“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” Pope John XXIII
Bob and Kathy
By Alex P. Vidal
KATHERINE “Kathy” Patalinhug-Eberlein’s search for her biological father began when she was eight years old.
“That was the age when my life started to become hell,” hissed Kathy, who turned 61 last October 27.
Kathy was eight when her mother, Margarita Factor, married Rodrigo Continente in Dumalag, Capiz.
“I rebelled,” Kathy enthused. “I could not accept it. To add insult, they slaughtered the pig that served as my only playmate during their wedding. I ran amuck and secretly poured rice on all the foods prepared during the party. No effect though. The guests still managed to empty the plates, including my best friend pig. I cried and was unstoppable.”
That was when Kathy realized she was longing for a real father. “I started to bombard my mother with questions (about my biological father). I started to wallow in self pity and self doubt. When they started to have children, my insecurity even grew higher,” narrated Kathy, who now lives with her American partner, Robert Francis Barker, at Glenville Subdivision in Leganes, Iloilo.
Margarita, now 83, and Rodrigo, 81, were blessed with seven children — two males and five females.
“All that my mother could tell me was that my real father worked in the military camp (Camp Macario Peralta Jr., the country’s third largest military camp in Dumalag hills) where she once worked also as a part-time tailor,” Kathy disclosed. “He was Cebuano-speaking or Waray and could be a soldier.”
Kathy said she learned later that her real surname is Tampus, the family name carried by her father. “My number one priority once Bob (Mr. Barker) is no longer around is to continue with my search for my roots in Leyte. Meeting my real father is a dream,” she remarked.
Kathy met Barker, now 91, in 1984 in her workplace in the cafeteria of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, three years after the death of her husband, Leopold Eberlein, whom she met through a “mail order bride” arrangement.
After a courtship that started with a “high and hello”, Kathy and Barker decided to live together. Barker, who was legally separated with his American wife, spent $20,000 to file for a divorce in the United States to be with Kathy. In 1996, they decided to settle permanently in the Philippines where they built a house in Leganes, Iloilo.
Barker, a nuclear scientist and formerly with the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Commission, is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, a dementia with memory loss symptoms. They have no children. Barker has three children in the previous marriage. Kathy and Barker never got married. She holds a dual citizenship while Parker is an American citizen.
“I toured the world because of Bob. When he was not yet sick, we traveled together. He wanted to make me happy and to enjoy my life. I found true happiness with Bob,” Kathy sighed.
Her marriage with Leopold lasted only for 16 months. Kathy and Leopold never had a child. While working as a food attendant in Manila in the late 70s, a female friend introduced her to a “pen-pal” type relationship arrangement.
Kathy’s trip to Vienna–with stopovers in Bangkok via Cathay Pacific, Bombay and Cairo via Egypt Air, and Moscow via Aeroflot, in 1979–was her first international trip. She never had any idea how Leopold looked like in person except that he was 47 and she was 27. He left Manila at 3:40 pm carrying only in her luggage cloths and Filipino comics on June 3 and arrived in Vienna at 11:10 am on June 5.
“I was only instructed to look for a man wearing a particular shirt,” Kathy recalled. “Upon arriving in Vienna, I went outside and left behind my bag in the arrival baggage claim area to look for that person. Then I saw a man and greeted him, ‘good morning, sir. Are you Mr. Leopold Eberlein?’ He just answered me, ‘beautiful’ without saying my name.”
When Leopold, an automobile mechanic, died of stroke in 1981, he left behind a bookstore. “I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. It was my first serious relationship and I was in a foreign land with no relatives there,” Kathy stressed.
Now an Austrian citizen, Kathy went back to the Philippines and brought to Vienna in May 1981 her half sister, Josephine, 18, who became a Mrs. Hofbauer, and still lives in Vienna until today.
In 1987, Kathy also brought to Vienna for vacation her mother, who went home after 14 months. In 1989, Kathy’s other half sister, Marilou, followed suit and cavorted with Kathy’s new boyfriend, Gerhard Harwarth.
Kathy and Gerhard had lived together for four years and a half. “I was older than Gerhard for five years and I noticed he had special interest on younger ladies. In other words, Gerhard fell in love with my sister, so I let him go. My own definition of love is, if you love someone set him free. His happiness should also be your own happiness,” Kathy waxed poetic.
Marilou and Gerhard got married in Vienna but their liaison was short-lived. She never loved him from the start, and Marilou confessed she had a boyfriend, Peter Aricaya, in the Philippines–and she still loved him.
Gerhard was devastated. Kathy’s poetic justice. Now living with another Vienna man, Kathy prevailed over Gerhard to let go of Marilou or “live in misery with a wife who has no feelings for you.”
Gerhard and Marilou parted ways amicably and peacefully in Kathy’s presence.
Now an Austrian citizen herself, Marilou brought Peter to Vienna to live as husband and wife. Their union produced two male twins. Peter was forced to go back to the Philippines because of Austrian laws on foreign couple. Gerhard, still very much in love with Marilou, helped Marilou take care of the twin kids, who are now 17.
Depressed and feeling lonely after he wasn’t able to join Marilou and their twin kids in Vienna again, Peter committed suicide on January 2, 2014.
Kathy described her relationship with stepfather as “stormy.” As a young girl, while sleeping on the bamboo floor of their house, drunk stepfather allegedly kicked her on the buttocks because her body was blocking his way. “Until now, the pain is still there. I consulted a doctor in Vienna who told me that because of my age, it’s impossible to repair the damage in my bone inflicted by that kicking incident,” Kathy said.
At 16, Kathy left Dumalag in 1969 to work as babysitter and housemaid in Manila, earning P60 a month. She remitted P50 for financial support and education of her half sisters and half brothers in Dumalag and retained P10 for her personal needs.
Kathy learned that her mother and siblings suffered from her stepfather’s mismanagement of family funds. She further learned the stepfather wasted money on gambling and other vices.
She surreptitiously went home to Dumalag and chased with a bolo her stepfather, who escaped unscathed after being roused from sleep when Kathy’s sister shouted and alerted him.
“Because of hostile environment and the worsening relationship between me and my stepfather, my grandfather convinced me to leave and go back to Manila. He told me either I will go to jail if I kill my stepfather or I will be the one who will die,” Kathy explained.
She resumed working as babysitter, housemaid, food attendant serving different employers for 10 years in Manila and Makati before flying to Vienna in 1979.
“My good experiences were all in Vienna. I was able to adopt to the European culture. All my unforgettable experiences in life happened in Vienna,” misty-eyed Kathy recalled.
When Barker’s health deteriorated, Kathy said she started to experience insecurities in life. “That’s normal because I’m used to enjoying my life with Bob for 26 years. Sometimes I feel alone but I need to be stronger now. The best therapy for my loneliness is cooking — and smiling a lot,” she averred.
Despite her financial security, Kathy avoids social life. “I devote my time only to Bob and my family in Dumalag. It’s hard to trust people nowadays. I only have limited friends in Bingo games, because friends tend to always take advantage of us although there are true and sincere friends like (retired Iloilo National High School principal) Dr. Riza Amaguin,” Kathy added.
Despite a not-so-pleasant relationship with her stepfather, Kathy sponsored his trip to Vienna for a vacation in December 1992. Estranged daughter and stepfather spent Christmas together until March 1993 when he went home.
“Time heals the wound. But I still need to see my real father,” Kathy, who reached only second year high school, concluded.