Growing With Love

July 11, 2006
Dan Darwish

Whether it’s playing a quick basketball game with her friends, or relaying comforting words to her belated guardian, Rena Joy Yumang has been a deep and mature person nearly all her life. As an only child, she learned at an early age how to care for herself and those less fortunate than her. Not many may notice her when she walks into a room, but it is surely out of humility rather than fragility that she is not seen.

“She has always been a calm friend to drop back on, a trustworthy friend, almost always,” said her long time friend Apple. “We once got stuck on a Disneyland Ride, and I was pretty scared. But Rena just cheered me up by pointing out a cute boy on the car ahead of us. That’s always how it has been.”

Even as I prepared my notes prior to Apple’s interview, I vividly recall hearing Rena lovingly address her buddy and apologize for the untimely phone call. Her loving personality has driven her through life. And these established feelings eventually factored into Rena’s accomplishments.

“I am a firm believer in fate,” she persists. “I can’t stress that enough.” Rena remembers to this day how these thoughts came about. Rena’s mother brought herself to the U.S. and marital status in a sort of Cinderella like story. In retrospect, Rena recalls that while in the Philippines with a wicked step mom for her guardian, Irma Yumang had to scrub floors and do chores. She survived long enough to find the man of her dreams, get married in America, and begin a new life as a U.S. citizen. “My mom is strict,” Rena said, “but I understand why.”

Rena distinctly remembers her previous guardian, William Flores. He regularly cared for her in a fatherly sort of manner, and although Rena has a father and mother whom she loves dearly, she can’t help but smile when thinking of William. The reason for this is that Rena’s loving personality came to fruition in a certain situation with William.

“I feel most mature when looking back on my experiences with William. Everything was messed up, I remember,” said Rena. “It was the first time I saw William cry. If you see him crying, it’s bad. I am an only child, and William used to care for me. I just returned the favor.”

Rena remembers how William would play with her, and read stories to her, and lovingly care for her. Then one day, William’s life was turned upside down when his girlfriend was pronounced pregnant.

Rena relied on her past experiences that day to coax and soothe the distrust and shock in her parents’ household that day. She always held William as the brother she never had, and now, as Rena remembers all of her accomplishments, she still holds that controversial situation with William as her most glorious moment.

So what are Rena’s plans? How is she strategizing for her future? “Simply,” she says, “I am going to figure out what I love as time goes on, making the most out of life.”

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