“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” –Pope John XXIII
Carmen’s search for her biological father began when she was eight years old. “That was the age when my life started to become hell,” she said. It was also when her mother Diosdada married Arnulfo in Jamindan, Capiz.
“I rebelled,” she stated. “I could not accept it.”
“To add insult, they slaughtered the pig, my only playmate, during their wedding,” Carmen added. “I ran amok and secretly poured rice on all the food prepared during the party – no effect, though – guests still managed to empty their plates, including my best friend pig – I cried heavily.”
That was when Carmen, who turned 65 last October 27, realized she was longing for her real father.
“I started to bombard my mother with questions [about my biological father],” she narrated. “I started to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt; when they started to have their own children, my insecurity grew.
Diosada and Arnulfo were blessed with seven children, two boys and five girls.
“All that my mother could tell me was that my real father worked [at Camp General Macario Peralta, Jr.], where she once worked as a part-time tailor,” Carmen disclosed. “He was Cebuano-speaking – or Waray – and could be a soldier.”
She said her “number one priority” once Patrick, her partner whom she lives with in Alimodian, Iloilo, is no longer around is to continue searching for her roots in Leyte.
“Meeting my real father is a dream,” Carmen added.
She met her husband in 1984 when she was working at the United Nations cafeteria in Vienna, Austria. It was three years after the death of her previous husband Rudolf, whom she met through a “mail order” service.
After divorcing his previous wife, the two lived together and, in 1996, decided to permanently settle in the Philippines.
Patrick is currently 95 years old.
Patrick, who has Alzheimer’s disease, was a nuclear scientist formerly with the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Commission.
While the two have no children, he has three from his previous marriage. She never had children during her 16-month marriage with Rudolf.
“I was able to tour the world because of Patrick,” Carmen sighed. “When he was not yet sick, we traveled a lot together; he wanted to make me happy and to enjoy my life.”
“I found true happiness with Patrick,” she added.
While working as a food attendant in Manila in the late 1970s, a friend introduced her to a “pen pal.” She eventually went on her first international flight to Vienna to meet Rudolf, whom she only knew to be 47. She was 27 at the time.
“I was only instructed to look for a man wearing a white shirt,” Carmen recalled. “Upon arriving in Vienna, I went outside and left behind my bag in the arrivals baggage claim area to look for that person; then, I saw a man and greeted him.”
“’Good morning, Sir. Are you Mr. Rudolf Assange?’” she added. “He just answered me, ‘Beautiful,’ without saying my name.”
Rudolf, a mechanic, died of stroke in 1981 and left behind a bookstore.
“I was stunned,” Carmen stressed. “I didn’t know what to do, it was my first serious relationship and I was in a foreign land with no relatives.”
As an Austrian citizen, she visited the Philippines and brought her half-sister Rachel, who was 18 years old at the time, to the European country in 1981. She went on to become Mrs. Strauffer and still lives in Vienna.
In 1987, Carmen brought her mother to Austria for a vacation and, in 1989, Carmen’s other half-sister, Delia, followed suit and cavorted with Carmen’s then-boyfriend, Junward. The two had been living together for four years.
“I was older than Junward [by] five years and I noticed he had a special interest [in] younger ladies,” she explained. “In other words, Junward fell in love with my sister, so I let him go.”
“My own definition of love is, if you love someone, set him free.” Carmen added. “His happiness should also be your own happiness.”
Delia and Junward married in Vienna but their relationship was short-lived. She never loved him and confessed she had a boyfriend, Felipe, whom she loved back in the Philippines. While it left Junward devastated, it was poetic justice for Carmen, who was then living with a different man in Vienna – Carmen prevailed over Junward.
Delia later became an Austrian citizen herself and brought Felipe to Vienna to live as husband and wife. The two eventually had twin boys but, due to Austrian law, Felipe was forced to return to the Philippines. Junward, who was still very much in love with Delia, helped his former sweetheart take care of the twins. The boys are now 22.
Felipe committed suicide on January 2, 2014.
For Carmen, she recalled a “stormy” relationship with her stepfather. As a young girl, while sleeping on the bamboo floor of their house, her drunk stepfather allegedly kicked her on the buttocks because she was “blocking his way.”
“Until now, the pain is still there,” Carmen said. “I consulted a doctor in Vienna who told me that, because of my age, it’s impossible to repair the damage in my bone inflicted by that kicking incident.”
Carmen first left Jamindan in 1969 at 16 years old. She worked as a babysitter and maid in Manila, where she earned P60 a month (P50 of it was remitted back to Capiz to support her siblings). It was later revealed, her mother and siblings were suffering from her stepfather’s mismanagement of family funds; eventually learning he had been spending money on gambling and other vices.
She quietly returned to Jamindan, where she chased her stepfather with a bolo, but he managed to escape.
“Because of [a] hostile environment and the worsening relationship between me and my stepfather, my grandfather convinced me to leave and go back to Manila,” Carmen explained. “He told me either I will go to jail if I kill my stepfather or I will be the one who will die.”
She eventually went back and worked in Manila and Makati City before heading to Vienna.
“My good experiences were all in Vienna,” a misty-eyed Carmen recalled. “I was able to adopt to the European culture.”
“All my unforgettable experiences in life happened in Vienna,” she added.
With Patrick’s health deteriorating, Carmen said she started experiencing insecurities in life.
“Sometimes I feel alone but I need to be stronger now,” she said. “The best therapy for my loneliness is cooking – and smiling a lot.”
“I devote my time only to Patrick and my family in Jamindan,” Carmen added. “It’s hard to trust people nowadays; I only have limited friends in Bingo games because friends always have the tendency to take advantage although there are true and sincere friends.”
Despite a not-so-pleasant relationship with her stepfather, Carmen sponsored his trip to Vienna for a vacation in 1992. The estranged daughter and stepfather spent Christmas together that year. He eventually returned home the following March.
“Time heals the wound, but I still need to see my real father,” Carmen concluded./WDJ