• Jasmine Mendiola

The Average Female

Have you seen this month’s issue of Mega Magazine? Mio and I are featured there in a two page article. This is the original text I thought I’d share, its the unedited one of the one printed out and its the same article I shared with my relatives in our annual Mendiola newsletter. Basically, its our way of showing how most, if not all families are quite similar yet unique for each member or unique to those in their respective families. I hope you like this read.

The life cycle of an average female begins when her father sets his eyes on a dream that his girl will fly on butterfly wings with a man just as worthy as him of her love.

I was born the youngest to a brood of five in a humble home with a family history worthy of a telenovela like any other family out there. My story wouldn’t be any different from yours, except that mine is probably the same as yours, intertwined with hers, with a bit of theirs and a little of everything of the others on so many levels.

The life I dreamt of when I was a little girl was a vague picture of an ideal course of events that would eventually lead to something close to what I believed (up to this point, mind you) was the epitome of how life should have been, that of my parents’. They were raised by equally good parents, each growing up with unique sets of closely knit siblings, studied in good and value-formative schools, met like it was fate, fell in love, got married, raised a home and continue to work for their money the best and most honest way they could.

Being the youngest, my dad spoiled me like I was his princess. And time and again, regardless of the things he tried hard to buy for me just because he saw it in my eyes each and every time I wanted something so bad, he was also the first to tell me that that we cannot get everything that we want in life and that I shouldn’t be one to be led to expect and end up frustrated about things that were not meant to be. A cliché I grew accustomed with was not crying over spilled milk. And so screwing up the meeting the right person part of my ideal life cycle was one thing I did not fixate on. In all fairness, I’d like to think that my adolescence was filled with butterflies in my tummy whenever someone took notice of me and would pay attention. I guess I did it right at first, like in all things, but not all things end the way we’d like them to.

I’ve fallen in love—time and again if I may add. That part I did so well and might never surpass. I skipped a phase—the getting married part. Or so I believe at this point because I had no choice but to raise a home, work like a horse and make a living for a little boy who was nowhere close in the life I’ve painted in my head when I was a little girl.

I had four years to grow up and be the kind of woman that is every bit like you: the daddy’s girl, the naive high school drama queen, the oh-so-devoted mother and ultimately, lately, Mio’s Mom.

Taking care of Mio is a piece of cake. I raised him to be wiser beyond his years, wiser than myself even. It feels like I’ve custom-grown a boyfriend. Admittedly, I had to do my growing up simultaneous to his, it almost feels like this was the life cycle I was meant to take in the first place.

My five-year old son, Mio wasn’t born to a young couple so in love that they’d manage to live through an average life cycle. He was born to me, a young single mom who had to simultaneously fall in and out of love, find odd jobs and fulfil a thirst for things beautiful and meaningful while raising him. I was unintentionally taught by the most important man in my life that the disappointments in life do not equate to heartaches. They come in waves because they’re the most that the grace of a child can carry on their butterfly wings. I may not be a child anymore but I have one. I have one, who in his tender years has proven to be capable of a kind of love above and beyond what my Daddy could have ever wished for.

They say cancer happens to the best of us (or I think I did was the one who said that) and that it happens to those who can afford it. That one I initially thought I’d disagree with because we weren’t well off at all. Yet cancer still happened to Mio. The word “leukaemia” is overwhelming as it is. Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia sounded worse. Being a Mom, I’d like to think that I have developed an inclination, a kind of instinct that most moms have. I kind of knew given that his initial work up recommendations from the pedia and rheumatologist were all directed to ruling out blood disorder after realizing his recurring joint pains could be more than just that. So much for instinct, I felt so guilty in taking long to realize my son was sicker than I thought he was. It still hit me hard when the news came to me. Although Mio’s kind of cancer isn’t as big compared to other forms of cancer, the fact that MY child was suffering such a terrible illness was too much to bear.

I thought I had my fair share of trials in life at such an early age. Then again, it wasn’t about me anymore. I wasn’t the same little girl getting frustrated over MY spilled milk. My son, who still drinks milk, is dealing with enemies in his own body, that’s how I told him. My five-year old boy who’s concern only had to be play time, friends and obeying Mommy had his own monsters and would have to replace schooling with hospital visits; Mio had to go through physical pain every other day; he had to get used to wearing a mask like his life depended on it—my not-so-average little boy will in fact live a not-so-average life after all.

It’s been two months and he’s on top of his game. Cancer doesn’t seem to be so big after all, what with all those who are helping us. What with such a loving family. What with all the non-traditional life cycles surrounding his predicament, I believe this average female was equipped to fight childhood cancer and win it. I believe that my life was mapped out to become so, in order that there will be endless possibilities in making ends meet and provide for the most worthy man of them all, just as the trials and cycle skipping seemed pointless, it all boils down to this.

Looking at my son now, he doesn’t look sick at all, a far cry from two months back. It’s still a mystery to me how cancer could affect us. All the more how our battle against cancer can affect others. It’s surreal but I’m not complaining. My son seems to be coping well, there’s absolutely no reason for others, me most especially to fret further. His gentle ways are supplemented by strong life lessons that I never thought we’d learn along the way. Mio’s strength is bigger than my fear; his fight is winning by a landslide and is beyond anything we have ever dreamed of.

Ultimately, cancer has become a blessing in disguise. There may be things I had to let go off along the way, like an upbeat social life, some trivial issues, some aspirations and a thriving career in a prominent company. Void of resentment, the only thing that I had to prioritize is to ensure my child’s healing and I needed money for that. But money is just that. Money. I had no room to whine over that because I wasn’t raised to put such value for it (at a fault) but every time I felt it was difficult to carry this burden on my shoulder, more blessings came rushing in. More people kept helping and our hearts have opened up to all forms of love from all walks of life.

My story is not without my child’s fight against cancer. My story is indeed concert-worthy (thanks to friends who organized one just weeks ago). My story is ours. It is a woman’s plight void of a man’s presence, only that of a child; it is a story of family, hope and generosity. It is a story of leading lives to the fullest no matter how young or old. It is a story that tells of a child’s strength, whether from the eyes of a loving father, a dreamy-eyed little girl or a five-year old boy fighting cancer. That’s one too many stories so I guess our telenovela will go in parts of a series. The goodness of man may well be the theme of this non-traditional life cycle.

reunions with our respective clans over the holidays–the Mendiolas and the Cocals. And our mini Cocal-Mendiola brood.

 The point is not the story, actually. It’s the reason and the manner by which we have coped so far. I guess life is not without disappointments. But the disappointments in my life have turned me into the most beautiful butterfly I could ever be. One with broken wings and varied colors. I can only be too grateful that my son accidentally walked in my life. It may have been thought to be a disappointment to my Daddy and Mommy but I’m pretty sure that having had the chance to be blessed with such a beautiful boy, the love and blessings that came with him and his illness, are all opportunities for us to remain humble, loving and more than we could ever have hoped for—nothing remotely average.

Words and Makeup by Jasmine Mendiola  Photos by Christine Clemente Hair by Azta Urban Salon Mio’s clothes from La Playa


Jasmine Mendiola

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