ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – Lorna Acala Eluna, a 32-year-old mother from Polanco, Zamboanga del Norte, has been doing heavy work traditionally reserved for men since she was young. She carries sacks of rice, plows rice fields, fetches water through mountain ridges, and chops firewood.
Despite having a group of workers for their business, Eluna continues to carry sacks of rice, which she said she became accustomed to due to their previous poverty.
One of several video clips of her carrying sacks of rice, unexpectedly garnered over a million views on social media, making her some sort of a celebrity in the province.
Eluna and her husband Crisanto established a grocery and rice retail store, where she serves as the bookkeeper and also helps with deliveries.
She carries an average of 20 to 25 sacks, weighing 25 kilograms per sack, on foot or through their scooter or mini-truck for deliveries to customers and suppliers, including in distant places.
As the sixth of 11 children, Eluna and her siblings had to work in the rice fields with their tenant parents. She recalled times when they had to divide a small amount of rice and a can of sardines among themselves, sometimes racing to get the can so they could dip their rice in it.
“I was very poor before, that’s why I’m used to heavy work. Now I easily get tired if I don’t perspire, so I help carry sacks of rice that we sell,” Eluna told Rappler on Tuesday, March 14.
Eluna faced difficulties not only in her work but also in her studies. In grade school, she was often bullied and called a “tomboy” because of her muscular arms and broad shoulders.
“I usually ended up punching the bullies. Luckily, they didn’t tell their parents because I’m a girl,” Eluna recalled.
Despite the challenges, she worked as a student in Cebu City during her high school years and finished in her hometown, where her brother supported her.
She got married at 20 and started a small business with her husband while continuing her studies in Business Administration in Dipolog City.
“Our small business slowly grew. We are not rich, but I can say we are better off now than we were before. That’s why I always tell my two children to study hard because money isn’t that easy to earn,” Eluna said.
Eluna’s teachers from the Lingasad Elementary School, where she was once a student, invited her to be the guest speaker for the school’s National Women’s Month Celebration, recognizing her as an inspiration to young people that poverty should not hinder them from achieving their goals.
Despite her recent social media fame due to a viral video clip, Eluna still faces bullies and bashers, who call her “bayot” (gay), among other insults.
Eluna, however, remains unfazed, having gotten used to bullying since childhood.
“They cannot affect me, you know, I’m a veteran of bullying,” Eluna said with a smile. – Rappler.com
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