“Annie” is a twenty-year-old Kankana-ey born and raised in Mankayan, Benguet. She comes from a family of seven, wherein she has her parents and her four younger siblings. Her parents are trying their best to make do with the meager wages that they earn from informal jobs. Despite their efforts, the pay they receive is not enough for their growing family.
She migrated to Baguio and took a Bachelor’s Degree in Education at a university, hopeful of finding a job after her study.
In her second year, Annie decided to forgo her studies and work as a call center agent. Her desire to help her family cope up with their ever-increasing financial needs forced her to make the decision. Also, her mother’s sacrifice, who is currently working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, inspired her to act.
Annie’s mother went there before but had to come back home due to the abusive labor practices of her former employer. The increasing prices of essential commodities and lack of job opportunities here in our country led her to leave her family again.
Meanwhile, Annie’s younger sister, who should be in junior high school, also had to set aside her studies to help her older sister and mother. The three of them are doing their best for the survival of their family.
Annie may not have been able to finish her college degree, but she hopes and prays that her younger siblings will be able to finish theirs. She would sacrifice her studies for the sake of her younger siblings.
Annie’s story and that of millions of Filipinos in the margins of society is a reflection of the current economic crisis in the country. Family members, especially the women and older siblings, are forced to sacrifice their personal dreams to help their family survive. They have to make hard decisions to cope up with the rising prices of basic goods and lack of job opportunities.
This situation is a result of an unjust system. The vast resources of our nation are concentrated among a few individuals. Meanwhile, the more significant part of the population struggle to have a piece from the meager portion left to them.
It has become routine for older children to let go of their studies and for parents to leave their families to look for “greener” pastures. However, this should not be. This is why we need to change the way our country’s resources are allocated by involving ourselves in the creation of just laws. Education, healthcare, and local job opportunities must top the list of the national budget. The government should also craft laws that are not oppressive and abusive.
This is one of the many advocacies of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) and Innabuyog in the Cordillera. Women, from the different sectors of the society, must work together to remind the government that it was created to serve the people. This state mandate is clearly stated in the Philippine Constitution. Officials should cease from becoming puppets of the rich and the powerful. The government should not oppress the already marginalized sectors of society, which includes the laborers, landless farmers and the indigenous peoples.
However, when people’s organizations, where women are a part of, come together and try to help people like Annie, they are tagged as enemies of the State. Instead of working together with these groups, the State uses its power to suppress these organizations. These are proof that the government works for the wealthy. It is not a government for and by the Filipino people.
Let us make Annie’s story an inspiration to be more active in the social and political affairs of our country. Her story is one of the many problems that Filipinos have been facing. If we continue to be blind to these, these issues will persist and escalate. It must be during these times that we work hand in hand to bring about change. Children must finish their studies for it is their right and, parents should not be forced to leave their children just to make ends meet!