Single mothers: Different faces, same struggles
MANILA, Philippines – The Federation of Solo Parents estimates that there are around 20 million solo parents in the country.
These parents have double the share of difficulties in raising families, yet their issues have been placed on the sidelines of public discourse in a society used to households headed by both a father and a mother. That was, until Senator Vicente Sotto III made that distasteful quip about the status of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo as a single mother. (READ: After gaffe, Sotto vows to seek more benefits for solo parents)
Single mothers are, in fact, not just those who are not married but have children. They take on different faces. But their struggles, for sure, are of the same kind. (READ: DSWD: Amend law to provide more benefits for solo parents)
We talk to single moms of different circumstances, and more than the challenges that confront them every day, they tell us the inspirations that keep them going.
Cora Bonita, 53, mother of 5
Cora separated from her husband because he neglected to perform his duties as a father. While she admits this was among the hardest decisions of her life because she loved her husband, she said she loves her kids more and so chose to shield them from the vices of their father.
"Pinakamahirap kasi na parte iyong nag-iisa ka kung pano palakihin ang anak mo. Kung may problema ka sa anak mo wala kang masabihan kasi wala kang katuwang. Ang hirap, lalo na sa pinansyal.... Kailangan isipin mo rin, mahalin mo rin, ang sarili mo. Sa mga tao naman pinakamahirap na sitwasyon iyong pula\-pulaan ka nila. Sa akin, 'di nangyayari kasi 'pag nagampanan mo ang tungkulin mo bilang solo parent, napalaki mo anak mo nang maganda't maayos, wala naman silang sasabihin sayo eh."
(The hardest part is you are alone in raising your child. If you have a problem with your child. you have no one to turn to. It's very hard, especially in the financial aspect.... But you also have to think of and love yourself. With other people, the hardest part is their being judgemental. But it doesn't happen to me because I play my role as a solo parent. If you are able to raise your children well and good, they can't throw anything against you.)
Amelia Galicia, 51, mother of 5
Amelia became a single mother after her husband died of liver cancer in 2000. For her, the hardest part of being solo is easing her children's pain of losing their father, whom they miss until now.
"Hindi po ako umiiyak sa harap ng mga anak ko.... Kailangan kong magkunwari na matatag ako para 'di sila panghinaan ng loob. Kailangan kong magkunwari na, 'Kaya natin ito,' kahit na alam kong pilay na ako. Kapag kausap ko si Lord, sabi ko, gusto ko nang bumigay, 'di ko na kaya, parang gusto ko nang sumuko. Pero sa harapan ng mga anak ko, kailangan nating lumaban."
(I don't cry in front of my children. I need to pretend that I am strong to keep them from losing faith. I need to pretend that we can do this even though I feel weak. When I talk to the Lord, I tell Hi, I want to give up, I can't do this anymore, I want to quit. But when I face my children, I tell them that we need to fight.)
Marcelina Ramos, 62, grandmother to 7 children
Marcelina is not only a grandmother to her 7 grandkids; she also serves as their parent as she continues to work to provide for them. She raises her angels alone since her husband died 5 years ago. The responsbility of raising them has been hers since her son and daughter were separated from their spouses. She said her son cannot function since falling into depression due to his separation from his wife.
While she also has medicines to take for her high blood pressure, Marcelina also prioritizes the needs of her grandchildren.
"S'yempre sa may edad na, iba na 'yung lakas noong araw at ngayon, pero dahil matibay naman ako, kinakaya ko pa rin.... Sila ang nagiging inspirasyon ko talaga dahil gusto ko kahit papaano makatapos sila kahit na nasa ano lang kaunting kaalaman, para mawala man ako meron silang kinabukasan na maano sa buhay."
(Of course, I am aging so my strength is different from when I was younger. But I am tough so I can still manage.... My grandchildren are my inspiration because I really want them to finish school as much as possible, even at the lower level, so that when I'm gone, they'd have a better future.)
Flora Liones, 43, mother of 1
Flora was promised marriage years back by the father of her only son. But it turned out that he couldn't commit to one woman, so Flora, still unmarried, has since raised her child alone – despite being physically-challenged. She never sought the father's support for her kid because he should know that he has a responsibility to the now 17-year-old son. She provides for him by working as a barangay volunteer and managing a small store.
"[Para sa ibang single mothers]: una, huwag silang mahiya dahil 'di sila nag-iisa. Pangalawa, ilantad nila at proud sila [dapat] sa sarili nila na sila ay isang solo parent, dahil ang sektor ng solo parent ay [may awareness na]. Kaya ang mga solo parent, kung ano man ang needs o pangangailangan [nila], huwag silang mahihiya lumapit sa mga matataas na tao kagaya, unang-una, sa barangay level."
(To other single mothers: First, they shouldn't be ashamed, because they are not alone. Second, they should be open and proud that they are a solo parent because this country is becoming aware of this sector. Solo parents, if they have needs, should't be embarrassed to seek help from high officials, like primarily those in the barangay.)
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misattributed the figures on solo parenthood to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This has been corrected.