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Why does it have to be me?

Our family, left to right - John, Me, Mom and Jeffry. Taken last February 5 at San Remo Oasis, Cebu.
Weekends is something that everyone looks forward to. To spend time with family, do household chores and even just get lazy for two (2) days before Monday kicks in again. 

Not in my case.

Saturday nights seem to be one of those moments when I come to think of the challenges that I and my family had gone through. Weekends seem to be a whirlpool of emotional flashbacks, life-decision evaluations, and discovery of self-worth mixed with anxiety and depression.

Life has been tough with the Gamotan family. It all started when I learned that growing up will be a bit different. I have a little brother with down syndrome. This meant that I won’t have a playmate that I can play hide and seek with. I don’t have someone to learn the ABCs with nor a brother that I can go with looking for spiders in the woods or pickup snails in the riverbanks.

I grew up in a remote countryside where neighbors were half a mile away. This is where my brother, Jeffrey, learned his first words, “meow” while licking his leg, mimicking our cats doing the same. I still can clearly recall those memories like flying kites over a plateau of the sand pile from the quarry nearby. 

Our old house in Purok 4, Brgy Proteccion, Hilongos Leyte

Life was then simple but still questioned, of all little kids who can have a brother with down syndrome, why does it have to be me?

We moved to Cebu when my father decided to work on inter-island. He works for a shipping company moving goods to different countries. A life-changing decision he needs to make after their tanker ship sank in Puerto Rico after a collision incident.  Luckily he was part of the survivors who manage to stay afloat for several hours in the Carribean peninsula.

Moving to Cebu was challenging. I was 9 and starting Grade 3. The family rented a 15-meter square house in Sikatuna, alongside the slumps of Alcohol Street and Riverside. This was a totally new environment for me where I used to have endless horizons and can run for hours on hilltops and mountain ranges. We were literally living on a shoebox however that didn’t stop me from doing well in school. Three (3) years after, I graduated with flying colors with 16 medals and a wide proud smile.

Instead of happily and proudly walking down with my toga and my awards, I padded through with a heavy heart learning that my dad just got months to live. He had diabetes and a failing kidney with slim chances of survival. He has been on weekly dialysis for 2 years and resources were nearly depleted. Then I began to question again, of all the graduates who could have been really joyful that day, why does it have to be me?

May 2001. Dad passed away.

Left with my mom, Jeffrey and John who was just 2 years old that time, life needs to go on. Mom manages to get us food on the table by cooking native delicacies. You can read more on her story here:

Again questioned, of all the kids my age, why does it have to be me who needed to carry the responsibility? Is it because I am the eldest that I needed to be a breadwinner of the family?

Life continues to be normal with ups and down after a good 16 years.

April 2017 New Zealand. 
The day I learned that I have Papillary Thyroid Cancer: 

I questioned, of all the breadwinners out there who wish and dream of getting my family from the rooting poverty of our society, why does it have to be me?

Feb 14, 2018.
Mom passed away.
Valentines Day and 4 days after my 32nd birthday.
She had Acute Lukemia Cerebrovascular Bleed secondary to severe thrombocytopenia

Mom's wake at Brgy Kanghaas, Hilongos, Leyte

I again looked up and questioned. I am on the way of financial freedom and stability, that I was about to build a mansion for you, and I planned to travel with you and family, discover places we have never been, and that I have planned for your retirement - why did you suddenly leave us?

Life has been very unforgiving but despite these challenges of life, we continue to move forward, carrying life lessons and cherishing great memories. Thankful of all the blessings and support of friends and family members around.

The Retulla Family

I  just miss you so badly Mom.

On Monday, March 25, it’s going to be your 40th day.
Forty days of loneliness.
Forty days of grief but forty days of blessings.

Learning that we were never been alone on this journey. I can’t express more how blessed we are. The family received overflowing support from family member, friends and peers from the wake to the funeral to everything.

To the Retulla family,
To my ever dearest cousins,
To the Urgel family,
To the Gamotan’s family,
To Auntie Lita (mom’s best friend) and family,
To my the La Paloma neighbors,
To Totong’s classmates and friends,
To my GOCC teachers and classmates,
To my mom’s batch mates,
To my mom’s Kakanin customers,
To the Brgy Proteccion family and friends,
To the Brgy Kanghaas family and friends,
To the HSCS Teachers,
To the Flordelis clan,
To the Igana clan,
To the Dolce Casa family,
To Oremus family,
To the HNVS Faculty and Staff,
To the Immaculate Conception Parish in Hilongos,
To all friends and to everyone who expressed their sympathy and condolences physically and virtually,

We can’t thank you enough for everything.
Mama Bebie’s legacy lives on and her passion for service continues.


  1. oh, my brother, i start tearing, when i read your story. Life has been really unforgiving especially to you. but you are still very kind and optimistic, also makes you so unbreakable. i really admire you brother, really want to give you a warm and tight hug.
    as long as our passion, love, dream and friends still there, everything will fine in one day. and me, i'm always be here for you, no matter where i am, whenever i can help, i always do my best to you.
    Last year i didn't make it to go back to the Philippines, but i really miss you, Philip and all the friends there.

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