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Wonder Woman

Image Description StarStudio   |   11 May 2018


Pokwang reminisces her amazingly simple life—and how she has managed to overcome everything to become the super woman that she is today

Imagine a run-down apartment of some 20 square meters, housing a couple and their six children. The family of eight would have been 14, if the space was spacious enough to house all of them. But due to financial constraints, half of the kids were sent to extended family members, just so the remaining six could stay together with their parents under one roof.


This is the kind of household that Marietta Subong, known to all now as the actress and comedian Pokwang, grew up in. But Mamang, as she is now lovingly called by many in the industry, remembers all of this fondly, without a hint of bitterness in her voice.


“Dose kami. Nanay ko kasi, madighay, buntis (laughs)! Pang-siyam ako. ’Di kami kayang mabuo sa isang bahay kasi maliit talaga. Kaya ’yung mga mas nakatatanda sa amin, mula panganay hanggang doon sa pang-anim, halos kalahati, tumira sa mga tiyahin, sa mga lola. Pero kahit na kalahati na lang, siksikan (pa rin kami matulog). Dikit-dikit talaga. ’Di ka pwedeng mag-inat nang malaki kasi tatamaan mo na ’yung mukha ng kapatid mo! Sa sahig lang, naglalatag kami ng banig,” Mamang shares. “Para talaga kaming nasa kulungan ng baboy.”


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Only eight years old when they transferred to the “kubu-kubo” area in Antipolo, Mamang recalls the river that ran beside their house. That same river served their needs as a family, and as a playground for her and her siblings. “CR? Sa ilog na lang, tuwad! Doon kami naliligo; doon kami naglalaba. Lampas tao rin (’yung ilog) kaya delikado rin. ’Yung mga bata noong araw, nalulunod din doon. Kaya si Glenda, ’yung bunso sa babae, siya ’yung pinaka-sumbungera! ’Pag lumalangoy kami sa mga ilog, ’di namin siya isinasama. Kasi siyempre delikado pa. Naiinggit!”


And beyond the ilog beside their house was the outdoors, where they would cook using dried wood. Everyday, the kids would scour the area for dried branches, which will be used to stoke the fire for the day’s meals.


And this kind of team effort stretched way past the gathering of dried branches. The responsibility of raising the family fell on everyone’s shoulders since their father, Antonio Subong, lost his job at the age of 35.


“Nagkaroon ng problema ’yung kumpanyang pinapasukan niya and then, ’di na siya nakakuha pa ulit ng trabaho. Lumaki ako na wala na siyang trabaho talaga. Although nagta-try naman siya ng trabahong kung anu-ano, ’di kasi talaga siya regular, eh. Tapos nabarkada pa,” Pokwang shares of her father. “Kaya si mother ang kasa-kasama talaga namin sa paghahanapbuhay. Kasi bata pa ako, lamang-kalye na ako. Nagtitinda ng kung anu-ano.”


Pokwang reminisces the time when they would sell Sweepstakes, sampaguita flowers, and a variety of vegetables and fruits, arranged neatly on bilaos in front of the Antipolo Church. It was hard for the family to survive each day, living off only from the meager payoff of their paglalako, but Pokwang talks about her experience like it was the happiest childhood any kid could ever ask for.


“Hinahango namin (’yung mga paninda) sa mga kapitbahay namin na nagtitinda. Kaya sa pag-aaral, may pang-umaga, may panghapon. ’Yung panghapon, magtitinda sa umaga. Tapos ’yung pang-umaga, pag-uwi galing (sa) school, sila naman. ’Pag Sabado, Linggo, sa simbahan ng Antipolo, tapos sa Hinulugang Taktak Falls, lalo na ’pag ganyang summer, (ang) daming mga nag-e-excursion. Inaalok namin ng softdrinks at saging.”


This is why when asked about her fondest childhood memory, Pokwang takes us back those days with her father who she knew was not perfect, who had his faults, but did his best given the circumstances that they were already entangled in.


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Birthday ko ’yun, eh, alam kong wala kaming kapera-pera, tapos sabi ng tatay ko, ‘Halika, magbihis ka.’ Dinala ako ng tatay ko sa mami haus kasi paborito ko ’yun, eh, ’tsaka siopao. Kumakain ako, tapos tinitingnan lang ako ng tatay ko. Tapos may softdrinks pa. Kasi ’pag bata ka, ’pag may softdrinks, bongga! ‘O, birthday mo, happy birthday!’ ’Di ko makalimutan ’yun, kahit na maliit na effort lang.”


Pokwang’s stories prove that at an early age, she really learned to look at life from a positive, hope-filled lens, instead of dwelling on the things their family did not have.


Even during the Christmas holidays, Pokwang recalls with fondness: “Kasi pag bata ka, siyempre ine-expect mong ’pag Pasko, may bago kang damit, may pang-Noche Buena, may handa. Eh, kami, wala. As in wala talaga. May mga kapitbahay ka na magbibigay ng ganito, magbibigay ng pansit, hanggang sa makakaipon kami ng handa namin, na galing din sa kanila. Ang Pasko naman, ’di nababase ang saya dahil may handa, dahil may bagong damit. Kasi ’pag bata ka, ’pag narinig mo na ’yung Christmas songs, ang saya-saya mo na, eh, ’di ba? Hay, Pasko na naman! Magka-caroling ka sa mga bahay-bahay— ang saya na noon! ’Yung may handa kayo, bonus na ’yun. Pinakamasayang Pasko ’yung magkakasama kayo.”


This is also the kind of positivity that fuelled Pokwang and her siblings to understand their one-of-a-kind schooling setup. Even if their parents wanted them to finish school, the family had to adjust, and make compromises.


“Alternate ’yung pagpasok namin sa school, kaya nag-abot-abot talaga kami. Sabay-sabay kaming nag-graduate ng elementary! Hirap kasi, paano mo pagkakasyahin ’yung pagkain sa 12 na anak, ’di ba?”


Pokwang adds that even though they were all able to make it through elementary school, not everyone finished. Pokwang herself finished only until second year high school.


“Nag-stop, kasi kailangan. Napilitan na lang kasi sa hirap ng buhay. Ano ba ’yan, wala naman tayong pera, trabaho na lang. ’Yung mga mas bata sa akin, nakapagtapos ’yun, kasi kami-kami na rin lang ang nagtulungan.”


Next Chapter: A Mother’s Unfathomable Pain



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12 July 2018