Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dear Bert, from Nena

Dear Bert,

I'd like to tell you, Bert, about my friend.

She's a brave and admirable woman -- my friend. But I worry about her these days.

At work, she pores over papers, teaches, writes, e-mails, attends meetings with her usual grace. She smiles, even laughs sometimes. She even manages to ask me how I am doing. She makes the usual small talk. In short, she goes through the motions. But her eyes -- they tell a different tale. I catch her off guard with a faraway look. The dark fringes give away sleepless nights. But more than that, her eyes betray an unspeakable sadness.

Meanwhile, as she keeps up her brave front, her eyes get darker, her body slighter, her countenance sadder. Twice I espied her inside her room her head buried in her arms, weeping softly. I asked her if she was sick and if she wanted to be taken to the clinic. She said she had a headache but that it would pass.

When we are alone together, I make subtle openings. I confide in her my own deep secrets so she could start unburdening hers. At another time, I dished out my usual line: "You are so lucky you have everything," hoping that when she begins to protest, a floodgate of confidences would open. She had not taken the bait.

Now that she has taken a long leave from work, I am sure there is something terribly wrong with my friend. She just is not saying. Perhaps, she is ashamed. Perhaps she hates to be pitied. Or doesn't want to get others upset, no matter that they are friends. But it is so unhealthy -- not being able to unload.

I worry over my friend because she has admitted she eats little and has problems sleeping. It figures -- the way she's fast losing weght and how deep the shadows around her eyes have become. For weaker women, this combination is dangerous. It can be a prelude to a nervous breakdown.

I worry over my friend. Because if my hunches are correct, what she is now going through I have myself gone through -- 20 years ago.

I was 35 when my husband took an 18-year-old mistress. My two-year ordeal was the darkest season of my life. I felt the most excruciating pain -- a pain I wouldn't wish on my most hated enemy.

I fought for my husband with everything in my power. Sometimes I smothered him with all the TLC I could muster. Other times I attacked him like a virago from hell. I went to Baclaran every Wednesday, St. Jude every Thursday, Quiapo every Friday; walked on my knees, burnt candles before altars, whispered mantras before I slept.

At work, I couldn't function thinking of the two of them. When he came home late, I thought it could be either of two things: he was making love with his mistress or mugged in the streets. I always preferred the mugging.

When I fell into troubled sleep, at time with the help of pills, I didn't want to wake up to the new morning -- for the pain would start all over again.

Oh yes, he tried to assure me of his abiding love. The affair was an "accident," something he didn't ask for. But he couldn't leave the "poor girl" just like that, he said. He asked for time. He expected me to wait while I slowly died.

My children -- how they suffered, as I found out later. But I was oblivious to them. It was a wonder they didn't grow up wayward. Today, my son would chide me: "You didn't see me grow up. You were too busy with work and with something else."

In the end I got my husband back. But I was so exhausted and resentful it no longer mattered. In the process of fighting, I stopped loving.

This sounds over-dramatic and sad, doesn't it. But every word of my story is true, every emotion I recounted I actually felt. Since then, I've read accounts of woman similarly betrayed. Compared to some of theirs, my story pales. Which got me thinking: If errant husbands had a full appreciation of what their wives -- women they love or once did love -- go through, would they rethink what they are doing. If my husband had an inkling of my personal hell, would my story have ended differently?

I have learned since that no man is worth the pain, the mental agony, the humiliation, and most of all the setting aside of other important things in life like children, career, and one's own well- being. I have learned that the heart can stop caring if it has been battered so.

These lessons I want to pass on to my friend, your wife.



(Note: The above is a sort of postscript to Nena's story published here some time ago. Nena told me her story for an aborted book project which I hope to revive. Click here and here to read/reread Nena's story. This letter to Bert was actually written and sent by Nena).


myepinoy said...

Great Idea.. Nena is back...

BTW, how's the book launch?

Annamanila said...


Thanks for asking. The book launch was successful; many guests congratulated us for a "great program." There were hitches, as all events go, but none that was too obvious. You just don't know how good it feels.

And yes, the book -- its a great looking book, too.

Maybe, pics of the launch will make it to PDI. Crossing my fingers.

Nena is back, yes. Will feature other Nenas. Ty ty

evi said...

i'm so moved by this letter. who else is there to defend and help you but a friend?

Abaniko said...

