Modernity has significantly brought about an immense amount of change that affected not only the social and cultural aspects of life but, most of all, the basic unit of society that is the family. The prevailing free-willing lifestyle inevitably gave rise to an invigorating sense of freedom and openness that led to the breaking of even sacrosanct rules and venerated doctrines. Even conventionally sanctified marriages had been tremendously impacted by such revolutionized way of life that breaks family ties and resulted to a mounting worldwide status of single parenthood.
Although single parenting could be liberating while it is challenging, being a single mother didn’t come about by chance for Mithi…it was her choice. Maintaining her regal bearing and keeping her sanity intact were her primary aspirations following her separation from her husband that left her with two lovable children…her main source of joy and enthusiasm to keep life going. Amid bruised ego and emotional devastation, self-pride and regenerated zest overwhelmingly kept Mithi constantly driven aptly armed with a paramount obligation to raise her two kids alone.
“C’est la vie!” (Such is life!) She could only mutter sans regret, “It wasn’t the end of the world but a rebirth… a fresh start to breathe a new life, instead. Actually, it was the best decision for both of us…and we’re better off as friends.”
A Piscean, (born March 7) Mithi (wish or desire) is one of three daughters of Colonel Magtanggol F. Aquino (Retired) and Dr. Zenaida Inciong-Aquino. Noticeably, her father’s nationalistic peculiarity was unambiguously evident in consistently naming them: Mutya (muse or sole female heir) and Mayumi (demure or ladylike)…basing from his own, Magtanggol (defend).
The Jolo, Sulo-born slim-built lass with well-chiseled cheekbones, sharp jawline, deep set brown eyes and just the perfect angular nose bridge, could easily pass for a photographer’s subject or a commercial model. A Business Administration graduate (Major in Management) from the Manila Central University , Mithi found the International Cruiseline Training Center a nurturing haven where her professional career congruently applied with efficient relevance while grossing a sustainable income.
But single motherhood cannot always assure one of merely focusing on what she does best—parenting. It also comes with an inimitable set of emotional challenges that could, if one has a weak disposition, distort her focus or give it up to whatever hassles her.
“It was really difficult at times. I got extremely stressed out from work and then anxious over coming up with a decision concerning my family all my own. But I was appropriately steered to the right track by my own intuition so deliver the best. I’ve devotedly responded with ample time to my professional calling and tried to singlehandedly heave my children’s condition for them not to miss anything or to feel something was lacking,” she declares, trying to unravel the perplexing complexity of her role as a working single mom.
Although her ears were deaf and the doors to her heart were closed and insensitive to fall in love again for fear of being enslaved by another false romance, Fate had it that she would have to be involved once more through a chance meeting.
In March 5th of 2011, Mithi’s heart, subsequent to a long period of solitude, skipped a beat at last after being constantly pursued by a persistent suitor from the US Embassy, the Honorable Harry Keels Thomas, Jr. an American diplomat who served as the US ambassador to the Philippines from April 27, 2010 to October 16, 2013. It was on that red-letter day when Mithi finally accepted Harry’s proposal following a year-long courtship.
Mithi’s typical Filipina beauty didn’t escape Harry’s eyes the first time he saw her at the training center. He never wasted time until he was formally introduced and accepted his dinner invitation with a group of chaperones. Although hesitant to come alone in the open, Mithi concurred to a first date in August 2010 followed by their first public appearance together during the Marine Ball.
It was Harry’s Pinoy style of courtship that melted her heart and met the standards of both Mithi’s children and her parents. The former US Ambassador to Bangladesh and Director Gen. of the US Foreign Service prior his Philippine posting had steadily adapted to the Filipino way of life and gradually gained the respect of the Filipino people during his three-year service.
On March 15, 2014 they tied the knot at the century old Church of the Blessed Sacrament (along 76th Street, Upper West Side of Manhattan, NY).
