What does tragedy do to a young boy? At age 11, Albert Moroña’s father, a laborer, was robbed and murdered, leaving his mother and his siblings without a bread winner. The experience left Albert who was in his elementary school years devastated. Albert is third among six siblings. With no means to continue, he quit school. For months, life was like a boat that lost its bearings in the open sea. This is how tragedy looked like to Albert as a young boy. It taught him that one’s fate is ruled by chance. But life for the family became even more difficult and almost unbearable. When he saw themselves scrounging for food almost daily and eating three times a day was a luxury, Albert changed his mind. He cannot leave his life to chance. He will not allow chance to rule his life.
When he saw cigarette vendors plying the streets near his neighborhood, hopping from one jeepney or bus to another, an idea popped up in his mind. He taught, he can do it and might even enjoy it. Soon, he was doing it like a pro, with a cigarette tray in one hand, and a lighter in another, he would hand a cigarette to a customer, light it and then alight from the running vehicle and hop onto another one. This became his daily routine, a kind of street dance that numbed his pain. At a young age of eleven, he felt that conquering the dangers in the streets was like defeating chance and taking hold of one’s life. Growing up as a teenager and helping his siblings, money earned in selling cigarettes was not enough. Soon, he learned how to do haircuts. On the side, while selling cigarette, he became a street side barber. The experience made him realize that having three meals a day was a matter of choice. For a boy who made this realization early in life, the future seemed to be in his hand.
But the pain of the tragedy that befell his family did not leave him. It was a throbbing pain, pain that refuses to leave, pain of sudden loss of father and never seeing him again, pain of hearing his mother weep at nights, pain of seeing his siblings hungry, pain of missing childhood, pain that makes him wish that sleep will be longer, pain of waking up daily to his real situation. To dull the pain, he turned to drugs. He sold them too and earned more. At age 21, he had an overdose and almost died. Through the help of relatives, he went into rehab.
At age 21, after his rehab, selling cigarette and being a street barber was no longer something he imagined himself to be all his life. He wanted to apply for a sales job in a department store, but how can he when he did not even finish high school? Sheer ingenuity got him a diploma from what he now calls, C. M. Recto University. He landed a job as a salesman. Years later, he saw an ad for a chef in Taipeh. He needed another degree and he got it from the same university and off he went to Taipeh, where he worked for three companies. In Taipeh, he met a Filipina OFW who many years later, became his wife.
If you ask Albert how it feels when one is able to rise above a tragedy, climb up the ladder and soon achieve something out of pure grit, he will tell you how empty he felt. His entire life was a battle against the tragedy that struck his family and the trauma kept on hounding him wherever he went. Despite his successes, many years of fighting left him feeling more empty. The pain of losing his dad never left him. He felt so alone and scared.
It was like being awakened from a deep slumber feeling refreshed. A close friend talked to him about God and His love. He realized that all his life, God was there, protecting , blessing and leading him towards his purpose. For the first time in his life, he found peace, the kind of peace that he cannot comprehend, something he never felt before. He surrendered his life to Jesus and found a new life with a purpose. He was able to let go of the past because God promised to be with him in his future. The pain of the past is gone. The old is gone, the new has come.
He married his girl friend and decided to stay in the Philippines. With the savings they had, they decided to put up a salon. Soon there were 2 salons and a coffee shop. Speaking of purpose, now Albert visits OFW ‘s in Taiwan and teaches them how to set up a business. The fulfillment made him realize that God must have allowed the tragic incident to happen for a purpose. How can a man with such a past as his, reach a place where he is? He did not finish high school and speaks broken English. How can he make such an impact on the lives of OFW’s? With his kind of story, he can show people that no matter how their past looks like, or what kind of limitation they have, there is always hope. God’s purpose will prevail. He now believes that “the greatest tragedy is when you don’t find your purpose.” To find that purpose, there is only one way.
Philippians 3:12- “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Albert is happily married to Girlie, and blessed with a son, Shem. He considers his family, his treasure and a great gift from God.