NEW YORK CITY -- Former public school teacher Esperanza "Espy" Bade, 66, described as "a case of lightning that strikes twice" her ordeal when, after losing her husband in Iloilo City, Philippines in 2004, she was unable to come home to bury him; and when her best friend was killed in a road mishap here last year, she was unable to attend to her funeral.
"I could not fly home because my (immigration) papers weren't yet fixed, so I emptied all my savings to compensate for my absence in the Philippines," Espy recalled.
Romeo "Roming" Bade was Espy's first and last love, she swore.
They were high school sweethearts and her "disciplinarian" father was against the relationship.
She defied her father and married Roming, who vowed to help her finish her college education.
They were blessed with four children--Lyleth, Love, Lester, Lorlyn.
"Roming was an auto supply salesman and he spent for my college education," said Espy, who studied at the University of Iloilo in the Philippines.
He died of liver ailment.
Espy never married again.
"A German national fell in love with me and wanted to marry me but I ditched him," she said.
Espy's best friend, whom she wanted to name only as "Mel", died on the spot when a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus in Queens, New York overran her a year ago.
"I was shocked when I got a call from the police telling me that Mel had died on the road," Espy said.
Police traced Espy's number from Mel's mobile phone. Espy was the last person Mel had called before the accident.
"I failed to attend to Mel's funeral because I was already on my way to Chicago," Espy remembered. "My heart bleed for Mel because the night before she died, we were together in a videoke bar and she requested me to sing 'Guhit ng Palad' by Imelda Papin. Mel had a turbulent marriage, thus she cried while I was singing that song."
Espy quit as teacher at the Iloilo City National High School in Molo, Iloilo City and left the Philippines in 1998 on a tourist visa.
"Like many Filipinos, I left the Philippines with an American Dream. Since then, I did not retreat and I did not surrender," Espy boasted. "I had the full support of my husband and children.
She never went back.
Espy, who stands four feet and nine inches, proved her critics wrong when they doubted if she could survive in the United States.
Espy did odd jobs in San Francisco, California before flying to New York where she had been living until her departure to live with her daughter, Lyleth, a nurse in Plainfield, Illinois on November 28, two days after the Thanksgiving.
She had visited Plainfield in the past to babysit Lyleth's kids.
In between working as part time house cleaner and tailor, Espy earned extra money from singing contests in New York community pubs.
Espy wished to obtain a green card before going back to New York.
"In all the troubles that I have encountered while living in the United States, I always prayed to St. Jude," Espy revealed. "My trip to Plainfield is very important, this time."