LAGUNA, Philippines – Under the scorching heat of the sun, Rene Mojado and his wife Aida traverse a busy road at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) to earn a living.
Rene, 82, drives his jeepney along the stretch of Lopez Avenue in Los Baños, Laguna, going to the UPLB campus. But he’s not alone. Aida, 76, joins him daily to help him give change to passengers.
Aida said she accompanies Rene on his trips because she feels bad whenever he drives alone.
“Ako naman ay naaawa na siya lang ang namamasada. Biruin mo naman, ako ay nasa bahay, tapos siya ay nag-gaganyan doon…. Eh hindi ako papayag. Paano kapag may mangyari sa kanya habang namamasada?” Aida said.
(I pity him when he has to drive the jeepney alone. Imagine, I’m at home, then he’s out all day, driving…. I won’t allow that. What if something happens to him while he’s driving?)
The need to work
The lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother) would usually wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and leave the house an hour later.
“Kailangan naming gumising ng maaga kasi alas-siyete kalimitan ang simula ng klase ng mga estudyante. Sa labas na rin kami nanananghalian. Bumabalik na kami ng bahay gabi na, depende sa traffic, mga alas-siyete na ng gabi,” shared Aida.
(We have to wake up early because students’ classes typically start at 7 am. We also eat lunch outside. Then we return home around 7 in the evening, depending on the traffic.)
Rene and Aida have 3 children, who all have their own families. Their eldest Fe, who is separated from her husband, lives with them along with her 4 children. Three of Fe’s children are still studying – two in college and one in 10th grade.
Fe’s meager salary as a saleslady in a small rice store is not enough for their daily needs. Because of this, Rene and Aida decided to continue working despite their old age.
“Tinutulungan namin ‘yung aming mga apo… ‘yung apat. Dalawang college [students] at ‘yung Grade 10…. Siyempre walang pambaon ‘yun, at pagkain namin,” said Aida.
(We help our 4 grandchildren. Two of them are college students and one is in Grade 10…. We give them allowances, and we also spend on our food.)
The elderly couple’s other children have asked them to stop working and just stay at home. But Aida argued that they don’t want the two college students to quit school.
“Ayaw naman namin patigilin ang mga bata sa pag-aaral kasi sayang naman, patapos na rin sila,” she added.
(We don’t want our grandchildren to stop attending school since two of them are about to graduate already.)
According to Aida, they’ve only earned an average of P700 a day since the start of the year. They used to earn as much as P1,000 a day last year, when fuel prices were lower.
Asked if P700 is enough to sustain their daily needs, Aida said: “Hindi rin sapat. Tinitipid lang namin.” (It’s not enough. We’re just being as frugal as we can.)
Despite these challenges, they have no plans of retiring anytime soon. “Hanggang nakakakuha pa si Rene ng lisensiya at kaya pa namin, mamamasada pa kami,” said Aida. (As long as Rene can still get his license and we can still work, we won’t stop.)
According to the couple, their strong relationship makes challenges bearable.
But it wasn’t exactly a smooth start for them. According to Aida, she could not say yes to Rene when he first asked her to be his girlfriend decades ago.
“Natatakot ako eh, baka ako ay iwanan pa eh. Papunta pa ulit siya ng abroad eh di bale kung papakasal na kami,” said Aida.
True love prevailed when Rene returned to the Philippines 3 years later.
“Nu’ng bumalik siya dito sa Pilipinas, balak niya na pala talaga makipagbalikan sa akin. Pero natagalan ulit siya na suyuin ako. Tapos ayun, nagpakasal na kami,” Aida recounted.
(When he returned to the Philippines, he was already planning to win me back. But it took him a long time to woo me. Then we finally got married.)
Since then, they’ve been inseparable. During their days off, Rene and Aida attend church activities.
Not surprisingly, their story has touched the UPLB community as an example of a relationship showing “may forever” (forever exists).
UPLB student Joshua Jonas said he could feel the love when he got the chance to ride Rene’s jeepney.
“Kapag nag-aabot ng bayad at sukli si Lola Aida, kita mo sa mukha niya ‘yung pagmahahal ng isang asawa,” said Jonas.
(Whenever Lola Aida gets passengers’ fare and hands out change, you can see the love on her face.)
“It’s not every day that I see an [elderly] couple who works together to make ends meet,” added Jonas.
Aida is very mindful of how Rene drives. She tells him if he’s going too slow or too fast.
“Kapag may pumapara kasi na estudyante, sinasabihan ko siya na, ‘Tatay, may napara.’ Tapos ang sagot naman niyan sa ‘kin, ‘Narinig ko naman.’ Tapos magtatawanan kami,” shared Aida.
(Whenever a passenger is about to get off, I tell him, “Dad, stop the jeepney.” Then he’ll respond, “Yes, I heard the passenger.” Then we’ll have a good laugh.)
There are a lot of jeepneys in the UPLB campus, but what makes Rene’s jeepney unique are the hand fans. According to Aida, they put these up for the comfort of the students.
Key to a lasting relationship
Rene and Aida have been together for 50 years now. Their secret? Understanding.
Like most couples, they also argue, but they don’t let the day pass without resolving their issue. On the day they got married, they promised each other that arguments wouldn’t separate them.
“Kapag galit siya, hindi na lang ako umiimik at inuunawa ko na lang siya. Ganoon din siya sa akin,” said Aida.
(Whenever he’s mad, I don’t argue anymore and I just understand him. He also does the same when I’m the one who’s mad.)
Aida advised young couples not to let difficult times or petty arguments ruin their relationship.
Asked about her message to Rene, she said: “Mahal na mahal ko ‘yan eh, kahit kami ay may edad na. Tatay, ako ay nagpapasalamat sa ibinibigay mo sa akin na kaligayahan.”
(I love him very much even though we’re already old. Rene, thank you for making me happy.)
Their marriage, for Aida, is a true blessing.
“Siguro nga ang isa ko pang pasasalamat ay sa Panginoon. Siya ay napakabait dahil hindi niya kami paghihiwalayin habambuhay… forever.”
(I am thankful to God. He is so kind because he will not allow us to get separated from each other… forever.) – Rappler.com