As a young child, Rona had to sell sampaguita garlands
outside churches just to survive. Skipping a day of selling sampaguita would
leave her with an empty stomach and warrant a beating from her alcoholic
father. Had she been living the same life as before, Rona would have nowhere to
go amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rona grew up in fear and uncertainty. Having food on the
table in the morning doesn't always guarantee that there’ll be food that night
as well. This depressing reality brought extreme frustration to Rona's father,
whose income never seemed to be enough for the family's needs. This frustration
manifests during her father's drunken episodes, that end with Rona getting
violently beaten up.
For months, Rona had to make do with the comforts that the streets
may offer. She relied on the kindness of churchgoers who’d buy more sampaguita
garlands than they actually need so she could afford a meal. She made a
makeshift family out of the strangers she met, where she found temporary refuge
when going home was not the safest option. But Rona needed more than a
Thankfully, the local authorities learned about her
situation. She was brought to the local social welfare center and stayed there
until she found a home at SOS Children’s Village Manila. Since then, she no
longer had to worry about hunger nor abuse. She now belongs to a safe and
On her first day at home, she was welcomed by a small feast
of her favorite meals that Mama Baby, her SOS mother, prepared. Gathered
together with her new siblings, Rona shared her first meal with her forever
family that day.
Showered with Mama Baby’s wisdom and kindness, Rona grew to
become a smart and driven woman. She is a student-athlete, youth leader, and
mental health advocate. And taking after Mama Baby’s love for cooking, she is
now a 2nd-year Hotel and Restaurant Management student at a college in Manila.
(Rona together with SOS Corporate Relations Head Mr. Admore
Alzate, Mental Health Initial Responder and Mental
Wellness advocateMs. Via Ruiz, and her fellow SOS youth during a mental
health awareness talk at SOS Children’s Village Manila last February 21, 2020.)
Rona expresses her heartfelt gratitude to the people who
shared a portion of their lives so that children in need like her can have a
safe and loving home. With the health risk that COVID-19 currently poses, she’s
thankful that she has a home to return to.
This month, as she turns 22 years old, Rona will
be celebrating her birthday at home in SOS Children’s Village Manila. As the
eldest child at home, she helps Mama Baby with keeping the house clean and
assists in cooking nutritious meals for the whole family. In the afternoon, she
plays with the newest member of their family, *Jake (6) who became part of the
family last February, two weeks before the community quarantine was enforced.
Rona, as well as other youths and children of SOS Children’s
Villages Philippines, are currently practicing home quarantine to keep them
safe from COVID-19. They are in urgent need of food, hygiene supplies, and
vitamins. Your kindness will go a long way in keeping them safe and in good
Disclaimer: Rona, who is turning 22 this April, gave us
permission to publish her personal information for this feature article.