On the dawn of February 15, 1986, the day of the Presidential Snap Election between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, a baby girl was born in a small farm house, wrapped in flour sack, in the middle of the rice field in Lucena, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. She was the eldest daughter of Rustico Erazo, a family driver, and Bellaflor Bsanal, a plain housewife. She was born from a poor family and her parents only finished elementary. Her parents wanted her to finish school and break the cycle of poverty that they are experiencing. As a kid, she helped her parents in tending their sari-sari store and she also helped them in selling bangus in the public market. She has a little brother named, Jon Jellow, born on September 25, 1997 (when she was 11 years old). Even though she has experienced hardships in life, financially and emotionally, it did not matter to her, because she is a fighter that never quits and a positive thinker that always move forward. This girl grew up to be a happy person, as what her parents like her to be.
Even with meager resources, her parents worked hard for her to study in a private school during her elementary years (1993-1999) at the University of Mindanao. In high school, she was lucky to pass the exam at the Laboratory School of the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP), at least her parents were not paying the monthly tuition anymore. During the elementary and high school years she was a consistent honor student (First Honorable Mention in elementary and With Honors in high school) and a student leader (Class Mayor in elementary and Vice Governor in high school). Even in her younger years of leading a group, she was very sociable and approachable to her classmates.
She has continued her student leadership service in college (USeP, 2003-2007). She took a degree in BS Economics at the School of Applied Economics (SAEc). She was the Class Mayor in her freshman year, Vice Governor in her sophomore year, Governor in her junior year and Vice President for External Affairs in the Obrero Campus Student Council (OCSC). Being a student leader, it was very hard for her to balance work and study, but she was able to finish the degree on time.
College days in SAEc was the happiest and the most memorable period of her life, since she has experienced a lot of things from academic to extra-curricular activities that shaped her to become a well-rounded person, inside and out. One major event in her life in SAEc was when she is one of the student leaders who fought hard against the merging of our school to College of Governance and Business (CGB). There were a lot of rallies, pickets and signature campaigns to show to the Board of Regents and other stakeholders that they are against it. It was a long battle that started in 2005 (and it ended in 2011, where SAEc was fully demerged from CGB). She has successfully finished her degree on April 21, 2007.
After college, she continued pursuing her Graduate Diploma degree in Econometrics and MS Econometrics in the same college. USeP was her home for almost 15 years and her loyalty to hear alma mater is beyond compare. Those experiences have molded her to become a better person, and it helped her to withstand the cruel world outside of school.
One month after graduation (May 27, 2007), she was hired as specialist in the Professional Management Team (PMT) of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII). This is her first job and she was excited to serve the organization. This job enabled her to learn a lot of things, and she was able to use the skills and knowledge she learned during college. She enjoyed the things that she is learning in the organization. She was able to gain confidence in meeting CEOs of companies and different heads of national, regional and local government agencies. She enjoyed the company of her colleagues but it was also equated with a lot of struggles and hardships. She has learned that being in the corporate world is very different from being a student in school because you need to withstand all the pressures in meeting the deadlines, bosses’ attitudes and be able to adjust to organizational politics. She has learned that you need to be patient, professional and practice proper protocol in the organization (walang personalan, trabaho lang). She has learned to separate personal anxieties from bosses to office problems. It was never easy because she was always stressed and cries when she is alone.
This loneliness and stressed led her to find someone that can comfort her whenever there are problems. She met Alfred and became her first boyfriend. He was a shoulder to cry on and an inspiration for her to continue working. But time flies very fast and unexpected events happened that were not planned. In 2008, her grandmother, Gaudencia, died in April, she lives in their house for five years and she was the one who took care of her (assist her during her bath, help her during meals and clean her after her toilet woes). Also in this year, Alfred’s grandmother also died in May. They felt that it was a bad omen since she became pregnant and got married on August 8, 2008 (1 year and 3 months after her college graduation). It was much unexpected and her parents’ dream of having an improved standard of living diminished. At first, she was very anxious on how to raise a family at a young age (at 22 years old) but her parents’ support gave her an inspiration to pursue her career even if she has a family of her own and she was still supporting her parents and have lived with them from 2008 to 2011. She gave birth to her first daughter, Megan on November 13, 2008. Pressures and stresses in work were erased because she is very inspired to work despite the hardships she is facing.
