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LEADING THE CHILDREN AWAY FROM THE ROAD

A mother’s commitment to educate her children

She does not have a house to call her own, but what matters is that all five of her children are given opportunities to learn.

At 48, Estrella Manalo, a resident of Brgy. Poblacion 1 in Real, Quezon Province, does not mind paying monthly dues for the roof over their heads. For her and her husband, Cerilo, 50, their priority is ensuring that their children are all in school.

Not minding the heat, or even the rain, Estrella can be seen along the sidewalk of the town’s market place selling various accessories and small electronic gadgets. She does this everyday so she can help provide the needs of their household such as food, monthly rent and education of the children. Her husband sacrifices being away from the family to work as a jeepney driver in Calamba City in Laguna Province.

“Dati (ang hanapbuhay naming) dumadayo kami sa mga piyestahan para magtinda ng kung anu-ano. Wala po kaming permanenteng tinutuluyan. Hanggang sa dito na po kami sa Real nanirahan at nagsimula naman kaming magtinda ng mani, s’ya naman (referring to Cerilo) ay nagdedeliver ng tubig hanggang sa naglako kami ng mga prutas,” she shared.

Though Estrella is never ashamed of how they support their children, their experiences on the streets are what fueled her and her husband to work harder for their children.

“Sinisikap namin na makapag-aral sila para kahit papaano, nakahakbang na sila. Hindi sila mabubuhay sa kalsada, may pagkakataon silang makapagtrabaho nang mas maayos,” said Estrella.

Today, as Estrella waits for customers to check out the items in her stall, she cannot help but smile and be proud of what happened in their life.

“Napakasaya pala talaga sa isang magulang na ‘yung mga anak mo ay nakapagtatrabaho na, hindi sa trabahong katulad nitong sa amin, mas maalwan na kahit papaano,” said Estrella, who proudly shared that three of her children have jobs of their own now.

Her eldest, John Lester, 25, has finished a two-year-course in college and has a family of his own now. Juvelyn, 21, and John Carlo, 20, are both college graduates and work in the bank and in an electronics company respectively.

All of them continues to work hard to ensure that Jonash, 14, and Jelaisa, 12, experiences the same, if not better opportunities than their siblings. Both of them are in high school.

Prioritizing the education of the children

With their sources of income, Estrella admits that they cannot afford to send their children to college.

“Lalo na at lima ang aming anak, tapos halos sabay-sabay nag-aaral, hindi talaga namin kaya na magpakolehiyo. Pero nagsikap kaming buong pamilya,” she shared.

Estrella added that meeting their daily needs was even a struggle.

“Kinukulang kami sa pagkain, ‘yung panganay ko, nagtrabaho na kaagad pagka-graduate ng high school dahil hindi na talaga namin kaya. Ang hirap panindigan na pag-aralin silang lahat, pero tuloy pa rin kaming nagsikap lalo’t nakikita naming silang lahat ay pursigido rin,” said Estrella.

Despite the situation, their family worked together.

Estrella is also grateful for the different opportunities that came their way. In 2012, they became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

As a beneficiary of the program, the family receives cash subsidy to support the needs on health and education of their children, particularly for Jonash and Jelaisa.

For Estrella, the cash subsidy from the government is a big help, especially that they can allot their other income for their other needs, including food, house rental and college expenses of the other children.

Through their being a beneficiary of the program, John Carlo also qualified to be a grantee of the Expanded Student Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA) of the Commission on Higher Education. With John Carlo’s college grant of PhP30,000 per semester, the family was able to support the college education of John Lester and Juvelyn, who had a minimal allowance under her scholarship from the local government.

Improving their family—more than their financial stability

To date, Estrella and Cerilo, together with their three older children, are working towards ensuring the future of the younger children. They are also dreaming to finally get a house of their own.

However, more than securing their future, Estrella is working towards improving their family relationship.

“Buong buhay kasi namin, itinuon namin sa paghahanapbuhay para masuportahan ang aming pamilya. Pero sa pag-attend ko ng mga FDS (Family Development Sessions), marami akong natutunan para mas mapaunlad ang aming pamilya, lalo na ang pagbibigay oras at pagdidisiplina sa mga anak namin,” she shared.

The FDS is a component of the Pantawid Pamilya that gathers parent-grantees monthly for various family strengthening topics including children’s rights, budget management and disaster preparedness.

“Sa FDS ko naunawaan kung paano pa ako makakatulong sa aking mga anak, maliban sa pagbibigay sa kanila ng pangangailangan sa school. Malaking tulong ito para sa aming mga nanay, lalo na sa aming hindi mga nakapag-aral,” said Estrella.

Looking forward, Estrella sees a family where all her children have better jobs and are able to support their families when they choose to have one. That way, their children will never have to experience the same struggles they went through.

At this point, she is confident that all her children can do this. They all just have to continue what they are doing and continue to become a strong family no matter what happens.***

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