In one fell swoop, Ma. Isabel Paloma, mother of three, saw her fate change.
Her husband was barangay councilor trying to break a fight when he got shot. Isabel found him lying unconscious on the ground and rushed him to a nearby hospital.
“Iyak ako nang iyak. Pumunta ako sa ospital ng walang kapera-pera. Dalawang linggo kami dun (I was crying hard. I brought him to the hospital, without any money. We spent two weeks there),” she says.
The burden of fending for him and their children fell on her frail shoulders. When some neighbors introduced her to TSPI, she was hesitant. She even refused to borrow as much as P5,000, eventually borrowing only P3,000, with weekly payments of P151. “Yung P3,000, kaya ko ‘yung hulugan (I can manage to repay the P3,000),” she says.
The seed capital funded her buy and sell business. She would go to Baclaran in the wee hours of the morning to buy cheap merchandise, mostly school uniforms then sell these to neighbors. During her free time, she conducted tutorial lessons to neighborhood kids.
She was successfully making ends meet as the sole breadwinner of the family until a few years later when she started having complications from diabetes. For a year, she was bed-ridden, requiring assistance to bathe, change clothes and essentially do everything else.
Throughout her ordeal, she didn’t forget to pray, one of the many non-financial lessons she learned from TSPI. She says she remembers starting center meetings with a prayer. She remembers feeling “touched” whenever the group prayed for her.
“Hindi ako religious dati,” she says. “Pero nananalangin ako at nadagdagan ang pananalig ko sa TSPI. Kaya nung nagkasakit ako, araw-araw, ang una kong ginagawa, nakapikit pa ako, nananalangin na ako. Sabi ko, ‘Salamat Panginoon at buhay pa ako.’ (“I did not use to be religious. But now I always pray to God and my faith in TSPI grew stronger. When I got sick, every waking day I would start with a prayer. I would say, ‘Thank you, God, for keeping me alive.’”)
Suddenly, she woke up one morning, feeling rejuvenated. Her hands did not feel clammy, and she felt strong enough to take her husband to Church. Good things started to unravel in her life since then.
Her eldest is now being groomed for a supervisory position in a famous pizza chain. Her only daughter, Sarah, is getting a Communications Arts degree from Collegio de San Juan de Letran in a year.
“Lahat may potential, wala lang means,” she says of her three children. Everyday for at least an hour, she made it a point to tutor her kids. Her diligence actually paid off. Sarah gets free tuition and a generous monthly stipend as an Append scholar. The talented young lady was recently accepted as an intern for GMA 7.
Like with her children, Nanay Isabel knows the value of investing her time with TSPI. “Alam mong hindi lang simpleng pinansyal ang relasyon mo sa kanila. Bumibisita sila sa bahay, nangangamusta. Alam mong gusto nilang maging successful ka (You know your relationship with them goes beyond financial matters. They visit your home to see how you’re doing. You know they want you to succeed.),” she relates.
As one of the officers in her Center, she tried to pay it forward. “Pag may kasama kaming nahihirapan, tinutulungan ko. Ako rin ang kumakausap tuwing may maliit na hidwaan sa mga myembro (When we have members who are having problems, I help out. I also intercede whenever there are members quarelling),” she says.
She remembers fondly her earlier struggles, back in the early 1990s when their community in General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite had no electricity and running water. The roads were unpaved and muddy, and getting a pail of water took hours. She had overcome life’s curve balls, and has become a stronger person because of it.
“Itong buhay natin, pagsubok ito, paglalakbay ito. Dapat lang tayong magtiwala (This life of ours is just a test, a journey. We just need to have faith),” she says.