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Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: How kindness, compassion make us overcome life’s terrible ordeals and become better persons

Each of us has our own goals in life - whether for ourselves or for our loved ones. We strive to give our best efforts in order to reach the things we want to achieve. But sometimes, just when we think everything’s falling into place, life slaps us with obstacles that can really make us weak and lose hope amidst our hard work. In the August 8 episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, stories of strong and determined people tell us how life troubles you with endless problems, but at the same time teaches you how to stand up again, and change your life for the better.

Life-changing love

Chris Thonnie Lavarez used to be that jolly and energetic kid who’s always outdoors playing with his friends. No one ever thought, not even himself, that he will turn out to be the complete opposite of how he used to be. He was a graduating student in elementary that time when consecutive accidents happened that changed his life forever. The first one happened on his way home from school when a stray dog chased him. What he did was jump over a table from his aunt’s store, but his knee excruciatingly got hooked on that table. The second accident happened when he jumped off a tree and was not able to land properly. He didn’t receive any medical treatment for his injuries, only alternative methods done by a therapist.  However, the pain stayed for the succeeding days and it even got worse. That’s when his grandmother decided to bring him to the hospital. They discovered that his bone was dislocated and he needed to undergo continuous therapy so he could recover. However, his family couldn’t afford the therapeutic sessions, leaving him crippled. And that’s what changed his life. He couldn’t go outside because he felt depressed and thought that people were only going to discriminate him because he couldn’t walk properly anymore.

But his mother was there to motivate him to be strong despite his situation. With his mom’s support, Chris decided to go back to school. On his first day at school, Chris already got into a fight after schoolmates teased him. And that prompted him to join a fraternity where he thought he would find the acceptance he needed. Little did he know that the people he chose to surround himself had a terrible influence on him. Because of co-members in the fraternity, he learned to engage in vices like smoking and drinking. He graduated from high school but didn’t pursue college anymore because of financial difficulties.

It came to a point when Chris also thought that he couldn’t find someone anymore who can love and accept him for who he is. But someone proved him wrong. He was introduced to Gemma Joy Llamas through the boyfriend of his sister. They began as textmates where Chris didn’t tell Gemma about his condition. After being textmates, the two decided to meet in person already. And Chris felt really glad that Gemma didn’t judge him for how he is. They became good friends and became close. After Chris courted her for a year, they finally became an official couple. And since then, Gemma has guided Chris to become better. He learned to turn away from people and things that didn’t bring any good to him. Their relationship has been six years strong and Chris has been working regularly already as a chef helper. It couldn’t return all the love and care that Chris received from Gemma but he gave her a selfie stick which he said symbolizes all the future memories that they will create.

Life-saving generosity

Gemma’s life was also once a huge nightmare. Her father worked at a construction site while her mother served in a factory. The income of her parents wasn’t enough for them as she still has nine siblings. That’s why Gemma started helping her parents earn at the age of 10. Her whole family would make and sell rice-based delicacies or kakanin. She did all that she could so she could finish her studies. She even wanted to work in a ship because she thought she could earn a lot from it. Gemma was very fortunate because her eldest sibling helped her financially with her studies. That’s why she finished her college with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

But when Gemma was about to finish her degree when she had an illness that almost ended her dreams. In the third week of her internship at a hotel, Gemma felt like she couldn’t go to work that day and informed her supervisor. As soon as she went out of the facility, she started vomiting and felt like she couldn’t even walk. Gemma then texted her mom, who would rush her to the hospital. Gemma was then diagnosed with a Chronic Kidney Disease that necessitated regular dialyses. At that time, her parents thought her chances for survival were slim. Gemma felt helpless since she knew her illness would hinder her studies. But despite her condition, she was firm in finishing her last year in school. Even though she felt like people felt pity on her, she decided to be strong for herself.

To save money, Gemma would skip the very costly dialysis sessions. And despite her difficult situation, she still reached her goal of finishing her studies. But after graduating, Gemma was forced to stay at home for almost three years due to her continuing dialysis. What made her situation even worse was that her parents didn’t understand her condition very well, leaving her to undergo those sessions all by herself. It even came to a point that Gemma envied other patients who were also undergoing dialysis because they had their parents and family beside them.

