Jong: A Life Story
Jong is not his real name. He was born in one of the most noted conflict areas in the country. The youngest of four siblings, two of his older brothers died of illnesses.
The parents of Jong broke up when he was 9 years old. He doesn’t know where his father is and his mother is living with another man. He lives with his mother, stepfather and stepbrother. He had two stepbrothers but one died of illness.
According to Jong, their lives were not as difficult now when his stepfather was able to work. His stepfather was a carpenter, but got a lung-related illness because of drinking too much alcohol. Now that his stepfather is ill, life becomes difficult to describe.
Jong works in one of the hotels in town. He reports on duty from 6 in the morning until 9 in the evening. He is paid 75 pesos with three meals daily. Most of his income he gives to his mother who also does their neighbors’ laundry. Jong doesn’t know how much his mother is earning from doing laundry.
Education is one of the basic needs of a child. Jong wasn’t as lucky to have it in full. He wasn’t even able to finish his first year in high school. He cannot afford it.
To be registered to a government school, one has to pay five hundred pesos. School supplies are another thing. But, these were not Jong’s concern. His biggest problem was his daily transportation allowance to go to school. He needed P80 pesos to pay for his roundtrip fare daily.
The town has another government school. It would only cost Jong P30 pesos roundtrip fare daily. But this school is a trade school. A trade school is noted for extravagant projects. Jong could not afford them.
As Jong narrated his story, I saw his desire for school. He was looking for someone who would want him as working student. But who would accept a working student when there is no night school in town. He can only work on weekends.
I don’t blame life for its ironic tendencies. We are all born with something to work on and challenges to face, but we also have responsibilities to fulfill. I encouraged Jong to continue his schooling. I partly know how difficult it is because I also had my share of hardship finishing high school.
Deep inside I would want to do more than encourage him, but I don’t have the capacity as of the moment. Maybe not now, but I am looking at what tomorrow can offer.