FIGHT! Fight for your right! Stand up and don’t allow anybody to step on you. You are a person, a human being with all the good things entwined, as anybody else!
Those are the words inculcated in my brain from the earliest time I was made aware of my ‘being’ up to this very moment.
Life is a struggle indeed with its many bumps and curves, all God-given adversities to make us strong. Yet no matter how we try to believe in nature’s kindness, we always end up frustrated and angry. For indeed, bullies abound!
A fighter, early on
A fighter, I am, yes, and one who wouldn’t just easily give up! And all my life I’ve been just like that – and as far back a time as when I was a toddler. Let me tell you a story. . .
When I was a teenager, struggling with my identity – too young to be old, as my parents used to admonish me – I had this good chance of talking heart-to-heart with my father. He told me that he believed in his heart that I will grow to be a brave and strong woman someday, someone who will never allow any obstacle to block her way. How did you know that, I asked him then. He related an incident which transpired when I was three years old.
One day, he said, I was happily playing with a ball, a new toy recently acquired. The ball went far to the wall, underneath a display cabinet. I ran to the ball, peeped through the narrow space and tried to grab it with my tiny hand. I couldn’t reach the ball! I tried and tried and still couldn’t reach it. My parents who were in the living room decided to leave me alone upon my father’s prompt. They went to their bedroom and left the door slightly open so they can observe me.
I tried to squeeze by body underneath the cabinet but it won’t fit. Normally, for a child my age, I would have come to seek for help, my father said. But I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid to leave the ball or maybe that’s how I was – a stubborn child, as I was already branded then! My parents saw me stand up and look around. I then walked to the corner of the wall on the far left side of the cabinet where a broom was resting. I grabbed the broom, ran back to the cabinet, went tummy-flat on the floor and pushed the stick-end part of the broom until it reached the ball. Then out came the ball from the right opening side of the cabinet and rolled just in front of my parents’ door! Sweating but happy, I pushed the door and ran straight to them showing off my accomplishment!
From then on, my father told me, my life had been filled with independent struggles and each time I emerged a winner. It didn’t matter how big or small the fight was, I was relentless, my father proudly told me, because of my stubborn attitude of not easily giving up. Yet, I was always patient and wouldn’t ever consider momentary obstacle a failure. In all my tasks, I just kept on going and going and won’t stop until I accomplished whatever I’ve set my mind into. But never would I ask for something impossibly gargantuan. I seemed to have an extraordinary grasp of life’s possibilities yet I have always believed that nothing is impossible if you really work your heart and mind into it.
Life’s major fights
Four of the many major fights I had in life happened during my OFW (overseas Filipino worker) stint in Kuwait. Two are work-related and the other two are personal, the last one concerns my health and a very recent one. There’s another major struggle brewing up, but I would like to discuss it separately.
In early 1994, bothered with a nagging frustration of having stripped off of my indemnity pay from an institution which I’ve served selflessly during the most tiring times in the history of Kuwait, I decided to file a formal complaint. The normal way for the gripe to be taken to – then and now – is the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. This I was made to understand enough while asking around on how I can go about the complaint. Something made me skip this and instead I went straight to the Human Rights Committee of Kuwait’s National Assembly (Parliament).
As soon as I started with the preliminary proceedings, I was discouraged left and right by those immediately surrounding me. Three significant men were behind me though. First was the man who later became my husband; second was my immediate boss, Head Teacher Brian Errington of The English School where I changed employment in 1992; and third, the head of the Philippines’ Diplomatic Mission to Kuwait in the person of then Ambassador Shulan O. Primavera.
On that fateful day – February 21, 1994 – I was to go to the Parliament to submit my complaint, I was nervous as you can imagine one would be in the same situation. I almost turned my back, believe me, but I braved myself and thought about my late father. I also thought about those three men who believed so much in me.
My initial meeting with MP Ahmed Nassar, chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament, although brief, was smooth and uneventful. He politely accepted my papers, handed them over to his secretary and outrightly informed me that he’ll see me the following Monday for the Committee hearing.
Days passed by quickly and on the scheduled day, I found myself facing the Committee. There was a microphone in front of me and an interpreter seated nearby. As the members, one of those was the staunch leader MP Ahmad Baqqer who is currently the Minister of Justice, were already briefed, I was just made to relate my complaints briefly. I was told beforehand that I will be given no more than a 20-minute audience. After a few questions asked and answered, nervously, by me (who wouldn’t be nervous anyway, facing those big men of Kuwait’s Parliament), I was soon asked to stand and was ushered out politely by an aide.
Long story short, in the end, I got what I fought for! Who said that you can’t steer those high and mighty institutions? I mean both – the one which aggrieved me and the other which I took my grievances to!
The second work-related fight is still new and is very sensitive at the moment. I wouldn’t go into details but please know that I also got what I fought for and I continue to hope that no other obstacles will come my way as a result of this latest stir. I love my work and I wouldn’t dream of losing it, taking into consideration, that is, the sole responsibility I face of looking after a big and extended family.
The main purpose of relating this story is to inspire others to fight for their rights and not to falter, once started. You should go on, empower yourself by acquiring knowledge – a knowledge of your limitations, a must – and don’t just give up! As I’ve always told those who have come to me in the past and those who I’ve met lately on cyberspace:
If you know and really believe that what you’re into is right, then go on and fight! Be not afraid and remember that RIGHT will always WIN over WRONG!
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: August 24, 2001