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Danielle Bartolome

Family History

By: Danielle Bartolome
College Now Course - BSS 1

My grandmother, Concesa Rebong Fernandez, was born April 8, 1931 in the Philippines. My grandmother, nicknamed Mom C by me when I was a child, has always told me stories of her past hoping I would learn from her experiences and from the choices she's made in her life. This report will contain a recollection of how she dedicated her life to helping others and finding true happiness in doing so.

The Philippines has always been an underdeveloped country. There were always people starving at home, and even more people starving out in the streets. That hasn't changed much, for even today, you'll see children and babies begging on street corners, hoping some kind soul will spare any bit of change. However, during the time of the WWII, it was even worse. Not only did you have malnourished and sickly people everywhere, but also there were terrified citizens running and hiding for their lives as loud bomber jets of the Japanese flew over their heads. At every bit of sound of the planes flying overhead, or "dog fights" as the children called it, my grandmother and her family would run as fast as they could to their bomb shelters. Taking only the essentials, they sat together in silence and prayed for the safety of themselves, their friends, family and those unlucky enough to be without bomb shelters.

Although my grandmother spent most of her childhood and teenage years living in terror and chaos, she was still able to graduate high school. At the end of her high school graduation, the country was in severe need of teachers. Although this was not the path she originally wanted to follow, she decided to take the opportunity so she would be able to support her parents and her siblings. Her mother, a rice harvester, did not earn much money and her father, although a mayor, also didn't bring in a large income. My grandmother wanted to do all she could to help her family, whom she loved so dearly. Later, she went to college to get her Bachelors Degree in Education. For years, her paycheck ($3 a month) went to her parents. She was able to send one brother to law school and another to medical school. The only luxury she indulged in was buying a radio for herself during one Christmas

Twenty years later, when she is 38,Concesa was moved to Nigeria with her husband. My grandfather, Antonio Fernandez, was a very prominent doctor in the Philippines. He was sent to Nigeria to help treat ailing Nigerians who were medically impoverished. My grandmother and her family, which include three girls and two boys, spent about 15 years in Nigeria. She spent her time as a teacher, teaching the illiterate and unintelligent. Even though she wanted desperately to go back home to friends and family, she spent 15 long years in Nigeria. She was proud of what she accomplished and of those whom she was able to help.

Finally, when Concesa was back home in the Philippines, almost immediately she was bombarded with requests to come teach at their school. However, one school was amazed by her talent for teaching, asked her to become the principal of their school, a private school in Victoria. My grandmother's peak of happiness and success came in this school. She loved being a principal and being able to impart so much influence on the children and teachers. All of the children respected and loved her! During her bus ride to school every morning, (cars were very expensive), the students would argue with each other over who would help carry her bag; very similar to boys arguing over who would carry the bag of a girl whose affection they were trying to win! My grandmother was a wonderful principal She wasn't just a power hungry individual, she actually took interest in her student's education and in their lives. She would hold observations during class, making sure teachers were teaching to the best of their ability. Not only was she involved with her students, but she made sure all her teachers were paid fairly and that they received their salary every month.

However, that all changed during the year 1989. On September 15, 1989, I, Danielle Bartolome was born in Staten Island, NY. My parents, recently emigrated from the Philippines, couldn't afford to hire a full time nanny and my mother couldn't afford to be unemployed. The only answer my mother could find was to beg my grandmother to come and watch over me. She pleaded with her and promised to match whatever she was being paid as a principal.

During my grandmother's farewell speech at her school, tears were flowing freely from all in attendance. Teachers, with tears running down their cheeks, praised her for being the best principal they had. Students ran to her and while clutching her arm, they begged her to stay! They cried and pleaded because they truly loved her. She cared so much for them and they knew they would never find a principal like her. But during her speech, she said, "I love you all, but my loyalty to the school must end when my loyalty to the family has to begin." And with that, she left her job, husband, and friends to come to America. She left the safety and comfort of her home to arrive in a strange country, with not a familiar face in sight except for the crying child she would dedicate the rest of her life to.

My grandmother, 83, now resides in Florida taking care of her other grandchild. Her whole life was dedicated to taking care of others. She was able to survive the chaos and destruction of WWII, and rise above it. She became a teacher so that she could earn money and support her family. She left her home to help the unfortunate in another country. After finally finding happiness as a principal, she chose to leave it all behind and come to America to raise me. Ever since childhood, my grandmother was pure in heart and so very selfless. This trait that she acquired as a child is continuously seen in the decisions she makes and the paths she takes. She has resolutely told me that she's made no regrets in life and is pleased with what she's done.

My drive for success is sustained by grandmother's desire for me to succeed. All the accomplishments I've achieve so far is attributed to her. In Sociology, we learned that our genes may predestine some aspect of our lives. In spite of this, I utterly believe that if my grandmother had not taken such a large role in my upbringing, I would not be who I am today