You look down. You don’t want to lose this but you just don’t want to do it right now.

You muster the courage to say:

M-maybe next time…

Party winds down.

You leave the house and thank your newfound friends for their hospitality.


You hope there’d be more moments like this.

~









“Yeah, they were arrested. Poor kids.”

“Heard about what happened last night?”














“Serves them right, though. They shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff.”

“I heard it was at a birthday party and the police were quick!”

~

You wake up.

You overhear the conversation. You come closer to listen more.

“And there were 7 of them, too.

What a waste.”

The neighbors start to recall names and you hear familiar names—

the names of the people you were with last night!

“They’ll be serving their time.”

You drop the plate you were holding. As it shatters into pieces questions—

Will they still love you after all this?














Will they think that you're selfish?

Who will take care of your kids?









"Mom."




"Mom?"




"Mom..."

“MOM!"

Your eldest shakes you back into reality.

You look down at the broken plate.


“We need new art materials for school,

and we all have to get enrolled before the end of the month—”


You nod your head. You totally forgot about all these expenses.


“—and we need more powdered milk. We’re almost out.”



You're brought back to reality.

You need to earn more.

For your kids, for their needs.

You can barely feed yourself.



You look down.

You sweep up the plate fragments.

You dust off your clothes and get ready to find more work.

You need to.

~











“Your set of skills are not suitable for this environment.”






“You didn’t even finish high school.”

"I’m sorry we can’t hire you.”




“Why are you wasting my time?!”

“Maybe you should try somewhere else?”

You look down. You don’t know what to do.

No diploma.
No work experience.
No references.
You’re stuck but you can’t be.

You look down.
You have to do more.
To be more.
To have more.

“Buy 1 Take 1 Burgers! Delicious and cheap!”

You find yourself near a small burger joint:
P25 Buy 1 Take 1 Burgers.

“Would you like to try our famous burgers?

Super affordable!”

Youlook down in your wallet—P35.

Infant formula—
but you’re so hungry.


Tuition fees—
but you haven’t eaten.




Art materials—

but you’re starving
.

You look down. You don’t know what to do.

No diploma.
No work experience.
No references.
You’re stuck but you can’t be.

You feel your head spin.


You take out P25.

You just have to earn more before the day ends… that’s all.

“Here are your burgers!Please enjoy th—you’re looking a little pale there.

You okay?”

You nod your head.

You devour the burger.

“Water?”

You hesitate.

Maybe you have to pay for the—

“Don’t worry, it’s free.

Here’s an extra burger on me. The benefit of working at this joint is I get to eat as many burgers as I want.

I mean, it’s mostly flour and extenders but whatever fills the gut, right?”

You look down. If only you could feed your family more, like this person.

“Also, if you’re interested, we are hiring new people.

I really need some help around here especially during lunch and merienda.

All you need to know is how to cook burgers and collect money.”

You ask if they need other requirements.

A diploma?

Work experience?

References?

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll put in a good word to the boss.

Just give me your contact and he’ll call you if all goes well!”

You are now one step closer to bringing in more for your family.

For the art materials.

For the tuition fees.

For infant formula.

~

You look up to the sky. You now notice how beautiful the day is.

Skies are a vibrant blue.

You walk, even skip, on your way home.

You now feel like you can be more.

“There’s always so much to do!

I don’t know if I even have time to wash our clothes!”


It’s your neighbor who owns the local sari-sari store talking to her husband.

“I have to be at the store most of the day then pick up our kids then cook our food.

I barely have any sleep, too!

I don’t know how I’m going to fit our laundry into my schedule.”

You don’t know yet if you’re getting that burger joint job.

And hey, earning more isn’t a bad thing so you come closer and offer to do their laundry.

“Really? That would take such a load off for me!

You know what, I’ll even refer you to other friends who also need some help with their clothes.”

You thank her and continue your way to your home.

Imagine,more income!

That means more food and more for your family to live off of.

Finally—

Better crayons for your son’s art project.

You’ll be able to pay your children’s tuition fee and that promissory note you made last semester.

A big tin of infant formula instead of the usual sachets.

You put your chin up.

Now, you do more. You have more. You are more.

You get home. Your phone vibrates. Text message from an unknown number.

“You’re hired. -Burger Joint”

After a few weeks…

3 AM. Wake up.

Unpin dry clothes.

Fold.

Prepare for delivery.

Wash clothes.

Hang dry.

Prepare breakfast.

Clean house.

Rest.

~

It’s 7 AM.

Get ready for work.


You stop by your neighbor’s houses to give their newly washed clothes. You walk to work.

9 AM.

You get there.

“You’re looking a little worse for wear. You okay?”

Your co-worker at the burger joint asks you.

You could feel the bags on your eyes but you are doing more now. It’s okay, you’re earning more.

It is a hot and sunny day and the grill inside your kiosk isn’t helping.

“I feel the sweat coming out of my whole body. The heat’s so bad today. I heard it’s the hottest day of the year.”

You feel lightheaded but you persevere.

Your shift’s up.

You come home straight away.

Head hurts...

Muscles ache...

Eyes twitch—

“Mom, are you okay?

You fell down when you were cooking.

You just fainted.

We were worried.”

You assure them you’re okay. But are you?

You barely sleep, you don’t have any breaks. You work more every day.

The more is becoming too much.

Your child hands you your phone. Someone is on the other line.

“Hello? Are you okay?”

It’s your aunt, your mom’s sister.
The relative you’re closest to.

“You should take better care of yourself! I heard from your kids you haven’t had enough sleep in a month.

Is it really worth it to lose sleep just to earn a little more?”


“Hello? Are you there?


I can help you with some of the bills at home but you have to promise me you’d go back to school?

It will help you earn more for your kids in the long run.

~

I’ll come over in 2 days and give you the money plus my magic elixir to help you with work, okay?”

“You have to promise me one thing, though.”

“Anything,auntie”

“You have to go back to school and finish your studies.

One year left in high school and then you can go to college!”

“Yes,I also wanna finish, if only I could, but I haven’t had the chance. Thank you, auntie!”

You barely got that out.

Your aunt arrives in the middle of the morning. She is dressed so well Caligtangan looks drab next to her.

 “Here, please budget it well, for your studies and for everyday stuff, too! I’ll be back after a few months and ask how everything’s going.

As for this…

This is the magic! You just melt it and inhale the fumes. It will give you enough energy to study and work, believe me.”

Looks familiar.

Like what your friends were doing at the party.

So it can also be used to help with work and school?

“Yes, dear. it helped me when I was starting out.

Why don’t you try it?”


You look down.

You contemplate your aunt’s magic offer.


Will you accept it?

Say YESSay NO