But instead of cowering in fear, Myrna rose to break the cycle of poverty. On March 26, Myrna Modesto Daplas, 41 years old, of Barangay Nagbaculao, Olongapo City
, will cap her lifetime struggle with a rare personal moment of victory – she will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at Olongapo City Convention Center.
“Difficult” is an understatement when describing the road that Myrna took on the way to graduation. “Her story can very well be a tearjerker for a television show, either for 'Maalaala Mo Kaya?' or 'Ripley’s Believe It or Not.' And why not? Although finishing a high school program and pursuing a college degree were just an ordinary thing for others, they were no ordinary feats for someone in Myrna’s shoes,” said Fr. Albert Avenido, the founder and president of the Barkada ng Sagrada Pamilya Foundation, Inc (BSPFI), a non-profit organization, committed to break the cycle of poverty through integral human empowerment.
Without education, the Daplas couple went with the flow taken by most poor couples who engaged in early marriages – uncontrolled reproduction. From 1986 to 2004, the union produced nine children. Sad to say, in 2005, her husband Romeo died.
When he was still alive, Romeo used to fish offshore with a rented boat. Myrna would sell his husband’s catch on foot to the entire barrio, including the rectory of Holy Family where Fr. Albert was a parish priest. Aside from selling fish, Myrna would approach Fr. Albert every time any of her nine kids would get sick or her husband did not have a good catch.
Feeling for her plight, Fr. Albert went beyond extending financial assistance. He bought Romeo a boat so he could go out fishing on a regular basis without the burden of the rental for the boat. Soon enough, Ronalyn, their eldest daughter, was able to graduate from primary schooling in year 2000.
Seeing her daughter finish elementary, Myrna felt she had a chance to realize her own dream of finishing her studies, too. “It was an almost abandoned, yet not totally forgotten, desire for her,” Fr. Albert said in BSPFI newsletter, Pangarap at Pamana. Myrna was forced to abandon schooling in1982 and leave her hometown in Leyte to find a job in Manila. She became a housemaid in the city, and by 1985, she got into early marriage.
Despite the bleak situation, Myrna made it a point to send each one of her children to school. Under a scholarship provided by BSPFI, Myrna did not allow herself to be distracted from her goal by the sheer bitterness of her being poor. Education, for her, was the only thing she could leave as legacy to her children.
She believed that attaining a good education herself would make attaining her goal for her family possible.
Myrna was too determined in returning to school that she was not bothered that her own daughter would be her schoolmate at the Olongapo City National High School. Her dogged determination led her to seek for ways to manage her time. She enrolled in a module-based education program for adults. Myrna had to come to class every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
At home, she would tack her modules on the wall facing her and study while doing the laundry. In between gaps of washing the clothes, she would cook, clean the house, and take care of her children.
It also helped that she was employed by Fr. Albert at the social action office from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays to handle housekeeping. In gratitude for all these blessings, Myrna volunteered to be a catechist for the Basic Ecclessial Community on Wednesday afternoons.
Myrna passed the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) and in 2003 graduated from high school even as she was bearing her ninth child. For others in her shoes, having a high school diploma would be “it,” the end of the road. For Myrna, it was not enough. She convinced Fr. Albert that she can pursue higher education at the Mondrian Aura College in Subic Bay Freeport Zone and will take up a Bachelor of Science in Education course, major in English.
Fr. Albert, who now serves the Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Los Angeles, California, has constantly monitored Myrna's progress. In her failings, he drops in with her to prop her up. In her successes, he raises his hands in thanking and glorifying God.
Myrna was a constant dean’s lister in her class, with a general average of 1.54 (equivalent to 90 percent). She belonged to the top five in her class during the 2nd semester of school year 2004-2005. She was awarded Outstanding/Model Student at the Modrian Aura College in March 2005.
Her parish apostolate also served her well: She won second runner-up in a competition in Basic Ecclessial Communities at the Marian Hills in Olongapo City in January 2005.
In extra-curricular events, Myrna placed among the top four winners in the women's division of an inter-barangay bowling tournament in March 2005, and won as champion in the April 2005 departmental bowling competition in college.
Always eager to recognize the people who have have helped her succeed, Myrna said in a letter she recently wrote for the Foundation, “As a scholar of Barkada ng Sagrada Familia from first year college up to the present in Mondrian Aura College, I thank all those people who shared their blessings to allow me to continue my dream of becoming a teacher someday. Special thanks to the founder and president of the foundation, for without him, I know I cannot pursue this dream. Thank you for the assistance and support you have been extending to me and even to my family. I hope someday I can reach my ambition to become a degree holder and become a professional teacher.”
When she receives her diploma this March 26, Myrna edges closer to her dream of cutting her seemingly perpetual bondage to economic deprivation. She will be a living witness of Christ’s mission: “I came so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
***Barkada ng Sagrada Pamilya Foundation, Inc. (BSPFI) is committed to break the cycle of poverty and uplift the dignity of Filipino families through the inspiration of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth. Fr. Albert Avenido, the founder and President of BSPFI and a former Social Action Director, believes that breaking the cycle of poverty is the most fundamental element towards a holistic development and integral human empowerment. Through Divine providence and the support of generous benefactors, families and friends (barkada), Barkada ng Sagrada Pamilya had been acknowledged and registered by the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-profit charitatble organization in the Philippines.