Posted on 06 March 2014.
She bags and sifts gravel and sand. Even fills-up the hefty water drum. She shovels, mixes, pours, and spreads concrete. She smoothens and finishes freshly poured cement. Even carries hollow blocks one at a time.
A routine she quickly acclimatized for over a month of exposure to these things.
“Kaya talaga ng mga babae. Kung pahina-pahina ka, magugutom ka. Hindi ka mabubuhay sa pagnanakaw. Kailangan ka magtrabaho ng maayos. Sige lang hanggat kaya. Kung kaya ng lalake, kaya ng babae [Women can do it. If you’re vulnerable, you will starve. We can’t live by stealing. We need to work. For as long as I can, I will do it. If men can do it, women can also do it].”
This was the emotional utterance of Rosinie Oximar, a mother of two, who pulls out all the stops. However, she had to do it alone.
Originally from Bacolod, Rosinie’s and her Bicolano husband’s fate led them to Manila and bumped into each other sometime in 2006. For over a year, their relationship brought their first born child and three years later, they had another son. With this, they decided to return and permanently stay in her husband’s native land.
In 2013, her husband abandoned them without any word and assumed the full parental responsibility over her sons performing both the roles of a mother and a father.
Rosinie or known by her neighbors as Rose, 33 then, resulted to salvaging garbage in their community to sustain their daily needs. In average, she earns P300 a week which is only enough to buy them rice.
It was in the temperate month of February in the remote village of Tagaytay, Gubat in Sorsogon province of the same year, when the table has been turned for her.
The stout outline of Rose says more of her capacity. She outperformed those 550 women in their locality by her strong-willed character and optimism to surmount a challenging role in exchange for an unrivaled experience she can speak of for decades.
Along with her personal motivation, the determined solo parent joined the community to bring their dreams together. The construction of their health center through the Kalahi-CIDSS project addressed the most pressing issue the people clamored for in the longest time.
During the same year, she found herself enlisted in the men-dominated world of construction.
“Nagtanong ako kung pwede pumasok at tinanggap ako. Dagdag kasi yun sa kikitain. [I inquired if I could apply and I was accepted. It’s an additional earning],” she said.
The proximity of her home to the site where their health center was built has led to the discovery of this extraordinary opportunity.
And the first time she held the shovel, Rose thought it was grueling. However, she was able to lift and scoop the mix of cement and sand.
“Nagpapala at nagmimikskla talaga yan ng semento si Rose [Rose really shovels and mixes cement],” affirmed by Rodolfo Escota, one of the volunteer-implementers of their health center.
Also according to him, it was the first time in the history of Brgy. Tagaytay that women were actually involved in the hard labor.
Her home and the “hard hat” zone
It was all about time management according to Rose.
“May oras ako para sa gabos na gibo sa baluy para hindi ako mapagal masyado[ I have time for everything at home to avoid getting excessively tired],” she explained.
With no one to depend on, Rose wakes up as early as three in the morning to fetch water from the nearby well before it runs dry. She finishes the laundry by five and proceeds with cooking breakfast and lunch for their meals during daytime.
By the time she’s done with all of the household duties, she now leaves for work around seven in the morning. Her kids stay at home and to keep them inside and from wandering off, she would promise them that she would buy them toys at the end of the week.
She would always explain to her three-year old son, Vhert and Jevert, her preschooler, that Rose need to work. According to her, her boys would always understand at a young age what they are going through that time.
In the construction site, Rose provided any form assistance whenever the mason asked for her help and was being paid with daily rate of P252.00 which was better than collecting and selling trash. But even after the tiresome day, Rose would still forage for garbage in the local dumpsite in exchange of cash.
As observed by Rodolfo, she had frequently arrived the earliest despite of her known situation at home. He said that the quality of work done by their male workers, Rose was able to match it.
“Mahigusun talaga ini palibhasa naging single parent. Hinihimo niya ang makakaya para masuportaran ang mga bata [She is very diligent knowing the fact that she is a solo parent. She will do anything to support her children,” he added.
Last woman standing
Upon acceptance of the challenge she knew she could bare, Rose blended in. Though she occasionally felt weary, she never gave a hint about this because she did not want his male colleagues to lose their confidence towards her.
Rose proved she can.
From the original three days of work given to women laborers, she was able to negotiate with the barangay officials and community implementers to extend her for a few more weeks.
“Sinubukan ko kung makaya ko. Kaya naman ng katawan ko kaya sinubukan ko pa rin. Eh nakayanan kaya tumagal ako ng higit pa sa isang lingo. [I tried if I can. My body endured the load of work so I also tried. I did it and even stayed for more than a week.]” she firmly said.
Of the three other women in the construction, Rose made it up until its last day.
“Ako na lang na bayi ang nagtrabaho diyan. Nag-iisa [I’m the only woman laborer left. The only one,” she cheerily declared.
Rodolfo also described Rose as “boyish” attributing she moves like a man and has worked even better in the construction than any other women.
On top of getting accustomed with physical work, she related to her male coworkers easily. Far from being sociable specially to men, she has developed the skill in dealing with other people. She conversed and got along with them well, joining in humorous chats and survived their teases.
Toys for Christmas
After a week of the first times in the construction life, Rose received her pay and brought her sons to the town’s market in Gubat.
“Malaki ang tulong nito sa amin kasi wala akong ibang trabaho kundi ang pagbabasura tsaka lumayas ang aking asawa [It is a big help for us because the only work I know is to make money out of garbage and my husband left us],” Rose said.
For the total amount of Php1512 as her wage for the week, she bought clothes, enough groceries to supply a week’s consumption and school supplies for Jevert. She also realized her promise-to buy her sons the toy guns they asked for.
“Bakal kami mama badil-badilan [We bought the toy gun],” Vhert said and hugged his mother to show his affection and glee.
I lent them the gun for a few days and put it away to keep it new. I put it back to its original plastic and during Christmas, I gave it back to them. They thought it was new and they were really happy about it.
Rose’s role does not end in preparing and cooking the dishes, washing clothes, tidying up the house, looking after the kids and performing other household works. She had contributed something for the benefit of their village.
The health center was inaugurated in October of the same period. Being part of the people who erected the building to improve the access of their village to health services is monumental for her.
“Maalala ko na nandiyan ako nung tinatayo ang aming health center [I will remember that the time our health center is being constructed, I am one of those people who built it],” she added.
For many years, it was difficult for the people in Tagaytay to adjust in a meager space provided in the barangay hall during scheduled checkups, vaccinations and medical consultations.
“Kung wala pa rin yung project na yun, nandun pa rin kami sa siksikan na barangay hall. Sa bagong health center, kahit matagalan ka dun at abutin man ng tanghali, okay lang kasi parang may elektrikpan dahil mahangin yung lugar [We will still stay in a crowded space at the barangay hall if we don’t have the project. With our very own health center, even if we waited long and even until noon, it’s fine because there’s room for fresh air],” she said.
And now Rose had done it all. She would recall that under the sweltering heat, she wore oversized rubber boots, layers of clothes such as long-sleeve shirt over a sando, working gloves and hard hat.
“Pinagyayabang ko sa mga kapitbahay ko na naghalo ako ng semento,” she said as she giggled.