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Born this way |

Sunday Lifestyle

Born this way

MANO-A-MANO - Adel Tamano -

On Oct. 2, 1970, Mrs. Zorayda Abbas Tamano had her eighth child: a boy that she named Adel Fadel Nasser after the Egyptian President who was, at the time, a source of inspiration and pride to Muslims all over the world. My father also had a close friendship with the Egyptian Ambassador to the Philippines, who was also named Fadel, and so that likewise was part of the reason for the boy’s name.

So why did my mom decide to have a child after her seventh? Why was I born male? Why was I born a Filipino and an ethnic minority, a Maranao? Why was I born into a period that would soon become a dark phase in Philippine Democracy and why was I christened as one of the “Martial Law Babies”? Why was I born into a Muslim family instead of a Catholic one?

If you believe, like many great thinkers, that life is random, then the answers to the foregoing questions are just meaningless. Because to these philosophers there is no “why” to be answered. For those that believe in the randomness of life, things are simply because they are the way that they are.

However, I take a different view. I don’t accept my life as random and meaningless. Underneath the seemingly random events is a purpose and applied to this case, there was a specific reason, a specific answer to the questions I’ve asked. I take a gigantic, perhaps seemingly irrational leap of faith, and say that God let me be born as the eighth child, male, Filipino, Maranaw, a Martial Law Baby, and Muslim because he has a specific purpose for me. So for me, the important question really isn’t why I’ve been born into my unique context and realities. The important question to be answered is not a “why” but a “what.” For what purpose have I been created?

It is unfortunate that many people are so focused — and many so embittered — at the “whys” of their life that they fail to go to the next step and find their purpose in life. Why wasn’t I born richer, taller, more handsome, slimmer, with a better family, in a First World nation, etc.? The worst, most senseless part of it is the bitterness attached to the inability to accept the circumstances that we are born into. The philosophers who believed in life’s randomness got it partly right: things are because they are what they are. However, in this seeming randomness, the ostensibly incomprehensible reason why we are born into particular circumstances is the greater truth, the higher reality, that those circumstances are only apparently random and in fact make sense once we find the purpose for which we are created.

Put another way, I’d rather see my existence as having meaning and value and not the result of mere chance. Having this sense of meaning and self-value is very important for me. Because life can definitely seem random and pointless at times. Particularly when we fail, when we don’t get the things we want, when we make mistakes and look foolish, and when life seems unfair, as it often will, it is easy for us to lose hope and to be fearful. But if you believe that you are created for a specific purpose, then these mistakes, failures, and even the seeming unfairness of life are given their proper perspective and things don’t seem as bad as all that.

To give this some concreteness, I know that my son, Santi, having autism was not some random occurrence or a dark cosmic joke imposed on me and my family. So why was I born a Muslim? To give me the inner strength necessary to raise a child with autism. So why was I born a Filipino? To have the family structure that could accommodate a child with special needs. Why was I born during martial law? Since martial law was financially difficult for the Tamano family, so that I could be frugal and not reckless with my money and resources and so that my wife and I could handle the financial challenges accompanying raising a special needs child. Since part of my purpose is to be a good father — at least I hope and try to be — to my sons, one with autism and the other without, then I finally understand why I was born, raised, and developed the way that I have. These weren’t random occurrences at all but purposeful ones, preparing me for my life now. I was born 41 years ago so that I could be the father for Santi and Mike, my two sons.

And believing that every person is born with a unique purpose has particular value to us parents with special needs children, specifically in regard to how we view and value our children. We deal daily with the challenge of making our children fit into a world that doesn’t seem designed for them. We wonder what their futures will be once we are gone. Then we remember that, as with all children, they are the world’s gift to us and also have a purpose to fulfill. So they are really special and not only called that way to make reference to their being different from the norm. Again, they are special because they too have a unique role to play in the world as we all do.

So what does all of this have to do with my birthday? Perhaps nothing at all. Or maybe everything. Regardless, today I celebrate not only the date of my birth but all the events and circumstances around it — I celebrate my being a Muslim, a man, a Filipino, a Tamano, a Maranao, and all the other things that make me a unique person made specifically for the purpose that I am fulfilling and will fulfill. So it’ll be my most satisfying birthday yet.

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