SAN Sebastian ace hitter Gretcel Soltones was in tears on Tuesday, not just because she received her second consecutive MVP award in the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament, but because she was surprised with a bigger prize 13 years in the making.
The 20-year old cheerful spiker turned emotional when her estranged mother Marilyn Mollena suddenly showed up at The Arena in San Juan, making the awarding ceremony more dramatic than it already is as the mother and daughter got reunited after over a decade of separation.
“Last ko siyang nakita ay noong 2003, kasi 1999 nagpunta ako sa Taiwan. Umuwi ako noong 2003 at nagkita kami tapos bumalik ako (agad sa Taiwan kaya) ‘yun ang last namin na kita,” said Mollena.
Mollena learned about her daughter through her live-in partner, former military man Vivencio Rigos, who would always read newspapers. One fateful day, she by chance flipped to the sports page and saw her daughter’s name on it.
“‘Yung asawa ko kasi mahilig magdala ng dyaryo, (binabasa ko) ‘yung sa tsismis ba ng mga artista. Ewan ko kung bakit biglang napunta sa sports (page),” she recalled.
“Walang picture niya, pero nandoon sa beach volleyball ang (pangalan) niya na Gretcel Soltones. Tapos hinanap ko siya sa Facebook and doon nakita ko,” she added.
The 43-year old mother admitted that she was nervous about seeing her daughter again, after ABS-CBN invited her to grace the ceremony.
She separated with Gretcel’s father, Marvin, when Soltones was in third grade, and left them both in Catmon, Cebu. Naturally, she feared her daughter might have resented growing up without her, and that the reunion might not be a sweet one for both sides.
“Nagdasal ako sa Nazareno na sana hindi siya galit sa akin kapag nagkita na kami,” she said. “Kasi mahirap na galit siya sa akin na ipagsiksikan ko ang sarili ko na ayaw niya sa akin.”
“Naisip ko na baka sabihin niya sa akin kung, ‘Nasaan ka noong maliit ako?’” she added. “Sikat na siya eh. Kaya nahihiya ako.”
Still, her maternal instincts took over to lead her to do the right thing, to face her daughter regardless of the consequences.
“Nandoon na ang pakiramdam ng isang ina na, ‘di ba ang magulang hindi kayang tiisin ang anak pero ang anak kayang tiisin ang magulang?” said Mollena, who talked privately with Soltones inside the San Sebastian dugout after the ceremony.
At first, Soltones seemed surprised, shocked, and upset but she soon calmed down and hugged her mother.
Wherever the reunion will lead them, the mom said she'll always be happy for her daughter.
“Nagpasalamat ako na kahit wala ako sa tabi niya, maganda ang buhay niya. Kasi hinanap niya ako kaya nagpakita ako para suporta na rin (sa kanya),” she added.