Diana Jean Gonzalez
Giving up a great love, for the greatest love
Sitting across her, separated only by a large mahogany table, one cannot help but feel slightly intimidated by her strong personality, balanced by an equally welcoming charisma. As she rises and strides gracefully in a brightly-painted green kitchen, her confidence in every step leaves no trace of the happiness and tragedies of the past fifty-two years.
She hangs up her mobile phone with a smile, to end a fifteen-minute frustrated call to the customer service department of a bank. The representative on the other end of the line could barely utter a word against her endless shower of complaints about: first, a broken airpot – supposedly a reward received after availing of the bank’s promo and second, the slow postal service of her billing statements every month. But as the conversation came to a close, she was calling the representative by her first name in a very kind tone, and they were sharing laughs, as if they were best friends, as if the shower of complaints was not what it was, after all.
A single mother for almost 11 years, Diana Jean Gonzalez never demands respect, but she gets it. People who barely know her would say that she emits an overwhelming aura, making her difficult to approach. But to those close to her, she is a kind-hearted person who would do anything to protect and guide the people she loves, the reason she appears strong and intimidating to others.
This protectiveness stems from being raised by a very strict father. As a child, she was not allowed to leave the house to play with other children on the streets, she could watch television only on Fridays and Saturdays, she could not go on field trips, she was taught household chores though their family had a housemaid, and whenever a boy visited her at home, her father would bring out his gun and clean it. Though at times she felt that she could not do what she wanted out of fear of her father, she later realized that it was for her own good. “[The way I was raised] helped me, because I learned to focus on my studies. Even if my father never said a word, I felt that he wanted us to study hard so that we could all finish our education.”
Because of this, “Dianne,” as she is fondly called by her friends, claims that she has always set her goals on building a successful career. For 18 years, she worked for different branches of College Assurance Plan (CAP) Family of Companies, until she decided to resign in 2004, to become a full-time mother to her children. “All I did was work. I was working and working that time, and then, I resigned, and I realized how fulfilling it was to be a mother, a mother who fully takes care of her children.”
This, however, was not the only thing that she had to sacrifice.
In 2001, in a small apartment in Lopez Village, Parañaque, Dianne, pregnant with her youngest son, watched as her husband, Sel, packed his clothes into two luggage bags while whispering words of comfort to two small girls who were scared to see their father go. But no amount of cries could stop him from wanting to provide for his family. Soon after, Dianne and her children returned to Lubao, Pampanga, their hometown, because her husband felt more secure with his family closer to their relatives, while he was away. Dianne held on to the hope that one day, the family she loves so much will be together again.
Years passed, and her one great love left her.
Dianne and her husband practically grew up together, because they were neighbors, who took up their elementary and secondary studies in the same school, Sacred Heart Academy in Guagua, Pampanga, a twenty-minute jeepney ride away from their small barangay, Sta Lucia. They were two strangers who never imagined that one day, they would fall in love. Strangers, who funnily enough, thought they were cousins.
In a small rural town like Lubao, it has always been a tradition to visit neighbors on occasions such as Christmas and New Year. On the Christmas of 1990, Dianne, who was then turning 29, and who already ruled out the possibility of falling in love and getting married, suddenly felt the urge to hug Sel and wish him a merry Christmas. “If it is your destiny, it will really just happen instantly. That’s it. It just happened.” And so it did. That was where it all started.
It was not a long engagement. He proposed to her on February 14, 1991, and a rainbow-themed wedding was set on the 7th of April. “He is patient. He never got mad, he never raised his voice. If he could give something within his means, he would. He was very kind, very giving, very generous. That’s why I was able to love him that much,” she says.
A love, no matter how great, can end, at a time you least expect it to.
In 2005, Dianne went to Los Angeles, California. As ironic as it may seem, she flew to be by her husband’s side but on that trip, the marriage ended. She had two options: to stay with him, and they would work together abroad, or to leave and return to her three children. She chose the latter, and as a consequence to this choice, she signed divorce papers, because the only way to quicken the legalization of the papers of her husband without her by his side, was for him to marry an American citizen. When her husband found a woman he could marry, it was either he fell in love with this woman, or he just could not leave her.
This shattered Dianne’s heart into a thousand little fragments, and for quite some time, she could not mend it. In the middle of the night, when she thought all her children were fast asleep, Sel would call and they would fight, screaming at each other, wondering where everything had gone wrong, hanging up the phone in tears. Days and weeks and months passed, and they no longer called each other “love” when they talked, and then the talking stopped altogether, but the sleepless nights didn’t. But for her children – her greatest loves, she eventually became friends with the person who hurt her the most, and she had no choice but to accept what has happened, and live with the pain every day.
But, despite the suffering it has caused her she considers this choice the greatest she had ever made. “I was able to experience being a mother to my children. I chose to stay here in the Philippines and take care of them, because I felt that it was for the best. Eventually, now that I see the outcome of my choice to stay behind, I know that it has been the greatest decision of my life. I never regretted that.”
“I always bear in mind that when I chose to stay, I had to be a mother and a father to my three children, no matter what. The only reason I have, to go on, is I love my children very, very much,” she stresses. The happiness of being with her children, watching them grow, and guiding them through the years, has been her refuge from the pain of losing the person she loves.
Slowly, her love for her children stitched the pieces of her broken heart. “This is my greatest achievement, that I fulfilled my role as a mother to my three children, that I have raised them to be who they are right now.”
She admits, however, that somehow, she fears facing the years to come. “I am not looking for someone to be with. But everybody says that it is hard to grow old alone. Time will come, my children will have their own lives, and eventually I’ll be alone. That’s the saddest reality on my part. It would be wonderful to grow old with somebody by my side.”
But there remains hope.
After everything she has been through, she draws strength from the hope that she has nurtured in her heart, the hope that will forever be the source of her strength, the hope that one day, perhaps, every sacrifice would be worth it.
“Whatever God still wants to happen to my family, it remains to be seen… God is so good, that I know, whatever will happen, He has something good stored for me. I know I can be happier. For now, I am happy, I have no regrets, I am very happy that I have my children with me.”