Marilou D. Tanagras
Recipient: National Prism Award for Women of Style and Achievements
In Her Own Words
Editor’s Note: I meant to either write Marilou’s profile or commission one of our writers do it just like we always do with all our awardees but after seeing her well written answers to my questionnaire, I thought I’d let her tell her story instead. Marilou’s honest togoodness account of her life as a young immigrant, her marriage that sadly ended in divorce, her bouts with depression and the various other challenges she met along the way as she single-handedly raised her beloved daughter and turn her life around is a lesson in perseverance, determination, healing and renewal. YT
I was born in Malabon Rizal, Metro Manila to Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Tanagras of Cavite and Bulacan, respectively and the youngest of seven children. Although I was born in Malabon Rizal, my childhood memories were mostly about Subic, Zambales where my family moved when I was 8 yrs old. Famous for its breathtaking views of the blue ocean and rich hilly mountains, Subic is located in the northern part of Luzon island. It is approximately 20 miles north of SBMA or Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, a Freeport Zone in Zambales. One of my most precious recollections of this town was going to the beach with my family every Sunday. There was not a time we would cancel this family gathering. After Sunday church, my parents would gather all seven of us, along with some family friends to head out to ‘Paladium Beach Resort’ where we would spend the entire day swimming, eating, playing, and simply doing nothing but to relax and enjoy the day. It was also in that same beach where I actually had my first swimming lesson too. It was certainly unforgettable but I learned how to swim!
I came to USA in 1980 at the age of 20, got married and not long after, we had a beautiful child. My daughter, Melissa is now 24 yrs old and a graduate at Loyola University in Chicago. She held a Public Relation Officer in KAPWA, a Fil-AM organization for college students at Loyola during her term. Finally in 2008, she earned her master degree in Social Work and is currently employed at PSG (Professional Services Group) doing what she does best – counseling for all ages on relationships and other family issues.
I received my associate degree in General Studies and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting w/ honors (Cum Laude) at Columbia University of Missouri in spring of 2007. Prior to that, I studied at a community college in Lake County to acquire general skills. Because I was not able to finish college in the Philippines, I decided to go ahead and explore the possibilities here in USA. My curiosity was at its peak so I began to brush up on my vocabulary to be able to interact with people with confidence. Suddenly, this curiosity turned into an obsession. I promised myself this time I would finish my education no matter how difficult it would be. The payoff would be worth it…and I did! It was my proud moment and a great achievement.
Those years were not an easy period for me though. Along with the struggle to finish school, I fulfilled my responsibilities as a wife and a mother, as well as working full-time. The night courses came very handy indeed as I only had the evenings available to do some extra-curricular work. But then, the worst part of my life hit me – the divorce, the loss of my mother, my depression, all too unbearable for me. At one point, I questioned my capabilities and almost gave up.
Followed by my grief and low self-esteem, I watched my daughter sleep one late night, and suddenly it dawned on me, “What is going to happen to us now?” That was my moment of truth; my wake-up call. Instead of wasting time grieving and being miserable, I had to separate my emotions and face my fear of the unknown. The first step was to continue pursuing my dreams at full speed. I prayed for strength and will power. The rest was nothing but a difficult climb and I tried not to look down.
The blessings in my life continue to pour down. I feel privileged to work for an amazing company like Craig Steven Development Corp., a multi-million dollar real estate development company based here in Northbrook, IL. I currently hold a position as an Accountant assisting the entire accounting department with their financial issues. I find it so rewarding to be able to share my experience and gain their confidence despite the fact I have only been with the company for a little over a year. For me, it’s one thing to know the job, but what is more gratifying is winning the respect and trust of my peers. I’m very proud to be part of this team.
Prior to my current job, I worked for a mid-sized manufacturing company as Payroll Administrator and General Accounting Analyst for 10 years. I also managed to acquire a certification to become a real estate agent of which I practiced on a part time basis in late 1990s. There were also other pertinent positions I held and was able to acquire valuable experiences such as working as an Administrative Assistant for the Village of Green Oaks, A/P and A/R clerk for Baxter Healthcare, Inc, and a Personal Banker for First Midwest Bank.
Community Service, Awards and Recognition
I am a member of St. Paul The Apostle Church Ministry in Gurnee – both Eucharistic and Lectorship, the Notary Public Association of Lake County, IL, the American Payroll Association and the Bowling League in Lake County.
Member of the Notary Public Association of Lake County, IL. Again, I feel privileged to be a part of our church’s ministry – St Paul The Apostle Church. Another prayer answered – right after school, I had in mind to get involved with some civic groups and serve my community. But I didn’t want to approach this venue politically, so I turned to God. They said be careful with what you wish for because it may just come true. My wish did come true! Not long after graduation, my daughter introduced me to a friend who happens to be a co-chairman of the Lector Ministry @ St. Paul. Claress, a very charming woman, gave me a good push and well, it was the beginning. I have become both a Lector and a Eucharistic Minister, which have been spiritually glorifying as I feel a whole sense of self-worth….something I have not felt in such a long time. Furthermore, it feels good to be closer to both ends – our God in heaven and the community I serve here on earth. If my mother were alive, she would have been so surprised with how I turned out to be, perhaps even more proud. She personified how a true Christian should be with her remarkable dedication and profound spiritual beliefs. She was an amazing woman and one with a great heart. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It is God’s will and I am only HIs follower.
Philosophies, Goals and Visions
My role model is my mother – bless her heart and soul! Ever since I was a child, she was always the Strength that held our family together and carried us through the most difficult times. She was ambitious and determined to reach what she put her mind into, and never gave up hope. She would not bend her decisions and principles, but she was one of soft heart and was full of compassion for those who asked for help.
The move to Subic, hundreds of miles away from Bulacan where her home was, was a tough decision she had to make. Though it made a huge impact in our lives, we were totally isolated from our relatives for sometime. She was the only sibling out of the seven of her own family, who had the courage to separate from the rest and was immensely criticized. But she did it for us…..a better future for her own family. She and my Dad worked diligently to improve our way of living and did not stop until they succeeded. It has been nearly nine years since she passed away but there is still a void left in my heart. I miss her presence dearly. She was our rock and a true inspiration.
One of my goals was to see that my daughter finished school. With God’s guidance, it happened. I’m very happy that she still lives with me and that I am able to provide her the support and shelter she needs. Subsequently, I would like to do more fellowship and volunteer my time helping others in need. I see myself 5 or 10 years from now doing mission trips to the Philippines and elsewhere working with humanitarian groups serving the unprivileged and the needy.
Since I have had the opportunity to travel some parts of Europe, USA, and Canada, I would also like to continue exploring the different areas of the world that are beautiful and fascinating. Traveling is one my passions and I hope to stay in good health and live long enough to take trips to places I have only seen in movies, books or travelogues.