“Life in the family was normal. For us, we were at the point in our lives where we see things improving especially in our leather business. The Pajaron Leather Craft Store was the first and the only one in Medina, Misamis Oriental. Our six children went to school. I took care of the house and managed to work daily on the different household chores. We bought a house and lot in a modest subdivision and bought some properties around town”, recounts Mrs. Irish L. Pajaron of Purok 10, Brgy. Cabug, Medina, Misamis Oriental.
“But really, I realize sometimes that life hands you in the unexpected. No matter how prepared you are, at some point, you will be caught by surprise”, shared a teary-eyed Mr. Raul D. Pajaron or Rolly as he is fondly called. It was in 2009 that the latter suffered from a delibitating disease that made him bedridden for almost two years. The doctor found a spinal gout which needs to be immediately removed and operated. It may not be obvious, but the worsening condition of Rolly never dampened the couple’s spirit to survive. All the more that it made them strong as they knew that in everything they went through - God was there.
The couple’s strong faith in God took a twist last 2012 when Rolly went for a major sensitive operation on his spine at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City. The financial need was huge. This would cost them to sell their house and lot and a couple of their hard earned properties. While each of their families were there to support them in any way they can, the burden to sustain the family’s daily need was at stake.
MIRACLES DO HAPPEN
At the hospital, hours after Rolly was admitted to the operating room, Irish was called by the attending physician to announce the inevitable. Rolly didn’t make it. Refusing to believe what she had just heard, Irish prayed hard and spilled over her faith by praising and worshipping God inside the operating room in front of her husband’s lifeless body. And while the nurses were busy removing all the tubes attached to her husband’s body, a sudden beep from the heart monitor machine signalled Rolly’s triumph over death. He came back to life! The nurses together with the doctors continued the operation and finally declared Rolly out of harm’s way after several hours. Indeed, miracles do happen.
A teary-eyed Mrs. Irish Pajaron of Brgy. Cabug, Medina, Misamis Oriental, shares her harrowing ordeal after learning that her husband needs to go under the knife due to spinal gout. The cost of the operation was huge and the need was urgent.
The long and harrowing experience of the family did not end up with the slow recovery of Rolly. All five children had to stop schooling because the family was at the brink of financial meltdown. They have to transfer from living in a four-bedroom fully furnished bungalow house to a very small rented stall in the public market. On minimal living condition, the family settled for what was left of them - few pieces of furniture. Irish, exhausted and perplexed on what to do and where to get the money to provide her family with their daily needs, sought the help of her friends, relatives, and community civic groups. The response was overwhelming though. This included a donation for a 200 square meter lot from the religious community.
In one of his many shepherding activities in the community, Fr. Rufino “Pipoy” Cabagtingan, the parish priest of Medina at that time, visited the Pajaron family and witnessed first-hand how the family lived in dire poverty. With children sleeping on the floor on romblon mat without pillows and even rags to cover them, Fr. Cabagtingan’s heart was moved with compassion. This led him to buy a portion of lot and donated it to the family. He also advocated for support from well off members of the parish for construction materials so that Rolly and Irish can immediately build their shack.
AN EPITOME OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
More than a wife, an empowered woman like Irish was someone Rolly really needs in those perilous times. She is a person with indomitable spirit who does not settle for less but has the courage to survive and the vision to see the light at the end of the tunnel. “If it was not for her and her strong faith in God, I really don’t what could’ve happened to us in those days. With my condition, other women will opt to leave and abandon her almost of-no-use husband. But she chose to stay with me. A true testament of her undying love for me and our family,” narrates Rolly.
The chance to get a better life came when the family was identified as one among the many recipients of the 4Ps Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Other than receiving a monthly financial assistance, Irish was also chosen as a beneficiary of the DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). Her enrolment to the program was made possible through the assistance of Ms. Nolanie M. Gadia, the Project Development Officer (PDO) of the agency assigned to Medina.
“Irish is a woman full of potentials. I can see in her a fighting spirit. Something others don’t have. That is the very reason why I asked her to join several skills training under the DSWD-SLP. I go and I like people who have the balls and the guts to do it. And that is Irish!” comments Ms. Gadia. The program aims to improve the socio-economic capacity of identified beneficiaries
through microenterprise development and employment facilitation activities. Irish was enrolled in Household Services NC – II. The training was provided by the International Labor Force – Skills Mastery Institute (ILF-SMI) or popularly known as SMI, a long time capacity building partner of the DSWD in Region 10. SMI’s “training-to-employment” service delivery model has been successful in providing employment to thousands of community members which included disadvantaged women, Out-of-School Youths (OSYs), Persons with Disability (PWDS), and even college graduates who opted to get additional skills to land in trade occupations either in local or overseas job markets.
Ms. Gadia commended Irish for passing the assessment and getting the national certification level-II right away. Her certification was issued by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The agency provides direction, policies, programs and standards towards quality technical education and skills development in the country. Like the DSWD, it partners with the SMI and other technical vocational institutions (TVIs) in the region to implement many of its programs. Under its Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), scholarship slots are distributed among TVIs . Qualified recipients receive incentives in the form of cash transportation allowance during training, free tuition fee, and are assured of existing jobs in the market for immediate employment.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
On her way to fulfilling her dreams, Irish was introduced to the JobFIT Workforce Solutions, the employment arm of SMI. The agency was responsible in facilitating the overseas employment of Irish where she landed as a legitimate housemate in a prominent family in Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She was indeed thankful to have very generous employers. The couple allowed her to have a full month’s pay in advance despite her not rendering yet a full month’s service.
The way to the golden pot was not that easy though as Irish recalled her experiences. Leaving her five children behind with her crippled husband worries her a lot. Who will feed them? Will her close relatives be able to support them while she’s away? Will her husband survived the ordeal and be able to take care of their kids like what she did? These are the many questions that haunted her while she’s away from her family. “But I saw the hand of God moving in so many ways to help me”, confessed Irish as she vividly remembers everything.
On one account, as she was on her way to Manila to join other overseas Filipino workers bound for Saudi Arabia, she met an angel on the same boat she’s riding. A woman in her 50’s who was also traveling alone befriended her. On their two-day travel, they became close and exchanged few details. Irish shared to her that it was her first time to travel to Manila and she hardly know how to go around the metropolis. To her surprise, the woman volunteered to assist her by driving her to and from the embassy to facilitate her working visa as well as travel documents. In the night on that same day, Irish flew to Saudi Arabia without hassle. To many of her friends that was a miracle! Irish learned lately that it took weeks for her batchmates to secure the same documents and leave the country.
Fast forward, Irish now was able to slowly rebuild her family. With the small savings she had, she went home last year to start all over again. She spent some of it to repair her house and the rest went to open a new business. Irish sold assorted tamarind-based candies and distributed it to nearby towns like Sagay, Balingoan, and Gingoog City. She also has forged tie-ups with big stores in Camiguin and Butuan City for the distribution of her product. At a modest capital of P2, 000.00 per 300-pack of candies per week, she earned a net income of P3, 000.00. Not bad for a start-up journey.
With Rolly’s undying love for crafting leather goods, they’re back to business and just lately opened a branch of the Pajaron Leather Crafts in Gingoog City. They have expanded their product line from just producing leather-made belts and shoes to holsters, sandals, boots, and even key chains.
Asked on how they did it and what are the secrets of their successful comeback, the couple smiled and firmly said, “It’s all about trusting in God and doing His will. Nothing more.” (JCV)