It was in year 1965 when Gloria D. Perez was born and raised in Villaluz, Delfin Albano, Isabela. Adored by her parents, Gloria was nurtured and molded with a central though of the importance of having a family that sticks together despite hardships and tribulations. As a daughter of a famer who does not own the land he tills, life was not easy. Gloria had 8 siblings that her parents worked hard to support. Due to the financial difficulty, she was only able to finish until High School.
When Gloria came of age, she dreamt of having a happy family. In her mind, the poor and simple life she and her family had was perfect. Although stricken with hardships, the bond that she, her parents, and her siblings shared paved way to experience happiness. And it was one summer when she first met the man who will change the story of her life. Tall and fair complexioned, the 38 year-old Wilfredo Perez has caught the attention of the whole neighbor as he was a stranger and was staying at his cousin’s. He was from Talavera, Nueva Ecija and travelled to Delfin Albano, Isabela to try his fortune in finding a stable job as a carpenter. Never had he imagined that he will meet the girl he’s going to marry after borrowing a pocketbook from a woman in the person of Gloria. Friendship started and a flicker of affection started blooming. Time passed and they grew fonder of each other.
As they went through the stage of knowing one another, a twist of a little spice has intertwined their love story. Wilfredo, the man who caught the attention of the neighborhood has four children back in Nueva Ecija. However, he did not hide anything about his past. He had a partner years ago before he moved to Isabela. Though Wilfredo’s partner gave birth to their four children, the woman whom he lived with started to have an affair with another man. Soon after, their troubled relationship caused them to have their own separate lives. Though separated, Wilfredo did not abandon his responsibilities to his four children. Presently the woman he first lived with is already married to another man.
Aware of such fact, Gloria did not express dismay and regrets of getting close to Wilfredo. Eventually they fell in-love and started cohabiting. Back then, Gloria was 32 years old while Wilfredo was 39.
Life was tough, and the couple moved to Nueva Ecija in hopes of finding a better job as they already have their first-born child, Charish. They lived together with Wilfredo’s parents as an extended family. It was in this moment that Gloria began to experience her great challenge. Being considered additional burden to Wilfredo’s family, Gloria was treated coldly. As she gave birth to Karen, their second child, they would not allow her to eat extra portion of their meal and sometimes she never ate at all, even when she was breast-feeding. They often called her as “sampid” and showed her that she doesn’t belong to the family, but she endured all the insults to show her respect. Aware of the fact his family did not like Gloria, Wilfredo worked hard to earn enough to build a home to free his family from all the insults and unfair treatment shown towards them.
The couple’s hardship bore fruit and was able to go back to Isabela and started a new life. Gloria had accepted a job in the city of Manila as a nanny for a Chinese family while Wilfredo worked as a construction worker and sometimes a furniture maker. They managed to earn an amount of money enough to build a home. Their house was small compared to their neighbors but for the family, it was a perfect home. The couple imbued to their children the value of considering it a home regardless of its size or how it looks. Gloria then settled at home to take care of the children and found ways to help lessen the expenses for their growing family by being a laundrywoman (labandera). She seldom shied away from work and accepted all work she could accept. With their four children: Charish, Karen, Patricia, and Niño, the couple Gloria and Wilfredo got married on March 23, 2003 and on 2008, the youngest, Kyrene was born.
BEHIND THEIR SWEET SMILES
Every family has trials; unfortunately, the Perez family was in abundance when it came to trials. Growing up, the children witnessed their parents’ good times and bad times. Being part of a poverty-stricken society, finding means to survive and keeping their children in school was not easy.
As their family’s expenses increased and their eldest started entering college, everyday seemed to be a challenge for the Perez’s. Lacking educational advantage as he only finished Grade 3, getting a regular job was a struggle for Wilfredo. Being the head and providing for the family was never easy for him, so he tried his luck as he went back to Nueva Ecija in 2017. He worked part-time as a carpenter and a furniture maker and would send a monthly allowance of 1,500 to 2,000 to his children. However, things did not go well as planned. Wilfredo got sick for some months making him unable to work.
