by Maria Nicole Dominique Dimayacyac
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported from a recent survey that the Philippines has approximately 15 million single parents, 95% of whom are women, or more than 14 million.
In a conservative country like the Philippines, Filipino culture is particularly hard on single mothers. No matter how strong a woman is, it will always be challenging to raise a child alone. Marjorie Pascua, a 37-year-old single mother of 17 years, can testify.
Marjorie was only 20 years old when she had her son, Heri. With no support from the father, she forced herself to work right away, as a waitress, after giving birth to feed her son other than just water with sugar. Life was already hard for them, and it became even harder when Marjorie discovered her son has Down Syndrome. As Heri grew up, she never had the chance to take him to a doctor as her budget was already stretched thin.
Knowing that they would need more than she can earn, she worked in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company. Marjorie managed to work at night, be a mother during the day, and provide for Heri's special needs. However, in 2011, her mother, who had become her partner in caring for her son, died. Devastated, Marjorie was forced to be a full-time mother to Heri, with no idea how she would make ends meet.
Without any savings at all, she decided to try selling her paintings. She started with one, then another, and another, until 'Obra Espesyal' was known by people. They even had celebrity clients, and some of them did not only bought paintings of her's but also Heri's. Heri has become the angel of their business.
However, life cannot get enough of them. Since 2014, Heri was being hospitalized every year. More so, in 2018, Majorie almost lost her son to severe dengue.
2018 was when the Philippines had a dengue outbreak. From the beginning of the year through mid-November, 179,540 dengue fever cases nationally were reported, 33% higher than the preceding year.
Without any choice, even though Marjorie's money in the bank was only 400 pesos, she brought Heri to a private hospital as his condition was worsening, and no public hospital can accommodate them.
"Wala kaming ibang ginawa nun kundi magdasal na ipahiram pa rin siya sa akin, kasi wala na eh, wala na akong magulang. Solo parent ako, so, siya na lang meron ako," Marjorie said as she reminisces the experience.
Fortunately, the majority of her clients paid in advance, and some paid in full even though she had not yet begun the paintings when they learned of Heri's condition. It was enough to cover the hospital, medicine, and recovery expenses of Heri.
"Forever grateful to Him, kasi nga ipinahiram Niya pa sa akin si Heri," Marjorie stated.
Heri began taking synthetic medicine to avoid yearly hospitalization. It had been three years since his last admission. But it does not come cheaply. Marjorie had to work extremely hard to keep Heri healthy and give him his maintenance regularly. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
Solo parents are some of the strongest people, but they cannot always do it alone - especially during the current COVID-19 crisis. Marjorie, now, is more worried about how she would afford their food, bills, and Heri's maintenance, than the actual virus. Since the pandemic, they have limited their Obra Espesyal activities, which provide most of their income.
In March 2020, under the RA No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020,” the government allotted ₱200 billion for all low-income families nationwide as aid from the effects of community quarantines due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the guidelines, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) must be provided once a month during the quarantine period.
As for Marjorie and Heri, who both qualify for the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) as a single parent and a PWD, only received it once, and there is nothing more to that.
Thus, Marjorie, now more than ever, has to be more creative. She thought of turning their paintings into merchandise items. For the time being, Marjorie and Heri do online live selling on Shopee and Facebook. If they are lucky, sometimes they can still sell their paintings as well.
Despite the events, Marjorie considers herself fortunate to have Heri. They have always been each other's rock. She has been doing all of the work since day one, and when asked if she would do it again, she replied, "I will do it over and over, forever. Even if it is just me again, at least I have all of his love and no one to share it with."
Facebook: Obra Espesyal
Youtube: Journey with Heripotpot
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