Saturday September 1, 2018

Let me share with you the beautiful memories of my humble beginnings. I was born and raised in an uncivilized village in a remote island called Antequera, Bohol in the Philippines. I am fondly called “Tata” by neighbors and friends. In the village, there was no electricity and no running water. We take our baths and wash our clothes in the river, situated deep in the forest. We carry our laundry on top of our heads walking though the wooded rugged terrains in hopes that we don’t encounter or step on snakes, in which i did a few times.

We cook our food this way, these are the typical houses of my neighbors, these are the gas lamps that gave us light in the evenings, I struggled to do my homework with very minimal light.

This was my grandmother’s sewing machine, this was the potty/pee bowl we put next to us when we sleep in the evenings because the toilet is separated from the house. The small radio was the only form of daily entertainment by listening to radio soap operas. Sweet potato and steam rice were a daily common food. This was our road to the village, this is how I played, this was a typical kitchen of my neighbors, the bamboo jar was our piggy bank. We had bonfires in the afternoons to keep the mosquitoes away. There were no beds. We slept on the floor with a mat made from coconut leaves. The older the mats, the softer it gets. I must go to the forest every 2 days to gather up dead woods to be used for our daily cooking. My school was next to a beautiful wooded running river. I walked a mile to school barefoot with my lunch wrapped in banana leaves, tied around with a banana string. A simple steam rice and salted fish is a typical daily lunch for school. Ahhh…. was peaceful, beautiful, far and untouched by modern marvels; My grandmother always used to tell me afternoon stories, as i sat on the floor with my face leaning on her knees, as she sat on her window chair, “if there is going to be a world war, it will never reach Antequera because it is so so far”… As the village church bells rang every 6 pm, we all dropped what we are all doing, kneel down in front of the family altar, and I lead the family in a daily rosary prayer in Latin. You can miss a whole day’s meals, but this…. must never be missed! My grandfather gathers up all the chickens just before sundown daily, when one chicken is missing, he sends me out to search, catch and bring the chicken home. I actually became good doing this since I was 6 years old !

A simple and brief insight into my beautiful childhood….

At 16 years old; I landed in a country called America! At 21 years old, my first job in America was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where I embarked on what turned out to be such an amazing successful career as an event planner. I went on to become the Senior Catering Sales Manager of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, then on to the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel, a total of 24 glorious years in the hotel industry.

In 2003, I was given a “gift” – The Miss Asia USA …and in 2010, armed with 5 lawyers and a fearless determination never to give-up, I won a 5 year historic trademark lawsuit against the Miss Universe Organization. Now, I am enjoying my passion of producing beautiful cultural pageants that unites the multitudes of cultures now rooted in America .

Life is truly amazing!

If you have a problem, there will be a solution soon…

If you are down, you›ll be up soon.. So …hang in and hang on, the best of life is yet to come !

I am Virgelia Villegas.

Photos provided by the writer

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