by Heidi M. Pascual
When a New Life Chapter Starts
Part 1 of 2
When I was young, I always planned for tomorrow. I thought if I pursued the things that I planned to do, then my goals would be achieved. But as I
grew older, I realized not all plans materialize. Circumstances change, many of which I cannot control, until I began to accept the fact that I cannot be
certain of what the future will bring. Sometimes, I feel plans are of no use, especially if they are long-ranged, too far-off, or if they require resources
other than myself. Now, I believe that the Supreme Being up there created the paths for me to choose from, but the journey towards the outcomes as
well as the outcomes themselves depended largely on my own, using the gifts up in my head and inside my heart.

When I graduated from high school, I was fortunate to receive a four-year scholarship in college, at the top University of the Philippines. My mother, a
single mom with five kids, decided to leave for the United States almost the same time I started college, in search of the proverbial greener pastures
for all her children. She left all my younger siblings to relatives and started to work very hard to get me first. She actually planned for me to complete
only two years of college in the Philippines, then move to the US to complete a medical degree. That never happened. I fell in love to a graduating
college senior and married about two years after my mom left. My mom was shattered because her plan for me turned to nothing. She stopped
communicating with me for more than a year until I sent her a photo of my first child, a daughter named Sherry Anne.

My marriage was no bed of roses. It was like starting with nothing literally at a squatters’ area in Metro Manila. We had no appliances to make my
housework bearable. Every day, I was up at 4 a.m. to go to the market, then cook over a kerosene-fueled stove, prepare meals and wash dishes,
clean the house, wash clothes, and take care of my child. My new family also included extensions, such as a mother-in-law, a sister-in-law (who
worked as an agriculturist), and a small nephew. This situation allowed me to learn adapting to the Ilocano culture, such as its food, dialect, and
traditions. In some ways, it was good; in other ways, it was the opposite. But in total, the experience was a learning process that made me a better
person, I think.

Five years into marriage with two kids, there was no stopping me from going back to school. I felt my brain was stagnating and my self-confidence
was eroding fast, so I had to do something about it. I went back to college, this time in UP-Diliman, with the goal of earning any degree, despite the
opposition of my then husband. I remember my daily commute standing in buses, with only two pesos in my pocket, and a lunchbox with steamed
rice and fried galunggong (the poor man’s fish in my country at the time). I ended up taking Mass Communication, and two years after, graduated
with honors, with no one but my estranged father waiting to congratulate me in the audience.

Armed with a college degree, a new life chapter emerged. It was a gradual but steady rise in my new career as writer and editor. Imagine becoming
a division chief, then a deputy bureau director in the House of Representatives of the Philippines, with increased income and lots of perks. Even
when the Marcos regime lost power, the Cory government recognized my worth, for it made me an editor of the 1986 Constitution, then an executive
assistant in Malacanang Palace, and sent me for a year to the U.S. Congress as a congressional fellow to train for another congressional post.
My whole life changed from being a simple housewife to an emerging leader in government, managing several employees whose expertise was in
documentation, editing manuscripts, and printing books that eventually became official records of the Philippine Congress. That chapter of my life
helped build my self-confidence big time, for I was able to raise my children well (even with minimum support from a husband whose work required
him to be away from home often and mostly for months at length.)

What I’m saying here is, even if plans don’t materialize in your life, education helps create a future that is almost always brighter than you expect. I
stumbled and fell, but the determination to stand up again was boosted by my earning a college degree. This chapter of my life’s journey was
education-focused, and the experience took me to many places in the world, financially supported my new family, and pushed up my self-esteem.