Post author Maggie is a former resident of MRH who has graduated college and passed her board exam for social work. Her writing has been edited for clarity.
In 2015, I graduated high school from inside My Refuge House (MRH). I was homeschooled there with only 3 others in the same year as myself. I was so excited to graduate and was looking forward to getting out of the shelter. At only 17 years old, I was naïve and only thinking about having fun. However, I understood my chances of returning home at that time were small because I was told I would only be released once I was 18.
Looking Toward the Future
The social workers at that time were Ate Rose Ann and Ate Megs. Ate Rose Ann is now the Director of Program Operations. We had a weekly check-in, where she would ask me about how I was doing inside the house, if I had any problems, and how I was coping with everything. Close to my graduation date, I told Ate Rose Ann about what my plans would be upon returning home. Of course, I only told her the good things, like finding a scholarship for college, and helping my mom and dad, hoping that she would let me go home early. Ate Rose Ann let me talk and then told me the shelter planned to offer a college scholarship opportunity to their graduating students. I went through the weeks-long interviews and the application process to get the scholarship.
I always wanted to finish schooling but I never really thought about college. I did not know what course of study to take or what I was good at. My first choice of study was psychology and my second was social work. Everyday, I prayed to God about what course I should take, knowing it would take me four years to finish it, plus a board exam. I did not want to make a mistake in choosing because in the long run, I wanted to be happy with my studies, and avoid wasting my time. I prayed hard and decided on social work.
Starting College for Social Work
On my first day in college, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was excited, nervous, and happy. I didn't know what to expect - everything was so fast that I felt like I needed to sit down and breathe. I was with Dolores, my best friend, and we were both very happy that we had the same classes and schedules. I depended on her emotionally because I was shy and did not really know how to make friends with new people as I was adjusting to my new environment and new setup.
One of my favorite subjects was Social Deviation because it teaches that people do something bad or out of the norm not just because it is in their personality, but also because of problems, trauma, and stress. My professor made the discussion fun and very interactive.
I was not always a good student. I would cut classes, and there was even one subject I never attended. During different classes I would always hear other students saying that the professor was a terror teacher, and that she would ask each student to stand up in front of the class and memorize our national song, but she would not let you sing it, you had to relay it as a poem. I was shocked and afraid of what I heard even though I was still not able to see her face to face. I wanted to drop out of the subject and take it another semester, but I was missed the deadline. The whole semester I was enrolled with it and never once did I attend her class.
During weekends, I had a 3-hour Saturday class with the NSTP (National Service Training Program). After class, Dolores and I would go to malls for window shopping and sometimes to eat at Jollibee, or to see movies if we have extra money from our allowance.
Everything was fine, until Dolores stopped going to class. She had made friends with someone I didn't know and I was left hanging. I wanted to stop going to school because I was shy without Dolores. I wondered why Dolores wouldn’t invite me to go with her when I told her that I would also skip classes. Later on, she told me that she was seeing someone, and that is why she decided to stop schooling. I tried so hard to convince her to go back to school. I even threatened that I would also leave school, but she said that I could make it without her, and that I have to get out of my comfort zone and start making new friends. She had already made up her mind, so I continued my studies since the semester was ending in just a month.
Dolores made friends with someone else from school and introduced me to them. I grabbed the opportunity to say hi to them again without Dolores, and they asked me to have lunch with them. I was shocked and a little shy but I agreed to lunch. I was stoked and could not believe that I was able to mingle with other people without Dolores being there with me.
My college life was fun again. I would go out with friends to drink and party, although it was against what MRH taught, but I felt like I would miss out if I didn’t experience those things in life. On weekends, I would go to a club with my college professors and friends. We would drink and dance all night. Although I partied a lot, I always tried to be responsible with my actions and only drink with people I trusted. I wouldn’t drink until I passed out, and I always knew my limit.
