For most poverty-stricken families, getting by with their everyday struggles is their top priority. They allot most of their time to earn money so that they can put food in their table. And for some poor families, it could be difficult to maintain strong family relationships as they tend to focus on one thing: to work hard to support their financial needs, having little time to spend for their families. It is mostly hard for them to even care about others as they are busy helping theirs.
But the Romero Family from Brgy. Bachawan, San Agustin, Romblon is different. This family maintains strong relationship despite their busy schedules as the members of the family go to work or study in school. They are an inspiration to the community as they are not only responsible members of their family but also an active member of their community.
“Kilala ang pamilyang iyan sa barangay kasi kahit mahirap sila at walang kaya, maganda ang relasyon sa pamilya. Bukod pa doon, aktibo sila sa komunidad. Ang mga anak naman niya ay nag-eexcel sa school at makikita mo talagang maganda ang pagpapalaki sa kanila ng kanilang mga magulang,” said barangay captain Helen M. Moton.
The Romero family might not be financially wealthy but they are rich in positive values that is admired by other families in their community. Through working hand-in-hand, the family believes that little by little, they can overcome poverty together.
Beating the Odds
Felix, and her wife Teresa, came from poor families and both were not able to finish their studies. Growing up, they have already experienced life’s hardship, hence they work harder as they created a family of their own. Felix currently serves his community as a barangay kagawad while working as a farmer and raising farm animals. Meanwhile, Teresa helps in financing their family’s needs through selling kakanin. To help them sustain their daily needs, the family also maintains a backyard garden.
The couple was given seven children namely: John Paul, the eldest, a BS Information Technology student; Dannica Joy, the second child, a graduate of BS IT who currently works as a cashier; John Vincent, the third child, a Grade 11 student; April Joy, the fourth child, a Grade 9 student; Felix III, the fifth child, a Grade 8 student; Princess Ella May, the sixth child, a Grade 6 student; and the youngest, John Angelo, a Grade 1 student.
Raising a large family, it was hard for Felix to support them only through farming. “Mahirap ang buhay namin noon ma’am. Mabilis na lumaki ang aming pamilya,” said Teresa. “Para makadagdag pa sa panggastos sa pang-araw araw, nagkopra ang asawa ko at kumikita sya ng tatlong libo eh tatlong beses lang naman magkopra sa isang taon, ma’am,” she added. But the couple did not give up. They take their situation as a challenge for them to continue working hard. They have raised their children to be humble, kind, and God-fearing. “Pinaintindi namin sa mga bata na kahit mahirap ang buhay, patuloy pa rin dapat kaming magsikap. Na kahit mahirap ang buhay, kailangang matuto pa rin kaming tumulong sa kapwa at magpakumbaba,” said Teresa. According to Teresa, their usual conversation during dinner as they share the cooked rice from their neighbor’s leftover mixed with soy sauce and cooking oil, are their dreams and the actions that they need to take together to pursue these dreams.
As their children grew up, they have come to understand their situation. Hence, they are studying hard to help their family in getting out of poverty and to repay the hardships of their parents. “May mga panahon po dati na ang pagkain naming ay lugaw sa umaga, kanin sa hapon, at lugaw ulit sa gabi. Okay lang po sa amin yun dahil naiintindihan naman po namin ang hirap ng buhay namin. Kaya kahit kami ay nagpupursigi rin para balang araw ay makatulong kina mama at papa,” shared April Joy. The children believe that education can help them in having successful a life in the future.
“Ang magkakapatid na ‘yan ay talagang magagaling sa school. Lahat sila ay laging kasama sa honor roll at inilalaban din naming sa mga pa-contest sa school,” attested Remegio F. Rollon Jr., who became the school adviser of the four children at Esteban Madrona Elementary School. John Paul and Dannica Joy were honor students in elementary and high school. April Joy, John Vincent, and Felix III also excel in school and all are consistent honor students. All of them are members of their school’s Supreme Student Government (SSG) and are active in different school activities. Meanwhile, Princess Ella ranked first in her class and has recently passed the Special Science Class (SSC) admission examination. The youngest, John Angelo, has also been receiving certificates of recognition for doing good in class.
For the children, their plight and seeing their parents strive to support their educational endeavors inspires them to go beyond what is expected of them. And with their children’s drive to excel in their classes, the couple was inspired to continue working hard to support them and their aspirations.
