Antonette is turning four years old in July. She was referred to the center by an active youth member of the Pinagbuhatan Christian Fellowship (PCF). She was among the late registrants this school year and her story almost broke our hearts.
Margarita Bernabe, Antonette’s mother, used to work in an American company. With an Economics degree, she had a stable job. She fell in love and co-habituated with a man 18 years her junior, which was never accepted by her family. Being already past forty, she had a very difficult pregnancy. Antonette was born after barely seven months and incubated for 41 days. Her vital organs were underdeveloped and she had a slim chance of surviving. By her mother’s fervent prayers and loving care Antonette survived. She got home but was very frail and sickly.
Margarita was never able to work again after Antonette’s birth. She was constantly there to take care of the child’s needs. Her husband, Antonio, found a job as a driver, but his meager earning was not enough for the child’s medications and their daily needs. Margarita tried looking for work but with her age, she was turned down by companies. With her child’s needs in mind, Margarita worked as a piece rate sewer in a small garments factory. She tried making peace with her family but they refused unless she leaves her husband and child, a condition which she could never accept.
Because of poverty, the couples’ relationship turned sour and very stormy. After three years, they parted ways. Support for the child was promised, but Margarita and Antonette have to beg for it everyday. They had to go to the FX terminal every night and get whatever amount Antonio could spare for their needs. As Antonette was growing, Margarita experienced further trials. The child started to complain of chest pains and tires easily but she does not have the money for the child’s proper medical attention. Very recently she lost her job in the garments factory and had to depend on the father’s daily support for food. But Margarita’s faith in God would not let her give up. She knows that above all the trials they are experiencing, God would be with them and would help them overcome.
Margarita found joy in her child. Antonette is very loving and thoughtful. She is intelligent and is very eager to learn. She draws and writes on every scrap of paper that she could find in their shabby little room. Sometimes the child would pretend that she is in an office working with papers. Hardships were forgotten each time the child would look up to her mother with hopeful eyes. They would talk at night before sleeping and dream of what future Antonette would have. The child dreams of finishing school and of working to give her mother a better life. Margarita could never give up this child for anything in this world.
Margarita and Antonette are now renting a very small room in the home of one of the members of the PCF. The family shared God’s message of love to Margarita and gave her hope for her child. It was already the second week after the class opening when they came to the center. Without money in her pocket, Margarita was not sure if CMSP would accept her child. She was very grateful when Antonette was admitted as a beneficiary of the Community Childcare Program. This could be the start of the fulfillment of Antonette’s dreams. Deep in her heart, Margarita knows that this chance given by CMSP is God’s answer to her prayer for hope for her only joy.
Melinda P. Tan De Guzman
Center Supervisor, DCC-Pinagbuhatan