Back then, Gloria stood as a mother and a father, at the same time, to the five children. She doubled her effort to earn extra pay as Charish was already in college and the three were in High School, while the youngest in elementary. Gloria worked as a laundrywoman from Mondays to Saturdays in a family from which she earns P3,000 a month. During Sundays, she was scheduled to wash clothes of a neighbor for 300 pesos.
“Isang kahig- isang tuka”, that’s how Gloria described their situation as she wept looking back at those times when all she can serve in the table was “mantika at asin” or dried fish (tuyo) for the starving children.
Without a single day-off the children saw how much their mother poured all the hard-works just to survive from their everyday needs. And so, the siblings exerted efforts to help their mother lessen her burdens. Niño, fourth among the siblings, helped his mother in her laundries during weekends or whenever there were no classes. He also entered SPES (Special Program for Employment of Students) and spent what he earned for his uniform and books in school. The eldest, Charish, who was then a college student in ISU-Cauayan City earned money to augment for her school and daily expenses by doing the laundries of her board-mates. Karen, second among the siblings, also earned money by tutoring her classmates in the subject Mathematics when she was in Grade 10.
Afraid that his children might grow distant from him, Wilfredo decided to settle back in Isabela with his family to make up for the lost time and keep their bond.
“THE ONLY GIFT WE CAN BESTOW”
Castigated by some people, Wlifredo and Gloria once doubted their capacity to sustain the schooling of their children. Raising kids in a very less fortunate situation, the Perez couple, however, did not fail to instill the value of education amidst difficulties and trials.
“Ito lang ang kaya naming ipamana sa aming mga anak, kaya’t hanggat kayang kumayod magtyatyaga kami. Bawat kuskos at piga ko ay para sa aking mga anak”, said Gloria with fervent eyes. But tougher battle came across when Charish started entering college while earning for Wilfredo became seasonal worker. With the meager source of income, having no lands to till or livestock to trade, everyday was full of uncertainties for the family. Gloria’s main source of income as a laundrywoman was not enough for the 5 children and to support them in their needs. But with God’s grace they were given hope. The family became part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
“Salamat sa Diyos at may 4Ps na naging katuwang ko sa pagpapaaral ng aking mga anak”, Gloria attested as she mentioned how the program became of big help in augmenting to the family’s financial needs, especially on education. The grants of the program lifted some of the burden of Gloria in sending her children to school. In addition, the subsidy given for health also gave Gloria and Wilfredo a sense of security whenever their children got sick. The rice subsidy greatly improved their food intake. The program conditionalities also have a positive effect on the family. Gloria attested that the Family Development Sessions improved her management of the Family’s meager resources. Her relationship with her husband was also maintained and even strengthened.
Apart from the 4Ps grants, subsidies from various scholarship programs have aided Charish, Karen, and Niño as they went through higher education. And so, their lives went on with their dreams at hand. Bestowed with skills and talent, the Perez children’s perseverance made their parents sacrifices worth the toil.
A “certified iskolar ng bayan” (recipient of GPULP-CFBCI, YSL Education Program, and BRO-Ed), the eldest, Charish, graduated with the course Bachelor of Elementary Education as Cum Laude in Isabela State University-Cauayan City Campus in 2018. She was also given a Lider ni Bro Award, as one of the many scholars of BRO-Ed, for her excellent academic performance. Months later the family received the good news of her passing the board exam and landed as the Top 8 Regional Topnotcher. Also, when she was in high school she had given her Alma Mater, the Magsaysay Memorial High School, a pride for being a quiz bee champion in the subject Araling Panlipunan for two consecutive years, outwinning different private schools in Northern Isabela. Now, she is currently practicing her profession at Maria Montessori in Quezon City to be a certified Montessori Teacher.
