The afternoon sky chased me with its blustery tropics and tedious phase. I was roaming around the Engineering building to find her but, unfortunately, the housekeepers weren’t in sight. I strode further and went upstairs—and behind the steel door, I heard inaudible conversation and I knew and felt she was there.
It was during the light of the Almers’ issue earlier this year when I last talked to her about her job. The scenario with her will always be like this: a sweet caring voice greeting me with a reassuring smile, a warm welcome as if inviting me to her home, and enthusiastic stories you’d never get tired of listening to. I can say she is a better storyteller than me, so I’m writing this to reflect her smile, her eyes, and her soulful movements.
Months after the replacement of the Almers’ workers, Ate Lany was one of the fortuitous people who was able to retain her job under the new agency. Unfortunately, the controversial issue brought some of her co-workers to unemployment, where some travelled to seek new life in their respective provinces, while others took their chances in factory work, and some were still even able to grip onto where they started.
She hails from the simplicity of Bicol Region, and when she got married and had her child, she resettled to her father here in Cavite. She has two children—one independent enough to work and the other still striving at school.
“Noong lumaki na [‘yong] mga anak ko, after 17 years, na-realize ko na tama na siguro ‘yon.”
In her 38 years of existence, Ate Lany devoted 17 years to being a mother and simple housewife. After the undoing of her marriage, being a single mother sparked an instinct for survival and self-growth for herself and her children in her custody. Being a housekeeper was her first job, and she learned everything she missed in all those years.
“Noong nagtrabaho ako, marami akong natutunan. Siguro ngayon masasabi ko na tumapang ako; ‘yong mga akala ko hindi ko kaya, kaya ko na ngayon. Kaya pala magtrabaho ng isang babae para sa sarili niya.”
The clatter from the electric fan filled the small compact room during our conversation. I was sitting across her beside the window and I could feel the gentle pat of sunlight on my back. It was like a deep slumber to her life, and talking to her was the lucid idea of my dreams, except that her stories are bound by reality, and I would love to remain in her trance.
It was late 2014 when her sister, who was studying in DLSU-D at the time, suggested that she apply for a job inside the university. Working here had been her dream ever since, and when she had the opportunity, she immediately took it. She was anxious at first because she thought she might be rejected for her age, but the spirit of fulfillment apart from being a single mother fueled her desires more than her doubts.
“[Noong natanggap ako,] sinabi ko na e-enjoy-in ko ‘yong trabaho na ‘to, na mamahalin ko. At hanggang ngayon naman minamahal ko pa rin ‘to.”
What she loves more about La Salle is how humble majority of the people are. From faculty to students, Ate Lany can see how the Lasallian community respects and treats its workers fairly, although not all are in favor of their odds. In return, she makes sure that she does her job accordingly, and I could genuinely see how much she values her work and students especially from the CTH building.
On October of this year, a student accidentally lost a large amount of money, amounting to approximately P25,000. The sky was mourning with a heavy rain, and the students were too preoccupied with their exams. Around 11 in the morning, while walking along the corridors, Ate Lany found a folded bond paper. She ignored it at first, thinking it was just random litter. She put it inside her belt bag and proceeded to work. After she was done, she cleaned her belt bag to throw the small trashes she had picked up and to her surprise, she discovered that the bond paper contained peso bills.
She immediately gave it to one of the staff supervisors in CEAT. Despite being calm, she still worried over the owner of the money. All she could hear that time was her stomach blurting out how empty it was after a long day of work. It was around afternoon when she learned that the money was finally reclaimed by its respective owner.
It wasn’t the lone incident of lost things that she encountered. Some students misplace their phones, wallets, notebooks, bags, and other valuable things, and it is alarming that they can’t guard their valuables all the time, so she reminds them to always take care of their belongings.
“Masasabi ko na hindi lang ako nanay sa bahay kundi nanay rin ako sa eskwelahan.”
Her maternal instinct is evident with all her movements—it reflects the genuine care and passion she has for this institution and its students. We talked for almost half an hour. It was long enough for me to have a peek into her life beyond her work presence. I could hear murmuring students outside the room; classes were being dismissed and Ate Lany’s shift had ended an hour ago.
As we parted ways, she held my wrist for some reminders and some form of gratitude. Her warm, bare hands of hard work left her empowered spirit in me. The courage she built for these past years after all her trials had bridged her to where she is right now. “Hindi lang pala iisa ang kahon. Marami kang kahon na puwedeng pasukan. Marami kang puwedeng lagusan basta gusto mo.”
Years of attachment and dependency were the hardest thing for her to let go. Yet it led her to another life where she became as liberated and dauntless as she is right now. Her perseverance paved her way to self-discovery and, now, she can bravely stand on her own two feet—as a mother, as a housekeeper, and as a woman.
“Mas mahihirapan ka kapag nanatili ka sa isang bagay na akala mo hanggang doon na lang.”