The Romero family rejoiced when Dannica Joy graduated in college. “Noong nakagraduate siya, sobrang tuwa namin kasi kahit papaano ay may nakuha na kaming accomplishment sa pagpapatapos ng isa sa pito naming anak,” said Teresa. Dannica’s diploma served as a stepping stone for the family in chasing their dreams. “Mas nainspire po ako noon na makapagtapos din balang araw kagaya ni ate,” said April Joy.
Being served and serving
Never did the Romero family expect that there will be someone to provide assistance to their family after becoming a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiary in 2010. Teresa attested to the contribution of the program in buffering for the children’s needs as the program monitored their three children.
“Dahil malaki ang aming pamilya, sa totoo lamang po ay hirap na hirap kami. Sa pagdating ng 4Ps, kahit papaano ay naibsan ang aming kahirapan lalong lalo na sa pagtustos sa mga pangangailangan sa eskwela ng aming mga anak,” said Felix.
The program has not only helped their family financially, but it also opened a lot of opportunities for them. “Pagkatapos po naming mag-asikaso ng 4Ps, pinili ako ng mga kasama ko bilang parent leader ng aming grupo,” said Teresa. According to Eva Mercurio, a fellow Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary, Teresa was chosen to be their parent leader because they know that she is responsible. Even before becoming a Pantawid beneficiary, Teresa has been a member of different school’s Parent Teacher Association.
Teresa said that after being assigned as the parent leader, her confidence has increased. It has also helped her in discovering her leadership skills. “Sa FDS, lubos kong naliwanagan ang tamang pag-didisiplina sa mga bata kung saan naroroon pa rin ang respeto sa kanila kahit sila ay bata. Nagustuhan ko rin ma’am ang mga sessions patungkol sa mga usaping mag-asawa kung saan mas naunawaan ko ang aking asawa at mas tumibay pa ang aming relasyong mag-asawa,” she shared.
Because of the program, the family became aware to the different social services of the government and has gained access in them. Their second child, Dannica Joy, had become a scholar of the Expanded Students’ Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), which has greatly helped her in finishing her studies. According to Dannica Joy, she became more determined to graduate that time because she knew that she was receiving help from the program. “Malaking tulong po para sa aming pamilya ang scholarship na ito dahil nakabawas lalo sa gastusin ng aming pamilya at mas nasiguro nito na makakagraduate po ako kahit kami ay mahirap lang,” she said.
Teresa has also become a participant of the DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) through its hog-raising livelihood program. “Sunud-sunod po talaga ang blessings sa amin at oportunidad noong dumating ang Pantawid kaya sinasabi ko po sa mga anak ko na i-grab lang nila ang oportunidad na mayroon silang benepisyong nakukuha kaya pagsikapan nila para maipakita namin na may pakinabang yung benpisyo na binibigay sa amin at hindi masasayang,” Teresa said.
Grateful of the different opportunities given to them, the family found more blessings to share with their community. It has also ignited their passion to serve and help other people in need. The family became an active member of their community and they became known for their passion to help others.
“Kilala ang pamilyang iyan na matulungin talaga. Kahit wala na sila, nagdodonate pa rin sila sa aming church at tumutulong kapag may mga activities kami,” shared Josephine Marimla, their church pastor.
In 2013, Felix wanted to serve their communities more so he run for barangay councilor and won. Since then, he became determined to help his community and serve them with all of his abilities. “Sa aming barangay, talagang hinahangaan ang pamilyang iyan. Lalo silang nirespeto noong maisip ni Kagawad Felix na gumawa ng isang footbridge sa Sitio Iso at Agnaga,” shared Paquito Gallos, his fellow kagawad. It was Felix who initiated to build a footbridge to connect Sitio Iso to Sitio Agnaga. “Dati rati po kasi tumatawid sila sa isa lamang nabubulok na kahoy habang pasan pasan ang kanilang mga kopra. Napakadelikado ng kahoy na ito lalo na sa mga estudyante,” narrated Felix. Because of this, he encouraged the community members in both sitios to join together to create a footbridge made of bamboo. Felix’s family provided food for the volunteers until the construction of the bridge has finished.