Karen, second among the siblings, also excelled academically. She gained numerous awards when she was in high school. She also won as champion in quiz bee for the subject Araling Panlipunan for two consecutive years in the NIPSA (Northern Isabela Private Schools Associations) 2013 and 2015. She also gained sixth place in the NDRRMC-Area 1 Quiz bee. And when she was in her senior high school, she became champion in three areas; Feature Writing, Sports Writing, and Editorial Writing all in English category in the 2017 District Journalism Seminar/Writeshop senior division. She then graduated senior high school as Batch Top 4 (With High Honor). Having availed of the CHED scholarship program, she’s currently studying in ISAP (International School of Asia and the Pacific) taking the course Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and allotting her time as a Junior Writer in their school publication, The Quill.
Niño, on the other hand, has also gained the fruition of his hardwork. He graduated elementary as Top 4. When he was in junior high school, he wa s able to maintain his position as Top 1 (With High Honor) from Grade 7 until Grade 10, earning the awards Best in Araling Panlipunan, Best in Science, Best in English, Best in MAPEH, and Best in Filipino. He won the Araling Panlipunan quiz bee Champion when he was in Grade 9. On his 10th grade, he also won as Champion in the Mathematics quiz bee. Now he is a Grade 11 student taking the strand STEM (Science Technology and Engineering Math). “Despite the plight of their family, I have seen the potentials of the siblings. They are hardworking and has a sense of leadership, aside from the fact that they are intelligent” mentioned by Ms. Briones, school principal of Magsaysay Memorial School where Niño is currently enrolled into and where Charish and Karen graduated high school.
Patricia, also a current Grade 11 student is taking the strand TVL (Technical Vocational Livelihood) and performs well in school. She was supposed to be a grade 12 student by now but she was forced to stop studying for one year because of her sickness. Inspired by her older siblings, Patricia gives her best effort to finish schooling as she dream of becoming a policewoman someday.
The youngest, Kyrene, who is as brilliant as her siblings, also made exceptional efforts in school. She landed as the Top 1 of their class when she was in Grade 1. When she was in Grade 2 she became the Top 2 of their class. But she regained being the Top 1 (With High Honor) of her class when she was in Grade 3 until she was in Grade 5. Gifted with a skill in writing, she won 3rd runner up in both Feature Writing (Filipino) and Editorial cartooning in the 2017 District Journalism Seminar/Writeshop Junior Division. Kyrene is now a Grade 6 pupil and carries the responsibility of being the school’s SPG (Supreme Pupil Government) President. She was also recently elected as the District SPG Secretary.
Driven with the goal to be free from poverty and become successful, the Perez siblings work hand in hand as they move forward to more challenging steps along their way. “We have gained all of these achievements because we’ve learned how to turn everything negative into inspiration and motivation. We’ve witnessed the hardships of our parents, working hard under the scorching heat of the sun, giving their blood, sweat and tears to provide all our needs. From these, we promised ourselves to study hard and make our parents proud, a simple act to pay off their sacrifices”.
BEING A PRODUCT OF THE PANTAWID PAMILYANG PILIPINO PROGRAM
Year 2012, the family became part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. During which Charish was already a graduating High School student, so it was Karen, Patricia, and Niño who were selected for monitoring. Being part of the program has somehow eased the burdens of Perez family in so many ways.
Prior to becoming a household beneficiary, it was normal for them to only eat twice a day with simple meals served, like sardines and dried fish. They also pay less attention to their health, especially the couple, because having means to get through the day is more important for them even when they were sick. Though they excel academically, complying with school projects was also a struggle for the children.
As they became part of the program, the family’s current condition was improved. Finally, they were able to eat three times a day with enough and healthy meals. The program’s promotion on backyard gardening has also augmented to the family’s daily needs. Being educated on health issues through FDS, the couple has also started caring about their health especially now as they are getting old. The children, on the other hand, were able to comply with school projects and participate in various school activities with the subsidy provided by the program. Greater educational opportunity was also extended to their eldest, Charish, as she was given the chance to become an ESGPPA grantee which aided the family to have their first ever graduate and licensed teacher. It was known to the siblings that others view their family as a “charity case” but they were not discouraged to do better. “Yes, we seek help from the government, but it doesn’t matter as long as they help grooming us to become better citizens of this society”, testified by the siblings.
