The Malunes family

“Ang ganda ng samahan ng pamilyang Malunes. ‘Yon for sure ang reason kung bakit healthy ang personality ng bawat isa sa kanila—hindi lang sa loob ng tahanan dahil ine-extend din nila ang kanilang kabutihang-loob hanggang sa community.”

This is what Marialyn P. Collado-Magan, Teacher III of Candawaga National High School, said when asked to describe the Malunes family, the family of her co-teacher, Jenelyn O. Pajelago, who was crowned the Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya in this year’s regional search.

The Malunes family of Bgy. Candawaga, Rizal, Palawan has been an active member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) for twelve years now. The grantee, Fe F. Malunes, has been a Parent Leader since then. The family has six children, and three of them were tagged as monitored beneficiaries. Currently, four (4) children are college graduates and married, while the other two (2) are 2nd year college and grade 9 students, respectively. Hence, the program monitors only one (1) child at present.

In addition, the Malunes family is known to be helpful and hospitable in their community. This kind of attitude is natural and innate in the whole family. The upbringing of children also manifested how their parents raised and nurtured them.

Grief and healing… and grief

The light of the home, Fe, was widowed twice. Her first husband died in an incident that happened in their Barangay Office back in 1990 when he mediated between two individuals who were arguing with each other. He was hit by a stone in the head, which caused his death. It was a very painful event for Fe that greatly affected her social functioning. She was worried if she would be able to raise their two daughters, of whom the youngest was just one year old at the time. Nevertheless, she didn’t lose faith; rather, she placed her trust in the Lord. Through her small sari-sari store and their family’s rice farm, Fe managed to raise her first two children alone.

Years later, she had a chance to get to know Deogracias Malunes, a bachelor who was a friend of her deceased husband and the godfather of her youngest child. He was a Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and a farmer who was known to be a good and hardworking man. His sincere intention won Fe’s heart, and eventually they got married. Deogracias took all the responsibility for raising the children. He accepted, loved, and raised them as his own. After some years, they were blessed with their own two daughters and two sons.

“Mabait talaga siya. Pinag-aral niya kami. Doon kami proud na proud na kahit hindi niya kami anak, sinikap niya na mapag-aral kami, sa tulong na rin ni Mama,” Jessebel, the first child, expressed. 

Life wasn’t easy for the family. They stumbled upon hardships and financial crises since their main source of income was farming. But through their strong determination and efforts, the couple little by little survived. Their first three children completed education—the eldest, Jessebel, was a graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2007, while the second, Jenelyn, and third, Janessa, finished the Bachelor of Secondary Education in 2008 and 2014. Sadly, Deogracias passed away in December 2015 due to cardiac arrest, which caused the family so much pain. “Sa tulong ng Panginoon, nabibigyan Niya kami ng katatagan at liwanag ng kaisipan na tanggapin ‘yong mga pangyayari,” Janessa stated.

The death of Fe’s second husband prompted her to fully focus on raising her children. She became like an eagle, soaring above her circumstances to overcome them.

“Noong nawalan ng katuwang si Auntie Fe, hindi ‘yon naging dahilan para maging magulo ang pamilya nila, bagkus naging mas solid pa. Nawitness namin kung paano sila magtulungan para sa ikauunlad ng bawat isa sa kanila,” shared by Marialyn.

A pillar of support

Jessebel and Jenelyn succeeded in life. They were both Licensed Professional teachers, permanently working at Candawaga National High School and Sicud Elementary School, respectively. They credited their success to their deceased stepfather, who embraced them as his own.

“Very thankful kami ni ate dahil pinag-aral niya kami kahit hindi niya kami anak. Masakit sa akin dahil hindi pa kami nakakabawi kay Papa—sa buhay na ibinigay niya sa amin—tapos nawala agad siya,” Jenelyn uttered.

“Papa talaga ang tawag namin sa kanya dahil siya ‘yong nakalakihan naming Tatay,” Jessebel added.

Hence, they promised to support their siblings to finish their studies—that is their way to give back their stepfather’s sacrifices for them since they genuinely felt his love and support back then. Needless to say, Jessebel and Jenelyn have renovated their house through the means they could. Meanwhile, Janessa just passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) in March 2023 and will start working in DepEd in A.Y. 2023-2024. 

“Noong time na ‘yon, nagtulungan na lang kaming magkakapatid dahil wala namang ibang magtutulungan kundi kami lang,” Jessebel said.

