In the wee hours of the morning on 9 July 1993 I was born in a hospital in the center of Manila, Philippines. Most people find it hard to believe that I wasn’t born in the U.S. since I’m so Americanized. But I’ll get to that.
My family was considered wealthy and we had one of the largest houses in the neighborhood. Or maybe it was just large because I was incredibly tiny (not much has changed as you can see). My neighborhood wasn’t the safest in the city so we had three guard dogs: two German Shepherds, Sarah and Sed; and a Doberman, Ramses. The latter actually died protecting the house one day when a man had shot him. On a side note, some people there actually did eat dogs. I never did because the thought just seemed… macabre.
Believe it or not, because my dad was a computer whiz I started taking basic computer classes when I was five. So, my computer addiction started off earlier than most. I’m pretty sure that was still the time of dial-up Internet. Now that I think about it, that was such a pain.My brother was there too but he didn’t really like it as much. He was more of a Lego person, not that I wasn’t. Fun fact: I skipped preschool and kindergarten. I also learned how to ride a two-wheel bicycle when I was five since my training wheels broke off.
As a journalist, my dad had to constantly travel around the world. He used to tell me about his experiences in Australia, China, Germany, and… other countries that I don’t really remember. He always brought me and my brother back something, usually toys or clothing. My first Barbie doll actually came from the U.S. when he went to Virginia for some time. I also got a pink Barbie car. It’s still in the Philippines, being used by one of my younger cousins.
My mom worked quite a lot as well so most of the time my brother and I stayed with our nanny, Shirley. Funny story: my brother and I actually tried to run away from home one day because we thought no one was there. We each packed a toy and reached the end of the block before my mom found us. We laugh about it now.
1996 was a tough year for all of us. Just days after being born my younger sister, Veronica Aemes Nicole, passed away. I wasn’t even three at the time so I didn’t truly understand what was going on. Every year on 25 March, we celebrate her birthday. But the next year, things looked up and my family was blessed with another girl, Nadire.
Around 1998 or so, my family moved to Bangued, Abra where my dad was born to live with his brother and his family. We, my siblings and I, never really got along with our cousins despite our similar ages. The older ones bullied my brother and I didn’t tolerate that… so I stuck gum in my older cousin’s hair. I blamed that on the younger cousin. I hope they’ve all forgotten about that now.
This was also the time I got my fear of rodents. Sticky paper was laid out around the house to catch the rats and I got stuck in some… with some rats. I will actually cry if a rat, or rat-like creature, comes anywhere near me. You know the capybara? It freaks me out.
Since the city was much more north than Manila, I had to learn a different dialect that wasn’t so similar to Tagalog. Coming from a strong Catholic family, I was forced to go to a private Catholic school when I turned. I’m not exaggerating when I say that was absolutely horrible. It wasn’t the religious aspect; it was the strictness of all the teachers. You have no idea how many times I was hit by the instructors. Yes, that was legal back then in that city.
A small bomb actually went off at our school during a play. Luckily I found my brother in time but some of the kids in the front row were rushed to the hospital. We still had to return to school later that day. We have strict 9AM-5PM days… but we were all traumatized for God’s sakes.
So my dad didn’t want his children growing up in such a dangerous place. Knowing about the opportunities in the U.S., he made it his goal to send all of us there.
After years of waiting for the approval of our visa, on 10 October 2000 my family and I boarded a plane to Los Angeles.