GOING HOME. Imelda Villena, 55, happily waves goodbye as she leaves the National Housing Authority compound in Quezon City with her son, Erico, on Friday (June 18, 2021). They are now in Leyte as beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program of the national government. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – After emotional and physical challenges, 55-year-old Imelda Villena, and her son Erico, 21, are back in Jaro, Leyte with their family on Friday.

Mother and son were scheduled to fly home last May through the "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa" (BP2) Program of the national government, but they tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Takot ako nung nag positive kami sa Covid. Iyak nga ako nung nandun na kami sa quarantine facility (I got scared when we tested positive for Covid-19. I was crying while we were at the quarantine facility),” Imelda said in an interview at the National Housing Authority multipurpose court in Diliman, Quezon City before their 10 a.m. flight.

Erico was puzzled as to how they got the virus since they underwent a 14-day quarantine before their departure.

Still, they viewed it as a blessing because they spared their other relatives from getting the virus.

Manila journey

Imelda was only 13 years old when she went to Manila with a relative, hoping for a better life.

She eventually found a husband and they went back to Leyte after the birth of their first child.

However, tragedy struck when Imelda's husband died and supertyphoon Yolanda destroyed their hometown in 2013, forcing her to return to Manila to support her children.

She worked as an all-around household helper and washed laundry on the side.

The monthly house rent was not a problem because she lived with her employer.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Considering her age, Imelda feared getting infected and decided to go home to be with her two other children.

She and Erico applied for the BP2 program in July last year, expecting no other assistance except for the free transportation.

More than enough

Wala kaming hiningi sa kanila. Dito na lang nung sinabi nila na bibigyan daw kami ng livelihood at ano daw po ang gusto ko, ang kaalaman ko, skill ko (We did not ask anything from them. We were already here when we were told that we will be given livelihood assistance, I was asked about my skills, my knowledge),” Imelda narrated.

She told BP2 officials she knows about farming and raising animals, such as hogs and chickens.

She is thankful the government is giving them more than what she asked for.

Masayang masaya ako nung nalaman ko ‘yun. Sabi ko kahit doon na lang tayo tumira. Mabuti naman may tulong tayo galing sa gobyerno. Matutulungan din ‘yung pag aaral ng mga anak ko at makatapos sila. Tapos kumikita din ako ng konti. ‘Yung pang-bahay na lang na gastusin (I was really happy when I learned about it. I told my children we will just stay there and it's good that the government will help them. That will also help them in their studies and what I will earn will be spent for our daily needs),” Imelda said.

Mother and son said they got all the assistance necessary during their extended stay at a quarantine facility.

Masayang masaya ako na makikita ko na ‘yung mga kapatid ko sa Leyte. Salamat sa pamahalaan, sa Balik Probinsya program kasi kahit na kaming dalawa na lang ang natirang ihahatid sa probinsya ay natuloy din po. Maraming maraming salamat dahil inasikaso pa rin kami (I am very happy that finally, I will be able to see my siblings in Leyte. I thank the government and the BP2 program because they did not leave us. They still helped us go home),” Eriko said. (PNA)