And someone she’s not even related to was the one who understood her situation and helped her. She met Jiro Kinoyama, who works at a hair salon near their place. Jiro told her that he and his wife Angel initiated a “Piso Mo, Dugtong Buhay Ko” drive, wherein he placed a moneybox inside the salon where he works for customers to leave donations for Gemma. This really helped Gemma especially with her transportation expenses to the hospital. To show her utmost appreciation to Jiro, Gemma gave him a Himalayan salt lampshade, which she believes has good health benefits.

Affirmation and guidance

Jiro Kinoyama, a Japanese-Filipino hair-rebonding specialist, has also experienced huge challenges in his life. His mom used to work as an entertainer in Japan where she met his Japanese father. However, his parents’ relationship came to an end and his mother came back to the Philippines, and gave birth to Jiro. He was two years old when his mother decided to go back to Japan to work again. Jiro admitted that he felt incomplete during that time because he didn’t have his parents by his side growing up. His mother came back when he was already 12 years old and he was expecting that she would make up for all the lost years. However, what happened was the exact opposite. His mother didn’t show any excitement and happiness when they finally saw each other again. Jiro shared she didn’t even want to hug him and treated him differently. He noticed how his mother showed more love and care towards his siblings than him. Later on, Jiro’s mother left him when she went back to Japan with her other children, leaving him under the care of his aunt, who would later ask him to live on his own since his cousins, who are all girls, are growing up and needed the space and privacy in their home. At the age of 16, he left his aunt’s house and rented a small room at a house in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City. While the place offered a lot of temptations for him to go astray, such as engaging in criminal activities, Jiro stuck to his goal of trying to earn a decent living.

He did several odd jobs, including a jeepney barker, a market vendor, and a fast food crewmember. He said he tried to also study while working but admitted his earnings weren’t enough to support his schooling. There were those who even lured Jiro with tempting, indecent offers to earn easy money. But he would turn these down, and insist on hard work through legitimate means of livelihood. Yet, with uncertainty looming, Jiro couldn’t help but blame his parents for all his misfortunes, and would even think of taking his own life. Soon, he would get into an altercation with the owner of the room he was renting and was evicted. Nowhere to go, Jiro found a savior in Richard Cuevas, a friend and neighbor who would give him shelter and guide him in what was his lowest moment.

Richard was the one who stood as a big brother to Jiro, guided him in finding the right jobs that would suit him, and make him grow as a person. Richard inspired Jiro to become responsible and hardworking, and this led him to find a job at a hair salon, wherein he would first sweep floors, and rinse customers’ hair, until he learned the process of hair rebonding, which has since become his steady source of income for his growing family. Richard’s guidance also helped him to be a loving husband and father. As a gift of appreciation, Jiro gave Richard a bell keychain, which symbolizes how he gave him all the alarm and guidance that he needed whenever he tends to take the wrong path.

Life-changing realization

Richard Cuevas, an insurance officer, had a simple and happy life until his parents separated. He lived with his dad who already had a second family that time. His mom left them after their separation, and they would not know her whereabouts.

He admitted there was a difference in the treatment by her stepmom. Richard would then become closer to his friends, and this led him to stop schooling. His father later on said he would be better off working instead and start a family. Richard would soon get married and toil as a construction worker and subsequently as a security guard to provide for his family.

Soon, a tumultuous event prompted Richard’s down spiral—his father’s demise due to a lung disease. As a result, he would prioritize hanging out with friends over his family, making him neglect his responsibilities as a husband and father. His drinking sessions and an extramarital affair led to his separation from his wife Grace. He would live with another partner but this didn’t likewise work out because of their skirmishes due to jealousy. But then he realized that the life he was leading was similar to his father, and that he didn’t want his children to experience the same hurt he endured or worse, throw their lives away to illegal drugs and hooliganism. This realization led to Richard fixing and changing his life for the better and reconciling with his wife. He would also soon reconnect with his long-lost mother. As he learned from his mistakes, Richard would only strive to make things better and prosperous for his family.

Richard’s life-changing realizations made him inspire a desperate Jiro to also see the light and lead a productive and prosperous life that brought happiness and bliss to his family. This inspiration gave Jiro the initiative to help an ailing Gemma, who needed the overwhelming support through his charitable fund drive in sustaining her expensive dialyses. It’s the kindness Gemma felt that she passed on to Chris, who saw in her the kind of selfless love that made him turn for the better.

These tales of kindness and compassion continue to not only inspire and touch us but likewise transform our lives and make us become the best we can be—stories we continue to tell on Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, presented by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, Saturdays at 6:45pm on the Kapamilya Channel.