For a 36-year old mother from Oriental Mindoro, chasing your dream does not come with a certain phase or age in life. She may have paused for a while to focus on raising her children but when she got an opportunity to continue her journey to success, she did not just pursue her dream but took it home with flying colors.

Arlene Sapallo, or ‘Ate Arlene’ to her classmates, lives in Sitio Malasugi, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro with her family.  

Her husband, Adrian, earns Php 350.00 in a day for working as a by-project construction worker.

Hindi po permanente ang trabaho ng aking asawa bilang construction worker kaya kailangan ko po talagang budgetin ang kanyang kinikita”, said Arlene when asked how their family manages their finances. 

Arlene, on the other hand, stays at home to look after her 4 children, including her 7-year old who has an intellectual disability.

The family Sapallo became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2012. “Malaking tulong po talaga sa aking pamilya ang cash grants dahil natutugunan po nito ang pang-araw araw na gastusin namin sa pagkain, pambili ng bigas, at pangangailangan ng mga bata sa eskwelahan”. 

Aside from the cash grants they receive, she also recognizes how the development sessions helped her as a mother in raising her children. “Ang Family Development Session (FDS) po ay nagbigay sa akin ng dagdag kaalaman na talagang nagamit ko po sa aking pag-aaral at naiapply ko sa aking pamilya. Ang mga aral na ibinabahagi sa FDS ay nagbigay sa akin ng inspiration at dagdag na kaalaman. Mas lumawak pa ang aking kaalaman lalo na sa pagpapalaki ng mga anak.”

Taking One Step at a Time

Arlene was known by their neighbors as a smart girl who really excels at school. She is one of the top students in their community school. But she never got the chance to continue her education in college because of poverty. Moreover after highschool, she married Adrian and got pregnant with her eldest son, Carlos Miguel. 

Now having her own family, Arlene also changed her priority and focused on raising her first child with Adrian. But despite the sudden turn of events, Arlene never lost her dream of becoming a teacher. She firmly believes that education can help in changing a person’s life. “Naniniwala po ako na kayang baguhin ng edukasyon ang buhay ng isang tao.”

Her husband Adrian also observed how Arlene wants to go back to school and pursue her dream whenever she hears her wife guiding their children in their school lessons. Hence he supported her wife’s education and pushed her to enroll in college.  “At the age 32, ipinagpatuloy ko po ang pagpasok ko as first year college. Nagpapasalamat po ako sa aking asawa na naging supportive sa aking journey. 

In 2017, Arlene enrolled at the Ema Emits College Philippines in Pinamalayan, taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education (BSED). But her journey as a student while taking responsibility as a wife and a mother is not a walk in the park. 

May panahon na parang gusto ko nang huminto dahil ako po ay nabuntis ulit habang nag-aaral. Tapos ang transportation ko po, 4 hours back and forth. Pero pinanghawakan ko po ang goal ko sa buhay ang matapos ko ang aking pag-aaral ganun po ako kapursigido na ako ay makatapos ng college para mabigyan ko po ng magandang buhay ang aking pamilya.” 

Also to help her husband in her school expenses, Arlene tried selling corsage and garlands every school graduation. “Para rin po matustusan ang aking ibang gastusin ay nagtitinda po ako ng bulaklak every graduation day.”

A Face of Perseverance and Determination

Challenges along the way to success tested how far Arlene can keep up with her dreams. She also shared how fate really challenged her when she gave birth to her third child who has an intellectual disability. “Pinagsasabay ko po ang pag-aaral at pagiging may bahay because I am a mother of 4, especially attending to the needs of my child with special needs.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic came, it became even harder for Arlene. She needs to allot time in helping her children in answering their school modules. Moreover, because their community is far from the town proper, complying with school requirements add up to her worries. 

Inaaabot po ako ng hanggang 11:00  ng gabi paggagawa ng online requirements. [Hirap po talaga sa] gadgets, signal, internet connection. Kelangan ko pa pong pumunta sa tuktok na may signal para maka-receive ng message or schedule kung kelan ipapasa ang module.”

With the mother’s perseverance and eagerness to reach her dream, Arlene graduated from college. She was a top of her class taking home a Latin Honor. 

She also received several awards such as Best in Visual Presentation Award in Demo Teacher, Most Dedicated Student Teacher, and Best in Lesson Planning (Silver Award). “Ano man ang pagsubok o kahirapan sa buhay ang ating maranasan, laban lang ng laban, magkaroon ng goal sa buhay, at mag-invest po talaga sa kalusugan at edukasyon ng ating mga anak at harapin ang bawat hamon sa buhay”.

For Arlene, age as well as life status shall not stop a person from pursuing a dream. She said that instead of taking the situation as a misfortune and a reason to give up, it shall keep you grounded and inspire you in keeping up with your goal in life.

Naging motivation at inspiration ko po [referring to their family situation]. Naranasan ko po ang lahat ng hirap sa buhay kaya ako po ay nangarap na  mabago ang estado namin sa buhay.

According to her, her strength as a mother and a student does not come from what she can do but comes from overcoming the things she once thought she couldn’t. With her success, Arlene is indeed a face of perseverance and determination  — grounded by her beginnings and powered by her dreams. 

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