I want you to know that I could spend every precious second forever to express how much I love you. I may be leaving soon, but always remember that I will always come home. Hopefully, one day, I will make you more proud.


Bebe Andeng

© Letter to My Parents™ Contest in Hawaii 2014


Angelica Marie Fernandez (Finalist)

Letter to My Parents™ Contest finalist Angelica Marie Fernandez (Photo by Precious Arao/FilCom Center)

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know I can’t openly talk to you without editing what I say because we don’t have the closest relationship. I’m fine with that because I know it’s a Filipino thing. As a parent, you have these high expectations and you establish strict enforcements to make sure they are met. As the child, I have to exceed your standards and oblige you without complaint. I’m sure I’m not the first Filipino daughter to go through this, and I know I will not be the last.

There are many restrictions that I grew up with—restrictions that I was expected to quietly obey. Your strict rules set me apart from my friends. College was not easy because of your rules. I applied to two schools, one of which was in secret: University of Hawaii at Manoa, which was my safety school; and Seattle University, the college I wanted to go to ever since I was a freshman in high school.

I got accepted to both, but I only told you about UH. I was afraid you wouldn’t let me go to my dream school, that you would scold me for even thinking it, and you wouldn’t let me forget the mistake I made in even considering going to school away from home. Somehow, you were OK with it, and I was able to go to SU. Every day, I called you at 10:00 p. m. to say I was “getting ready for bed” because I had always had bedtime at ten. Your influence reached me halfway across the Pacific.

So for all that you put me through, I just want to tell you two things: Thank you and I love you. I know that everything you did was because you wanted a better life for me. That’s why you both came here to the States, right? I know raising my brother and me was not easy, especially for immigrants, but you both did amazingly. You made so many sacrifices for our family. Dad, I know that it was hard to support us. You worked two jobs to provide for our family while Mom stayed at home to raise Jeff and me. You worked late and came home tired for years until you started your own little business.

Mom, I know you had some trouble when I came around. Dad couldn’t come to Hawaii until I was two months old. So you had to take care of an infant all by yourself. Even pregnancy was a problem and you were alone for that. You had to have surgery to take out one of your ovaries, but the problem was that inside your uterus was... well, me. You are both the strongest people I know. That shows not only by how much you have given Jeff and me, but also by making it through. Life hasn’t been the easiest for us, but we’ve made it this far. You made the chaotic world a lot better.

Your rules actually made me the person that I am today. Because of my curfew, I had to learn to be resourceful with my time. I know how to balance time with friends, family, school and sleep. I still procrastinate, but I know how to work with my schedule to get things done. I excelled in school, and that was because you pushed me to be the best. Also, there were those times at SU.

Though I called you every day to ease your mind about my sleep, I looked forward to those phone calls. They helped me keep in touch with you. I missed you every day that I was gone. When Jeff left for military training, you were without kids for an entire year. Then there were rumors that Jeff’s National Guard unit would be deployed. That’s when I knew I had to come back home. I transferred from SU to UH. I lost my dream school, but I got to come back home. A home you made and built. You made a home I wanted to come back to.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you raised me right. I hope that one day you will trust me with all the decisions that I make in my life. I know right from wrong because of your rules. I know better because of you. You taught me what hardship is; and you showed me that no matter what hardships life can bring, I would always have a home to come back to.

Love always,

Your Baby

© Letter to My Parents™ Contest in Hawaii 2014


Fely Marie Princess Magaoay (Finalist) 

Letter to My Parents™ Contest finalist Fely Marie Princess Magaoay and Reiyukai America's Toshiro Obara (Photo by Precious Arao/FilCom Center)

Mahal Kong Mama (My Dear Mother),

I wish I could give you my body so that your aging body wouldn’t feel tired or in pain. The older I get, I realize that you’re getting older as well. You are now more prone to sickness and Every day I have an immense amount of fear of you being out of my sight for eternity. I definitely look up to you and I am in awe of your strength and perseverance.

When I was still in your womb and my father was murdered, I really appreciate how you had control on your feelings and you didn’t faint or anything because that could have been the cause of my own death. I try really hard to be a great daughter to you. Sometimes, I have thoughts of how I wasn’t supposed to be born in this world. It should have been me, not my father. The Magaoay family should have been together as a complete and happy family with a father, Kuya Marky, Ate Imee, Kuya Bal and you.

There are times I feel really left out whenever my siblings talk about our dad, and I will never forget how I was treated like I was the reason my father died. Maybe I really was the reason. I blame myself about it and I hate how I have the least knowledge about my father. You never really talk to me about him. I don’t even know the real story of how and why he died. I’ve heard different versions of the story from aunts and uncles and I have no idea which one is true. All I know is that his killer is still running around in our hometown.

You were never really there for me physically. But I know that throughout the years you were absent from my life, you were working hard to keep us, your children, alive and well. I know leaving me when I was two years old with my cousins and siblings had been tough for you. Working abroad as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Hawaii, you were a super woman. I even heard about how you were pregnant with my brother and you were still working in Hong Kong.

I know how much you value work so much. I will definitely use your strength and fortitude to keep me going. The life that was given to me by you and my father will never be wasted. I try to be the best person that I can be. Someday, I will be successful and reach my goals in becoming an electrical engineer. I know you’re against me becoming an engineer and that you’d rather want me to become a nurse, but Ma I assure you that the path I’m going to take is the best path for me and for our family. I try my best every day thinking about how you worked really hard. With all you tears, blood and sweat, you were a mother and a father to me, you never failed to fulfill your duty.

I thank you very much for everything you’ve done. I will definitely learn from you and use your strength, perseverance and endurance to be a super woman just like you. I’m sorry for all the wrong I’ve done. I try really hard to be a nice daughter. Mahal na mahal na mahal talaga kita at maraming maraming salamat (I love you very, very, very, very much and thank you a lot). I love you Mama and I will never forget all of your hard work for our sake.

Loving you a lot,

Your youngest child, Princess

© Letter to My Parents™ Contest in Hawaii 2014


Reiyukai America is an international non-profit, non-religious multicultural humanitarian organization with over four million members in more than 25 countries and regions worldwide, including the Philippines. Founded in 1930 in Japan, Reiyukai is committed to the idea that a change within an individual leads to a change in society. Through personal development, kindness towards others, and a deep respect towards one’s ancestors, Reiyukai encourages everyone towards the path of peace within the community.

Sariling Gawa started as a grass-roots community effort in 1980, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Filipinos in Hawaii. The stimulus to create this project originated with a group of college students who reflected, analyzed, and acted on their experiences of being young, immigrant and local-born Filipinos in Hawaii. Through the years, the organization has implemented an annual leadership conference and has participated in community and cultural events where volunteers continually recruit new leaders and network with Filipino youth. Sariling Gawa’s strength lies within the passion of its members to perpetuate core values for the next generation and every single one thereafter.

The Filipino Community Center, Inc. was established in 1992 to develop, own and operate a community center that provides social, economic, and education services, and to promote and perpetuate Filipino culture and customs in the State of Hawaii. The FilCom Center, which was formally opened in June 2002, is located on two acres of land by the old Oahu Sugar Mill on suburban Waipahu. The three-story FilCom Center covers 50,000 square feet. It serves thousands of people a year through social services, business and professional training, cultural programs, and health and fitness classes.

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