Aside from financial aspect, values about life imparted by the program have given the family a big leap towards change. Through the implementers of the program, the family has found a friend to whom they can gain wisdom. With the conduct of monthly FDS, strong family tie was maintained by the family amidst tough times. During the time when Wilfredo was away and Gloria became the breadwinner for the family, the latter began to understand and enrich her role as a mother and a father at the same time to her children. She also maintained harmonious relationship between her children as she was enlightened with the importance of establishing a gender sensitive family. Gloria embraced individual differences among her children. Unlike her four siblings who engage in school activities, Patricia is a shy type. But with motivation from her siblings, she performs well in school academically. Niño, on the other hand, has a cheerful personality. But such personality comes with his feminine moves and interest on girl stuffs. Though noticed by many, his gender and preference was never an issue to the family and even in school. In fact, Niño’s personality became an advantage to lead in various school activities. At home, Niño was the one who lits up the mood of his siblings and the exhausted mother.
Undeniably, the family’s condition became better with the aid of the program. But they did not solely depend on it to surpass their present predicaments. For them, it served as an instrument to prepare them to become self-reliant and resilient towards change. “Produkto kami ng 4Ps. Dahil sa programa nabigyan kami ng tatag ng loob upang magpatuloy sa buhay. Sana, balang-araw, masuklian din namin ang mga tulong na naibigay ng programa kahit sa pagbahagi lang ng simpleng kwento ng aming buhay”, said Gloria.
CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE COMMUNITY
Having sent her five children in San Ramon Elementary School, Gloria became known for the school teachers as she had actively participated in most of the school’s activity, particularly in “Brigada Eskwela”. Being used to laborious tasks, Gloria never fails to attend and encourage every parent to take part in the said activity every year to maintain a clean and safe environment for the pupils.
With her continuous attendance to Family Development Sessions of the Pantawid program, the family’s care for the environment was strengthened by imparting her knowledge on proper waste disposal and management to her family members as well as neighbors. Though they live in a small house out of lightweight materials, the family still maintains cleanliness within and outside the place.
On 2017 Gloria was also appointed as a Barangay Police (Barangay Tanod) for her strong physique and ease in dealing with people. And as a Barangay Tanod, she was occasionally called to assist in mending family or neighborhood quarrels; helped cook meryenda for other Barangay Tanod on duty; helped clean and beautify the Barangay’s vicinity; and keep the peace whenever there’s an event in the Barangay. As a steward of the community, Gloria did not fail to attend barangay improvement activities like the clean-up drive.
The Perez siblings, on the other hand, used to visit their Barangay chapel for catechism and teaching other children the value of faith– a small act to somehow give back to the church for extending a helping hand to their eldest sister when she was studying. Also, Charish joined the Sangguniang Kabataan as a Kagawad member wishing to contribute to the community and inspire other youth to become an active citizen of her town.
BECOMING AN INSPIRATION TO ALL
The Perez family is not perfect. Their flaws and imperfection are many, but the same cannot be held against them. The inspiration they provide to their fellow pantawid beneficiary stems from their consistent pursuit of development and success despite the barriers that poverty poses. They have utilized the opportunity afforded to them by the government and are trying their best to finally escape the grasp of poverty.
Their understanding of their role as the main drivers of their fate was displayed by their resilience in the past. The challenges they have faced thought them that sometimes, there is no one else to depend on but your family. While the program has helped them a lot, the Perez know that the government can only do so much to help the people. The effort should come from the beneficiaries themselves, while the government can only provide augmentation. Since the Perez understood their role as main actors and actresses in their lives, they played their part almost perfectly.
###Story by Rhealinden Albia