Not everyone gets the chance to have a seamless student and career life. If you are one of those who never got to worry about their tuition fees and day-to-day expenses, consider yourself lucky to have not experienced the challenges and struggles that have defined my personal experience.
Let me tell you my story…I am 33 yrs old, a solo parent to an energetic 13-year-old son, recently widowed, and currently a working student. I am currently studying as a freshman nursing student. Maybe you are wondering why this 33 yrs old, with a lot on her plate right now, still took up the challenge to be one of the front liners in the medical field. Let me tell you more about it.
They often say "rags to riches," but my story takes a different twist - it's more like "riches to rags to riches to rags again," lol. During my high school years, my father worked as an OFW in the Middle East. (This was the “riches” era) However, due to certain issues with his employer, he made the bold decision to exit that chapter of his life and venture into a grocery business right in our local public market. Our grocery store was not like the air-conditioned 7-11 or Alfamart stores; it was situated in our local public market, where the scorching heat was relentless and the surrounding aroma, a mix of pungent odours, lingered in the air.
I recall the days when I would rise at the crack of dawn, as early as 2:00 AM, to assist in opening our family's grocery store for the day. By 5:30 AM, I would hurriedly make my way back home to prepare for school, often arriving late for our flag ceremony. As a consequence, I would find myself assigned the arduous task of sweeping the basketball court as punishment. After the school day concluded, my obligations were far from over. I would head straight to our grocery store, dedicating my time and effort until its closing time at 7:00 PM. This demanding routine became the norm for nearly 2 years of my life. My parents did not have enough knowledge, experience, and savings to keep the business, sadly it went bankrupt after 2 years. (This was the “rags” era).
My parents do not have savings, we do not have our own home, and we are renting as far as I can remember. With the business facing bankruptcy and no alternative sources of income, my parents relocated our family to my Aunt’s home. Financial constraints made it impossible for us to afford the rent, compelling us to seek support and shelter from our extended family. My father left us, saying that he will take his chance in mining. He met some friends at the public market who were into mining and I feel he was brainwashed to go with them.
Years went by and we didn't hear anything from him, no letters or text messages, no news from him at all. Sometimes we are wondering if he’s still alive, only to find out that he’s living with another woman, which left my aunts and uncles to teasingly quip to my mother, “akala namin sumakabilang buhay na siya pero sumakabilang bahay pala”, lol.
My uncle opened up his own grocery store and offered me and my brother to work for him so we can have our own income to support ourselves in studying. So the same routine, working in the store and then going to school, I remember our pay for the whole day of work was 50php per day.
That time, my brother and I were so happy whenever it was time to collect our pay at the end of the week, that’s 350 php each. However, there were instances where deductions were made from our earnings if we accidentally damaged an item from my uncle’s store. My uncle did not pay for our tuition fees, my mother opened up her carinderia in the public market to support my and my brother’s school fees.
Fast forward to my College days. My first course was BS in Civil Engineering because I love Math. However, I must admit that I lacked a clear sense of direction and a genuine passion for this field. During this time I really did not know what I wanted to be. It's like picking this course and just getting on with it.
My mother scaled up her "carinderia" business and move to a location near one of the state Colleges in San Pablo Laguna. I no longer work for my uncle, but I am helping my mother, I do the same drill at 2:00 AM wake up time to buy all the stuff needed then help her with cooking and everything. Having my classes scheduled for only four hours a day, from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, I had ample time to assist my mother, complete my school tasks, and dedicate sufficient hours to studying. We were okay, my mother’s carinderia business was doing good, and we had enough to get by.
In my 2nd year in College, my mother needed to be hospitalized because of her goiter. It was affecting her health, so she needed an operation to remove it. The medical expenses were unexpected, my mother’s carinderia business got closed down, so I decided to stop studying and work instead. This way, I could support my mother and my brother during that time. I find myself shouldering the responsibility as the breadwinner and head of the family, as my father is no longer in the picture.
I had to navigate through various challenges. These included personal struggles and emotional turmoil. I faced the issue of my father being involved with another woman, financial constraints that prevented me from continuing my studies, and the constant comparison of my situation to that of my more fortunate cousins who didn't have to juggle work and education due to their financial stability.
