These days, it seems that all the news has centered on the apparent brazen secrets and lifestyles of a select political set allegedly getting richer from taxpayers’ mo–ney. Linked to a notorious lady whose mug shots have been published and endlessly ridiculed online, you realize that fate can play the cruelest tricks on people in the end.
The recent chain of events, however, is reminiscent too of Shakespearean Hamlet’s own words:
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
(Hamlet, 3.2.208), Player King
Through these all, it seems odd that maybe for these select few, the meaning of earning an honest living seems to have been lost. Perhaps the sense of entitlement breeds some warped interpretation of easy money. How often does it happen that choices made and the company we keep conspire to write a regretful life story?
The same irony goes for generations of families whose wealth is dissipated from one generation to the next; of predecessors who labored and worked hard to build businesses to bequeath, but in turn were squandered by the next generation. Like the select few who have been caught in the news lately, the wealth made seems almost unimaginable, but ironically fleeting.
The choice to earn one’s keep through honest work and perseverance has fortunately been a life lesson we gleaned from my grandfather’s history. Tatang’s life is a plot, in fact, worthy of a drama series.
Born out of wedlock, my grandfather learned to fend for himself early in life. A cutchero (horse-groomer) by day, he supported himself in his studies and learned to survive on his own. Ena–mored with my grandmother Consuelo, the daughter of a snobbish, haughty haciendero, Tatang was unacceptable as a son-in-law. But as his determination proved worthy, my grandmother eventually married him despite her family’s censure.
In the early 1900s, we had been told of stories about how Consuelo’s father could not even count money collected in baskets every time harvest season came. But of course, as money was quite easy to come by, they too spent it and gambled it off like it had no end. To prove himself worthy, Tatang embarked into all sorts of business ventures from running a funeraria to making ice candies, all these while holding a post as a public school principal.
Tatang’s entrepreneurial spirit and hard work eventually bore success and some financial security for his family.
By the turn of the century, my grandmother’s family was almost desolate, and left only with an ancestral home to their name and vast agricultural lands subjected to land reform.
In the end, the once poor son-in-law ironically provided for my grandmother’s family in their later years.
Perhaps history—even from our own family—does teach us essential life lessons if we choose to see them that way. After all, we can choose to reap and earn well-deserved wealth or success in honorable ways.