HOPEFUL. Virginia Cruz and her six children, including 17-year-old Cedrick who has disabilities, wait for further instructions at the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program depot in Quezon City on Thursday (May 27, 2021). Once her Covid-19 test turns out negative, they will fly home to Leyte on Friday morning. (Photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – A fresh start for a better life.

This is what Virginia Cruz, a mother of six, is looking forward to when she applied for the "Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program" (BP2) of the national government so they can go back to Leyte province.

A single mother, Virginia lost her husband in March due to aneurysm.

Her children are aged 17, 16, 13, 11, 9, and 7.

The eldest, Cedrick Ramo, has inborn physical and mental disabilities but she has never taken him to a doctor for diagnosis or treatment.

Hindi ko alam kung ano talaga ‘yung kondisyon niya kasi nung pinanganak ko siya nong 2005, hindi pa naman required 'yung newborn screening. Tapos nahalata na lang namin na nalulula siya tapos naninigas hanggang sa naging bedridden na siya. Hindi na niya kayang umupo (I do not know his exact condition because when I gave birth to him in 2005, newborn screening was not yet required. After that, we just noticed that his body stiffens until he became bedridden and he could no longer sit),” Cruz recalled.

Before the coronavirus disease pandemic, she worked as a masseuse in a spa in Quezon City.

When Covid-19 hit the country in 2020, she lost her job.

Sobrang hirap ng epekto sa amin ng Covid. Masahista ako noon at me anim na bata tapos kamamatay lang ng tatay nila noong March 4 dahil sa aneurysm (Covid hit us hard. I worked in a spa and I have six children, their father died just last March 4 due to aneurysm),” she narrated.

Cruz is accustomed to working and never relies on other people.

Recently, she had to swallow her pride and lined up for relief goods.

Relatives gave them food every now then. Not enough but they are always thankful.

Pinakamasakit sa akin bilang nanay ‘yung oras ng kainan wala akong maihain. Dumating kami sa ganung punto, nagsasabi sila na gutom na sila, pero wala talaga eh, wala akong trabaho (The hardest part for me as a mother is when I do not have anything to give them. We came to that point when they tell me they were hungry but I have nothing to give them. I do not have a job),” Virginia said.

She said in times like those, they would sing together.

Hanap na lang ako ng ma-uutangan. Ganun na lang talaga kasi gutom ka na nga, malungkot pa ‘yung bahay mo. Kahit paano pasayahin mo na lang ng konti (After that, I look for somebody who can lend me some money. That’s how it is. You’re already hungry yet your house is so sad. At least we get to have a good time),” she said.

She is grateful that nobody in the family got sick amid the pandemic.

A better life

When they heard of BP2 last year, Virginia said she applied for the program with her sister, received a call after four months, only for the program to be suspended.

In total, there are 16 of them, from two families, that were approved for BP2.

Despite some hesitations, Cruz said she grabbed the opportunity as she dreams of a better life for her children.

Sabi sa amin meron ding pangkabuhayan. Tutulungan nila kami kung paano mag-alaga at magparami ng baboy, patutulungan nila kami sa TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) kaya doon ako nananalig na lang para sa mga bata rin (We were told that they will assist us with our source of livelihood, how to breed hogs, that TESDA will train us, that is where I put my trust on, for my children),” Cruz said.

Just the thought of the amount of money they will need for transportation fare made her thankful to the government.

She explained to her children that life is much simpler in the province and that they will have a fresh start, not thinking abouthouse rental and other expenses.

She added that Metro Manila has become crowded and she feels unsafe, especially for her children.

Iniisip ko kung makakapagtrabaho ako doon, doon na lang kami. May lisensya naman ako (I was thinking if I could find a job there, we should stay there. I have a license),” she said.

She hopes the government continues to help people like her who are willing to work.

No matter what happens, she said she will continue working for her children to finish their education and have better chances to succeed. (PNA)