I was only 17 years old (1982) when I joined the ‘masa’ or people’s organisation in the community where my parents lived. I had just graduated from high school and there was nothing to do, so my friends and I decided to engage in something worthwhile. About 20 youths came - including me and my friends, to that first meeting which was held in our chapel. Young and articulate student leaders took turns on the podium to let us know of the 'current situation’, e. g., the hardships that we were experiencing under the oppression of the present government. It was the early 1980s and student activism and rallies were rife; soon my friends and I were joining rallies against the Marcos regime.
Many years later, I started to become deeply involved with the organisation. It had an NGO arm which put up feeding centers as well as schools and I was a disbursing officer. It was during that time that I came to know Tony Orot who was to become my husband. A few years later, in July 1995, Tony and I were married. I was 29 and he was a year younger than I was. The ceremony was a most memorable event in my life. His and my parents, siblings, relatives and friends were there as well as a few officials from the organisation. I was so happy and thankful to be married to Tony. He had all the qualities that I was looking for in a man. He was hardworking, principled, talented and a caring husband, as well as a doting father to our children.
Five years later, Tony was promoted as the CO or commanding officer of the ‘forces’ in the province of Aklan on Panay island. He and I both come from Negros island, and when he was deployed in Aklan, I and our two sons Jomel and Jan Lester (they were four and three years old at the time) joined him there. Tony built a nice bamboo house for us there and life was idyllic. There was a river at the back of our house and the two boys frolicked as much as they wanted. We had everything we needed; also Tony was a good provider and I had a thriving sari-sari store.
Sadly those blissful days came to an end in November 2003. My husband’s body guard confided in me that Tony was having an extra marital affair. The other woman was a ‘lady in distress’ who had sought help from Tony regarding a problem she had with her property. She was married to a foreigner and she had plenty of money to spend as well as to cater to my husband’s wants. I couldn’t believe that Tony could be carried away by materialism. When we first met, he was so full of lofty ideals.
Anger, misery and hurt raged within me for days on end. I could not sleep and when I did get some sleep, I had nightmares. Thankfully my neighbours and friends did not allow my self-pity to get the better of me. They encouraged me to rise up and move on, and within a few more weeks, I did realise that I had to move on. I had three sons to raise and Jungie, the youngest of them, was only four months old at the time.
It was in March 2008 when my three sons and I returned to Bacolod. In January of that year, I was found to have an acute myoma and needed an operation. I had to sell my house in order to pay my medical bill. I was so sad to see our house go. With no house to live in and with no more livelihood (the sari-sari was also sold) to depend upon, I had no choice but to go back to my parents in Bacolod.
Several months later, I came to know about the PSHF through Lalaine Yorong who is my sister-in-law. Lalaine had received a livelihood loan from the PSHF and knowing my circumstances, she thought that I could do with a livelihood loan too. Thus in September 2008, I went to the PSHF office for the first time to attend an orientation which was a prerequisite to getting a loan. The following week, I was visited by MJ and Ms Bernie and they took photos of me and my children. The following month, I was interviewed by Hazel Moreño and I finally got my first PSHF livelihood loan in November - 5,000 pesos to buy and sell bananas and charcoal. The following year, the PSHF needed field workers and Glitter, the Bacolod coordinator at the time, offered me the job. I happily and readily accepted it! Five years on, I am still with the PSHF. Nowadays aside from my field monitoring tasks, I am also attending to the needs of our grant recipients. This has brought an added meaning to my work. On the economic side, I have been able to see Jomel and Jan Lester through high school. Jomel has a found a job in a welding shop on Panay island. He sends money faithfully for the schooling expenses of his younger brother Jan Lester who is now in his first year of an engineering course. Jungie, on the other hand, is still in elementary grade. My sons and I do not have much, but we are happy, and the devotion that we have for each other cannot be taken away by anybody.
Lester Joy Orot,