The Inbox

Mom Matec and the boys in her life

Matec Villanueva and her sonsMatec Villanueva and her sons

By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

WHEN her first child Ibarra was born 20 years ago, Matec Villanueva, then 32, felt like she was a Ms. Universe contestant onstage answering a crucial question asked, the question being "What is the essence of a woman?" Her quick answer at that point in her life would have been "Motherhood!"

"It was real and spot on, not some lofty, nice-to-hear answer. At that moment, I knew what the essence of a woman meant, and I was feeling it, for real," she said.

Like many talented women, she had issues with her mother. She said, "I wanted to be a better mother than her."

But when the child was nearly two, she began to worry. She noticed that Ibarra or Bubba just wanted to play alone. He seemed to act deaf at times when she and her then husband Kiko Gargantiel knew that he wasn't.

Villanueva recalls, "The most telling sign was he appeared not to have eye contact with the people around him, including us. Kiko and I talked about it, and we started to seek professional help. In my gut, I knew he was autistic. I was just hoping I was wrong. I had to know for sure."

Around this time, she bore another son, Lorenzo, now 17.

Villanueva didn't think she was hit with a double whammy when the second child turned out to have special needs, too.

"He also belongs to the autism spectrum," she said. "How did I cope? I accepted the reality that my sons had learning disabilities. I decided not to waste time moping or feeling bad.  My ex-husband and I decided to do as much as we could to help our sons."

Along with sending their boys to the right, i.e., accepting and supportive, schools and classes (Community of Learners and restaurateur Waya Araos-Wijangco's cooking classes tailor-made for kids with special needs), the couple was aware of the future and their mortality as parents.

Villanueva said, "We knew that we were going to die some day. We had to make sure that they could be independent and not be a burden to their youngest brother (Franco, now 15, has no disability like his elder brothers).  We sought all the professional help they needed. We read up and tried to learn as much as we could. We sought the best professional help we could find.  More importantly, we loved them for what they are."

Because of the intervention steps the former couple took (they remain friends), Villanueva reports like a proud mom: "Ibarra and Lorenzo are well-behaved and have developed adequate life skills. At first, it was hard to be firm with our resolve, but I just had to accept that it was for their own good."

Her firmness sometimes surprised people who weren't aware of where she was coming from.

She said, "I've encountered people who didn't know better and found me a bit too harsh because I refuse to give in to their tantrums. I took the time to explain that my sons had special needs and I was merely doing what I should. I resisted the temptation to pacify them by giving in to the tantrums.  It all paid off because Ibarra and Lorenzo are well-behaved. They have adjusted to normal living."

The same resolve and toughness made Villanueva, who is 53, the chief executive officer of Publicis Manila, a multinational advertising agency.

She has managed to find time to monitor the boys' eating and lifestyle. She said, "People with their disability tend to either be picky or obsessive eaters. I trained them not to eat more than they should, take sandwich and salad for dinner and to exercise every day. Ibarra swims at Celebrity (Plaza in Quezon City) for an hour, three times a week and walks for an hour for the rest of the week. Lorenzo walks for an hour after dinner for his exercise.  I am very thrilled to say that they are fit and not overweight. And yes, I imposed my lifestyle on them: eating well and exercising."

Asked if she feels she has crossed a difficult bridge and can relax a bit, confident that the boys can fend for themselves, she answered cautiously, "They have gone a long way but far from what I had in mind. I am still working at it to make sure that I give them a chance of having a life."

To parents who may be going through a struggle of accepting that they have a child with special needs and may be at a loss of where to turn, Villanueva offers this advice tinged with the voice of experience: "God gave them to you because He knows you will do a good job. Don't fail God. And most especially, don't fail your child."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano
    Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano

    Government troops captured Sunday a bomb and weapons factory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday. Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the captured bomb and weapons factory is located inside an area controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako at Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano. …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors
    No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors

    Instead of filing an opposition, ombudsman prosecutors filed a manifestation yesterday expressing belief that there is no urgent need for Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to visit his son at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “Based on the clinical abstract issued by the Asian Hospital on patient (Cavite) Vice-governor (Jolo) Revilla, which was submitted by accused Revilla in support of his Urgent Motion, Vice-governor Revilla is in stable condition and has stable vital signs, as of March 1, …

  • 'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait
    'Jihadi John' relatives under watch in Kuwait

    Kuwaiti authorities are closely monitoring several relatives of "Jihadi John" who live and work in the Gulf emirate where the Islamic State executioner was born, press reports said on Sunday. A number of relatives of Mohammed Emwazi, named as the militant who has beheaded at least five Western hostages, are working in Kuwait and like him hold British citizenship, Al-Qabas newspaper reported. "Security agencies have taken the necessary measures to monitor them round the clock," the paper said, …

  • Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon
    Interview: Australia says hunt for missing MH370 jet may be called off soon

    By Matt Siegel CANBERRA (Reuters) - The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cannot go on forever, Australia's deputy prime minister said, and discussions are already under way between Australia, China and Malaysia as to whether to call off the hunt within weeks. No trace has been found of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared a year ago this week carrying 239 passengers and crew, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. The search of a rugged …

  • How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say
    How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say

    CAIRO (AP) — Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded. …

  • Bong wants to see son in hospital
    Bong wants to see son in hospital

    Detained Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. will ask the Sandiganbayan to allow him to visit his son, Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla, confined at the intensive care unit of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa for a gunshot wound in the chest. Lawyer Raymond Fortun, spokesman for the Revilla family, said the senator would ask for a 24- to 48-hour furlough. Sen. Revilla’s legal counsel Ramon Esguerra said doctors removed a half liter of blood. Fortun said he was able to talk to Jolo …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options