I am Hanna. My real Name is Hanna Joy Gazo. I lived with my mother at the top of Mt. Arayat. I never saw my father since I was born. He left us during my mother’s pregnancy maybe because of fear of the responsibility of having a family. Mama Rowena, that’s my mother’s name; Is always telling me that my father left because he wanted to find a job and I know it is not true and my mother is just covering up the story,.
I was raised by my mother together with the forest. The things that I first saw in this world are the green and tall trees, colorful and playful flowers and lively animals. Because of the lack of money, my mother never let me go to school, besides our school was so far away from our house. If you really want to go there you should travel approximately 5 kilometers; 3 kilometers through the mountain and 2 kilometers through the road.
Our family’s property is the little land that we occupy which I am not sure if it is really ours. We have also a small farm that my mother used to plant rice. At the backyard we have a small lot for our vegetables. We have also a space for our animals like ducks, chickens and a pig which my mother won during a raffle at the market. I and my mother are the sole caretaker of these natural properties. We don’t have a big mansion instead; we have a small hut made up of bamboo and wood. We don’t have any appliances at home. We cook our foods through the use of woods in a kalan.
Our products are brought to the market which is 4 kilometers away from our house. It is where the people buy their foods. My mother personally sells the vegetables and fruits to the market early in the morning and went home in the evening. I left alone to look after our plants and animals. Sometimes my mother comes back with foods at hand and there were times she went home with empty hands. We even experienced starving for a week because of lack of foods. But my mother compensates by cooking vegetable soups and even kills our chickens for a fried dish.
“Hanna! Hanna! Wake up and find me some woods in the forest”, that was my mother.
I woke up, washed my face and went to find some woods. I was inside the dark forest when I heard a loud sound. I searched for the source of the sound at it was group of people cutting down trees using their chainsaws. I know it was illegal but I don’t have any strength to shout on them, I was afraid during those times. But deep in my heart I fell anger because they are destroying our natural resources.
They have also cages with animals inside like snakes, wild cats and birds. My friend wild boar was also caught in by the illegal loggers. I stayed for a bit longer with a plan in the mind to free my animal friends. The illegal loggers went to take their snacks and left their catches. I immediately and silently went to the place where the cages were located and I untied the wire that locks every cage. I save my animal friends from being sold. I restored their freedom. I went home as fast as possible to deliver the woods that my mother needs for her cooking.
“Nay, I saw the illegal loggers cutting big trees and catching our animal friends.”
“Huh! They should be reported to the Department of environment and natural resources.”
“But I saved my animal friends nay, I freed them from the cages.”
“What! It was a very dangerous move Hanna. Never do it again. What if the Illegal Loggers hurt you?” mother said while cooking.
“They never caught me nay; I am the Princess of the jungle! And I succeeded”
The delicious Pinakbet was served. Nanay went inside the room to get something.
“Nay! lets eat! I’m hungry!”, I shouted.
Then suddenly Nanay appeared with a gift at hand.
“Happy Birthday Hanna!” she said while handling me the gift.
It was my 9th birthday and I forgot it. Nanay never failed to give any gifts to me during my birthdays. Last year was a pair of sandals. I never expected it since we don’t have that much money. I am very happy during that time.
“Nay, why did you buy this gift? It’s already a gift that you are here with me.”
“Because this is your special day, even though we are financially constrained yet I saved some money for your gift besides you are very helpful in our farm and inside the house.” Nanay requested me to open her gift.
I opened the gift and it was a colorful dress embroidered with hearts.
“Thank you nay!” I hugged Nanay and kissed her.
“I love you Hanna, I will do anything for you. You are my only treasure in life. Sorry if I can’t give the material things that a child should have. I didn’t send you to school because of poverty and I am very sorry”. Nanay cried while saying those words.
“It’s alright Nay, I understand.”
We ate my favorite “Pinakbet” and after that we went back to the farm to plant the cabbage seeds Nanay bought from the market. It was a bright afternoon and suitable for farming. Nanay was the one who plow and dig the soil while I am the one who drops the seed in the soil.
“See Hanna, life is like planting a seed of Petchay, I am the farmer and you are my Petchay seed. I am the one who will make the soil suitable for you to grow. Every mother wants her child to be the best that she could be.” Nanay continued to dig the soil and I continued to drop the seeds on the holes that she made.
