Adversities are blessings in disguise
Lawyer Angelo Raphael Bartolome del Mundo.
Adversities are blessings in disguise
NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Angelo Raphael “Raphy” del Mundo’s wavy hair was unruly when I interviewed him via video call on Messenger. His thoughts, however, were straight, orderly; his countenance, calm and collected. There was purity in his tone. His dogged spirit was high.

His disposition betrayed the adversities he conquered when at 20, a total orphan and an incoming third year Political Science student at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (stage 2). But Raphy’s spirit was made of titanium, he did not break apart. By the time he entered UST’s Faculty of Civil Law, he was already in remission.

Last April, while Metro Manila was in a lockdown caused by COVID-19, Raphy, now 27, was overjoyed when he learned he passed the Bar. Over pizza and ube-macapuno cake, he celebrated with his family. Family for him is his two elder brothers Angelo Gabriel and Angelo Michael, his Tito Alfred Bartolome (youngest brother of his mother) and his wife Rica Delfinado and their daughters Pam and Sam. Both Alfred and Rica (an editor at the Business section) are with The Philippine STAR. They all live in a happy Bartolome compound in Quezon City.

‘The Three Archangels’ of the Bartolome family: Angelo Raphael, Angelo Michael and Angelo Gabriel del Mundo.

“I am a total orphan,” Raphy said. There was a tinge of longing that escaped from his voice. In 2006, his mother Maria Lourdes, the eldest among four Bartolome children, died of breast cancer. Two years later, his father Emmanuel died of pancreatic disease.

“Fortunately, my studies were not affected because, despite being orphaned at an early age, I gained not one, not two, but five more parents — my lola Zenaida Bartolome and Tito Amado Bartolome (God bless their souls), Tito Dok (Alfred), Tita Rica, and Tita Pane Bartolome. They helped me and my brothers in pursuing our studies. We all managed to graduate from college. And when I decided to pursue Law, they also supported me and for that I will be eternally grateful,” Raphy said.

For a while, after his parents passed on, Raphy was unsure of his future. “But thank God for my family, my second parents took care of us. They made all those worries go away.”

“My parents’ passing has taught me that we really do not know when we will be gone, so I want to live my life without regrets and do everything I can in this life,” he said. He added that the best lesson he learned from his mom was “to always be kind because kindness has its own rewards.” From his dad, he learned that “when you are right, stand your ground.”  

“Raphy is the youngest among the three siblings — all boys. We call them ‘The Three Archangels’ because of their names. True  to their names, they are God-fearing, kind, respectful and responsible — a good specimen of humanity,” Rica said.

From left: Angelo Gabriel del Mundo, Alfred, Samantha and Rica Bartolome, Angelo Raphael del Mundo, Pamela Bartolome and Angelo Michael del Mundo.

She added: “Raphy in particular is the ‘easiest’ to love because he exudes the ‘gentle giant’ demeanor. However, despite his gentle demeanor, his opinions and thoughts on a lot of matters are heard and well respected in the house, especially now that he is already a lawyer. But even if he is a lawyer now, he still kisses our hands when Alfred and I come home from work. He even mans our sari-sari store whenever our help is not available.”

“Pam and Sam’s relationship with their Kuya Raphy (as well as Kuya Gelo and Michael) is built on a solid foundation: love,” Alfred said, adding that all the Bartolome cousins are so close they regard each other as siblings.

“The most important lesson I learned from Tito Dok and Tita Rica was always to be humble. They taught us the importance of taking care of ourselves and being independent. They are my parents. I could always rely on them. Now, it is my turn to be relied on,” Raphy said.

Even when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011, Raphy’s never-say-die spirit prevailed. “I underwent several chemo treatments and radiation therapy from 2012 to 2014. There were times that I felt the treatment was not working. I felt weak every day. I tried to go to school despite my chemo treatments. Eventually I had to drop out from school because I developed pneumonia. I got delayed from graduating on time. But in 2015, my doctor told me that I was good. One of the best news of my life. I still visit my doctor every year as part of my monitoring,” he said.

When he was younger, Raphy told his dad he wanted to be a doctor. “I wanted to save lives. But I learned you can also save lives as a lawyer, so that’s when I decided to be a lawyer. I just want to help people.”

“Passing the Bar is just a stepping stone. The real test is the actual practice and I want to do good in the practice. I want to become a public servant, in order to help my fellow countrymen,” he added.

Amidst the threat of coronavirus, Raphy is cautiously busy finding a job. His hopes are high. He’s been to the woods and gotten out of them because of his resolute will to survive.

“That’s my immediate plan, find a job — and contribute to the family. I want to give back to my family and also to my friends who helped me. I wouldn’t be here right now if not for them,” he said.

If gratitude defines the success of a man, Raphy is already triumphant. His faith, tested many times, became shaky. But he navigated his way out and found his faith again.

“I am not going to lie, at one point in my life, especially during the time I was undergoing treatment for cancer, I lost faith. I felt betrayed during those times, but God has a way of bringing you back, and He brought me back,” he said.

Adversities are blessed complications; they are blessings in disguise. They put Raphy’s mettle to the test yet his spirit was not crushed. Neither did his soul crash.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and IG @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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