The number was so huge to grasp for them. They call it God’s blessing, an answer to the financial problems hounding them in the past three months--so many bills to pay, 11 (soon 12) mouths to feed, slowing furniture business, and tuition fees of three children in kindergarten and elementary level.
Mateo, the father of the family, and his wife, Linda, have two sons. The eldest is Matthew who was born five years after their marriage. He is married with two daughters and one son. The youngest is Romeo whose girlfriend and their two sons is living with them. Matthew has a good job, so he can well provide for his own family on his own. Romeo is another story. He has not finished college and has no job.
After Mateo withdrew the win, the family threw a big bash at home complete with two roasted pigs, one big cake, five different types of dishes, and flowing drinks. Almost all from the small neighborhood of Molave were invited. Everyone thought it was because of Daisy's third pregnancy that caused it. Except for Mateo’s three brothers and their families who already knew of the reason behind the celebration, the event raised the eyebrows of two family neighbors who have been watching the Romulos like squawking vultures.
The win was supposed to be a family secret. But the way the Romulos were glowing with excitement after they purchased a 200-square meter lot where they built a new house in Narra, a 100-square meter boarding house in Bagtikan across a university, and shared plans of sending the children to expensive private schools, the neighborhood was not dumb to surmise it was a lottery luck. When they discovered they were correct, many individuals flocked the house night by night asking for financial assistance.
For Mateo’s brothers, they consider his move from Molave to Narra as fortunate. Still, that did not stop one or two persons from Molave to take a 45-minute trip to his new house to either deceive him with false goods or ask for money with the promise to pay it the following week. Good old Mateo, falling into their claims, would lend Php 1,000. The highest he shelled out was Php 8,000.
Within five months since the lottery win, the Romulo Family soon dropped into an expensive routine--nobody is supervising the family furniture business anymore; they go out to the malls or to the beaches every weekends; and they continuously lend out money. One of Mateo’s younger brothers, Dodong, a wise businessman with a thriving beer and beverage distribution, was alarmed. He advised Mateo to get a franchise or start another business, an advice that received rebuff.
After three years, Mateo and Linda realized they have very little money left in their coffers, prompting them to follow up those who borrowed money from them only to find out the borrowers could no longer be found. Mateo went back to his furniture business. They sold the boarding house and their house. These were not enough, though. They transferred the children from private to public schools. Mateo and Linda went to live with Matthew and his wife who now have to work harder than before to provide for their children and now for their parents.
Romeo and his three children went to live with his wife’s family in Anilau where their new home was surrounded by residents of odd types--drug addicts, prostitutes, gamblers, gossips, and abusives. Romeo and his wife found odd jobs to put food on the table, leaving their children to grow up under unfortunate influences--Randy, the eldest, dropped out of Grade 2 without learning how to read and write and swore never to go back to school; Rowel, the second, learned cockfighting at five years old and hanged out with gamblers; and the youngest, Raven, a daughter, became a victim of physical abuse by her grandmother, her mother’s mother.
A year later, on January 5, 2004, the Romulo Family was suffering. They have never been able to pick up again. Linda had died a sad woman and Mateo was suffering of tuberculosis. Matthew went abroad to find a well-paying job after he borrowed Php 80,000 from his Uncle Dodong, leaving a lonely wife and children with no father figure to guide them. Romeo grew bitter, spending his free time surfing the Internet to find temporary escape rather than feeding and dressing his children and caring for his busy wife.
Here ends the story of the rise and fall of the Romulo Family. It would be interesting to know how they would end in a few years. I know for myself that I have learned to pick up and start anew. I thank my aunt, Anna, daughter of Uncle Dodong and first-degree cousin of my father, for rescuing me from my mother’s mother from abuse. I’m now living with her and her two children who treated me kindly as their sister. Ironically, I am glad to be separated from my family because early on, I realized I wouldn’t have a future in Anilau.
I wouldn’t go back, only move forward. I miss my poor brothers, though. Randy went back to school with much difficulty. Rowel stopped cockfighting because my Uncle Matthew instructed his wife to get Rowel out of bad influence and live with her before it was too late. My father, from what I know, is now a sad man. My mother continues to work to the bone. The latest gossip I heard was she got herself a more wealthy man. That always got my mother and father fighting like mad dogs.
Now you know who I am. I am Raven, 12 years old, the third daughter of Romeo and the sixth grandchild of Mateo, and I promised myself I would never be my grandfather’s granddaughter and commit the same mistake again. So I will ask my Aunt Anna to keep telling me the Romulo Family’s tragic story. Like today.
- The End -
The Rise and Fall of the Romulo Family by Nancy R. Cudis
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