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It was an almost fairy tale upbringing. My parents showered my sister and I with everything - love, material things, and travels all over the world on a yearly basis. My mother, the late Mrs. Wilma Cruz-Tapalla, was absolutely incredible! She was accomplished and influential, and the public adored her for being such a great role model and educator. Behind all this though, was a darker side: she was also very strict and had impossibly high standards. This kind of situation, however, was very commonplace among people my age then. I knew that so many others were also living a very sheltered and highly restricted life. When I turned 21 in '91, I still felt like I was 12. She made sure to tell me that as long as I was living under her roof and she was feeding me, I would have to live by HER RULES. Her word was law and I had to abide by them. But, it didn't stop there - she was also very critical of me and made decisions for me and told me what I SHOULD DO and how I SHOULD FEEL. In 1996, I did it. I packed my bags quietly and ran off to the other side of the world. By the time my parents woke up, my sister and I were on a plane to New York City without them knowing. It was scary and at the same time, liberating. Out of their clutches, I felt like a new man. I worked in Manhattan for awhile and later decided to come home to Manila to begin a new life. I never looked back. I got married and later on, opened my own business. Although leaving my parents like that devastated them and hurt me immensely, I knew I did the right thing. It took a long time to mend things with my mother, but not once did I feel guilty about what I did. Sometimes, we have to make decisions that are very risky and painful. If we don't, we will always regret not having had the guts to make that BIG LEAP towards happiness and end up spending the rest of our lives living in quiet desperation. Shortly before my mother died, she told me how proud she was of us, her children, and that she would go to heaven with a smile on her face knowing that we were doing very well and could already be on our own in this world. I never thought she would say those words! To my readers, I am not saying that you should run away from home or defy your parents like I did. It was what I thought was best for ME at that time. What I am saying is that in this life, you should never be afraid to TAKE CHARGE. It is YOUR LIFE after all. It is certainly ironic that our parents want to have control over us so much, yet they also want us to be independent and self-sufficient. It is up to us then to simply decide which one would be our destiny.

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