Father's Day Special 2015: “Rina, why did you leave me? I can’t do this alone."

This Father's Day 2015, we celebrate a father who embodies hope, strength and courage as he raises his daughter after his wife's passing. Read AJ Araneta's story here.

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The main girl in AJ Araneta’s life, Tammi Araneta. Taken when she was a toddler.

1. How long were you a solo parent and are you still?

I am currently a solo parent and it’s been eight years since my wife’s passing.

2. Could you share a bit about your wife until her passing? 

We were together for seven years before we got married in 2005 – Rina passed away in 2006. For almost eight years, we shared a happy relationship, growing up together with our friends in our village and serving our community through the parish, Saint James The Greater Parish in Alabang.

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Tammi and her “mama”, Sally Chua Chiaco.

3. How old was your child at the time and how did she react to the situation?

After a year of being married, my wife gave birth to our daughter, Tammi, in 2006. 2 days later, my wife passed away due to an embolism after childbirth. There was a 10-inch clot that was dislodged from her calf and that had traveled to the heart, it blocked her blood flow causing a cardiac arrest.

4. How did your child cope with the situation and what did you, as her father, to help her get through the tough times?

My daughter was just two days old and very young when my wife passed on – Tammi spent a total of eight hours with my wife in the hospital room since she needed to be breastfed. We only got to take one family picture.

Tammi was not aware of the situation at the time but as a toddler, she began asking where her mom was, why and how she passed on. I remember it was just last year when Tammi asked for the full details of her mom’s passing.

I answered her briefly and slowly, making sure that I was being careful with what I was saying. In all honesty, it was one of the scariest days of my life. Her tone was different compared to the other times when she’d ask about her mom. It was very tense for me.

After explaining what happened, I ended up hugging Tammi and reassuring her that everything would be all right. I was tearing up. I reminded her that even with her mom watching over her, that she’d always have Chapchap (her grandfather), Mama (her grandmother), Achi (her aunt) and me to take care of her and to love her no matter what.

Click “Continue Reading” for more on AJ Araneta’s story. 

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Tammi with her “Chapchap” and “Mama”, Anchit Chua Chiaco and Sally Chua Chiaco.

5. How did you cope with the situation? What support was offered to you (financial, emotional, etc)?

I went through a period of depression and would often find myself staring off into space or at the wall. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, so I would work long hours – starting my day at 7am and working late into the evening.

But even then, my family and friends were very supportive. I never lacked in emotional support since they would take time out of their busy schedules to talk to me or to just simply be with me.

My father-in-law was very supportive. I admire him for his ability to foresee things before they happen, and to plan and organize accordingly. I am thankful that both my father-in-law and mother-in-law were there to support me while I was coping with the loss of my wife, and for staying strong for me and the family.

My mother-in-law took care of Tammi during the wee hours of the morning, waking up almost every two hours just to feed, check up on her and make sure that she had everything that she needed. She also took care of me, taking me in as if I were one of her own. She did all of this while grieving the loss of her daughter.

6. Can you recall a time when you felt like you were at your lowest point and didn’t know what you were doing parent-wise? How did you overcome the situation?

There was one time when my mother-in-law was resting when Tammi woke up in the middle of the night, so I tended to her. It was the first time I did so without assistance and it was a success.

After feeding her, I cradled Tammi in my arms and began crying. I whispered, “Rina, why did you leave me, I can’t do this alone.” I felt so heavy and alone, I continued to cradle Tammi until she fell back asleep.

My biological parents passed away when I was younger, so I’m very thankful that my in-law’s, despite the loss of their own daughter, showed me unwavering support. My mother-in-law remained strong and helped me deal with my heavy heart.

7. How has your relationship with your child/ren changed since then? 

My relationship with my daughter started off with me taking care of her more materially than emotionally. I knew that as a father, it was my duty to make sure that she was well-taken care of and that she had everything she needed, so I worked, worked and worked some more.

I entered the BPO industry and worked for a call center that handled technology accounts – because of the hours, I spent little to no time with my daughter. As time passed, I realized that the set-up wasn’t healthy and told myself that Tammi had already lost her mother, I didn’t want her to lose me, too.

With that in mind, I began an online retail and wholesale business and feel like it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I was able to work from home for the most part, and more importantly, got to spend more time with my daughter. Nowadays, I get to drive Tammi to and from school, bring her to her favorite burger joint in Alabang and get to tuck her in at night.

8. With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would do differently?

Yes. I would have started my business venture earlier. I could have avoided the pains of corporate life and losing time with my child and family, but I feel like I had to go through what I went through. That everything that happened had a purpose – I’m just thankful I made it through.

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Papa Anchit, Mama Sally, Tammi, Charlie the Dog, Carline (my sister-in-law), Gabe (Carline’s boyfriend) and I.

9. What was the best bit of advice that helped you as a solo parent? And how are you doing now? 

The best advice I got was from my best friend, Andrew. All he said was, “Habang may buhay, may pagasa.” I remember feeling really down when he said that, so when he mentioned it, it gave me hope and stuck to me like gum.

He reminded me that life wasn’t over, that I should remember how Rina lived, to not dwell on her passing and to be thankful for the time she spent with me. Whenever I’d go through bouts of depression, I’d remember what Andrew said and it would help me get up and stand again.

Now, I am the Managing Director of my own company, Aniva Information Technology Services, which provides networking products such as personal and industrial powerbanks, energy products, mobile accessories and other network peripherals.

I am also going out with someone who I definitely care for and who I’ve already been talking with regarding our future.

10. What advice would you give to other single/solo parents?

MOVE ON. From my experience, solo parents tend to keep everything to themselves and the pressure can be too much – let all of your apprehensions go and move on. Take time for yourself and recharge when you can and as much as you can. Then get back up and move on.

MOVE FORWARD. Family and friends will always be there for you and they will go through tough times with you but you need to lead them first. They will move forward with you if you take the first step. Remember the good times, cherish them and honor them. Then take that step of moving forward. When you move, others will move with you.

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