A young teacher’s journey towards her dreams of a better future
Her college diploma and her professional license as a teacher are proof that even children like her can dream and make it happen.
Ciara May Palattao, now 22 years old and a resident of Brgy. Rosario in Lopez, Quezon, can still recall what fueled her to dream of a college diploma and a stable job.
“Ayaw ko nang maranasan ulit ‘yung kapag oras na ng pagkain ay wala pa kaming makakain. O kaya ay sasabihin ni Mama na busog pa s’ya dahil kulang ang pagkain para sa aming magkapatid,” shared Ciara.
At that time, Ciara’s mother, Jadema, worked as a cook in a restaurant. As a solo parent, Jadema struggled to provide for the needs of the two children who are under her care.
Even at a young age, Ciara understood their situation. So as much as she could, she would help her mother through saving what little she can with her minimal allowance. She also sought a scholarship during high school.
Today, her dream is almost within reach. With a diploma and a license, she is confident that she can land a good job and have a better life.
In 2011, their family became a beneficiary of the national government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which provides conditional cash grants to qualified poor families to support the needs on health, nutrition and education of children zero to 18 years old.
“Malaking tulong sa amin dahil nagkakaroon kami ng pambili ng grocery, ng bigas, ng pang-ulam at tsaka gamit at pang-tuition sa school,” recalled Ciara.
However, despite the help from the government, Ciara admitted that they still struggled financially, especially when it was almost time for Ciara to enroll in college. However, the family development sessions of the program imparted an important lesson to Ciara’s mother – that is being a responsible parent for her two children.
This is the reason Jadema decided to work as a domestic helper abroad.
“Napakahirap noong naiwan kami ni Mama. Naiwan kami sa pangangalaga ng aming lola kasama ang aming mga pinsan. Pito kaming lahat na nag-aaral noon,” she shared.
When Ciara thought that their life would be better, she faced more hardships.
She experienced studying at night in the dark as her grandmother’s house had no access to electricity. She experienced even more problems with their food.
“May mga pagkakataong pinagkakasya ang dalawang itlog at isang kape na twin pack na tinimpla sa pitsil para sa aming lahat na walong miyembro ng tahanan,” she shared.
Despite these struggles, Ciara focused on her dream.
Reaping the results
Contrary to assumptions that families with members who are overseas workers are rich, Ciara’s family still had to make ends meet, especially that Jadema also supports her mother and all the other children under her care.
“Nang tumuntong ako ng kolehiyo ay nagdoble ang mga gastos sapagkat mahal ang tuition sa paaralan na pinapasukan ko,” shared Ciara, who enrolled in a college located in a nearby town.
Ciara recalled wanting to give up not just because of financial struggles but because of a lot of other pressures.
“May mga pagkakataong gusto ko nang sumuko dahil nahihirapan ako sa set-up ko sa araw-araw. Kailangan kong gumising nang maaga, makakauwi ng bahay ng alas nuwebe ng gabi at matutulog na lang ng konting oras araw-araw,” she shared.
Despite this, she decided to pursue her education for her dreams of a better life.
In her last year in college, she was able to avail of the subsidy under the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) of the Commission on Higher Education.
“Matapos ang apat na taon na pakikibaka sa paaralan, tagumpay ako na nakapagtapos ng kolehiyo. Ngunit hindi dito nagtapos ang pangarap namin, ilang buwan ang ginugol ko sa pag-aaral at rebyu para sa pagsusulit upang maging isang lisensiyadong guro. Nagbunga naman nang ako ay makapasa,” she proudly shared.
Today, Ciara works as a private tutor and is sending out applications in public and private schools as a teacher. Her brother, CJ, on the other hand, is a graduating senior high school student. His graduation also marks their graduation as a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
According to the program’s policy, households shall exit from the program when the last monitored child in the household reaches 18 years old or graduates from senior high school, whichever comes first.
With their family’s exit from the program, Ciara is positive, especially that she knows she has enough skills and qualifications to get a job.
“Naging patnubay namin ang programang ito sa aming pakikibaka upang makaahon sa kahirapan at pag-asam na makatayo sa sarili naming mga paa. Lubos ang aming pasasalamat sa programa. Patuloy kaming magsusumikap para sa maayos at magandang kinabusakan,” she shared.# [with reports from MMCanizares]