They say that you will never understand where you are going if you do not understand where you came from. I believe that this year was a true testament to that concept. I was under the impression that, in my mid-30s, I had myself all figured out. I thought that I had discovered myself many times over and mastered who I was and who I am, but to my surprise, this year was one of self-discovery all over again.
Having tucked away my life as a singer/rapper/songwriter – a symbol of my late teenage and early adult years – I focused on my personal businesses (makeup artistry and beauty consultancy) for the better part of the past 8 years. And, while I have always been around to lend a helping hand to my Señeres family’s advocacy* through seasons, I always made it a point to get back to “regularly scheduled programming” when those “seasons” were over. In my mind, it was healthier and more organic for me to stick to my own path.
Besides, if I may be honest, there are certain angles to the push for advocacy that I didn’t think I could stomach all year round. In one word: politics.
Contrary to what most may know about me, I am not new to politics. When our family moved to the Philippines in the mid-90s, I dove headfirst into this world that I had not been a part of growing up in the US. My maternal grandfather, Lolo Ismael “Mel” Mathay, was on his 2nd term as Mayor of Quezon City with a multitude of credentials to his name. My cousins and I used to hang out at HQ, join rallies and motorcades, etc. My uncles (my mom’s brothers) were being molded to carry on what my lolo had started – as a city councilor and district Congressman, respectively. After my lolo’s third term as Quezon City Mayor, however, everything changed. I won’t dwell on the hows and whys, but let’s just say that my beloved grandfather poured his heart and soul into the city that he hailed from and his team that he trusted with his life. Unfortunately, that trust was broken.
My lolo did right by the city and his constituents through groundbreaking programs and developments and an untarnished track record. Lamentably, genuine service and hard work are not always enough to get by in politics.
Witnessing what the game had done to him and being more inclined to the arts, I wanted nothing to do with family plans in public service, particularly politics.
You can imagine how I felt when I met the man that I would later marry. Roy Señeres, Jr. (RJ) and I met through music, but as it would turn out, his family not only had a background in public service and politics, but had once crossed paths with my family once upon a time. Back when my lolo was still QC Mayor and traveling to Europe, he suffered from a severe asthma attack in-flight, which resulted in an emergency stopover in Abu Dhabi. At that same time, RJ’s father, “Amba” Roy Señeres, Sr., was the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE and based in Abu Dhabi with his immediate family. Amba so graciously received my lolo at the airport and proceeded to take immense care of him throughout his stay. As a show of gratitude, my lolo later supported Amba’s bid for Senator in the late 90s.
My close friends used to put such significance into this info, that RJ and I were both into music and came from political families. Obviously, being allergic to politics, I never put much meaning into this “coincidence”.
Fast forward a couple years later and seeing how similar our families were in the sense that goals and ambitions were a family affair, I relented and got involved in my own way – marketing and events throughout parts of the year.
After graduating from law school, RJ resumed his duties as President & CEO of the OFW Family Club* and was being prepped for a political path alongside his father. 4 years after we got married, he filed as a nominee of the OFW Family Party-list for the first time. This began my deeper involvement through the “seasons”.
Towards the end of my father-in-law’s term as Congressman, he was determined to make his bid as President. Go hard or go home. Go hard, he did, in pushing his innovations for the betterment of the country. Sadly, succumbing to a long battle with his health, he did go home, too. Home to Our Creator.
Having promised to his dad that he would carry on, he ran as the first nominee of the party-list in 2016 in spite of being emotionally and mentally shattered. For that and numerous other factors, we fell short a couple votes and did not secure a seat. This had a rippling effect, to say the least.
We hit rock bottom over the next few years. This was true for the organization and for our family on a personal standpoint. We were financially burdened, “supporters” jumped ship, friends became foes. I know that I wrote about it in pockets, but kept it pretty cryptic. I didn’t think anyone outside of our circle would understand.
One thing’s for sure, I strongly wanted to swear off politics and anything related thereto for good. I centered myself around my business opportunities and RJ continued to work under the radar at the OFW Family Club with his sister and Senior Vice President, Hazel. At times, I wished my husband could move on and find something else to do, but he held on and I had to admire that. My man was not a quitter and he did not break promises, particularly one that he made to his dad. He resolved to find a way to rebuild.
In 2018, RJ was looking for partners in said plans to rebuild the organization in anticipation of the 2019 Elections, much to my dismay. Yet, I knew that he needed my support and validation. Thus, I gave my blessing as a wife to try and make something happen. The meetings began, options presented themselves, and decisions needed to be made.
For anyone that has paid attention, you would know that, ultimately, the decision was to move forward with the Pacquiao family. Alberto “Bobby” Pacquiao, younger brother of Senator Manny Pacquiao, ran as the first nominee of the OFW Family Party-list.
Through God’s good graces, we secured a seat this last 2019 Elections and we are represented by Congressman Bobby Pacquiao in the 18th Congress. Moreover, while he may be a neophyte Congressman and virtually new on the OFW horizon, we are blessed to be represented by someone with a pure heart and willingness to ensure that our kababayans will be better protected and served.
Which (*phew*), brings me to present day. Even after the elections, much work was to be done. A major overhaul of the organization ensued, everyday busier than the next. The balance between maintaining what was and building atop it was the optimum objective this year.
In 2019, I did not unplug from OFW Family matters as I normally would have. In fact, I found it extremely cathartic to be able to explore ideas for the organization and execute the same side by side my husband and a remarkable team. I delved into all aspects of the office to better serve it – welfare assistance, stakeholders meetings, outreach programs, support groups, legislation, and the like.
My connection to our OFWs grew deeper, too. What I once identified as strictly support for my husband and applauding a worthy cause began to speak to me differently and the person that I had become. Perhaps, even to the person that I had always been. A mixture of introspection and talks with my parents made me realize certain things.
I was born in the US and am therefore, an American citizen, but also a second-generation immigrant according to some immigration activists. Before my mom became a naturalized American citizen, I was also – technically – the daughter of an OFW.
Both of my parents worked for the consulate in Los Angeles, in connection to the Department of Tourism. Thus, as “American” as I grew up in those years, I had a lot of Filipino culture instilled in my upbringing, too.
We had Filipino Household Service Workers and I witnessed firsthand how they should be treated by their employers. Not like commodities, but like a part of our family*.
I suppose what I’m trying to drive at is the idea that while I was never an OFW myself nor even part of the birth of the advocacy, I felt linked to our modern day heroes as if by design. I’m not gonna lie. I still struggle with the politics part of the equation, but I take the good with the bad.
To sum it all up, the end of this decade made a lot of my life come full circle. It is all so much more profound now. I know that I am where I am meant to be and doing what I am meant to do right now. I can honestly say that I am wrapping up not only this year, but this entire decade, on a positive note.
With that, I wish for all my readers and peers to be in high spirits as we bid 2019 farewell. If you were lost, I hope you are now found. If you were unsure of your path, I hope that you have found your footing now. Happiest New Year to all!
* The OFW Family Club was founded in 2001 by my late father-in-law, Ambassador “Amba” Roy V. Señeres. It is a non-government organization primarily tasked to intercede on behalf of distressed OFWs and their requests for assistance with government and private agencies.
* Trivia: Our former live-in helper, Tina, now has her green card, but she still freelances at my brother and aunt’s place once a week.