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.

  • McCain seeks defence funding to help Asia against China challenges
    McCain seeks defence funding to help Asia against China challenges

    By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading U.S. senator has proposed that the United States provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help train and equip the armed forces of Southeast Asian countries faced with Chinese territorial challenges. Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the proposal in an amendment to the 2016 U.S. Defense Authorization Act expected to be passed later this year, entitled the South China Sea Initiative. It …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. The President’s visit would boost relations between the two countries on all aspects including defense and security, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Minda Cruz. …

  • CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike
    CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike

    The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) appears to have released erroneous data on the allowed tuition and other fee increases in Metro Manila for the incoming academic year. On the list of the 51 approved higher education institutions (HEI) allowed to impose hikes, CHED pegged the average increase in tuition at P32.34 per unit and the average increase in other fees at P34.79. However, a Philippine STAR re-computation showed that the actual average approved tuition increases in Metro …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options