She wants to have a better life for her family and to have their own house, because she is living with her parents for three years and wants to live independently with own family. She searched for greener pasture after her departure from the chamber. She was hired as a research and program assistant of a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) -funded project managed by Chemonics International, Inc. on March 15, 2010. She was new and the youngest in the group but she was able to adjust quickly to her new workplace. Unlike the chamber, life was serene and calm in her new workplace. The company provided her with free health insurance together with her dependents. It was a big relief for her since medical check-ups and hospital admissions are covered by the company. With this privilege, the expenses in the birth of her second child (Fraulein) were subsidized by the company. Although she is receiving twice compared her chamber salary, it was not enough because they were saving for their dream house, paying household bills and budgeting for their daily expenses. Her husband was also earning, but it is still not enough to cover all expenses. Because of the experience of having financial constraints, she was able to properly manage their money and made a payday checklist to make sure that all necessities are well budgeted. To add up to her income, she was able to have sideline selling and part-time teaching jobs. The accumulated funds they have saved were used to pay the reservation and equity payments for their new house.
There were a lot of challenges that she faced, as she was starting to earn and save for their future, she bought appliances and utensils that will be useful during their house transfer. But unexpected things happen in an instant; her parents’ house caught on fire last December 9, 2011 at Magallanes Riverside. All their belongings and appliances were put to dust, but they were still thankful that all of them were safe. The fire ruined their house but their faith in God was not shattered, rather it became stronger. She believed that from all those storms, a rainbow will come shining above them. The fire that brought them back to scratch did not stop them to stand again, move forward and start a new beginning as a family. Gradually, with God’s grace, they were able to recover day by day.
In her journey as a young mom and wife, it was never easy for her. She has always experience financial struggles all the time, especially during the time they were still recovering from the fire incident. Her husband, although he has a job, but it was not regular, he always transfers from one job to another, because he is a contractual-based worker. She ended up being the breadwinner of the family and still supporting her mom and dad for the rebuilding of their ruined house and also assists them in her brother’s education. Given those struggles, one month after the fire accident their house was awarded to them in January 18, 2012 through a loan from Pag-ibig. It was a blessing in disguise because after the fire, their long-saved dream house was granted to them. She still continues to work and never gave up to all the problems she is facing.
Her contract with Chemonics was only 2 years and the project ended on June 30, 2012. She was worried on how she could find another job and be able to continually provide for her family. Every day she was searching jobs in the internet and asks her friends about job openings in their office. But God was good and answered our prayers. A blessing came from a long-time college friend, Rupert, who informed her that SAEc is in need of an instructor. At first, she was not sure if she deserved the position and if she may able to deliver what is expected of her. But all things were bright and wonderful if you put your mind and soul in it. She is thankful for the trust and confidence that was given to her by the SAEc Dean, Dr. Agustina Tan-Cruz. Maam Tina gave her the designation of being an Extension Coordinator. She was hired as part-time in June 2012 and was given a plantillla temporary item in August 1, 2012. She was afraid at first to handle the position, because she was new and doesn’t have much experience on extension. Given those challenges, she was able to learn new things day by day by listening and absorbing the information she is getting from the SAEc Dean, senior faculty, colleagues and the Extension Director.
The challenges in work and balancing family life were never easy for her. During her first year in SAEc, they were recovering from the fire incident and they have accumulated debts to finance the rebuilding of her parents’ house and expenses in transferring to their new house. Her debts were way beyond her capacity to pay. Every pay day she struggles to budget her finances and end up having deficits. Christmas bonuses (CNA) and 13 month pays were used to pay debts instead of spending them for their necessities and other expenses. In two years, they have experienced lonely Christmas and New Year Celebrations. There was a time that she cried during New Year’s Eve because her daughter was sick and they were in the hospital with no money. But she is still thankful that no matter how hard it is, they were able to recover from those debts gradually.
During her second year in SAEc, she gave birth to her third child, Abiel. She knew that it was not right time to have a baby. She was still preparing for her Masteral thesis and there were a lot of deliverables in school that she needs to attend to. But God’s plan and blessing is unexpected and you need to accept it wholeheartedly.
Today, she is very happy to have a loving husband, Alfred and having three little angels Megan, Fraulein and Abiel. Her family is her treasure in life and gives her inspiration and strength to withstand all the pressures and challenges that come her way. With God’s grace and guidance, this young woman can soar high and live the dream she is always praying.
Jennifer Erazo Hinlo