[At left photo is Chona wearing a light brown jacket with Manilyn in her red dress cuddling the infant Ryu dressed in a yellow coat complete with a hood; at right photo is Chona cuddling Yuna, the second child of Manilyn and Mori]

It was pure serendipity! Serendipity actually means the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. And, indeed what transpired in this narration of mine was truly SERENDIPITOUS.

In early October 2015, my daughters Shayna and Cheska were busy surfing the internet to look around for promotional fares to tourist-destinations here in Southeast Asia or elsewhere in East Asia.  We were thinking of, as first priority, either Vietnam, or Japan or Singapore or Hongkong. I was however biased against going again to a wintry frigid-weather country as I got really pissed off by the coldest weather in South Korea. Temps dipped to as low as minus NINE (9) celsius when we went there to Seoul in South Korea for a Christmas vacation in December 2013.

What I did not want to do once more (after that December 2013 South Korean trip) was what is termed as that tedious practice of “layering”. “Layering” is a term supposedly made out by Filipinos which pertains to a mode of clothing one’s self (a convenient way to fight off the shivering effects of a very cold, nay freezing ambient temperature in most frigid countries during winter). By “layering”, you have to first dress up your upper torso with an undershirt, then a long sleeve thermal undershirt again, then a collared short-sleeved T-shirt; thereafter a long-sleeve polo shirt, then,  a sweater. And by way of a final step, you wind up the shawl around your neck and eventually, wear the jacket complete with a hood to cover up a baseball cap.

For your lower torso, you begin with an ordinary bikini brief, a long-sized brief, then a thermal underwear, then one’s pair of pants. With this tightly covered/clothed lower torso, you really have to spend much time trying to make an opening to allow you to urinate as you have to literally dig into your lower torso which has been layered and covered with a pile of clothing.

But Shayna and the girls wanted to visit Japan as not one of us except my wife Dang (who during her teens together with her siblings were brought to Japan on a holiday by their Papa Anteva), has been there. Shayna even argued that relatively speaking the price that she has got was clearly so cheap. Thus, the eventual and majority choice was Japan.

Earlier, as I am a litigation lawyer, I have been engaged to eject settlers in an 860 square meter lot which is located just across our Law Office here in Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City, Metro-Manila, Philippines.   The lot houses the dwelling units of about 25 families who have not been paying their respective rental for years. I had to apply some kind of persuasion to convince the residents to leave voluntarily. In fact, some kind of financial assistance was dangled to sway the renters to peacefully leave and avoid a messy ejectment cum demolition operations. A number of the residents availed of the financial aid and voluntarily left the premises. It was a great relief as getting a court order despite the summary nature of an ejectment suit to legally oust the defendants to the suit from the premises would still take much time. Time was of the essence as the lot owners are committed to sell the lot to a ready and interested buyer.

Among the renters-in-arrears is the family of Chona P. Ramos who is a 40 year old matron who has knowledge about the traditional Filipino “hilot” (English translation: physical therapy by way of touch and massage), and has been serving us, in the Law Office as masseuse whenever any one among us, lawyers in our Law Office, would feel so tired and exhausted after a hard day’s lawyering work. I actually purchased a comfy foldable bed and that whenever Chona would be summoned to give us some kind of relaxing massage, the comfy foldable bed becomes very much in use.

But Chona is married to a husband (by the name of Rudy who is in his late 50s) who is many years older than she is and that because  of Rudy’s age he can no longer get a regular paying job. Though Rudy takes on a motley of odd jobs,  these jobs however are rare and so far between.  Thus, the family of FIVE (i.e. Chona, Rudy and their 3 kids) would have to feel content with Chona’s income as masseuse and at times, as part-time helper in a school canteen, to tide them over financially. I was able however to convince Chona and Rudy to avail of the financial aid but that the couple confessed to me that after the financial aid is totally spent, they would really be hard up. They even told me that from what they have been earning from Chona’s fees as masseuse and Rudy’s odd jobs on a monthly basis, they cannot even  pay the meager Php 500.00 monthly room rental (a rental rate which has been pegged years ago). And that as rental rates have recently shot up within the Murphy, Cubao vicinity; they have been compelled to accept and shoulder a Php 5,000.00 monthly rental for a modest room as they cannot afford to relocate far due to the schooling of their kids in public schools within the Murphy, Cubao vicinity. Thus, part of the Php 40,000.00 financial aid which they received, got substantially spent to pay for the 2 month advance and 1-month deposit which they remitted to their present lessor. I actually vowed to help them as I even recommended Rudy for a regular-paying job in a hospital, but due to the hospital’s age limits, Rudy was not hired.

In mid-October, my 60 year old Japanese friend Yasuaki Mori, a university professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University communicated with me in a very urgent tone. His wife Manilyn, who is a 25-year old Filipina and a native of Samar in southern Philippines, just gave birth to their 3rd child and that the burdens of child rearing (i.e. Rikaan who is 3 years old, Yuna who is 2 years old and this new born babe, Ryu) is taking a toll at their familial relationship. In fact, Mori confessed that they (i.e. him and his wife Manilyn) would almost always be engaged in a domestic spat as Manilyn felt so tired and enervated almost everyday doing the usual kid-rearing chores.  Thus, Mori who however has to be out for work as university professor in Tokyo, said that they need the services of a domestic helper quick. Years ago, Mori lost his Japanese wife and in another wave of serendipitous circumstances met Manilyn.

Indeed, things feel into place after Mori visited me in the first week of November 2015 to meet and interview Chona. Eventually, after ardently praying for Divine help, we were able to get Chona a Japanese visa and off we (the whole of my family) flew to Japan on December 18, 2015 with Chona in tow. Thus, after our dining date with Mori at the Zuboraya Restaurant at the Dotonburi district in Osaka on December 20, 2015 where we ate the famous but deadly puffer fish; Mori brought Chona to their place in Kanagawa, about 44 kilometers from Tokyo via a 4-hour Shinkanshen (i.e. Japanese bullet train) ride from Osaka.

Based on what I learned, after Manilyn communicated with me through phone, is that she is very much satisfied with Chona and both Manilyn and Mori have thanked me for saving their almost deteriorating marital relationship brought about by the burdens of Manilyn’s taking care on her own, their  THREE (3) lovely growing babies.

On the other hand, Rudy is similarly thanking me profusely that with the regular income that Chona will be receiving, their planned relocation to Chona’s province in southern Philippines about 1,300 kilometers south of Manila particularly in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte will not anymore push through. Thus, the family’s dream shared by both Chona and Rudy for them to be able to see through the education of their children in Metro-Manila until the completion of a modest college education can now come true. With what she will be earning from his domestic helping stint in Mori’s household, Chona will be making six (6) times more than what she would usually earn doing his masseuse and traditional “hilot” practice in the Philippines.

Indeed, it is a nice feeling especially at Christmas  to have helped TWO (2) families: one (1) here in the Philippines and another one (1) family there in Japan  with a GOOD DEED that would further strengthen their family ties and bonding. Truly, the common aspiration of having peace, love and joy in the family will be a reality to Chona’s and Mori’s respective homes.

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