“The wedding was actually being contested since I was scheduled to go back to Manila to attend my son’s graduation but the wedding had to be set to avail of my citizenship status,” Mithi explicates with fondness. “I decided to stay and chose to be a bride with my children’s blessings, of course! They’re very supportive of me.”
Harry, who speaks Spanish, Hindi, Bengali, Tagalog and English, of course, is the incumbent US Ambassador to Zimbabwe who just assumed the post last year, February 25, 2016.
With her marriage to Harry, Mithi reacted (which sounded very much similar to what the doomed Hungarian bride-to-be of Prince William Henry Andrew Frederick of Gloucester, Zsuzsi Starkloff, said): “It wasn’t about climbing the ladder… it wasn’t about changing and embracing a lofty lifestyle… it was all about genuinely falling in love. He is special because he’s really special and not because he is with a prestigious title attached to his name.”
Mithi’s vicarious role as an ambassador’s wife entails a full-time job (aside from performing her domestic responsibilities) that is closely aligned and supplementing with that of her husband. Getting idle and being bored is the farthest from her highly active nature.
After being queried what she does other than just being an ambassador’s wife, she hastily replied: “There are so much worthwhile things to do inside and outside our allocated abode. Being married to somebody that represents the USA was tantamount to ‘divorcing’ from my career and allowed myself to serve, not only my husband but, his constituents, as well.”
“My role isn’t just what outside-looking-in-people would normally think about: all glitz and glam, living in luxury residence, being transported by a chauffeur-driven car, hosting extravagant and ostentatious parties, attending classy social affairs, and constantly dressed-to-the-nines,” Mithi quantifies explicitly to ward off common wrong notions.
“I just don’t want to be labeled as merely a ‘trailing spouse’ and eventually lost my true identity. I am with my husband in his posting, yes, but I would prefer to create something worthwhile… achieving something that is mutually beneficial: accomplishing a fragment for my own personal growth while supplementing my husband’s mission benefiting the people of Zimbabwe. I need to bring about something that compliments my husband’s multifaceted role as an ambassador,” she lengthily expounded.
“Zimbabwe is a beautiful country in Southern Africa known for its dramatic landscape, diverse wildlife, and hardworking people. I was able to adjust easily since they have certain similarities with the Philippines although they need more relief support,” Mithi said, with a tone of concern. “Their hapless condition caught my attention and encouraged me to work on empowering women and children.”
The disheartening situation gave birth to a partnership with international fashion designer John Ablaza who volunteered his services to educate and uplift the economic and social standards of Zimbabweans. Design and sewing workshops using natural local materials were collaboratively conducted with artisans in Bulawayo and Harare that culminated in a fashion show.
“The Zimbabweans are innately creative and committed. They really wanted to utilize and produce world-class crafts out of their local materials,” the kindhearted ambassador’s wife attested.
If there’s but one thing that Mithi fervently wished last Christmas, that was to be reunited with her children even just for the holidays… and it was granted!
Her children, Emmanuel Miguel (Miggy), 20 and Zoe Paulyne (Zoe), 19, flew in last December 19, 2016 and one could only imagine how overly ecstatic Mithi was upon sight of her kids. Miggy, who spent his 20th birthday last Jan. 6, 2017, is a Sports Management junior in the University of Santo Tomas while Zoe takes Advertising in the same school.
“Mommy left when I was 16 and Zoe was barely 15 but we managed to be independent,” the towering 5’11” basketball enthusiast and hip-hop exponent declares. “We terribly missed her cooking and how she pampered us like babies.”
Zoe, gifted with a wide vocal range and digs Bossa-Nova numbers, couldn’t believe she experienced a snowy Christmas in the Big Apple. “Our vacation is just two weeks but we covered many places, watched shows, but most of all, we had a very memorable bonding,” she shared.
Miggy and Zoe flew back to the Philippines with a heavy heart last January 8, 2017 and left behind a mother whose heart beats only for her kids. Although their togetherness was cut short, they parted with tearful smiles hoping to resume their aborted bonding soon…in Zimbabwe.
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