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.

  • Senators fail to grill DND, AFP officials on chopper deal officials on
    Senators fail to grill DND, AFP officials on chopper deal officials on

    Senators yesterday failed to grill defense and military officials over the P1.21-billion deal for the purchase of 21 Huey helicopters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Service Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. Francis Escudero and Joseph Victor Ejercito were interested to know why the defense department entered into a deal to buy secondhand helicopters when it is supposed to be modernizing the Armed Forces. “I am looking at the Armed Forces of the …

  • Revilla wants to undergo therapy for aching heels
    Revilla wants to undergo therapy for aching heels

    Detained Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. has asked the Sandiganbayan to allow him to undergo therapy sessions for two weeks to treat his aching heels and back pains. In a motion filed before the anti-graft court’s First Division on Monday, Revilla’s lawyers said the senator should undergo further medical examination and treatment of his back and feet, including physical therapy at least three times a week or six sessions for two weeks, at the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital at Camp …

  • Noul may intensify into typhoon – Pagasa
    Noul may intensify into typhoon – Pagasa

    Tropical Storm Noul was forecast to intensify into a typhoon before it enters the Philippine area of responsibility today, but state weather forecasters said it was unlikely to hit landmass. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Noul, which will be locally named Dodong, is expected to skirt the country’s eastern coast, bringing light to moderate with occasional heavy rains over areas in Central and Northern Luzon this weekend. Rene …

  • US fans sue Manny for hiding injury
    US fans sue Manny for hiding injury

    Two Nevada men filed a class-action lawsuit against Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday, seeking millions in damages because they say he fraudulently concealed a shoulder injury before his defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. It is just the latest fallout from Mayweather’s victory in Las Vegas on Saturday in a unanimous decision, with Pacquiao saying afterwards that the shoulder complaint hampered his performance in the welterweight world title showdown. The plaintiffs argue that by failing to go public with …

  • Phl expects China to attend APEC summit in November
    Phl expects China to attend APEC summit in November

    The Philippines expects all 21 leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member-economies, including China, to attend the summit here in November. “This is a multilateral meeting, not a bilateral meeting so there is a big difference between the two... when they come here anyway, APEC does not talk of politics, it’s all economic,” Paynor said. Yesterday at the Kalayaan grounds of Malacañang, the Asian Carmakers Corp. (ACC) held a ceremonial turnover of a fleet of BMW vehicles to be used for …

  • Noy to promote Phl in Canada
    Noy to promote Phl in Canada

    President Aquino left for the United States and Canada yesterday, bearing news of his administration’s accomplishments and hoping to attract more investments and tourists. Aquino noted the US and Canada are home to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and have been reliable partners of the Philippines for a very long time. The two countries, he said, are participants in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November to be hosted by the Philippines. He left the Ninoy Aquino …

  • Philippines says notorious bomb-maker killed by rebels

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino bomb-maker who was one of the country's top terror suspects was killed by Muslim rebels who earlier signed a peace deal with the government, the Philippine military said Wednesday. …

  • Philippines, Japan coast guards hold anti-piracy drills
    Philippines, Japan coast guards hold anti-piracy drills

    Philippine and Japanese coast guard teams staged an anti-piracy drill on Wednesday, featuring the storming of a cargo vessel after a mock hijack, in a show of maritime cooperation between the two nations amid rising tension in Asian waters. Both nations face a challenge from China's growing assertiveness over territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, where it uses coast guard and fishing vessels to press into disputed areas. Wednesday's drill was the first held by …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options