“John and Cindy sitting on a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”
Childhood—those were the days when we were protected from the many problems of reality.
It was a time of exploration and vulnerability, and our minds were as curious as ever.
You might have encountered a scenario when your classmates started teasing you about the person you liked. They would, loudly and obnoxiously, start singing the song above.
However, no matter how timeless this song was for the previous generation, the process may not be the same anymore. Sadly, we’ve seemingly emitted the first two steps in the song, love and marriage, and jumped straight into the baby in the carriage. The doings of many teenagers, still curious as ever, lead to a shocking surplus of teenage parents.
Based on the 2014 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality study, 14% of teenage girls aged 15 to 19 in the Philippines are currently pregnant or have already given birth. This is more than twice the pregnancy rate in 2002. On another note, the Philippine Statistical Authority says that 24 babies are delivered by teenage girls every hour.
Raphael Montiague, fondly called as Dondoy, was just in high school when he met Dimples. The two knew each other through being textmates, which was very common at that time. Their friendship eventually evolved into romance, but that only lasted two months. Although their relationship may have ended, they would meet time to time for sexual encounters.
Not the first time
Dondoy’s eyes looked down. His head leaned a bit to his right. To those who have read body language books, this hints of him reliving emotions in his past. And, he shares his story.
It was late 2013 when Dondoy’s world turned upside down. Dimples texted him that she had been pregnant for five months.
Dondoy’s face stayed emotionless. But, his hands, locked together, spoke how uncomfortable it is for him to reimagine the past. “During that time, everything crashed inside my head, [and I was] thinking, ’Oh God, I don’t know what to do.’ I was afraid to tell my parents so I tried to fix it on my own,” he confessed.
His voice became somber, and somber while sharing his experience. Deep, almost whispering.
Dondoy was also planning to stop studying because he hated his course. But, in order to avoid breaking his father’s heart entirely, he decided to keep his child a secret.
He then decided talk with Dimples’ father. His voice, still somber, now had a hint of confidence. He straightened his back bringing his chest up a bit. Dondoy made a promise that he would find ways to help support the child. Since it was his daughter’s second child with another guy, the father had an understanding manner about it.
“I guess he just wanted me to be there even though I didn’t have any money. The dad of the first kid wasn’t there so there was no father figure. He wants me to be different for my child,” he said.
After a few months, Dimples gave birth to Nicole in Tagum City, but unlike what her father said, Dondoy was not allowed to see her. At that time, he thought the family of his ex was trying to separate him from his child.
It was only when she was two months old that he was able to see and hold her for the first time.
“I was literally crying so hard. The experience was both heart-warming to see my own flesh and blood with my own eyes and heart aching because I didn’t know how I was going to support and provide for her!” Dondoy recalled.
Doubts of a young father
Amidst all the emotions, he had felt it was better to leave the child, thinking that she would have a better life without him.
Dondoy started raising the pitch at the end of his phrases. As if every phrase is a question as he told about how he felt.
At that time, he had decided to abandon his fatherly responsibilities. He feared that he might not play his role well. This, he realized soon, was one of the worst decisions of his life.
“During my absence, I kept on partying, flirting with random girls and drinking. I was trying to drown out my mind of my sorrows but no matter how many drinks I drank, cigarettes I smoked, girls I had sex with, there was always one thing at the back of my mind and that was my child,” he expressed.
In the eye of most, what Dondoy did would have been an unforgivable sin of a parent. But he showed deep regret when sharing about this time. To him, those days of drinking hard, of wasting precious time recklessly, of letting unmade bonds stay unmade, are islands he has long sailed away from and he is truly apologetic about the matter.
It took him about a year and a half before he decided to take on his duties as a father again. His childhood friend and his father inspired him to do so. He witnessed them struggling, taking on the challenge of fatherhood, and most especially sacrificing their education and a promising career in order to acknowledge their new responsibilities.
His somber voice completely changes. His eyes now gleamed. His hands became more animated. And, a muscle just pulls lips into a subtle smile.
Dondoy only told his parents about their granddaughter, Nicole, a few days before her first birthday. Much to his surprise, they calmly received the news.
When he saw Nicole for the second time, what she did completely took him off guard. She ran towards him, and called him “papa” for the first time.
“I was so happy because for the first time she called me papa. Turns out the mother of my kid was showing her pictures of me and pointing out that I’m her father,” he said.
Taking the responsibility
Dondoy is thankful that even though he was an absentee father for a year and a half. Dimples didn’t deprive him of the role of being a father in his daughter’s life. He is also very thankful that his family loves his daughter and is grateful for the support and happiness they’ve given to him and Nicole.
Nicole is now staying with Dondoy and according to him, his daughter is the greatest thing that ever happened to him and his family.
Dondoy reveals that his sense of responsibility is weighing on him now. He can easily decline invitations to parties and refrains from his former hedonistic lifestyle. The only thing that he feels bad about is that he did not receive a college degree and that his income is not enough to support all his daughter’s needs. As early as now, he worries about how to provide for her school expenses especially her tuition fee, and other requirements.
“Because of my kid, I finally learned the true definition of pride and joy. Having a kid is actually the best thing that could ever happen to someone. When you see your kid healthy and happy, in a way you can say that your life is almost complete,” he gushed.
Although he has not earned a degree, Dondoy tried again. He enrolled himself in an Entrepreneurship program in order to fulfill his dream of standing as Nicole’s breadwinner. He dreams of becoming financially capable of bringing her up. He takes his dream to heart, and plans on starting work on 2016.
The pay shall go on supporting himself in his college studies (his parents are still the ones paying for his tuition). For him, this is one step in slowly standing up to the responsibility and image of a father.
With his student life, and parent life both demanding his attention and energy, Dondoy and his mother take turns in taking care of Nicole. He tries his hardest on spending much time on hands-on caring for his daughter. But when studies also call his attention, his mom takes over the responsibility for the moment.
If he could create a lesson from his own story, Dondoy emphasized the need for teens to finish their studies and use protection if ever they decide to do the deed. He said teenagers should straighten their priorities and concentrate on attaining a college degree.
“It’s okay if you still need your happiness in life during your youth but remember you have a responsibility,” he said.
For Dondoy, it is unavoidable, or even needed, for teens to get a bit crazy and reckless. Though, there lies a thin line between fun and getting out of hand.
“If you really think about it, your kid is really small [and] cant even pick up a spoon to feed [his or herself] or change his or her own diaper. So you have to be there for your kid at all times because the small experiences will really matter in the long run,” Dondoy reasoned.
Being a good father, especially when you’re a teenager is definitely one of the hardest tasks in the world. It takes a lot of responsibility, sacrifice and guts.
Dondoy thanks Dimples, and his parents for supporting him. They all share the hardships of raising a child. Sharing the responsibility among four people surely have lifted a lot of burden from his shoulders.
As of now, Dondoy dedicates a lot of his energy in starting to earn money to become independent, and provide for his child.
But no matter what mistakes one might have made in the past, it is better to face your fears and stand up for the consequences because it is the only way to go: forward.