Things weren’t easy when my husband and I were first starting out as a young married couple. We were in our mid-twenties when we had our 2 year-old daughter, Lovelyn and we lived together with my in-laws. At some point, we decided that it was time to move out and become independent. I was already a teacher back then and my husband had just passed the bar. Therefore, we rented out a cheap subleased apartment near Asilo de Molo for about 250 php monthly. The place was modest in size and had a shared bathroom with the other tenants but it was clean. Also, since we were both working, while my parents could take care of her on the weekends, we needed a steady babysitter for our daughter. We hired a young girl, about 18 years old for this task. We shouldered her college expenses at the University of San Agustin apart from paying her for watching over Lovelyn. All-in-all, I felt like we were doing just fine.
Of course, as the law of the averages go, not everything always goes right. It happened innocently enough. The babysitter, Dahlia started working for us at around May, or the summer before the opening of classes in June.
For some reason, our dear Lovelyn had developed a urinary tract infection. It took some time, but eventually, she recovered. This was when I suspected that something was amiss. Also, at some point, she had become quite clingy. Whenever we had to leave for work, she was always crying and begging us not to go. It broke my heart to see her this way, but it was necessary.
With that said, I dismissed it as just a simple childish temper tantrum. There was also one time when she had a giant lump on her forehead. Dahlia said she tripped over while playing. I asked Lovelyn and she confirmed this story. I began to suspect a lot more at this point because I noticed that my daughter simply did not like her babysitter – but of course, this much was still normal, at least in my opinion.
When semestral break came along, she asked for a leave to come home to her parents and of course, we consented. In any case, my parents could fill in for her during the 5-day leave that she asked for. This was when our landlady and our sublessor came up to me and asked to have a small talk about Dahlia.
This was when I learned the fateful truth: my daughter had been the victim of physical abuse. They had personally witnessed that Dahlia pinched Lovelyn’s cheeks whenever she thought my daughter was being naughty, She slapped her, she slammed her on the bed, she stole the money we left to buy Lovelyn’s snacks, and whenever we were away, she’d try on my clothes and bags and if Lovelyn ever made any protest, she would immediately hit my daughter. Oh she was a shrewd one. She made sure that there were no visible lumps and bumps except for that one time and she threatened Lovelyn that she would kill her if she ever told us about what was happening. I was flabbergasted. Why was I hearing about all of this just now? I was screaming and crying with tears of rage upon hearing all this.
When Dahlia came back from her 5-day leave, I asked her in my sweetest, most saccharine voice to come along with me to have a little chat. Bluntly, I asked her: “Dal, ngaa gina sakit mo si Lovelyn? (Dal, why are you hurting Lovelyn?)” She denied this, and said; “Indi ah, palangga ko na sa. (No, I love her.)”
And of course, this was the tipping point. I slapped her across the cheek and asked: “Amo ni nga pag palangga? (Loving her? Like this?)”
And then the following conversation ensued:
“Ano sala ni Lovelyn sa imo? (What did Lovelyn ever do to you?)”
“Wala day ah. Kay nakapoy lawas ko kay ga obra ko kag ga eskwela pa ko ti palahibi sa. (It’s nothing. It’s because I’m tired from having to work and go to school so I took it out on her because she cries a lot.)
I asked her several more questions, each one followed by a slap. Finally, I asked her to tell the truth about Lovelyn’s giant lump on her forehead. She still chose to deny this – but this time, Lovelyn came up to me and shouted out:
“Si Dahlia Ma, gin haboy yako sang keys nga naigo ko ti sakit sakit. (It was Dahlia, Ma. She threw the keys at me and it hit me right here. It hurt so much.”
There was no turning back from here. I took the same keys with which she hit my daughter and threw it straight at Dahlia. It hit her squarely on the forehead – good. She begged for mercy and asked me to just let her go home – so I punched her on the shoulders about 5-6 times and asked her, “Did you have any mercy for my daughter?”
Then, I took a knife and grabbed her by the cheek. We have a Filipino saying that when you get beat up so bad, only your tongue is left unscathed. I told her: stick your tongue out because nothing on you will be left unmarked. Dahlia was trembling and mumbling like a scared child.
But don’t be deceived. Nothing that I did here actually left any permanent injuries on her. My intent was to scare her not kill her although God forbid that thought did cross my mind at the great injustice that she’d done to my daughter.
Our neighbors eventually came to Dahlia’s rescue and asked me to stop because I’d done enough. So I told Dahlia to go. She was definitely fired. But you know what? She had the audacity to ask me for fare to go back home. Therefore, I took all her belongings and packed them myself and then promptly threw them into the dirty canals that lined the streets outside the apartment building.
In hindsight, I still can’t forgive myself for what I had done – or more accurately, at what I had failed to do. I failed to protect my daughter when she was being abused. Yes, there was retribution and perhaps a little bit more – and some of you social justice warriors out there might even think that this was unjustified and done out of pure ego. I get it. You hate yourselves and you’re not really mothers – because a real mother would know the rage that I felt at that time.
I have no regrets about what I had done to Dahlia. In fact, I think it was barely enough. You might call it vengeful – but I prefer to call it: a mother’s love. That is the extent that I would go to for any of my two children. So tell me, after reading all this and after knowing that your own mother might be capable of doing this FOR you: Do you still love your mother or do you condemn her for being part of a spiteful generation that didn’t know any better?