It was raining when we ducked into an undersized drugstore in the corner of Russia Street in Betterliving, Parañaque. Wilma Regardia, a Mano Amiga mom, hurriedly lined up plastic seats, while apologizing for having to meet us in her working place instead of their home. Every year, Mano Amiga tries to hone a relationship with the families of the students by visiting their homes – or in this case, the parents’ workplace – to know more about our beneficiaries’ realities. Teacher Andie Fullido, our secondary English teacher, started asking Mommy Wilma about her daughter who is an incoming Grade 8 student, Kcyle Regardia. Mommy said they are fairly doing fine, but immediately looked confused and quite fearful of another question she may not be prepared to answer. Teacher Andie then shared she was deliberately asking because Kcyle had written an essay descriptively questioning her mother’s love. “Kung mawawala kaya ako, hahanapin ba nila ako?” (If I go lost, will they even look for me?), quoted teacher Andie.
Wilma’s face fell as Teacher Andie uttered the words. Tears started prickling in Wilma’s eyes, and in a rush of words, started to analyze what her daughter’s words meant. She heaved a sigh of resignation. “Ma’am, kasi po dalawa kami may trabaho ng asawa ko, eh kung hindi naman po kami magtatrabaho, paano kami kakain at paano sila makakapag-aral?” (Ma’am, both me and my husband work because if we don’t, how will we eat? How will our children study?), she asked rhetorically while wiping her tears. She had planned to transfer Kcyle to a public school for this school year, but her daughter had pleaded to make her stay in Mano Amiga. “Gusto niya po talaga mag-stay sa Mano Amiga kasi tutok talaga sa lessons. So, sabi ko sa kanya hayaan mo anak gagawan ko ng paraan” (She really wants to stay in Mano Amiga because the lessons are taught very well. So, I told her not to worry because I’ll make a way for her to stay), Mommy said, her voice shaking.
The day we visited Mommy was the last day for enrollment. “Nanlumo talaga ako ma’am kasi akala ko tapos na yung enrollment” (I was almost discouraged, Ma’am, because I really thought that the enrollment for this year was over), she recalled when she arrived at the school earlier that day and thought that she had missed her daughter’s chance to continue her studies with Mano Amiga. Relieved that she was able to pay, she immediately messaged Kcyle that she can look forward to another joyful year with her dream school.
We asked a few more questions about her job in the pharmacy, their life as a family living day by day while she also shared anecdotes about Kcyle and her inquisitive and radiant spirit. As we bid goodbye to visit the next Mano Amiga family, we saw a hint of sadness in Mommy Wima’s eyes, still possibly unnerved by her daughter’s thoughts and her momentary fear of not being able to enroll Kcyle this school year. But, her relentless spirit overshadowed her supposed sorrow. She waved and cheerfully said, “Ingat po, ma’am! Kita kita sa Mano Amiga!” (Take care, Ma’am! See you in Mano Amiga!)