by Glenda B. Gutierrez


Justine D. Laquindanum, 17, comes from a broken family. Her parents separated when she was in Grade 5. Her father, Nicolas, a carpenter, settled with another woman with whom he had other children. Justine has never met her siblings.

Her mother, Rowena, on the other hand, is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Oman. Justine has not seen her mother as often as she wanted because the latter rarely comes home. The airplane fare are too prohibitive and her mother’s employers would not allow her to come back to the Philippines on a regular basis.

Despite the distance, Justine is close to her mother. They regularly talk through phone or the internet.

Due to lack of parental presence and nurture, Justine rebelled. She allowed her peers to influence her and her lifestyle. She lost motivation to attend school and eventually stopped studying altogether. She would say that she simply got lazy.

Although she thought of going back to her formal schooling, there was a price to pay. The high school of her choice does not accept fourth year transferees.

Then, she learned about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) from a friend who was enrolled in the first batch at the St. Peter United Methodist Church (UMC).

But first, she knew she needed to correct some bad habits she has accumulated through those easy-go-lucky years. One of them—indeed, the hardest to break—is the habit of laziness. I seemed it has been set in her system so firmly, it would be a herculean task to undo it.

So she forced herself to attend ALS classes and tried to read one or two modules a day. There were times when she felt discouraged, thinking all her efforts would come to naught if she failed to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) examination.

But she continued to dream and pray. Yes, she prayed every day and read the ALS modules.

When asked about her inspiration to continue her studies, she answered, “Ang pamilya ko at ang pangarap ko na balang araw mapauwi ko na dito ang mama ko at ako naman ang magtratrabaho para sa kanya.”  (My family and my dream to be with my mother. I want her to come home so I can be the one who will work and earn for her.)

She was overjoyed upon learning she passed the A&E exam saying, “Masayang masaya ako dahil sa wakas unti-unti ko nang magagawa ang aking pangarap.” (I am very happy because I am slowly but surely achieving my dreams.)

Indeed, with prayers and determination, Justine is, piece by piece, starting to complete the brokenness that her family suffered before. She is determined to leave all the negative things behind and focus on her brighter future.


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