The DeCastro Family

This year has not been routine or easy for most of the world. This pandemic has affected the entire world. Our lives are now filled with days that are unlike any we could have ever thought would exist. A short stay at home order faded into weeks and months and seasons have changed and holidays and milestones have passed in quiet order. Calendars have lost their significance and instead, a focus on health often dictates the rhythm of each day’s activities. It is upheaval, but it is surmountable. We are not in this alone, but how we react will determine our future. For change does not mean failure and indeed this pandemic will have a terrible impact, but we must understand that disruption has happened in our world’s past and success can still be achieved despite hardships and extreme change.

We have all been cleaning and sorting at different times this year. With time to look through pictures and hold reminders of past moments. Sometimes we need reminders of the past to give us the ability to realize our strength. Spending time with loved ones for extended periods has allowed us to ask more question about them, what they lived through, the happiness, the harder times and the path each followed. The opening of closets and photo albums that have been left without reflection finally had time to shine, and it is with these pictures that the I realized that disruption is not insurmountable and what is enduring can be confidence and the ability to calmly function when faced with perturbation.

My father was born in the Philippines during World War II. Education was greatly affected. My grandfather was the head of the country’s railroad and was taken away from his family to help run the railroad when the country was at war. Their home was taken by the occupying officers as it was large and could fit many, so my grandmother with six young children had to learn quickly to protect, educate and help them her young children survive and thrive during a war in their country with little time to prepare for all that they faced. Her objective was for her family to study diligently, hold determination, and aim for success for all of her children.

My grandfather was the valedictorian and my grandmother was the salutatorian. My grandfather received his degree in Civil Engineering. My grandmother was one of four daughters born in the early part of last century. My grandmother received her Bachelor of Science and all her sisters received their college degrees at a time and in a country when it was not as commonplace.  Education was valued, family was the foundations, and perseverance was at the core. 

When my grandmother was faced with raising six children while my grandfather had been taken away during the war to run the nation’s railroad, she rose to the need. She was firm with what was expected of them, organized, focused, and demanded success with kindness at her core. World War II had put the education system in a state of unsettlement, she was strict in emphasizing their education even during war and the aftermath. 

If there was no school at a given time, they were taught by my grandmother or family members, such as my grandmother’s sister who had her college degree in education. My grandmother encouraged accelerated schooling and skipping grade levels was done without hesitation. Eventually, they all went to the top tier schools. My father’s university was founded in 1611 by St. Thomas Aquinas, making one of the oldest universities in the world. He became a qualified physician and passed all the boards at the relatively young age of 21. 

They played almost exclusively with their siblings and cousins and stayed near their homes. Socialization was with family. Vacations were put on hold and their life was their family, not so much unlike today. Out of grandparent’s six children, two became doctors, one an attorney who easily finished at the top of the bar exam and who was also president of the country’s railroad, one an engineer and businessman who passed his exam before he was old enough to receive the certificate, another son became a banker, and a politician, and the youngest a designer and pianist. 

This year has been unlike any other, but we can learn from our past if we listen to our families and what they have been through it is often helpful. I am a mother to a young child and I have had to learn quickly to adapt and protect and help him understand the changes in the world. It is up to each how to move forward with education and everyday activities. I have realized that disruption and unsettlement in routines and in world events are not a hindrance to success, it may in fact strengthen our relationships and accelerate the gifts we are all given.