“Dili judlalim”, Yayang said. (Life was never easy)

It was in 1993, when 25-year old WanurArastamAntao or Yayang tried her luck overseas to seek for greener pastures. She worked in LahadDatu, Sabah, Malaysia as a store attendant in Yam Brothers’, a store owned by a Chinese national.

She shared that they were only given salaries on a quarterly basis.

“Ingon ana ang pamaagi para naay savings ang Pinoy pero every month nagpahulam sad sila og kwarta para ipadala sa pamilya sa Pilipinas”, she said. (That was their system for us, Filipinos, to have savings but they also allow cash advances every month for us to provide for our families in the Philippines.)

Barely a year at work, she fell in love with Manuel Solon, a fellow Filipino hailed from Maluso, Basilan. Manuel was a driver of Yam Brothers’. They were married on September 06, 1993 in Malaysia and their union gave them two children, Clinton in 1995 and a year after they had Yamie, who was named after the establishment they had been working at.

In 2001, Yayang and Manuel packed their bags and bid Malaysia goodbye. With enough savings and with their two children to send to school, they came back to the Philippines and resided in Yayang’s hometown in Brgy. Katipunan, R.T. Lim, Zamboanga Sibugay. To feed their family, Manuel was a driver for a passenger van and Yayang set up a sari-sari store.

After eight years of living in the Philippines, another blessing has come to the family as Yayang was pregnant with their third child.

However, on March 6, 2010, Manuel passed away due to cardiac arrest. A month after Manuel’s death, Yayang gave birth to a baby girl, Wamfa. Yayang was left single-handedly to raise her three children.

“Ako nalang naningkamot nagbuhi sa ila tungod kay wala naman sila’y papa”, she shared on a trembling voice. (I have worked hard to raise my children since their father passed away.)

She looked at Wamfa, 7, who was sitting beside her, “Sa litrato nalang ni siya kakita sa iyang papa, wala jud ni siya kaila.” (She only recognized her father through pictures but she had not seen him personally.)

She was sellingnative delicaciesfor a living but business is not that good while her two children are studying in Zamboanga City. She had to send money every month for their tuition, allowance, board and lodging.

In 2014, Sister Emma Camilotes, DC Migrant Coordinator of the Daughters of Charity in partnership with R.T. Lim PESO Manager Susan Cabrera had organized R.T. Lim Association of Overseas Filipino Workers Returnees and their Families. PESO Manager Cabrera tapped the National Reintegration Center for Overseas Filipino Workers (NRCO) through the Department of Labor and Employment Zamboanga Sibugay Field Office (ZSFO) for possible interventions for their Association.

On November 2014, DOLE ZSFO & NRCO with LGU – R.T. Lim had conducted a Small Business Management Training and Financial Awareness Seminar for OFW returnees held in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Yayang and other OFW returnees were brought by PESO Manger Cabrera to DOLE Regional Office IX in Zamboanga City on April 2015 to receive their Kabuhayan Starter Kits through the Livelihood Development Assistance Program of NRCO.

Yayang received a Food Processing Starter Kit composed of microwave oven, gas stove, gas tank and other cooking tools. Yayang had the equipment but she had no capital so she decided to go back to Malaysia. She was a snack vendor in Sarawak, Malaysia. After four months, she returned home with enough savings for her business.

She also studied Food Processing in TESDA in 2015. She was selling native delicaciessuch as puto, bibingka, mamon,budbud, cake but it was empanada which sells best and keeps customers coming back to her.

Among her loyal customers are R.T. Lim Mayor Michael A. Piodena and the Local Government Unit of R.T. Lim, Daughters of Charity Sisters in Sto. Ni?o Parish, teachers in Katipunan Elementary School, DOLE ZSFO in Ipil and GARBEMCO in Kabasalan.

With her empanada and other delicacies, she was able to raise her three children and finance their needs.

Her eldest, Clinton is on his 3rd Year College taking up Bachelor of Science in Marine Electronics at Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology while Yamie graduated on March 2016 at Western Mindanao State University with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Social Work and passed the Licensure Examination for Social Worker on August 2017. Yamiehas worked as an Outsourced Worker in DOLE ZSFO and currently connected at Department od Social Works and Development; and Wamfa, her youngest child, is on second grade at Katipunan Elementary School.

Yayang also hired MeletSaldon as her assistant to help her especially on bulk orders.

“Depende sa tawo kung magkugi gyud, mabuhi ra gyud. Nagpasalamat ko sa NRCO nga gihatagan ko og kit para naamiy kabuhayan… Diha jud nagsugod akoang paningkamot para mabuhi akong pamilya”, she said. (If a person perseveres, he/she will live. I am thankful to NRCO for providing me the kits for my livelihood. Through it, I have worked really hard to raise my family.)

Joni Sarina Mejico, NRCO