Cinderella is back.
Jessie Maloles, though, is not the fictitious downtrodden girl whose story we loved to read in illustrated comic books when we were children. Instead, Jessie is for real, that one beautiful lady in her finery that one beholds in civic club meetings, parties and balls, and in her fabulous palatial home.
In her well-appointed living room, replete with shimmering gilded furniture and gold ornaments, Jessie relaxes with her family and entertains friends, and when prodded, shares the touching story of her youth.
Growing up in Mindanao, in a village by the sea, she was the daughter of poor parents. To feed herself, she would join her grandfather and other fisherfolk in hauling their fresh harvest from the sea.
“For my efforts, I received one tiny fish that I cooked for the next meal. I had to fend for myself because there was hardly food at home,” she shared with the Daily Tribune when we visited her one lunchtime.
In her young mind, she promised herself she would do her best to better her circumstances. In her elementary years, she sold yema to her classmates. She used her little earnings to buy her a snack of native delicacies during recess. She even did odd jobs, like helping her classmates with their assignments, for which they each paid her 25 centavos. The wonder was she always landed at the top of her class.
Due to her perseverance, she reached college. To support herself, she worked during her free time in a hardware store, and later, a department store. “My feet ached each night because I had to stand behind the counter while on duty.”
She failed to finish college because, along the way, she fell in love and bore children. It wasn’t long before she and her husband parted ways.
To help ease her pain, a cousin brought her to Manila. Once, she treated Jessie to lunch at a popular restaurant. While deep in their conversation, a well-dressed gentleman approached them and introduced himself as Rico Maloles. He asked for Jessie’s phone number. He was obviously smitten by her. She hesitated at first, but her cousin gave him Jessie’s number.
Soon, she returned home to Davao. He called her every day. “But he said he wanted to see me in person, because he was missing me. Next, he flew to Davao. I soon found myself guiding him around town and showing him the tourist spots. He insisted on meeting my parents and siblings. So I brought him home. He saw how poor we were but he did not mind our living conditions.”
“What endeared me to him were his thoughtfulness and caring attitude. What impressed me was he clicked with my family. He said that if I agreed to marry him, he would not love only me but my whole family. It was a proposal that I readily agreed to.”
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