Pinoy family: Love carried us through worst week of our lives

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Their smiles and laughter may not show it. But the Ragasa family — Norman, Mariluz and their three children, Azja, Ava and Aidan — have been through hell and back.

The first time Norman and Mariluz laid eyes on each other was in 1986 at San Francisco State University’s Ethnic Studies building.

“We were in the same class. I didn’t notice him at first,” said Mariluz.

But Norman said, immediately, he fell in love when Mariluz, “It was love at first sight,” he admitted. “I was just waiting for her.”

The feeling soon became mutual. And after dating for seven year, Normal proposed in romantic Hawaii. He recalled, “When the sun was going down, I went down on one knee. But I was so nervous, I went on two knees. And two knees is begging.”

She said yes and soon, they got married and started a family. They also began doing everything together, even their business. Mariluz stated, “We do special events. That’s our design background. Besides doing flowers, invitations, favors, providing all of that and setting up the parties, we would also emcee the events.”

Norman added, “I don’t feel complete if I don’t include her or the kids.” She agreed, “We need each other.”

But the worst week of their lives was yet to come.

One Sunday, in 2013, Mariluz had a heart attack. Four days later, while Mariluz was still in the hospital, their San Francisco home caught fire. All of their possessions – were gutted. They also lost their dog, Aloysius.

But their nightmare was not over.

Just one day after the day, Norman and all the children got into an accident, after their car rammed onto a pole in the middle of the road. They were clearly shaken, although no one was seriously hurt. Normal said it was like an out of body experience. “I can’t explain it. I just went numb,” he shared.

Mariluz related that it can get tough. But she said, “I know we’re doing well enough and we’re always looking at the positive side of things.”

And stay positive they did, as they tried to bounce back from the trials they faced. Without a home, they stayed with friends for six months. And then they lived from one motel to another — 14 to be exact. Still, they managed to make it an adventure and a learning experience.

Norman said, “We have a motto that we use: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Mariluz pointed that they’ve learned empathy with the homeless because of what they went through. He said, “We are still somewhat homeless. You cannot downgrade or degrade anybody who is homeless. You don’t know what situation they’re in.”

No matter what they face, this Pinoy family feels blessed. Norman concluded, “We are happy with what we have.”

For the Ragasa family, love indeed conquers all. And that same love will carry them through whatever life throws their way.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at for more information.

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