On the other hand, the fourth child, Janessa, is an Administrative Staff in the Municipal Accounting Office of Rizal. She finished her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 2019 through a scholarship granted by the Office of the Governor of Palawan. The fifth child, Japhet, is currently a 2nd-year college student taking up the same course as Janessa’s. Moreover, as Fe shared, JB, his youngest child, is her menopausal baby. “It’s like I went back to zero. But he was my motivation and inspiration when my husband died (Bumalik ako sa zero. Pero siya yung naging motivation at inspirasyon ko noong namatay ang asawa ko),” she stated.

In healing others, you heal yourself

“Si Ate Fe yung nagseset as an example sa community nila, lalo na sa mga katutubo. Kapag lumalapit sa kanya ang mga IPs, paniguradong tutulong si Ate Fe,” sagot ni Patrolman Rodolfo Calolot, Police Officer sa munisipalidad ng Rizal, probinsya ng Palawan, nang tanungin kung ano ang pagkakakilala niya kay Nanay Fe Malunes. 

Despite the family’s pain and suffering, they can still be seen as role models and active community members. Just like before, when the family head was still alive, they continuously attended community activities such as meetings, community services, and seminars.

As they are known to be hospitable, they welcome visitors into their home anytime of the day—evening, midnight, you name it—whenever people need them. They are also the ones whom the natives of Candawaga call during difficult situations. Even during emergency situations, like individuals who needed to be rushed to the hospital, the family did not hesitate to accompany them.

And Fe, as usual, still assists 4Ps beneficiaries voluntarily, most especially the IP beneficiaries.

“May kumausap sa akin noon na kung pwede matulungan ko ang mga katutubo para makapag-aral. Kaya nagvolunteer akong magturo sa non-formal education. Sa kubo-kubo lang yun, kasi kung walang education, matatanggal sila (mga benepisyaryo), mababawasan,” Fe explained.

In fact, looking back, she was once a volunteer teacher to natives of Bgy. Candawaga. She opened a non-formal school in Sitio Maruso, 5 kilometers away from the barangay proper. Since it is a remote area, Fe was accompanied by his late husband every morning and afternoon. Fe mentioned that that daily setup would not be possible if the family head did not support her and if their children didn’t understand the situation. Hence, in all kinds of situations, Jessebel took care of her siblings while their parents were busy assisting other people, the program, and their livelihood.

The IPs admire the couple’s determination and perseverance; thus, they eventually gained their trust and respect. Fe patiently taught them basic literacy, especially the 4Ps IP beneficiaries, because a lot of them didn’t have the interest to comply with education due to the distance, their poor situation, and their age.

“Tinanong nila ako bakit ako nagtiyaga doon. Sabi ko naaawa ako sa mga katutubo. Gusto nila maka-avail ng tulong ng gobyerno pero kailangan nila mag aral. Kaya sacrifice ang ginawa ko. Yung baon ko, dinadamihan ko para isangkap sila,” Fe mentioned.

She also added that, “Buhay ko yung binuwis ko doon dahil isang beses, malakas yung ulan—baha. Nasira yung tali ng tulay na kawayan. Inanod ako ng malakas na tubig. Buti nalang, hinatid ako ng isang katutubo. Humawak siya sa isang baging at nag-swing at yumakap nalang ako sa baywang nya at nagkamalay nalang ako ay lumundag na lang kami patabi sa pampang nung bundok. Kung wala siguro sya, siguro wala na rin ako ngayon.”

Some years later, in 2013, Fe’s sacrifices were seen by the officials. As compensation, she received an incentive of P3,000.00 from the LGU monthly. But not long after, the non-formal school she initiated was converted into a primary school in 2014 and is now called Maruso Elementary School. The natives have benefited from the facility, regardless of their age, as they’ve been wanting to study, and they credit it all to the effort of Fe.

“Noong nawala si papa, mas lalong lumabas si Mama. Mas lalo siyang naggrow,” Jenelyn shared.

At present, Fe is working as a VAWC Staff in their barangay and remains active in the community. She continues to serve the people through different channels in her own way, and she works harder than others expect. She has also participated in different associations and organizations in her barangay and municipality and has received awards and commendations for her service. She, without question, continues to inspire others in their community.

The Malunes family, as a whole, is also active in the church. They were one of the admirable families in their church, since the children grew up molded with spiritual values. Japhet is, in fact, the President of the youth in the whole southern Baptist chapter in Rizal. It is because the late family head taught them to put God before everything. Hence, until today, even when he is already gone, God is the center of the family. They even lend their properties, such as their vehicle to the ministry and provide financial and moral support to their church.

Finally, despite their busy schedules, the family always makes time for each other. They do family bonding and make sure that they go to church as a family. The family maintains a positive impact on society through all of these. They remain supportive of each other and preserve their good records in the community.

“Nakikita ng Panginoon kung paano ka nagiging bukas para tumulong sa mga tao. Siya na ang bahalang magreward sa amin nito,” Fe faithfully said.