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To Sen. Tito Sotto, From A Single Mom Who's 'Na-Ano Lang'

Listen to me, Senator: I’m proud of myself.
PHOTO: istockphoto

Senator, you don’t know me, but let me tell you about myself. Maybe if you knew the stories of the very people you have promised to serve, you’d think twice about the jokes you spew.

(Fair warning to readers before we proceed: You’ll be hearing “na-ano” and variations thereof a hell of a lot throughout this piece. I want it ringing inside your head until it reaches a maddening, tear-your-hair-out level.)

Senator, I’m one of those “na-ano lang” women you seem to regard as walking punchlines in those streets you so fondly speak of. I was 19 then, in my third year of college, and yes, “na-ano” ako. I was foolish in the moment of “ano,” obviously, but the moments, the months, the years that followed prove that I am more than “na-ano”—and to reduce me to such is downright insulting.

At the time of the “ano,” I was planning to shift to another course because I wanted to be a writer. When “ano” happened, I was devastated, but I didn’t stop studying. If I had taken a leave of absence, I would’ve further delayed my shift, and I didn’t want to put my parents through another semester of supporting me. So I rode the jeepney from my boarding house to UP Diliman every day, waddled from building to building every day, sat in classrooms like a regular student every day—and I did it all with a belly that ballooned from my five-foot-tall form, always conscious of the looks from schoolmates and strangers that greeted me every day.

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Despite all that, I got accepted to the course I had applied for, Senator. I didn’t let being “na-ano” prevent me from doing so; I just sucked it up and tried harder.

In the year I was to graduate, my then-boyfriend and I broke up, which wrecked me because I naively thought that just the fact that we had a child together was enough to keep our relationship safe. So not only was I a single mom, I was a vulnerable mess, and I was about to graduate soon on top of it.

Despite all that, I graduated cum laude, Senator. I didn’t let being “na-ano” prevent me from doing so; I just sucked it up and tried harder.

Later, I was accepted to my dream company, Summit Media, and I joined the pioneering team of I hustled at work throughout the week and spent the weekends with my son, who was then living with my ex-boyfriend’s family as I was only renting a tiny apartment and my own family was based in Davao.

Yes, I became a writer, Senator. I didn’t let being “na-ano” prevent me from doing so; I just sucked it up and tried harder.

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I loved my job and the company I worked for, but as my son grew up, it was clear that he needed me around more.

So I handed in my resignation, packed my and my son’s bags, and we moved to Davao to live with my family so I could be more hands-on in raising him and we’d have a support system at the ready. To earn for our little family, I tried my hand at different kinds of employment because I couldn’t find one similar to the job I had loved and left. I launched and subsequently killed two businesses, started and subsequently left a full-time office job, and eventually got into freelance writing and PR consulting full-time—which I continue to do today.

Again, I didn’t let being “na-ano” prevent me from doing any of these, Senator; I just sucked it up and tried harder.

Now, my son is 12 years old and he loves me more than anyone else. I am his world. I may not be the perfect mom; I’m too busy trying to juggle the many hats I wear and trying not to lose myself in the process to be the picture of the apron-clad, eternally-smiling, happily-married mother you might prefer over us who are “na-ano lang.” (In fact, as I write this, my son’s wheedling at me to stop working so we can watch this series I had promised him we’d watch, yet I keep muttering “Five more minutes” because I do have a deadline to meet.) But I am there for my son. That is the most important thing.

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AND BY GOD, IS DATING HARD AS A SINGLE MOM. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I don’t—I can’t—make dating a priority because there are more pressing things to consider like, well, my son. I’ve lost boyfriends because of him, but I still choose him. Of course I choose him.

Senator, I could’ve been a great many things, traveled to a great many places, and had a great many loves—although obviously, just one good one is enough—but that is not the case for me. Because I choose my son every single time.

Now, to reduce a woman like me to a punchline without acknowledging all I’ve gone through and all I continue to go through every day is insulting. You maliciously zero in on the “ano,” yet ignore the blinding fact that single moms work twice as hard, love twice as much, and are twice as tired as parents in families that are intact.

I don’t normally trumpet my strengths and achievements as a parent, because when you’re a single mom, you don’t stop to ask for praise or a pat on the back. We’ve long accepted that this is the hand we’re dealt, and besides, there is simply no time to slow down and soak up praise. Plus, with people like you continuing to punish us with your ridicule and condescension, we’d really rather just get on with the work at hand without making a fuss. But because of what you said, Senator, damn right I WILL sing my own praises. I AM awesome, and so are the other single moms out there who choose to keep their heads down and just do their job as both mother and father—even in the face of your judgment.

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I did all I did—yes, even though “na-ano lang ako” and people like you never let me forget it—and I never gave up. Listen to me, Senator: I’m proud of myself.

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