Nanay Juana “Annie” Villegas guards a mall in the morning, sells vegetables in the market in the evening, and cooks meal at early dawn. All these taxing works made her eldest son a chemist and her youngest son a lawyer.
Last March 29, the 56-year old grandmother of five, fulfilled her dream, graduating cum laude in Bachelor of Secondary Education at the Cebu Technological University (CTU)-Argao campus.
As she recalled the hardships she went through, Nanay Juana pointed out her life’s two biggest challenges: how to finance her family’s needs especially the education of her children and her goal of attaining a college degree with honors.
While she keeps her longing of having a college degree one day, providing education to her children came first, shelving her desire of earning a diploma for 30 years.
When her two kids were still studying, sleeping for Nanay Jauna was an option. She had to work from dawn to early dawn the next day.
“Kayod taman sa ginhawa hapit di na matulog,” she said.
Before her sleepless market work, she used to act as houseparent of children in conflict with the law in a nice-paying job at the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth (RRCY) in Argao.
Because she was always busy at work, her eldest son Joseph, who was then in first year high school, nagged on her lack of time with them.
“Madugay ma, kami mahimo pud unya mi kausa dinhi, (kay) di man ka kaatiman nako magabii,” she said.
So she quit her job, though she found herself in another strenuous work later.
In 2000, she worked as a security guard at the Mactan Export Zone Authority in Mactan Island before she quit in 2003 when Joseph became a chemist with a good paying job. But she was forced to work again when Jonathan, the youngest, took up law in 2004.
A Lady Guard
This time, she was employed as a lady guard at Robinsons Fuente from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. After her shift, she would go to Carbon market to sell vegetables until 5 a.m.
“Maka nap lang ta gamay maglingkod duka-duka mentras walay customer,” she recalled her life in Carbon market where customers were rare at past 12 midnight.
She would leave the market at 5 a.m. and buy damaged vegetables on her way back to her boarding home in Junquera.
She prepared and cooked the good part of these vegetables for meals which she packed separately and later sold it to her co-workers while on duty at the Robinsons.
After her evening shift, she washed her clothes in the boarding house before going to the market.
Aside from helping Joseph paying Jonathan’s education, she also used her hard-earned money to spend for the medicine of her sick husband Viorje.
Her husband eventually died months before Jonathan passed the bar.
Going Back to School
Her dream of studying again gained a new lease on life when Jonathan, who became a lawyer in 2009, appealed to her to stop working as a security guard right after he took his oath before the Supreme Court.
“Ma, time na pud, na kami magbalos ni kuya sa imo,” she remembered her son’s plea.
In her 2012 birthday, her lawyer son told her that he is bent on sending her to school again.
“Kung gusto gyud nimo Ma moeskwela amo (with Joseph) kang tabangan og gasto.”
Despite her age, Nanay Juana faced another challenge in her life as she enrolled in CTU Argao on June 2013.
First year is a big challenge for her. She did not make it to the dean’s list because of her grades. She is not computer literate and too old to blend with her classmates who are young enough to be her grandchildren.
Even her teacher told her that she needs to catch up specifically in using a computer.
It costs her free snacks, dinner treats, plus meager incentives to get a tutorial session from classmates in their off hours.
Then, her efforts paid off when she landed on the dean’s list from second year up.
Nanay Juana is a constant source of wisdom to her classmates. When giving advice to her younger peers, she always emphasized on never letting go of their dreams.
“Kung magpahamugaway ka sa trabaho, unya naa gyud kay gusto kab-oton di gyud na nimo makab-ot basta di nimo tinguhaon,” she said.
Having weathered by the most challenging conditions in life to survive and for her children’s education, the challenges she encountered in CTU is manageable.
“Para nako kadtong time nga nanginabuhiko para sa akong mga anak maoy pinaka lisud kay nanginabuhi ko financially para isuporta sa akong mga anak,” she said.
Juana will soon face her third challenge in life. Once she passed the teacher’s licensure examination, she will take up Law.
“Naningkamot lang ko tungod kay naa ko gi-aim, si attorney iya ko pa estadihon og law kung ma cum laude ko and that’s a challenge,” Nanay Juana said with a smile. (Oscar Pineda)