How I Became a Solo Parent…
My first job is as a cashier at South Supermarket in Los Baños, Laguna. This is totally an upgrade from earning a mere 50 PHP per day at my uncle's store to a respectable 298 PHP per day working as a cashier in an established grocery store. It was during my time there that I crossed paths with the biological father of my son. We started as friends, then he decided to court me and since I am a certified NBSB(no boyfriend since birth) at that time, I said yes and there, I got myself my first boyfriend, then one thing led to the other. Being only 19, we were both navigating the exploratory phase of our lives, full of curiosity and uncertainty.
Unexpectedly, I became pregnant, and although we considered marriage, I ultimately chose not to proceed. I didn't believe that marriage was the sole solution for teenage pregnancy. Eventually, we decided to split and go our separate paths. Never heard from him and did not get any child support from him. But it’s okay because I have my mother and aunties who wholeheartedly embraced and stood by me during this challenging chapter of my life.
BPO Life and The 1500php Love Story…
I was 20 years old with a newborn and facing parenthood alone. I had to step up as the breadwinner for my family since my brother was still in high school and my mother was unemployed. It was challenging, but I had to figure out how to earn a living and provide for my son and family.
Unfortunately, around the same time, my grandmother suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body. In order to ensure my son had the necessities like milk and diapers, my mother and I took on the role of her caregivers. In exchange for our services, my aunties and uncle agreed to financially support us in caring for my grandmother. It was a challenging juggling act, but we made it work.
One day, I came across a printed advertisement promoting job opportunities at a call centre in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. It caught my attention because I imagined myself just sitting the whole shift, talking with customers while earning a decent income. The prospect of this job seemed appealing compared to the physically demanding task of standing all day at a grocery store, scanning and tallying customers' purchases. Additionally, the pay offered at the call center was significantly higher.
I dedicated a significant amount of time to research and learn about working in a call center. I went as far as searching for interview questions and answers to be well-prepared for the application process. With all my guts, I decided to apply for the position of customer service representative. I vividly remember feeling incredibly nervous since it was my first time applying for a call center job, and I wasn't entirely confident in my English communication skills. However, with faith and perhaps some divine intervention, I managed to overcome my fears and successfully pass all the interviews.
I was ecstatic when I received the news of my hiring and learned that I would start in just two weeks! The transition from earning 50 PHP per day to 298 PHP per day to a monthly basic pay of 16,000 PHP was an incredible leap! I couldn't contain my happiness when I signed the contract; my heart raced, and I spent the entire day with an uncontrollable smile on my face, like a crazy person, lol!
So, with the call centre job, the financial struggles were finally resolved. I could afford to buy all the necessary items for my son, provide support to my high school brother, and help my mother as well.
I worked as a call centre agent for nearly 9 years. Initially, I spent 3 years in the Sta. Rosa Laguna before transferring to the call centre in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa. As time went on, I gained more courage and decided to take on a new challenge by joining an in-house call centre in BGC Taguig. It was in 2016 when I took the leap and pushed myself to work at BGC. As an introverted person, I rarely went out unless necessary, and I wasn't into socializing or going out for fun. My main focus was solely on earning money to support my family.
When I made the move to BGC, little did I know that it would be the place where I would meet my late husband, who became the love of my life. I vividly remember the day we were first introduced - we were wave mates, starting our training together in the same class. Initially, I had the impression that he was a little bit cocky because I overheard him discussing his expensive shoes and watch with one of my wave mates. We didn't become close at first because we had different circles of friends at the time.
However, things took an unexpected turn when I received a message from him on Facebook Messenger. He boldly asked if he could borrow 1500 PHP from me. I was taken aback because we had never really spoken to each other personally, and I didn't know him well. I couldn't help but think about the audacity of his request. It even crossed my mind that it might be some kind of scam, lol!
Eventually, he confided in me and shared his story about why he needed the money. it turned out that he was just in a toxic relationship and was a battered boyfriend. He explained that he needed the funds to relocate his belongings from Manila to his hometown in Bicol. Surprisingly, his ATM card and savings were in the possession of his ex-girlfriend, and he didn't want to retrieve them from her. He simply wanted to break free from the toxic relationship and had reached a point of utter frustration. I lent him the money and he returned it on our payday.
Since that time, we began chatting regularly, and our fellow wave mates started noticing our growing closeness, teasing us about it. After several months of developing a strong friendship, we took the leap and became a couple. I had never encountered someone so patient, kind, wise, and generous as him.