The house parents and social worker in MRH were very concerned with my behavior because I would stay out past my 10PM curfew. They decided to let me stay in a dormitory inside the campus. I was so happy and, felt like I had all the freedom away from the rules and regulations inside MRH. It was hard at first, especially learning how to budget my allowance. Sometimes my allowance would run out and I would have to borrow money from my close college friends or my ex-boyfriend.
In March 2020, I was about to graduate from college. I was excited but at the same time nervous. What would my life be like after college? This was the only question that I couldn’t seem to get off my mind. I had to somehow find a job while doing my review for the board exam in order to help my family who were financially struggling. It was the start of the pandemic and everything was canceled, including the board exam review and examination.
Graduating During the Pandemic Lockdown
During this time, the corona virus was already affecting Cebu, and lockdown was announced. I decided to pack up my things and go home to spend time with my family. We lived in a small two-story house with only one bathroom and bedroom. My parents, 5 siblings, and 3 nieces all lived in the house. I was hoping I could make up for the time I had been gone, especially for my mom. People were panic buying and hoarding stuff they needed for survival. My family struggled to meet their needs everyday and could barely afford to stock a few items or food for a week or month. We depended on relief goods from the government and non-government organizations. I saw my parents' struggles and frustrations. I became disappointed at myself for not being able to help them.
Supporting My Family
I started to look for jobs online. I sent out my resumes to a lot of BPO (business process outsourcing) companies and was rejected many times, but I did not give up, and kept thinking of my family’s situation. I was finally accepted in one of the biggest BPO companies in Cebu. I was happy and relieved thinking of being able to help my mother financially.
I worked during the night from 10 in the evening until 7 in the morning. It was hard for me to adjust my sleeping pattern but I was able to cope with it and I made a lot of friends in my workplace. I worked there for a year, and during those times I tried to take the board exam. I struggled to find a balance with work and study, reviewing at least one to five pages a day from my book before enrolling for online review. I told my team leader that I would leave for a week and she was supportive of me.
The Social Work Board Exam
During my review, I would get distracted by my phone. Most of the time I found myself holding my phone, scrolling on Facebook and sometimes watching funny videos on TikTok. I felt guilty whenever I did that and I would talk to God and say sorry that I couldn’t focus. I thought that God might not let me pass the board exam, so I would leave my phone with my friend during the day and get it back at night, which was effective for me.
The first day of the exam went well. The night before examination day, I was not able to sleep properly because I was so nervous. I woke up at 5 in the morning and went early to the school, without eating my breakfast. There were 5 subjects to take with 100 items each. I checked the questions I remembered in the questionnaire after the exam. During the exam, I got sad and worried because I thought my answers were wrong.
On the second day someone from our examination room tested positive for Covid 19. We all went through the health protocol so we were not really worried - I tested negative. After a week, the results of the board exam were out. I tried to search for the results on my phone but I was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I felt like my heart was about to explode. Then, Ate Jam sent me a message saying congrats and I was so happy to know I made it. I shouted and jumped and then I cried because I could not believe it! It was a roller coaster ride for me.
After the result of the exam, I looked for a job related to social work. I searched online and found an assistant job in an NGO. Although I would not be a social worker, I pursued it for experience.
Currently I work with kids who are living in the street. We do psychosocial activities with them, oversee their problems, and help them to find solutions. I am happy with my work but the salary is not competitive enough to sustain my needs and my family. I cannot give the same amount I gave to my mom when I was working in the BPO, so I have been searching for another job again. I found a few jobs which I am hoping to receive good offers from. Without a sufficient salary offer, I will work in the BPO industry again so I can help my family, especially now that my dad is sick. I am hopeful that I can find a job that I will be happy with and that pays well enough to sustain our needs.
I know that I can make it through this phase in my life. There is always a reason we experience things in life.
Romans 8:18; For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
I believe that every pain shall pass and it will be rewarded. Always trust in the Lord and cling to His promise.