My parents are probably no different from Janet Lim Napoles, the suspect and the alleged brains behind a 10 billion peso ($230 million) scam involving some of the Philippines' most powerful senators and congressmen that allegedly used public funds for fraudulent projects.
I grew up in a small city in the southern province of Mindanao, a place where many Filipinos would never consider visiting. Many of my countrymen believe it is unsafe because of the many Muslims who live there and who have been portrayed by the media to be violent, hot-headed war freaks. However, living in Mindanao was never a problem for me.
I was the youngest of three siblings and we lived a comfortable life. My mother was a contractor in construction. I didn't know exactly what she did, but we lived pretty well. We went to school and got whatever we needed or wanted. My parents used to travel a lot, and sometimes we wouldn't see them for quite some time. Then one rainy day, when I was 10-years-old, they came home and broke the news to us that we needed to pack up and move immediately.
We moved to my mother's hometown on another island. We didn't understand why we had to move so quickly and leave everything behind. In Mindanao, we had lived in our own house. In our new city, we had to live with my cousins. I couldn't understand why we didn't have our own house anymore, and our cars were gone. We probably knew something was wrong, but we didn't question anything. Our parents did even more traveling, and we didn't even know where they went.
It didn't take long for my parents to work and establish themselves again. My mother continued her construction business. As I got older, I began to help her in handling some documents, including those that involved bidding for construction projects. My mother was always stressed out, and she would talk to different government officials, mayors and congressmen every day. She would be especially agitated during elections.
Eventually, as I continued to be involved in handling certain documents for our construction business, I knew what our family business was really about. It was corruption, and my family benefited from it. I benefited from it. The food we ate, the gadgets we owned, the vacations we took, all of these were benefits of corruption. Compared to Janet Lim Napoles's billions, my parents were small fry. They only dealt with a few million pesos.
And while there is a vast difference between five million pesos and ten billion, I know that at the end of the day, stealing is still stealing and it involves the money of the hardworking Filipino taxpayers. It pains me to know this. It wracks me with guilt knowing that my family has stolen from the Filipino people, that I myself have stolen from them.
We've since moved to Manila. After all 10 years in my mother's hometown, we again packed up, and ran away. My parents seem to have changed since we got here. They no longer seem to do what they used to do. They're involved in other businesses, which no longer involve politicians, no more corruption and deceit. I've never asked my parents what happened in my mother's hometown. Since we're firm believers in God, one day, I'll probably ask him instead.
I also keep asking God for forgiveness. However, having grown up in the environment I grew up in, in the back of my mind I constantly worry that eventually I may be like my parents too. I know how these backroom transactions work, I know the ropes, and I've learned from the best, my mother. I am now 20 years old, practically an adult. I constantly ask myself: Will I too be corrupt in the future? Will I follow in the footsteps of the people I always looked up to as my role models? I keep asking myself: Am I already corrupt?
HuffPost is publishing work from this author without a byline to spare the writer's family from repercussions.