"I have learned since that no man is worth the pain, the mental agony, the humiliation, and most of all the setting aside of other important things in life like children, career, and one's own well- being."

I agree. Not just a man but a woman, another person, a thing, an event, etc. is worth the pain. I still believe that happiness is still a decision.

Annamanila said...


Yes, Nena said she wanted to do something for her friend more than just pray.

Anyway, this happened years ago and Bert has mended his ways. Nena is not sure if her letter helped.

Annamanila said...


Yes, isn't that true? One should realize he or she is whole and intact inside, no matter the external circumstances of his/her life are. One should always get in touch with the wholeness within.

"Happiness is a decision" -- well said!

vernaloo said...

"The affair was an "accident," something he didn't ask for."

crap hehe men should come up with something new.

Anyway I also agree with have to decide to be happy but that is easier said and done. Sometimes no matter what you say or do if your surrounding or environment reminds you of the pain,it's kinda hard to stick to that decision. But then again who said it's going to be easy.

SASSY MOM said...

I'm moved by this Anna. Men who womanizes gives a lot of reasons ... huh! A lot crap, I may say.

I'm a product of a broken family that's why I can emphatize so much.

Anyway, nice to have visited you once again --- my job is really taking its toll on my sked. That's why I had to give up my blogging time sometimes.


soloops said...

Re:"Its a wonder my children didn't go wayward."

Well, Ms. Anna, in our family, one of my 3 sisters did. Maybe because she couldn't deal with it, as we did. One of us focused on a bf, the other one on sports, while I created my own world where I could be lost in my books and movies.

How I wish Ms. Anna, that I could've hugged my Mama more often, knowing now what she went through.

Sexy Mom said...

do i see Nena's book coming up? hmmm....

life is a mystery, a misery or whatever depending on how one sees it, don't you think so?

pining said...

it's such a tragic story indeed. I have a friend like this; her husband didn't only cheat on her, she was also battered too (and for a long period of time). She's one of the lucky ones because she was able to get away from him while she's still young and able.
Now, she's a much happier, carefree independent woman!

julie said...

Nena is a wonderful friend. We should have at least a Nena in our lives to keep us on our toes.

I wonder why I had difficulty reading the post at some time? Oh, I think it was because of the tears that threatened to fall which came with a heavy feeling.

Thank you for sharing this story.

lei said...

i hope bert got the message..

i read nena's story and i can't help but cry. glad she's okay now.

Belle said...

i don't know why men aren't satisfied with just only one? why oh why? a husband of a friend of mine had to become a Muslim so he could have multiple wives. she finally mustered the courage to leave him 20 years later. she is a lot happier now with her children.

Major Tom said...

Very honest narrative and full of emotions, real emotions that readers are salivating for, a study into the languid emotions that mortals sometimes set into, from one who have been into it firsthand. It's gonna be a very celevr book idea and project. Go for it,madame.

Anna said...

i have a couple of friends who, like nena, fought really, really hard for their men. and when they got them back, they realized that they weren't worth the fight. hay, buhay!

ysrael said...

Hope, Nena will smile w/ this line; " I tried to drown my troubles but my husband learned how to swim."

Kittymama said...

I don't know how I got here, but I am glad I did. You write beautifully, Miss Anna, and your words moved me.
This is a great story; I only wish it hadn't been true.

exskindiver said...

very moving indeed.
the way Nena deals with her pain, unfortunately hits a nerve.

hi mc.

Anonymous said...

it's true - both exhausting and numbing. and yes, in the process of fighting, one would eventually stop loving.
i admire women who decided to stay to keep the relationship intact.

lady cess said...

ang galing mo!

looking forward to your nena series. and the nena book too!

Gina said...

This letter deserves to be read by many. It may have been written a lifetime ago, but it has a message that might help strengthen and empower women who are similarly betrayed.

Here's to a book in the making...

imom said...

Very touching letter. I hope Bert (and all the Berts out there reading this) will realize how big a jerk he is. And I hope his wife realizes the truth of the last paragraph.

I look forward to reading more of Stories of Women Betrayed series. :) Yes, a book perhaps?

Anonymous said...

In the end, every person is entitled to his/her happiness. The idea of a sacificial relationship being a symbol of "true relationship" in my opinion is hogwash. Every person deserves to be happy and society must work towards freeing people off the bind of double-standard and hypocritical practices. The only way for women to move on with their lives in a just and fair manner would be for the Phil govt to legalize divorce.

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