One Friday morning, a pious woman was on her usual routine of attending mass at the Redemptorist Church. Being 9 months old pregnant, she knew she was due for labor any time soon. Upon stepping on the jeepney foothold, her water bag broke. She was immediately rushed to the hospital. Later at the nursery, the proud father arrived and upon seeing the newborn, he was filled with such happiness that he decided to name the baby “Joy”.  However, the mother, who had been praying for the health of the child throughout her pregnancy period wanted to call her “Perpetua” instead, in honor of her devotion to the miraculous image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Ever since she almost miscarried the baby during her first trimester, she never failed to seek protection and guidance from above. And so to make a happy ending, they decided to call her, “Joy Perpetua.”

Yes, that was the story behind my name. In the next 16 years, I was brought up in an exclusive school for girls run by Catholic nuns. During that period, the values of honesty, simplicity, humility, piety, charity and much more were injected into my system. I also learned the art of cultivating good relationships and acquired a handful of skills as well.  And since then, I discovered two new meanings of my name.  That JOY means JESUS OVER YOU. The second meaning is a guide to setting priorities in life by putting JESUS first, OTHERS second and YOURSELF last. Back then, I found these two meanings too profound to understand. But as I was exposed to the harsh realities of the world, I realized the full potential of these two principles in my life’s journey.

Right after I graduated High School, my parents got separated which led to an annulment of their marriage. Like in western movies dealing with life after divorce, I saw how our mother raised me and three other siblings.

Then came the time when my mother decided to go abroad in search of greener pasture. Since our elder sister has married already and being the second eldest, I was left to take care of the house and everything in it, my siblings included. With no mother and no father, I was responsible for budgeting, household management and making decisions on family-related concerns. I was like a single mother by circumstance! I was so unprepared, shocked and too occupied with fulfilling the new responsibility that I found it difficult to be joyful. Just when I thought I had enough, there was a family tragedy. In 2009, my younger sister was murdered with the case near to becoming a mystery. Being unmarried, she left behind an 8-year old son, which I now took under my care, treating him as if he is my own. I have really become a single mother.  

The remnants of the annulment brought so much bitterness and the death of my sister has stung me with such grief that each day I became so depressed. And one night, when I did not know what to do anymore to be happy, it hit me. While I was praying for God’s deliverance, asking him to help me manage my life, I remembered my name. And the meanings that came with it. I realized that I have been so focused with all the misery that I was going through that I forgot to look at those around me. That I was so busy recounting what I did not have that I forgot to be grateful with what I already have. It dawned on me that even if my parents have separated, they have become better persons as friends rather than as a couple.  And that the death of my sister helped us value life and relationships more than anything in this world.

Knowing that a college education is the only key to propel me to where I want to be someday, I strived hard to excel in college and my efforts paid off when I graduated with honors. The passing of the CPA licensure exams was another sweet victory. This helped me land numerous jobs including working in an international company that offers above-average compensation and travel abroad, not to mention having the flexibility of time to make sideline businesses.

Within my 28 years of existence, I can say that I have been through a lot, which makes my life exciting, challenging and perfect for true-to-life movie plots. But like a calloused warrior, I become braver after every battle. I just think of the worst situation that could happen in any predicament I am in so that I can find the present one more appealing. And most of all, I just remember my name and the two meanings it stands for: He is over me and that I should think and act for Him first, others second and myself last. In that way, I am able to find JOY and be a JOY to others as well.


By Joy Ebarita