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Bright smiles and unending optimism

A young girl’s small efforts to inspire ‘change’ in people

Everyone who knows her speaks of her genuine and radiant smiles. People who are close to her understand these smiles better, though.

Fourteen-year-old Alaiza Nabong, a resident of Brgy. Evangelista in Baras, Rizal Province, always wear a smile that radiates her positivity as a child. And what makes people appreciate these smiles more is how she is able to inspire the same positivity to everyone around her.

For Alaiza, now a Grade 9 pupil in Morong National High School, her positivity and will to inspire other people came from the struggles that she went through in her life.

“Patutunayan ko po na ‘yung lahat ng hirap na pinagdadanan natin, hindi ‘yun magiging hadlang para maging matagumpay ang kahit na sino. Hindi nakabase sa antas ng buhay ng tao kung magiging ano siya sa hinaharap,” shared Alaiza.

Getting inspired by the struggles

Alaiza belongs to a family of five who has gone through a lot in life. They experienced starting from zero at least twice in their life.

“Nung nagsara ‘yung kumpanya namin sa Maynila, lumipat kami dito sa Baras. Wala kaming bahay, wala kaming trabahong mag-asawa. Nakitira kami sa kubo ng Lola ko,” shared Tatay Angelo, Alaiza’s father.

From experiencing studying in a private school in Manila, Alaiza and her two siblings transferred to a public school in the province. Other than this, they all had to endure walking to their school that requires passing through a cemetery, not having any allowance for the day and worse, interchanging sweet potato and banana for their meals.

Tatay Angelo would consider electronics repair or construction jobs every now and then to earn something for the family. Most of the time though, he plants vegetables in their yard.

“Naalala ko nga, nagtatanim ako ng kamote noon nang may pumunta sa bahay para mag-survey,” he shared.

It was in that survey, known as the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) at that time and Listahanan targeting system today, that their family was identified as one of the poor households in the CALABARZON Region. This qualified them to be a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2014.

For Alaiza, though she was only nine at that time, she felt that that circumstance sparked the changes in their life little by little.

“May baon na po kaming magkakapatid, may pambili ng mga projects at pambili ng pagkain,” she said.

Nanay Edralyn added that the grants from the program helped them secure their children’s education while she and her husband focused on earning income for their other needs, especially on food.

However, they had to start from scratch again when their nipa hut was caught in fire. They had to start from scratch again.

“Lahat silang mga anak namin ay desididong mag-aral at makapagtapos kaya nagsisikap kami kahit anong mangyari para masuportahan sila,” shared Tatay Angelo.

Despite all the struggles, Alaiza and her siblings did not forget about their dreams. Alaiza wants to be an accountant or a lawyer so she makes sure that she gets good grades all the time.

Being an inspiration to others

Alaiza’s struggles are not something new to their neighbors and even to her teachers and classmates. Her story has become a great inspiration, especially that Alaiza is always seen to be a very positive person despite these experiences.

“Lagi s’yang may matamis na ngiti kahit saan ko s’ya makasalubong. At kahit hindi na n’ya ako adviser ngayon, lagi pa rin n’yang pinapakita ang appreciation n’ya sa akin as a teacher,” shared Ms. Jennelyn Combo, her grade 8 adviser, who added that she would often receive random messages from Alaiza showing the child’s appreciation to her.

Her grade 9 adviser, Ms. Sharon Cruz, agrees with Ms. Combo. She shared that Alaiza is one of her students that she can rely on as Alaiza is very confident, responsible and shows great leadership.

“Napaka-bubbly ng batang ‘yan at responsable. Nakikita mo na hindi n’ya ginagawa ang mga bagay para lang sa grades kundi ganun talaga s’ya,” Ms. Cruz added.

Alaiza’s classmates and friends share the same thing.

“Hinahangaan ko s’ya dahil napaka-positibo n’ya. Kahit anong problema, kinakaya n’ya, happy lang lagi,” said Carla Mae Dela Vega, one of Alaiza’s classmates and closest friends.

Ms. Combo added that Alaiza is a positive influencer inside the classroom. Since they are in the prime section, all the students are achievers. However, Alaiza and the rest of her classmates practice togetherness instead of competing against each other.

At home, Alaiza is a model, too.

“Napakatiyaga po n’ya, lalo na sa pag-aaral. Hindi s’ya tumitigil, minsan madaling araw na s’ya natutulog tapos gigising pa nang maaga para mag-aral,” shared Angel, 15, Alaiza’s elder sister.

Tatay Angelo and Nanay Edralyn are both inspired by their child’s dedication. Tatay Angelo works harder so he can support them up to college. Nanay Edralyn, on the other hand, takes some of Alaiza’s responsibilities in the house chores so she can focus on her studies and still grab some rest.

“Dahil siguro sa pinagdaanan namin, si Alaiza ay hinding hindi nagrereklamo at talagang determinado sa buhay,” said Tatay Angelo.

Advocating for the youth and the poor

Evident in her poetry and in her dreams is her advocacies both for the youth and the poor. Not only does she wish to help her family, she dreams of helping the community, too.

“Magiging halimbawa ako na kahit gaano kahirap ang buhay, tuloy lang ang pagbangon at pangangarap. Magiging halimbawa ako lalo na sa mga kabataang naliligaw ng landas,” said Alaiza.

When she becomes a lawyer, she vows to be the voice of the poor. Today, however, she knows she can only do so much. But she remains a good child not only by being responsible and respectful at home, but also through being an achiever and leader in school and participating in various activities, especially in their church.

The closest she is doing today to make a difference is perhaps her participation in their school’s organization where they conduct reading sessions to students from their neighboring elementary school.

As a girl with a lot of optimism, she knows she has a long way to go. But still, Alaiza is confident that she can achieve her dreams, especially for the benefit of the community.#

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