We took the next step and began living together, and in July 2020, we decided to get married. Since it was during the Covid-19 pandemic, we made the choice to move back to my hometown in Laguna and explore the world of freelancing. Working from home became more appealing due to the challenges of commuting during the pandemic. It also meant that we could have more quality time with my son and family. And we did it! We’re able to land a job as a Virtual Assistant to a small business credit repair based in Ohio.
Why Take Him So Suddenly…
Since August 2020, both of us have been working for the same client, which is a job I've always desired. It's a job without the hassle of commuting, stressful sales quotas, customer surveys, or toxic colleagues, team leaders, and managers. It's everything I've ever dreamed of, allowing us to work from anywhere. We even had the incredible opportunity to work from home in Boracay for nearly three months! It's a cherished memory that brings immense joy and happiness whenever I think about it.
Before my husband and I met, he was working as a nurse in Bicol. Due to financial difficulties, my husband made the decision to leave his job as a nurse and pursue a higher-paying position in a call centre. His motivation was to provide support for his mother and father during that challenging time. He was starting to pursue his UKRN dream for us. He already took IELTS but did not pass because he fell short by just 0.5 points in the average score required to pass. Despite not passing the IELTS, he remained determined to pursue his dreams for us. He applied as a nurse in a nearby hospital and was fortunate enough to be accepted. His plan is to gain valuable experience in this role, which he can later leverage when applying for nursing positions in the UK.
March 19, 2022. A day I will never forget. We just ended our graveyard shift at 5:00 AM. He kissed me good night and went to bed at around 5:15 AM. I was downstairs doing house chores then all of a sudden at around 7:00 AM, my son went to me and said that his Dad is snoring so loud it even woke him. I said it’s just usual that his Dad is snoring so loud because he is huge. When I went up to check on him, he was not snoring, he’s like having seizures. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any medical background. I was in a state of panic and I was really not prepared for what to do in this emergency situation.
I immediately asked my brother to call an ambulance. I rushed my husband to the hospital, where we were bombarded with unfamiliar medical terminology that left me feeling confused and overwhelmed. Eventually, he was admitted to the hospital and was placed in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The doctor didn't mince words and delivered the heartbreaking news that my husband's condition was grave, with only the tube keeping him alive. The decision of whether to maintain life support or remove it and alleviate his suffering was left in our hands. The doctor's frankness angered me that day. I couldn't help but question his authority to predict my husband's fate. After all, who was he to claim knowledge of whether my husband would live or die? Is he God?
We don’t have savings, no insurance. We are not financially smart enough to prepare for things like this. Eventually, my mother-in-law and I made the difficult decision to let him go. I lacked the courage to remove the tube myself, so it was his mother who bravely took that step. In a matter of minutes, the machine monitoring his vital signs displayed a flat line, signalling his passing due to Intracerebral Hemorrhage in the Brainstem.
Losing the person you have planned your whole life with is extremely painful. It feels like a part of you has been ripped away, creating an emptiness that cannot be filled by anything else. We were just newlyweds when he was taken from me. Each night, I asked myself why he was taken so suddenly. However, as time passed and a lot of prayers were prayed, I eventually came to understand why.
Realizing What I Wanted To Be…
It was at the moment in the ICU with my husband that I had this strong urge of feeling that I want to learn all the equipment and procedures during an emergency situation like this. It was as if a calling awakened within me, showing me that becoming a nurse was my true purpose. I never knew what I wanted to do in my life but at this moment, it was crystal clear that I wanted to be a nurse to gain the knowledge and skills needed to assist my relatives/others in critical situations just like this that I have experienced with my husband.
As the nursing staff prepared him, my eyes filled with tears and my heart weighed heavy with the loss of my cherished husband, my confidant and companion. With a trembling voice, I whispered into his ear, that I will be the one to continue his dreams for us to be a UKRN.
So, even though I am already 33 years old, widowed, a solo parent with lots of debts, and lots of my relatives are not in favour of me returning to school as a nurse, I still pushed through with this UKRN journey. I have faith in my abilities and believe that I can overcome any obstacles. With the support and guidance of my angel husband above, I am confident in my path.
I understand that this will definitely not be a walk in the park but I am greatly motivated to finish what I have started. Cheers to those aspiring UKRN like me, let’s not give up on our hopes and dreams. These will all eventually come true!
We all have different reasons why we wanted/chose to be a nurse. As we celebrate the nursing profession this month, please share your story in the comment section and tell us why you wanted/chose to be a nurse. We would love to hear from you!