Bangued, Abra – It is difficult for parents to see their child die before them. But to experience it twice in a span of few months is inexplicably painful.

Unexpectedly, the family of Robert and Jovita Onel was tested when two of their four children died in 2013. Just remembering what had happen still brought tears to Jovita as she haltingly relayed the memory of their death.

Untimely demise

Angel Jae, age of nine and youngest of the Onel family, actively participated in extracurricular activities as well as excelled in academics.

“Meron silang activity sa school at isa siya sa mga leader. Masipag siyang magpractice. Di namin akalain na magkakasakit siya. Mula noon, di na siya nakarecover,” tears slowly pooled in her eyes as Jovita recalled.

Promises of young and active life were slowly taken from Angel Jae as she battled almost six-month bout of meningitis which started in February last year. Trice, she was brought to Baguio General Hospital for the recurring attacks of the illness. However, in August, Angel succumbed to her last fight.

Just when the family is slowly moving on from Angel Jae’s death, the eldest of the four, 16 year-old Ron Brian suddenly died in November after he collapsed while playing basketball in their backyard.

According to Jovita, the doctors looked at an undiagnosed heart disease as the cause of the immediate death of her son.

Ron Brian was a member of the varsity team in their school and there was no diagnosed symptom of the illness during his physical examination upon entering the team.

“Biglaan talaga lahat. Di ko akalain na magkakasakit sila ng ganon kasi normal ko naman silang pinanganak,” Jovita shared as she wiped her red rimmed eyes.

Dealing with the loss

Their family’s income comes from a sari-sari store which Jovita manages, while her husband, Robert, mans a mechanic shop which was formerly owned by his parents. With the incurred hospital bills from Angel Jae’s treatment, Jovita admitted that they almost sold their land and house which was given by her parents.

“Malaki ang naitulong ng Pantawid Pamilya sa ‘min lalo na sa pagpapaospital. Dahil sa Pantawid, meron kaming Philhealth na nakatulong sa pagbabayad sa ospital. Kung wala siguro yung Pantawid Pamilya, lahat na ng ari-arian namin pati bahay at lupa namin baka naibenta na,” Jovita said.

Their family was part of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Set 5 in Palao, Bangued. Aside from cash grants, Pantawid beneficiaries are able to access Philhealth insurance which for the Onel Part was a big help in covering their hospital bills.

Since the implementation of Pantawid Pamilya in 2011 in Bangued, Jovita was served as the Parent Leader (PL) in their barangay. She was also assigned as the representative of all beneficiaries for the Pantawid Pamilya Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) in the area.

“Medyo matagal na akong Parent Leader kaya magpapa-relieve na sana ako… Mahirap maging PL pero kakayanin ko para na rin makatulong ako sa mga kapwa ko benepisyaryo ng Pantawid [Pamilya]. Tutal malaki ang naitulong sa akin ng Pantawid [Pamilya] lalo na sa pagpapa-ospital namin kay Angel,” Jovita said.

To help the family cope with the lost of both children, Bangued Municipal Link Lorna C. Lumioan encouraged other beneficiaries to serve as Jovita’s support group especially last Christmas season. Almost every day, they accompanied her to at least somehow lessen her distress.

Moving Forward

Months after their loss, Jovita and her family have somehow started to pick up the pieces needed to move forward.

Jovita and Robert already had their remaining kids, Linzi Jae and Ron Klyde, checked for possible health conditions that they have. Luckily, Linzi Jae and Ron Klyde were negative of the complication which Ron Brian suffered from.

“Faith kay God lang. Siguro itong nangyari ay trials lang, tinignan kung hanggang saan kaya ng paniniwala namin. Kakayanin naming mag-move on kasi walang mangyayari kung mag-gi-give up kami.   Be strong lang. Panalangin lang namin na sana di na ito mangyari sa dalawa pa naming anak,” Jovita said.

While taking care of her family, Jovita also intended to raise her capital for the sari-sari store, and joined trainings conducted by the Abra Diocesan Teachers and Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ADTEMPCO) Micro Finance Palao Center in food processing to increase her knowledge in future business endeavor. Her other plans like going abroad was temporarily set aside for her to be able to continue serving as PL in their barangay.

“Sa mga kasama kung benepisyaryo ng Pantawid Pamilya, gawin lang natin lahat ng conditions ng programa para ma-avail rin nila lahat ng benefits dito,” Jovita never fails to remind her co-beneficiaries.

“Sana po patuloy rin po ang pag-implement ng Pantawid Pamilya para marami pa pong matulungan, katulad ng nangyari sa amin na biglaan talaga. Napakalaki ng tulong ng Pantawid Pamilya,” Jovita added. # DSWD-CAR, Social Marketing Unit, Kaye Ann O. Mapalo

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