After we finished planting Petchay we went to the place where we plant our eggplants to water it. But Nanay saw wild grasses growing inside the fence. She called me over and said.
“Hanna, as a mother I will do my best to prevent you from others who might cause harm to you. A mother is also a child’s primary protector. Just like this grass, it needs to be eliminated to protect our eggplants from food and nutrients deprivation so that it will grow productively.”
The sunset was approaching but Nanay did not stop. She asked me to accompany her in our backyards. We visited our ampalaya plants. There Nanay gave her last lesson that I cannot forget.
“Hanna, being a mother also is like taking care of an ampalaya. You need to provide sticks and woods for the ampalaya to climb. It cannot climb and reach the top without the help of a concrete structure. Always remember that life is not always sweet like our mangoes but sometimes it may taste as bitter as the ampalaya but in the bitterness of things and events we learn a lesson that will help us to survive in the future. So never surrender Hanna.”
The lesson in the farm ended as the sun sat in the west.
I never expected that the most bitter and the darkest part of our life happened in an instant. One day, as I was woke up by sounds of the heavy rain and gust of wind that disturbs the harmony of the forest. Strong sounds of animals could be heard inside the forest. Nanay was not inside the house. I saw her outside struggling to save our plants and animals from the torrential effects of the typhoon. I witnessed how she sacrificed her safety for our livelihood.
“Nay! Get inside, the rain is very strong! It is dangerous there.”
“Stay there Hana! It will be fast. Our plants and animals will be totally destroyed if I will not harvest them.” Nanay was forced to harvest the premature vegetables because it will be rotten if left under the rain.
The strong typhoon Ondoy remained for many days and destroyed many houses and properties. We were spared from its destructive effects through the help of the tress that served like shields against the strong winds of the storm. The rain did not stop pouring for almost 5 days. It floods many plains and washed many houses. We experienced hunger for several days. We have no choice but to wait for the help from the authorities.
On the fourth day as I woke up, I found Nanay having a high fever. She was convulsing and I do not have any idea on how to help her. The strong storm was at its peak. I made a “lugaw” to appease the hunger I and my mother was experiencing. I spoon-feed Nanay because she could not even hold a spoon because of weakness. We do not have any medicine in the house and the nearest pharmacy was located in the market. But because of the storm it is impossible to walk through down the mountain.
I could not stand watching my mother dying. I carried my mother and placed her inside the push cart that we usually used when we deliver the vegetable to the market. But I cannot pull the cart alone because it was too heavy. Nanay was so weak and unconscious. I tried to tie our three pet dogs and myself to the cart using an Abaca rope. I wrapped nanay using our thickest linens and I also placed a plastic covering at the top to protect her from the rain. Together with the two dogs we pulled the cart but our force was not enough to pull the cart.
“God please help us!” I asked the lord for help.
Suddenly, the forest sent our friend wild boar. I tied him parallel to us and we pulled the cart. The strong winds and heavy rainfall blocked our way. The fog covered made the rough road difficult to see. My slippers escaped my foot because the road was too slippery. I did not mind the pain and the rain; my mother’s safety and life were the thoughts that occupied my mind.
The journey took an hour and a half. I was too tired and I sensed that the animals that are pulling the cart were tired also. The dog’s mouths were already touching the ground and the wild boar cannot walk straightly.
“My friends we are near, thank you very much”, I told them while pulling the cart. At the end of the road we noticed a group of individuals. It was the Philippines Red Cross volunteers who were taking rounds around the vicinity. I shouted for help and fortunately they saw us.
We were brought to the nearest health centre. My mother was attended by the physicians and they managed her illness. I was very happy because we survived the journey. I saved my mother with the helped of my animal friends. My story was acclaimed by our local community. Many were inspired and cried when they heard my voyage.
Because of that, our local community awarded me a hero’s medal for a heroic journey that I underwent. But for myself I know that like an ampalaya, a child will crawl, will climb and will creep. Even how difficult and dangerous it is, not with the help of a stick or a wood but with the help of God. A child like an ampalaya; even in the bitterest situation, will do her best to show sweetness, love and care especially to her mother.