AN ALARM goes off at 4 a.m., which obviously startled Jelena Candice Santos. She quickly turns off the device in fear of waking up the whole household who also had a fairly long day yesterday.
Candice lingers for a minute after she awakens, bracing herself for yet another day of making ends meet.
On her way to prepare breakfast, the young lady walks past her parents’ room and catches a glimpse of her mom sleeping; she is quickly reminded of the circumstances that require her to be strong.
As Candice descends to the kitchen, she sees that her older sister is already up as well and they proceed to cook breakfast side by side.
“Tulungan kami ngayon, although minsan hindi talaga maiwasan na may times na naiisip namin na bakit ang endless nung problems, bakit hindi natatapos,” she shares. “Pero ‘yun nga, nakikita kasi namin kay mama ‘yung faith niya kay God, na kahit may Stage 4 Breast Cancer siya, nagtatrabaho pa rin siya, pumapasok pa rin siya, nag–ko-commute pa rin siya.”
A ripple effect
After having breakfast with her family, Candice hurriedly fixes her things to avoid the heavy traffic going to school. With her are not only notebooks but also cookies and candies that she will sell to earn additional funds for her mother’s medical treatments.
Despite being a college student for months now, the Asian studies freshman still feels as if she is in a different territory, walking through an unfamiliar entrance gate, unexplored corridors, and seeing herself being with unknown faces.
An admittedly silent kid since the start of school year, she eventually got to interact more and become comfortable with her classmates.
During one of her classes, Candice remembers that she has pending tasks for an upcoming event of the parish youth ministry that she is a member of—in addition to her academic requirements, household chores, and the baking she has to do every day.
“‘[U]sually ang hindi ko na nagagawa is ‘yung chores kasi once na nahiga na ako sa kama, hindi na talaga ako kikilos. Minsan, natatauhan ako kasi nakikita ko ‘yung nanay ko ang gumagawa kaya naiisip ko [na] hindi deserve ng nanay ko na mahirapan nang gano’n, kaya iniisip ko na lang na gagawin ko ‘to kasi kailangan ng mommy ko—I should help my mom,” she shares.
Entrepreneur for a cause
Once classes end, Candice finds time to sell her pastries instead of just hanging out with friends. She roams around the corridors of St. Raymund’s to sell.
“Dapat hindi ka mahihiya, although ako nahihiya ako minsan na magtinda pero kasi kailangan talaga so kakapalan ko talaga mukha ko kasi for a cause naman ‘yung ginagawa ko and gagawin ko siya kasi you do it for love, kasi kailangan talaga ng mommy ko,” she says wholeheartedly.
During the class’s free time, the young entrepreneur manages to sell almost all of the pastries she brought, though it took some time and she even heard comments from some people implying that her products are too costly.
The struggles do not hinder Candice from selling all her sweets thanks to her classmates who choose to remain in the classroom instead of going outside to buy food.
“[N]akakataba ng puso and sobrang nakaka-motivate. Actually, ‘di ko kasi dini-direct na sa sarili ko. ‘Pag sinasabi ng tao na, ‘Wow ang galing mo naman’ or ‘Hala, ang effort,’ parang bonus na lang siya kasi mas nasa isip ko na ipakilala [ang] mommy ko sa taong binebentahan ko,” she says joyfully.
Optimism arising from obstacles
Candice waves at her friends as she hurriedly walks out of their classroom after their professor dismissed them.
Around the streets of Dapitan, she takes caution to not let her eyes wander at the tempting food establishments that could stop her from saving the needed funds.
After bracing the afternoon rush hour, the young lady arrives home to several household chores awaiting her, but she decides to rest first. As Candice reflects on the struggles of her day and the upcoming activities, she cannot help but feel like the exhaustion is far from being lessened; still, the thought of her mom’s resiliency stops her from overthinking.
“Makikita mo talaga na sobrang hardworking na ‘di mo maiisip na gagawin niya ‘yun. Gano’n naman tayo sa mga nanay natin ‘di ba, na nakikita natin na ‘Hala, ang galing naman ng nanay ko, nagagawa niya ‘to.’ So parang ‘yung pag-idolize ko sa kanya dati, mas [tumindi] ngayon kasi ang tibay and tatag [niya],” she shares.
Feeling energized, Candice trudges through the rest of the afternoon by doing chores like cooking meals and cleaning the house while her mom undergoes oral chemotherapy. She also prepares the pastries that she will sell and reviews her notes for the class the following day.
At night, Candice and her whole family finally eat the dinner the hardworking Artlet prepared. She tells them about her day and the upcoming church activities she is handling as a leader.
Across the table, Candice catches a glimpse of her mom laughing at one of her jokes, and once again, she is reminded of the miracles that each day holds for her and her family.
“Dahil sa kanya, sobrang napalapit ako kay Lord, at doon sa everyday life ko hindi ako nag–wo-worry na may mangyayaring ganito, hindi ako nag–aalala na wala na naman kaming pambayad sa ganito [o] ganyan kasi pag uwi ko, ayan na, may sagot na si Lord. May solusyon na agad. [K]ahit ‘di ako magsalita, yayakapin ko lang siya, i-ki-kiss ko lang siya, ‘yun lang ‘yung lagi kong gustong gawin habang nandiyan pa siya,” Candice says with hope. F JOY THERESE C. GOMEZ and MARY NICOLE P. MIRANDA