Maina Marquez Walkley’s father was a Certified Public Accountant with a shipping company in the Philippines when he married her mother, the love of his life. A year after WWII broke out in early December 1941 her father deemed for safety reasons to move his wife and 4 young children from Manila to Bacolod City on a new job assignment. It was there where her other brother and Maina were born, 1943 and 1944 respectively. It was a standing joke in the family that bombing was no deterrent to the passion of her parents.
When the war ended in August 1945 the family returned to Manila and lived with their grandmother and aunt. They all grew up and were educated in Manila, and in 1952 her mother gave birth to her youngest sister, making a total of 7 children.
They all observed house rules. Their grandmother was the disciplinarian as her mother was a “softie”, especially with the boys. Their father was a man of few words but conveyed his displeasure with a “terror look”. Maina was closest to her father. The girls did most of the household chores after school and on weekends. There were rituals at mealtimes, dress codes for church and special occasions, family traditions “were strictly observed” for Lent, Easter, Christmas, New Year, and birthdays.
Her father was the only breadwinner when they were growing up but he and her mother had the foresight to build a proper house for their large family of 4 adults and 7 children. It was a marvel how her mother managed the family expenses on one income. Later in years the two elder sisters worked their way to university and there was extra income coming in. Maina followed in their footsteps.
In her generation there was no such thing as abuse – it was all in the name of discipline. Her aunt and also her godmother living with them (the younger sister of her mother) became Maina’s “tormentor” from age 12 to 15. She would taunt her as the ugly duckling in the family and that Maina would never amount to anything. She found solace from her grandmother. Her aunt’s attitude mellowed and shifted her attention and affection onto their youngest sibling – the baby of the family.
Maina realised years later that her aunt must have been going through a tough menopausal stage, misunderstood and unchartered in those days. That experience left her bereft of self-confidence, but she learned to put up with a brave front to cover up her timidity or resorted to prayers.
Maina did not harbor any hatred towards her aunt. In fact, she felt sorry for her and when she started earning, she never failed to send her some pocket money over the years. She even sponsored her holiday visit to Australia. They never spoke of those 4 harrowing years. She and her siblings looked after her in her old age until she peacefully died 15 years ago.
Maina took up a 2-year Secretarial Course at the University of the East after high school. She was a working student after only the first semester. Upon completion, she shifted to a 4-year course in Commercial Education at the same university. Meanwhile, her career as secretary went from strength to strength. This was fortuitous as she ended up being the main income earner in the family when her father lost his job. Her older siblings had married and moved out of the family home. She still had her youngest sister to see through school.
Her saving grace during those difficult years with her aunt was the attention of a classmate who became her childhood sweetheart at the end of their 3rd year in high school. They were classmates from primary to high school. He did not show his cleverness in elementary school but when they reached secondary level, he began to shine. He was No.1 in the whole school being academically brilliant, kind, courteous, good looking and the youngest son of the superintendent of the whole public schools in Quezon City. To this day Maina never knew why he fell in love with her. They started their courtship from 3rd-year high school and carried on to when he graduated from PMA and 3 years after when they put into gear the career plan they mapped out for him. Sadly, they were not fated for each other as he had to marry someone else. It was this sad ending that marked another episode in Maina’s life in the following 7 years. They remained loyal friends until he passed away in 2011.
Her world came crashing down when her boyfriend broke up with her after 11 years and just when they were planning a life together. Instead of turning to God, Maina turned away from Him, basically because she did not really know God. Her understanding of God is that He rewards and punishes at His own will. Her life was on a free fall. She lost her job, hurt her family and found herself in a situation she used to denigrate –pregnant as a single mother. She found strength in her family especially from her father who assured her that she will rise up and rebuild her life. Her father passed away sadly before he saw Maina rebuild her life with her daughter in Australia.
Maina migrated to Australia on 25 March 1975 and shared a flat with a friend from General Motors Philippines. She found employment close to home. It was at work where she met her husband to be, Ian Roger Walkley. They married at St Thomas Aquinas in Toorak on 24 April 1976 and, remained married for 23 years before the marriage broke up in 1999. Another blow at age 55 and Maina found herself alone again.
God has blessed her with good jobs and upright bosses throughout her career in the Philippines and in Australia. Her most memorable job was as personal assistant to the Minister of Education, the Honorable Don Hayward in 1992. It was exciting to see the workings of the Victorian State Government.
She was appointed Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Victoria in 1997, and Acting Honorary Consul General for Trade & Investments in 1999. She thoroughly enjoyed the work but sadly decided to step down at the end of December 2003. It was time to earn a living. She studied and became a Licensed Real Estate Agent. This allowed her to top up her superannuation funds for her retirement.
She was pre-selected as the Liberal Candidate for Richmond in the Victorian State Election of 2006 but failed to win. It was a wonderful experience and she hopes that one day in her lifetime she would see a Filipino in either the State or Federal Parliament of Australia.
Her spiritual awakening is a work in progress through Fr Bert de la Pena who patiently opened her mind, her heart and her soul to who God really is – to her and to all men. Their association started with the Philippine Fiesta of Victoria, Inc. in 1989. As if to assist Fr Bert, God finally called her in 2010 to “follow Him”. From that time on, things happened which led her first to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage in April 2011. Then unexpectedly she was offered to do missionary work in Sahamit School in Chiang Mai, Thailand from May to October 2011. It was in this very remote village where she first read the Bible gifted to her by Fr Bert in 1997. She only read a few pages then but lost interest and put it away until Chiang Mai. The Bible became her friend, her companion and she found the scriptures, the characters, the stories as though they were speaking to her.
There were many nights when she would trace the holy places she recently visited in the Holy Land, and they became more meaningful and significant. Everything made sense – the holy places she visited in the Holy Land, the scriptures in the Bible, the teachings of Fr Bert about the mercy of God, about loving one’s enemy, forgiveness, compassion and faith. She felt like her heart was bursting with joy and she had the most serene feeling of peace. It was in Chiang Mai that God manifested Himself to her after she truly believed and surrendered herself to Him. Fr Bert welcomed her back in 2012 and was very happy for Maina and her transformation. At least Fr Bert saw his labor bore fruit before he passed away in 2019.
When Maina looks back at her life’s journey she realizes that God never left her side from when she was conceived until now. In her early years, she was too arrogant to acknowledge it was through His love that she had all the successes in the past.
Similarly, she was too quick to blame Him for her downfall and mistakes, forgetting they were her own choices.
She shares: “I now live, generally, my life in accordance to God’s will. I still make mistakes, for human weakness and temptations come uninvited. But I do not waste my energy worrying anymore because I know my God is with me – I am not alone. He will not abandon me. I am grateful that the many challenges in my life happened when I was still young – time was on my side to make up. Now in my twilight years, I am fortified with the Spirit of God and I have peace. My only mission now is to impart to others lessons learned in life.
“Draw aside, into the secret place no one but you and God can explore. This is a place from which all questions can be revered. Doubts and struggles are safe to open up and wrestle with, in this place. Tears are welcome.” – Jenneth Graser, Look Up
This story is one of the 30 stories being published by AFCS on its 30 year anniversary in 2021. Dina has been asked to collate and edit the stories.
She has found it a great opportunity with the approval of the participant to share such life-giving testimony under her column as they are truly inspirational in honesty, courage and hope.
This article was first published in The Philippine Times, July 2021 edition