At the age of 66, Carmelita Guerrero of Santo Cristo, Dasmariñas, Cavite should’ve been at the comforts of her home resting and at leisure. However, due to a series of deaths that followed her family, her husband and daughter, Carmelita was compelled to go against the despair and inconvenience brought by her family’s tragedy and poor living conditions.
Carmelita has three children, however, none of them is living with her anymore. Her firstborn already has his own family, her daughter died of emphysema, and her youngest son decided to live in the community church. Right now, Carmelita’s only family is her late daughter’s son Darence, now at 17. They live off selling doormats and small gigs in the neighborhood.
Despite the financial struggle and looming old age, Carmelita is as energetic as ever especially at the mention of arts and crafts. When her husband was alive and well, Carmelita had the time to study weaving and devoted lots of her time creating and selling her work. One day, she was given the chance to perform a weaving demo at a television show through a good friend.
“Hindi ko po inasahan na makakapagdemo ako sa TV noon. Gandang-ganda po sila sa gawa ko. Pumasa pa nga daw po ‘yung gawa [doormat] ko sa isang sikat na mall.” Carmelita shares.
However, a few years later, Carmelita’s life took a bitter turn. Her husband lost his job and suffered the same illness as their daughter. Money for treatment was out of reach so Carmelita worked day to night. Even their grandson had to stop schooling because of the lack of finances for daily needs.
“Pangmayaman ang sakit ng asawa ko e. Bukod sa paggawa ng doormat, naglalabada ako araw-araw. Inaabot ako ng alas onse sa paglalaba. Sugat-sugat na ang kamay ko pero wala kaming magagawa, wala kaming kakainin kung hindi ako kakayod maghapon.” Carmelita tearfully explains.
Eventually, Carmelita qualified for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. It is one of the major poverty alleviating programs of the department that provides monthly financial assistance to uplift the lives and well-being of poor Filipino families.
Because of the program, Darence was able to return to school. As he grew older, he also started helping his Lola by accepting small jobs from their neighbors like cleaning, carrying luggage, and many more. Carmelita has never been more proud.
“Nakakatuwa kasi hindi sya napunta sa bisyo. Naiintindihan nya ang sitwasyon namin. Hindi ko lang sya apo, naging kaibigan at katuwang ko na rin sya.” Carmelita shares.
Another opportunity came for Carmelita when the Sustainable Livelihood Program by the DSWD targeted their barangay. The program aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged by provisioning resources and opportunities for the establishment of livelihood projects. Without hesitation, Carmelita joined the Santo Cristo Sustainable Livelihood Program Association. They established a community store.
After a year, Carmelita started to earn from their store. Per month, Carmelita earns P1,200 which she spends for their daily needs and materials for her doormats.
“Sobrang laking tulong nitong tindahan namin. Kada buwan, sigurado nang may bigas kami kasi doon ko nilalaan ang sweldo ko. Ang laking gaan rin sa pagod. Ngayon nakakapahinga na ako di tulad ng dati, maghapon ang kayod. May pang-emergency na rin kaming pera.” Carmelita shares.
Unfortunately, Carmelita’s husband was not able to stay much longer to see her small victories. A year later since her husband’s death, Carmelita still cannot hide her devastation. But for her, life only moves forward. She turns to Darence for happiness and strength and finds solace in the craft she always stuck with, weaving.