Three years after, Felix found out about the plan of DSWD KALAHI-CIDSS in adopting a community initiative in their area. Felix had decided to advocate their footbridge project initiative to KALAHI to develop it better. Because of his perseverance, his initiative was chosen by the program and in 2016, their bamboo footbridge was cemented. “Dahil sa footbridge po na iyan, mas nakilala ang pamilya nila. Kung hindi dahil sa tulung-tulong na ginawa nila, hindi magkakaroon ng magandang daanan ang mga nakatira po doon,” said Aida Galanida, a fellow Pantawid beneficiary who testified how that the footbridge initiative has been a great help to their community.
Keeping the family close
Despite being active in their school and community, the Romero family remains intact. “Minsan tinatanong din po sa amin kung anong
sikreto at bakit mababait at responsable ang aming mga anak at malapit kami sa isa’t isa,” said Teresa. According to her, there is no secret because it only takes a quality family time and an open communication to keep the family relationship stronger. “Madalas po kaming nagkakantahan sa bahay ng aming nanay sa baba kapag kumpleto po kami. Sinisiguro rin po naming sabay-sabay kaming kumakain ng hapunan at nagsisimba kada-Linggo,” she added.
Teresa said that the family will always find time to communicate with each other even though they have their separate matters to attend to. April Joy said that they feel connected with their family even by doing their household chores together. “Since hindi naman po kami nakakalabas talaga, nagkakausap na lang din po kami habang nagpapakain ng manok, baboy, o kaya po ay nagluluto. Masaya na po kami sa ganoon,” she explained. “Minsan nagsasabi po kami sa mga nagkakagusto po sa amin o kaya ay yung nagugustuhan namin sa school,” added John Vincent. The children are open about everything with their parents because they have built trust with them. According to Felix, they always encourage their children to speak up to them and he and Teresa are the one to initiate on asking them about personal things. And even though he is busy serving the community as a kagawad, he always makes sure to go home and spend time to his family because he wants them closer to him.
“Pag-uwi po ni tatay, kahit busy sya at gabi na nakakauwi, sinisiguro nyang kausapin pa rin kami at kumustahin bago matulog since magkakasama naman po kami,” said April Joy. “Si nanay naman po, kahit minsan ay gabi na rin sya nakakauwi dahil sa mga inaasikaso sa 4Ps, sa umaga naman po bago kami umalis ay paghahandaan nya kami ng pagkain at sasabayan din,” she added.
Meanwhile, according to Teresa, the children spend most of the time at home rather than going out with their friends. “Ang mga anak ko po talaga ay sa bahay lang lagi. Tinutulungan kami sa bahay kapag walang pasok at nag-aaral lang po talaga,” she said. “Hindi po mabarkada ang mga anak nila. Hindi sila yung kagaya ng ibang kabataan na laging nasa labas o nakatambay kung saan,” claimed Brgy. Captain Helen. The children said that they prefer being at home than going out with friends because they enjoy being with their siblings.
“Madalas napunta po kami kina lola para manood ng TV o kaya ay doon po kami mag-stay dahil malapit lang naman po ang bahay nila,” said John Vincent. “Yun na po ang libanagan naming magkakapatid,” he added.
According to Felix, they realized that beyond financial support, their children also need their emotional support and affection. Through this, the children can feel more connected with them and they can be comfortable of sharing their problems with them.
Because of their strong relationship, Teresa said that it became easier for them to face all the challenges that life has to offer. “Dahil po open kami sa pamilya, mas naiintinidhan ng mga anak namin na kailangan nilang magsipagtapos sa pag-aaral at pagbutihin pa ang pag-aaral para makatulong sa aming mag-asawa,” she shared. “Nagsisikap po kaming magkakapatid kasi po alam naming mahirap lang kami at kailangan naming pagbutihan pa para po makaraos kami sa kahirapan kahit papaaano,” said April Joy.
Striving and thriving
“Matagal pa po siguro ma’am ang pagkamit po sa pangarap namin. Pero hangga’t sama-sama po kami, alam naming makakayanan naming umahon sa kahirapan,” said Teresa. “Ang pamilya namin ay patuloy pa rin sa pagharap sa hirap ng buhay. Kami ay responsible hindi lamang sa pamilya kundi pati na rin sa komunidad. Tuloy lang ang pagsuporta sa anak at pagtulong sa kapwa,” Teresa added.
The Romero family is a story of inspiration and hope illustrating how a family of perseverance and determination could pursue their dreams despite the disadvantage of poverty. The family has demonstrated positive family relations, discipline, unity, and sacrifice as a drive to triumph over the challenges hurled at them. ###
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