Art by Neal P. Corpus
When I was in grade school, my teacher assigned us a project that, to me back then, seemed like an impossible task. Aside from my difficulty with learning Roman numerals and getting my prepositions correct, now comes a new challenge: drawing a family tree, complete with names and photos from both sides of the family.
I thought to myself: “Both sides?” I grew up thinking that it was perfectly fine to have just one parent. I never had the urge to find out where my father was or who he is. I don’t even remember asking Mama for a photo of him, what he sounds like, why he’s not here. It never occurred to me that two people were responsible for me being here.
Not until this impossible assignment.
And then as I got older, big words found their way to me: single parent, illegitimate child, broken family. I found myself in conversations about “feeling wanted” and “finding my identity.”
In 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported there were three million solo parents in the country — two million of them mothers. To me, that’s three million heroes in their own right. I know, because I have seen how my own mother struggled with it.
Mama’s dreams for us were simple: to live a happy and healthy life together, to see the world together, to dream of even bigger things together. It has always been just the two of us — she has been at every awarding ceremony, every graduation, with me through all of my ups and downs. But always, she reminded me of what’s important: that I finish my studies. “Edukasyon lang ang kaya kong ipamana sa ‘yo,” she said.
Mama made a lot of sacrifices to make this happen, even if the tuition fees were beyond what we could afford. She would even pawn some of her jewelry to pay for my school fees. We signed many, many promissory notes at the school registrar, just so I could get a pass to take my exams. Mama made sure that nothing would stop me from getting the best education I deserved. We had the money late, but we always paid. All I had to do was do well in school.
Mama, with constant grace and gentleness, always assured me that we would be all right. That we could weather any storm. That smooth seas never made good sail ors. That sometimes, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.
I knew that our life was difficult, but Mama, with constant grace and gentleness, always assured me that we would be all right. That we could weather any storm. That smooth seas never made good sail ors. That sometimes, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.
When I think about it now, I cannot imagine how Mama did this all on her own. Our family was there to support her, and there are laws in the country that provide programs and benefits to help in the everyday struggles of solo parents and their children.
RA No. 8972 or “The Solo Parents’ Welfare Act” paved the way for employment-related benefits, like flexible work schedules and parental leaves, and even housing and educational benefits. But even so, with the pressing demands of modern times, new challenges arise. Which is why I support the calls to expand the benefits of the law. Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ proposed amendments (SB No. 1936) include providing more support for medical, educational and other basic needs, creating daycare facilities in companies, and the creation of a Solo Parents Affairs Office in local government units. This means the world to many, but especially to struggling solo parents everywhere, who feel that they are alone in this journey.
I think about what she went through, and I think of every other solo parent, trying their best every day to make ends meet, to give their best every step of the way, to provide for their children a good life, and I want to say this: your strength empowers us to be better.
On behalf of the sons and daughters you are raising now right now: Thank you. For your enduring love against all odds. The same love that welcomed us into this world, and that will always be the love we will carry with us wherever we go. We may never be able to repay you, but every day, we will try — and we will strive to make you proud, as strongly as you have fought for us.
Mama would ask me sometimes if I ever envied my friends who had both their parents. To which I always tell her: “Sila dapat ang mainggit sa akin.” Mama always had love good enough for the two of us — good enough to fly to the moon and back, good enough to build a home and a bright future for us both.
Editor’s Note: Iman Tagudina, 26, is a speechwriter.